In light of Hollywood yet again whitewashing an anime adaptation by giving a non-Asian actor the lead role PLAYING a Japanese character, I took it upon myself to compile a list of ten other anime that could be adapted with a majority of Asian actors. Note: Not necessarily the best anime, just ten that could make cool movies and star non-white actors.
#10. Gurren Lagann
Not really a deep or complex story, it centers around a trio of friends who emerge from the underground to fight Beast Men for the survival of humanity. With giant robots, cause why not? It’s a fun show, with great action and good characterization. There could be room for debate on whether the lead protagonist is actually Asian, but the future setting could easily be used to justify it along with the rest of the cast as well.
#9. Yu Yu Hakusho
Another anime that isn’t very deep, it centers around a young delinquent who dies saving a young child from a car crash. Despite the fact that the child wouldn’t have been harmed, that final act earns Yusuke Urameshi the chance to return to the Earthly realm and become a paranormal detective. At first he has to prove his resolve in that mission to redeem his soul and later on he has to solve cases involving demons attacking humans. Along the way he turns enemies into friends as they face bigger threats. As far as I know, most of the series takes place in Japan with Asian characters. The premise is interesting enough for a movie and the first film could focus on Yusuke’s quest to regain his physical body. Or skip all that and focus on the battle arcs, either way the potential is there.
#8. Tenchi Muyo
This may be a controversial choice due to it being a harem anime, I think the material kind of overshadows that. For one, although the premise is 6-7 females fighting for Tenchi’s affections it hardly ever is the main plot. Two, characters like Sasami, Noike, Mihoshi and Washu often seem to forget they’re in love with Tenchi and follow their own interests which just leaves two women fighting over Tenchi. Three, in one series women are shown as Space Princesses, Space Cops, Space Pirates, even the most brilliant geniuses in the Universe, which I find kinda brilliant! Yeah, Tenchi is the main character and the story can jump into sexism territory, it also gives each character a personality and talents and that you just don’t see often. A live action movie could star at least 5 actresses and be as big or as small as the script required because there’s plenty of pre-existing material to draw from.
#7. School Rumble
Yet another series set in Japan and centered on romance, I can never get enough of it. Maybe it’s the earnest approach to love and relationships, or the comedy that results from its characters. This honestly might work better as a TV show (in Japan), but I see no reason why a movie couldn’t adapt some of the story lines. Based around a love triangle, Tenma loves Kurasuma and constantly tries to get his attention, while school bad boy Harima tries and fails to confess his feelings for Tenma. As their friends begin their own relationships and interact with each other, the story only gets crazier and funnier as a result. At its core, its about a dozen or so kids who can’t understand this crazy little thing called love.
#6. Ronin Warriors
“Sailor Moon for boys” or should that be the other way around? Either way its about a team of heroes in mystical Samurai armor fighting a demon who wants to take over our world. I got really into the story because of how straight-forward the plot was and how the action didn’t drag on like in Dragon Ball Z. This could be an easy way for an ensemble Japanese cast to do a pastiche take on the Samurai genre without having to use the cliches associated with it.
#5. Shaman King
Eventually using an international cast, the story begins with two Japanese friends, one of whom is a Shaman. In this universe, Shamans are able to communicate with Ghosts and use them to battle other Shamans in a Tournament to decide who will rule the world. Along the way, Yoh (the protagonist) befriends several rivals who also want to be Shaman King while also wishing the others have their chance. It might be expensive to adapt the later story, but starting out in the early chapters could keep costs down and centered in Japan.
Otherwise known as Card Captor Sakura, it centered on a young girl who unwittingly unleashed a 100 or so magical cards and has to track them down. A bit like Digimon but with magic cards, each has a specific power and requires Sakura to figure out how to work around that power in order to capture them. A movie of this would not only be a good chance for an Asian led cast, but also one with a female lead and geared towards children, triple win. I remember thinking the show wasn’t the most exciting, but way ahead of more popular anime like Pokemon.
#3. Samurai Champloo
#3?! Yes, this show was directed by Shinchiro Watanabe and is of course brilliant in mixing Hip Hop culture with a Samurai setting. Since somehow Hollywood can’t figure out Cowboy Bebop (despite not having any people to offend by having a 50% white cast) and seeing Rurouni Kenshin adapted to live action, I see Champloo as the best alternative. Centered around a Ronin (masterless, out of work Samurai), a Vagabond, and a young girl searching for a Samurai who smells of Sunflowers, the trio travel around Edo era Japan getting into all kinds of trouble not helped by their fragile commitment to their mission. Second only in terms of plot, I put it at three because while its exceedingly well done it is still a Samurai story albeit one that could make a kick-ass movie.
Probably the most epic and scrutinized movie you could hope to make, Naruto takes place in a Universe seemingly composed only of Asian based people which is appropriate considering the backdrop of Ninjas and martial arts fighting. The anime and Manga are hugely popular, so their would be an instant audience for a movie and after the travesty of Dragon Ball Z: Evolution, hopefully Hollywood would let a foreign movie studio adapt Naruto. The basic premise is about a boy who is shunned in his village for housing an immensely powerful evil spirit who aspires to become the greatest Ninja in his village in order to gain its respect. As the series and cast go on, they encounter bigger and tougher threats and the series begins meditating on the nature of war, conflict and the part the next generation plays into them. A movie would have to condense a lot of material, including Naruto passing his final school exam to become a beginner-level Ninja, meeting his teammates, their first mission and one of the main antagonists of the series. Still, it could be a franchise to out-do Harry Potter, Transformers, even the Marvel films if done right.
Probably the most celebrated Japanese animated film, I’m still not sure I completely understand it. Psychic powers, a post apocalyptic future set in Japan and Nuclear Power all play a part in its premise. Hollywood has been wanting to adapt it for years, with few if any Asian actors. Somehow, it hasn’t sunk in for them that is the main reason why it can’t move forward. It’s too popular and too well known for any white-washing to be done and go without severe backlash from all over. It’s a story starring Japanese characters in Japan and there’s no room for anything else. This is a Watchmen level project, it could be done eventually and be ok or sit in development hell for eternity. If it were ever done, it would be the most challenging anime to ever be adapted to live action film because the expectations would be so high. It’s a singular work for a reason, in and out of animation.