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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.”

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Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…