Are the movie adaptations of manga aimed at a new audience?

© Production Committee of the 2017 Movie ‘Gintama’ The live-action version of ‘Gintama’ became the No. 1 live-action Japanese movie hit in 2017. The release date of the sequel has also been decided


In recent years, many manga have been made into live-action movies. Among fans of the originals, topics such as “Does it fit the image of the original?” “Is it worth getting excited about?” are being discussed even before the release. These widely talked-about movie adaptations are also investigated at the Fields Research Institute, showing that, depending on the work in question, the ratio of “fans of the original” and “persons who watch the live-action movie without knowing the original (new type)” greatly differs. This time, we will use the data to consider such differences between audiences and their relation to hit movies.

Every year in December, Fields Research Institute (FRI) conducts the leisure survey ‘Fields Yoka Survey’ (*1) (FYS). This time we will use this data to regard the following five works. All of them are live-action films from 2017, and they are products that have been investigated by FYS as well.

■How different is it for each product? The ratio of new type viewers and fans of the original

First of all, we would like to confirm the differences in audience types for each work.
The following graph depicts the ratio of the new type / fan of the original audiences of the live-action movies.
※For convenience, “persons who have ever come in contact with the product through any media (such as manga or anime) before the live-action movie” are counted as “fans of the original”.

※Scope of the aggregation: the viewers of each live-action film
※The ratio of ‘Fullmetal Alchemist’ is a reference value, because it was measured before the end of screening. (Survey conducted during its screening period)
※Box office revenue figures as of the end of December 2017.
Based on the requesting research agency, the findings of FRI may differ from the general box office revenue announced

As shown in the graph, the new type / fan of the original ratio differs greatly depending on the work in question.

1. ‘Gintama’ and ‘Fullmetal Alchemist’ have a high proportion of “fans of the original”
2. ‘Ajin’ has especially many “new type” viewers
3. For ‘Tokyo Ghoul’ and ‘JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure’ it is roughly half and half

For reference, the box office revenue of each work is listed on the right side of the graph. This time, we will focus on two works: ‘Gintama’, with a high ratio of fans of the original, which can be called a hit based on the box office figures, and ‘Ajin’, with a high ratio of new fans, which can be considered a hit if we account for its original degree of recognition; exploring factors that made them hits with each type of audience.

■The live-action version of ‘Gintama’ acquires both fans of the original and the new type, by reproducing the original’s world and atmosphere!

First, we will consider the reason for the live-action version ‘Gintama’ gaining support from “fans of the original”.

As is also the case with other works, when ‘Gintama’’s live-action version was announced, fans of the original raised their voices in concern.
At this time, the original author’s (mangaka Hideaki Sorachi) comments gave the fans of the original an opportunity to accept the live-action version. “Although it is normal to take a beating if the adaptation of a manga is different from its image, we believe that the images of the ‘Gintama’ characters in the readers’ heads will not be blurred, whatever we do now.” Words like “Due to the nature of the work, there is nothing wrong or in need of change with ‘Gintama’, we are just trying slightly new things with it” dispelled the anxiety of the original work’s fans, and it seems like these comments functioned as good PR to make the contents of the movie interesting.

In addition, the contents and the PV of the movie announced later also raised the fans’ expectations.
Firstly, there is a high degree of character reproduction. Although the characters’ visuals were announced with a separate timing, every time one was released, the verdict was “the original image is reproduced well.” The high degree of reproduction is not limited to just visuals. Ms. Kanna Hashimoto and Mr. Kankuro Nakamura gave their all during the performance, making many think “Are they fine to be like this?”, and the videos / commercials broadcast before the screening contained funny scenes with the actors running around as fast as they could, conveying a slapstick comedy atmosphere becoming of ‘Gintama’. This could be thought of as “trying too hard”, but it was received positively on the Internet and social media.

This pre-release information showcasing the reproduction of the original raised the expectations regarding the live-action movie for the fans valuing the original’s image, and pushed them towards the movie theater.

It is possible that the “sharp” characteristics made for fans of the originals and their reputation influenced the “new type” as well.
Previous good reputation from fans of the original / word of mouth must have given the impression to the new type viewers that “this movie seems good”. Furthermore, in the case of ‘Gintama’, as it became a topic of discussion among fans of the original, the number of PV playbacks was large, with there being about 5 million replays in three days; it seems that this caught the eye of those who have not seen ‘Gintama’ before, and the contents awoke their interest.

