I've been grousing on and off about live-action anime productions for a while now, about how projects like Paprika are a good idea and projects like Bleach are not. Somewhere along the way I let fly with a statement to the effect that the biggest reason the latter does not work and the former does is "transportability". How easy is it to uproot something from one milieu and transplant it in another?
In the case of something like Paprika, which revolves around a bevy of things not specific to Japan, fairly easy. In the case of Bleach, forget it. Everything that makes the series what it is is rooted in its cultural origins.
This you know by now. What's new this time is, this is something I don't think the people with the money are going to find out until they break their shins against it a few times. Trial and error.
Not the best way to do it, but I get the feeling that's the only way that'll work for them. Most people in entertainment don't learn lessons unless they are painful fiscal ones.
The bad news is twofold. One, it means we get some pretty terrible adaptations of projects that either a) never should have gone on the rails or b) could be done well, but would require a more nuanced approach (e.g., co-financing a Japanese production in exchange for distribution in territories outside of Japan, especially the American / English-speaking video markets).
Two, and even worse, it means that a big enough screw-up — or a whole slew of them — would sour the market for such projects, well- and ill-conceived. Dragonball: Evolution was bad enough, but imagine that turkey with brothers and sisters. (No, don't dwell on it for too long. No sense in making yourself sick.)
Even worse is the possibility of such a mess turning out to be a hit. Then they have even less of a reason to actually create something good.
I'd like to think that all it takes is one good, solid version of how to do it right to set the tone for everything else. Blood: The Last Vampire was close. Not outstanding, but pretty darn good for what it was. It did the original material justice, it kept things moving, and it allowed non-fans to walk in the door and not be completely baffled (which helped since the original source material was pretty self-contained and had built-in concessions to non-Japanese audiences). But it didn't really command much of an audience, and I get the feeling many of the projects that could be created in this vein simply won't.
It might be best to learn to live with that. I'd rather see ten decent if modest versions of such material than two or three big, lousy ones. But tell them that. Tell the people who see every potential property as just that: a piece of property to be packaged up and thrown onto one of a number of conveyor belts, and which will be cropped or stretched, Procrustean-bed style, if it doesn't meet their expectations.
Dear Mr. Petersen:
Don't break your shins too hard.