The Netflix version of Eiichiro Oda’s manga is not the first successful adaptation.
The live action adaptation of One Piece on Netflix is a real success – not a masterpiece but great entertainment, very respectful of the original work. Surprised ? Yes, a little, all the same, because their previous experience (Cowboy Bebop, immediately released immediately cancelled) did not leave a great memory. But this is not the first time that a manga has successfully passed the test of adaptation on the big screen: the Japanese have been manufacturing them since the 1960s (see our report in Première n°543 of September), and there’s everything in the lot, from great films to naughty ones. We chose five, which are not only models of how to go from paper to film but also – and above all – great films in general. Do not hesitate to complain to the editor if you find that something is missing.
One Piece: Netflix has (finally) succeeded in adapting a manga into “live action” (review)
Baby Cart: The Saber of Vengeance (1972)
Once upon a time in Japan, during the Edo period… The shogun’s former executioner is on the road to exile and he rents his sword to the highest bidder. But he also takes care of his very young son, not yet old enough to speak, who travels in a pram loaded with secret weapons. Adaptation of a fabulous manga by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima which inspired Frank Miller as well as the Ninja Turtles, The Saber of Vengeancedirected by Kenji Misumi (the one who created the character of the blind masseur-slasher Zatoichi in 1962) is the first in a series of six ultra-violent and ultra-brilliant swordplay films – we could also have mentioned Lady Snowblood (1973) also adapted from a manga written by Kazuo Koike, with Meiko Kaiji as an avenging swordswoman, but Baby Cart is perhaps the most emblematic.
Crying Freeman (1995)
Another manga written by Koike, you name it! But above all it is the birth certificate of Christophe Gans in cinema: his first feature film, adapted from a comic book, recounts the exploits of a humble Japanese potter who became a tattooed killer in the service of an ancient Chinese sect. To transform the sculptural images of Ryochi Ikegami, Gans takes up the aesthetics of The Killer by John Woo -but above all he has in his arsenal a supreme weapon, the superb body of Mark Dacascos, and Crying Freeman cinema version becomes an ode to the beauty of his movements and his deadly muscles.
Old Boy (2003)
Park Chan-wook’s film is so strong that it completely eclipsed the fact that it is an adaptation (the manga by Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi was published from 1996 to 1998): relocated to South Korea south, Old Boy has become a phenomenon, a high concept film (a man sequestered for fifteen years without explanation finds himself released into the wild) which transforms into a particularly cruel twist film including certain scenes (the fight in sequence shot, the octopus feast, the final revelation) convey Fight Club for an ad for Diet Coke.
Ghost in the Shell (2017)
Criticized even before its release for a false controversy concerning its casting, Ghost in the Shell is to be rediscovered: a work of adaptation totally respectful of the original work (in this case: the anime by Mamoru Oshii rather than the comic strip by Masamune Shirow), on the one hand, and a true aesthetic manifesto ‘questioning Scarlett Johansson’s star status. What is she hiding under her star body? What is, basically, a body of cinema? What if the film itself was the ultimate body? Ghost in the Shell then becomes a funny blockbuster reflection ofUnder the Skin -a reflection armed to the teeth with guns and cyber implants.
Alita: Battle Angel (2019)
Long a fantasy project of James Cameron, finally taken up by Robert Rodriguez, the cinema adaptation of Gunnm by Yukito Kishiro (the unofficial version, Elysium by Neill Blomkamp, does not count) is a fairly astonishing success. A fusion between the aggressive, constantly over-exciting SF B series and a teenager’s search for a peaceful space in which to live in complete tranquility. The idea of this fusion is embodied by another cinema body – or rather eyes, digitally enlarged: those of Alita (Rosa Salazar, fabulous), an amnesiac cyborg assassin, who are wide open on the search for her memories.