Looking back at the story so far, we can guess that ‘Gintama’ became a hit both with “fans of the original” and the “new type”, because the live-action movie was accepted by fans of the original at an early stage, the crux being gaining their positive evaluation before the release. Just as ‘Gintama’, ‘Fullmetal Alchemist’ also has a high proportion of “fans of the original”, but the box office revenue did not reach the level of ‘Gintama’. What divided the results of both products was probably based on whether the misgivings of the original’s fans were dispelled before the release, making them accept the live-action version. ‘Fullmetal Alchemist’ also devised ways to draw visuals from the original, but the obstacle presented by recreating the original’s worldview set in medieval Europe with Japanese actors is difficult to overcome (‘Gintama’ is set in Japan); this might become an issue when making movies based on manga in the future as well.

■‘Ajin’ acquired “new type” viewers with hyper-specialized action!

Next, we will take a look at ‘Ajin’, a hit with “new type” viewers. Which points resonated with the new type?
When looking back at CM and PV, words such as “deadly intense” and “endlessly repeated battle” are inserted during scenes with exploding buildings, shooting sprees, etc., raising expectations for action scenes worth seeing. This promotion seems to have attracted the interest of the “new type” viewers who like action.
So, was the original of this work known for its action scenes? We will confirm with the new type and the original’s fans which part of the work “‘Ajin’ (including the original version)” they found fascinating, verifying this.

Let’s see the graph below. Separated by new type viewers / fans of the original, it depicts the items from many responses regarding ‘Ajin’’s points of attraction.

※Total target: ‘Ajin’ People who responded that they have seen the live-action version of ‘Ajin’, and “very much liked it” or “somewhat liked it”
※Attraction points are not limited to live-action movies, also including the attractions of manga, anime, etc.
※As an attraction point, items with a total score of 10% or more are displayed

Please pay attention to the difference between new type viewers and fans of the original in the graph (attraction).
First of all, “action scenes” is what grabs the attention. The original’s fans also mentioned this as an attraction point, but it is overwhelmingly high for the new type, carrying a considerably strong image. However, “fear, madness, sickness, scariness” has a score above that of “action scenes” in the original’s fan’s graph, while the new type viewers did not value this to such an extent. For the live-action movie, it seems that an approach was adopted where, out of the original manga’s attraction points, only “action-orientation” was highly promoted, and the other elements were suppressed.

Considering the graph’s data and the promotion contents, instead of faithfully reproducing the original, ‘Ajin’ daringly targets the “new type” viewers, as a product made with “action-orientation” in mind. These “sharp” characteristics not only attract the “new type” viewers who are lovers of action, but perhaps also people who went to the movie theater thinking that “this might be a completely novel movie”.

This way, it can be surmised about ‘Ajin’ that the way the movie is made and the promotion both have quite “sharp” characteristics, aimed at the “new type” viewers. Further, bearing in mind that ‘Ajin’’s original is a manga aimed at young audiences, and it does not have the same degree of recognition as popular children’s manga, the strategy of turning towards new type audiences to a great extent can be considered appropriate.

■In conclusion

With this verification, we learned the following about the live-action movie adaptations of manga.

①Customers (proportions of new viewers / fans) vary greatly depending on the product in question
②’Gintama’ is made with an emphasis on reproducing the original, with the possibility that the approval of the original’s fans is what caused the live-action version to become a hit
③For ‘Ajin’, the reason for success seems to be PR and the moviemaking strongly emphasizing the action-orientation, targeting new type viewers
④The hit movies considered this time (‘Gintama’ / ‘Ajin’) have the “sharp” characteristics of the movies’ content in common

Even if the concept is the same (“live-action movie based on the original manga”), they are not promoted in the same way; different target settings are adopted for each work. Then, when the target group is decided, making the movie and promoting it in a specialized (sharp) way might lead to the success of the manga’s live-action adaptation. When deciding the target group, it probably needs to be considered “how well the work is recognized in the world”. Also, when targeting the original’s fans like ‘Gintama’ does, in addition to making a product demanded by fans of the original, it may be necessary to plan a promotion that makes the original’s fans want to accept the movie adaptation.

Since this time only two movies (‘Gintama’ and ‘Ajin’) have been considered, the verification with other works is also necessary; during our future investigations, we might find a new hit factor not mentioned here. Since many live adaptations based on manga are planned for 2018, we will continue to carry out the verification at FRI.

■Recommended Articles

(Article: Sayaka Nanjo)

Fields Research Institute (FRI) conducts research in entertainment.
This article was written by a member of FRI, through the original coverage of his/her interests observed in their daily lives.

(※1)Fields Yoka Survey 2018
A web survey carried out in December 2017 which surveyed 11,642 people across the nation from elementary school age to 69 years of age. It queried their behaviors in relation to and their sense of values regarding free time.

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