Click to viewJust a temporal hop, skip and a jump away is 2009's live-action big screen version of Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira, but if the American adaptation of the manga/anime phenomenon that launched a thousand otaku is a smash success, what treasured classics of Japanese culture will Hollywood choose to to adapt next? Below the jump, we put on our robe and cultural raider hat and pick five golden temples of science-fiction manga and anime for studios to pillage and plunder.
Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Well, yeah. Big ass robots are pretty much a given, what with the success of Transformers. And while the mecha of SDMF don't transform into cool cars or panty vending machines, they have a secret weapon in the battle for big money franchises: this epic tale of war between humanity and an alien race was adapted as the first segment of the Robotech cartoon. That series, which ran in the U.S. in 1985, gave many Americans their first crucial taste of anime action filtered through a sweeping storyline. As if that wasn't enough, Super Dimension Fortress Macross features a love triangle between two military officers and a pop idol, enough twists and turns to put Battlestar Galactica to shame, and characters with big, big hair. Like, "hey, I could skydive onto that," big. Once he's through having his way with Watchmen, we want to see Zack Snyder take Super Dimension Fortress Macross and make it the big screen franchise of cheesy awesomeness most of us have been waiting for without even knowing it.
Parasyte: Hitoshi Iwaaki's manga is the strangely satisfying marriage of Spider-Man and Invasion of the Body Snatchers: a failed attempt by an alien invader to take over the brain of Shinichi Izumi has left it in control of his right hand, and teen and alien must form an uneasy alliance to avoid being found out by Shinichi's culture or killed by the aliens that have infiltrated it. Blending paranoia, frenzied fight scenes, and meditations on what it means to be human, Parasyte takes the most painful subtext of puberty—that your body has become something strange and not quite in your control, and now you're an outsider as a result—and serves it up as delicious, delicious crazy. (No wonder Del Rey's current adaptation is the second time the series has been brought to the USA.) Rumors abound that Jim Henson's studio and producer Don Murphy are already working to bring it to the big screen, but screw that noise: let Peter Jackson get his hands on the material, and make it as a bloody bookend to his adaptation of Alice Sebold's The Lonely Bones (and a loose companion piece to his classic Braindead (or Dead-Alive, as it's known over here)).
FLCL: An Original Video Animation (OVA) from 2000, FLCL has a lot in common with Akira: you've got people hollering and jumping off motorized two wheelers while strange growths shoot out of the foreheads of pained adolescents. But whereas Akira takes creator Katsuhiro Otomo's memories of growing up during the turbulent period of 1960s Japan and transmutes it into a serious sci-fi epic, FLCL stems from the shock contemporary culture can bring to a lonely kid growing up in a small town, whipping the story into a wild-eyed froth of rampaging robots, crazy vespa-riding women, and bass guitar centered fight scenes. Benjamin Button, Shmenjamin Shmutton: we want to see David Fincher in full-on Fight Club mode try to match the brio of this series' animated anarchy.
20th Century Boys: The toast of scanlators worldwide and a huge hit in its native Japan, 20th Century Boys is the most ambitious work Naoki Urasawa has undertaken, spanning more than forty years, dozens of characters, and twenty-two collected volumes. (His previous work, Monster, was no slouch either—a crime thriller set in Eastern Germany that reads like a cross between The Fugitive and Silence of the Lambs, Monster ran for six years and was collected in eighteen volumes.) While 20th Century Boys takes its name from a T. Rex song, its hook seems like a Stephen King novel on steroids: a group of old friends in the '90s try to figure out the link between a destructive cult leader and their forgotten childhood fantasies. Meanwhen, in 2014, a young woman tries to figure out what happened to them. While Lar von Trier has the chops to keep so many characters and so many stories moving along, he lacks the warmth and affection Urasawa brings to his characters. Let Best of Youth's Marco Tullio Giordana give it a shot—his five hour epic from 2003 covers a similarly vast swath of time.
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind: Finally, if Hollywood is crazy enough to tackle such a groundbreaking classic as Akira, why not let it try other works of manga that've had an indisputable impact on the medium? Hayao Miyazaki may rule the world of Japanese animation now, but his anime adaptation of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, his own manga, was only able to cover approximately the first quarter of his tale. As long as Hollywood wants to bite off more than it can chew (for the profit to be garnered by pre-chewing material for the masses), why not have it mount a Lord of the Rings style cycle, covering the entire tale of a princess's adventures a thousand years after our modern-day civilization has destroyed itself. Epic battles, environmentalism, more opportunities for CGI than you can shake a fistful of sticks at—they'll eat up Nausicaä in the cineplexes, particularly if you get Alfonso Cuarón on board. Having directed such diverse work as Chldren of Men, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Y Tu Mama Tambien, Cuarón's got the right amount of razzle-dazzle, hippie-dude humanism, and child-eyed wonder. To the extent such a thing can (or should be) attempted, Cuarón is the one to do it.