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On Anime: Can Live-Action Adaptations Work?

On Anime: Can Live-Action Adaptations Work? (photo)

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There was a time when an introduction to anime meant grainy VHS tapes, glaring yellow subtitles and getting used to gratuitous violence and fan service. Box art plastered with magical sailor girls, bulky robots and shirtless heroes made it look more like you were purchasing fetish porn rather than glorified genre films. But for more than a decade now, anime has been working its way from obscurity to a recognized global art form that only began as a medium for kids. TCM aired Ghibli films, Hulu offers a swath of series both recent and classic, and, yes, IFC has also gotten into the game. Beyond the realms of television, the films of anime greats Hayao Miyazaki, Satoshi Kon and Mamoru Oshii regularly premiere at festivals alongside work from Wim Wenders and Woody Allen.

Alas, cultural acceptance draws the attention of Hollwood, and as anime comes into its own, the number of live-action adaptations is growing at an alarming rate — especially of those titles that were once nothing more than Saturday cartoons, like “Voltron,” “Robotech,” “Speed Racer” and even “Dragonball.” Scarier is the way that highly regarded modern classics like “Cowboy Bebop” have suddenly become the inspiration for major feature films, with A-list actors like Keanu Reeves signing on to produce and star. The common response to these adaptations tends to be: “Huh?”

That was literally the response of Akira Toriyama, creator of “Dragonball,” who’s already distancing himself from “Dragonball Evolution,” the project based on his creation that will hit theaters in April. He told Anime News Network, “As the original creator, I had a feeling of ‘Huh?’ upon seeing the screenplay and the character designs, but the director, all the actors, the staff, and the rest are nothing but ‘ultra’ high-caliber people. Maybe the right way for me and all the fans to appreciate it is as a new ‘Dragonball’ of a different dimension. Perhaps, this might become a great masterpiece of power! Hey, I look forward to it!!” It wasn’t what could be described as a ringing endorsement.

At the New York Comic Con, while promoting his new film “Yatterman” — itself an off-the-wall anime adaptation — Takashi Miike was asked during a press conference how he felt about the upcoming American adaptations. “The fact that another culture can embrace the concepts and stories we create is a great compliment,” he said, “but I feel we could do them better.” Fair enough, but I’d say there’s room for debate. The Wachowski brothers’ take on “Speed Racer” is infinitely better than the series it was modeled after, and may be the most vapid-but-pretty special effects spectacle ever shot.

Considering the simplicity and technical limitations of the material on which it was based, “Speed Racer” is a masterpiece, using its $120 million budget to obliterate all memory of the show’s habit of reusing character faces and leftover impressions from Osamu Tezuka’s break-neck production style. That said, the setup of “Speed Racer” the series is so rudimentary simple that a child could easily follow it. That wasn’t the case with the film. While critics complained about its lack of plot, no one seemed to recall how rudimentary the show’s logline was: “Speed goes to a new track and races a new race each week.”


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.