FRI’s eye: The reason Japan is overflowing with live-action movies based on manga titles

With “Terra Formars”, “Chihayafuru”, “Assassination Classroom” and more, this year 25 live-action movies have already been released which are adaptations of anime or manga works. Last year it was 32 titles, and the year before that we got 38 titles, but this year’s astonishing pace is looking to surpass those digits. Furthermore, this year’s list of TOP 10 highest-grossing Japanese films includes 4 live-action movies based on manga. Why it is that Japan loves these kinds of manga adaptations so much?

Reason No.1: Toho Co.,Ltd, a giant in the movie business.
Ever since the year 2000, Toho Co.,Ltd has been a driving force behind Japanese cinema. 60% of the box office revenue for Japanese films comes from Toho productions. It is said that in order to acquire stable revenue, Toho have chosen a very specific strategy. It’s the so-called “million unit strategy”. The key is to adapt a book which has sold over a million copies into a movie, in order to attract a million viewers to the screens. Some years ago, books which sold over a million copies were usually novels, but recently it is manga which is taking this position. As a result, the number of movies based on manga titles is increasing.
Compared to America, where comic book fans comprise not even a 10% of the population (referenced from Facebook), over 50% of Japan’s population reads manga (referenced from DIMSDRIVE). So from the very start, the market for such products has been big.

Reason No.2: Media Mix
In recent years, it is becoming the norm to adapt individual contents into a multiplicity of media formats, and movies are one of the crucial parts of this process. In many live-action manga adaptations, popular idols are appointed as actors and actresses, which helps widen the audience to include people who don’t usually read manga. Then, in order to extend the content’s lifespan, the movie is also shown during open slots in between TV anime shows, or sometimes it even spawns spin-off works or original stories which only exist in movie form. All of these extra additions to the original material generate a lot of excitement and discussion, and are a testament to the many roles which a live-action movie can fulfill.

Reason No.3: Technological progress
Certain scenes which in the past could have only been recreated using animation can now be accomplished with live-action footage. Especially due to the progress in the fields of CG technology, the peculiar characters and unreal worlds of manga can now be represented in live-action without breaking any of the magic. Therefore, we could say that technological progress is one of the big reasons behind this current increase in manga movies.

Japanese manga steps into Hollywood
Up until the ’80s, Hollywood only produced about 10 movies based on American comic books, but ever since the year 2000 that number has risen to 43 (referenced from Box Office Mojo). The big titles have been superhero movies such as Spiderman or Batman, but recently Japanese content such as All you need is kill, Akira or Ghost in the Shell are also being turned into live-action movies, and this trend will probably continue.
The day when Japanese manga flourishes in the cinemas of every country may not be so far into the future!

(Article: Kamyi Fong)

Fields Research Institute (FRI) conducts research in entertainment. This article was written by the member of FRI, through the original coverage of his/her interests that discovered from daily life.

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