homunculus-drawingUrban legend says that toilets flush backwards in Australia. This is correct, but slightly mis-aimed – move the location a few thousand kilometers north to Japan and change “toilets” to “comic adaptations”. In the west, film adaptations tend to be worse than the books they’re based on. In Japan, anime films tend to be better than the comics they’re based on.

Shut your piehole. I have history on my side.

Tony Tanazaki’s Genocyber manga was a confused melange of ideas jacked from Blade Runner. Under the direction of Koichi Ohata it became a series of stylish, brutal anime OVAs. Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell manga was a futuristic counter-terrorism story that happened to tackle some philosophical master/puppet stuff. The movie stripped away much of the uninteresting police crap and showcased the existential climax as the story’s principle feature. Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira manga was a sprawling, unfocused sci-fi epic of tree-massacring length. The film incarnation burned away all the unnecessary additives, turning 2200 pages of comic into an efficient two hour film.

OVAs and anime adaptations have a good track record.

Why? I have some theories. Jews. Illuminati. The fact that manga are traditionally made in a high-pressure sweat shop atmosphere where the deadline is king, while animated movies are so expensive and slow that you can’t afford not to have everything planned out properly. Hollywood hates creativity, and I’m sure the anime industry does as well. The difference is that the manga industry hates creativity even more, so the effect of an anime adaptation is a net improvement.

So what potentially amazing anime adaptations are we missing out on? How would they be different?

Iqura Sugimoto’s Variante comes to mind. It’s action packed. It has an appealing moe heroine. “Everyman who fuses with a monster” is a hopelessly cliche’d premise, but if they could reproduce the manga’s murky groping-in-the-dark-for-answers atmosphere it could work.

Kazuo Umezu’s The Drifting Classroom is another. There was a low budget live action version, but we’ll forget that. We need Akira treatment on this one. It’s a powerful story, but there’s way too much going on in it. A stripped down version with some of the more bizarre subplots removed (like the dreaming kid) would be something to see.

Junji Ito’s Uzumaki might work as a manga. Again, there’s some arcs that could be cut while preserving the integrity of the work.

Hideo Yamamoto’s Homunculus is a disturbing and bold manga that really needs to be adapted in some way. But Satoshi Kon was probably the only guy who could do it justice, and now he’s dead.

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