A Sword Art Online TV series is heading to the small screen, this time as a live-action American adaptation. This could be good news and bad news all in one.
In the past, there have been live-action adaptations of anime that didn’t do so well. Two of the most notable include Ghost in the Shell, which is being slammed for its “whitewashing” cast in a series with Japanese characters, and Speed Racer. The latter is considered more eye candy than a worthy follow-up to the classic story of a boy who inherits the role of the driver from his rumored dead brother.
Sword Art Online in the flesh? It’s happening! https://t.co/mSxs9lDsn5
— Polygon (@Polygon) August 3, 2016
Another anime that has hit the big screen and become one of the most hated franchises in cinema history is Transformers. Originally of Japanese origin, North America simply adopted it and turned it into a massive success as an animated series. Then, Michael Bay took over for the big screen live action films, and after the release of Revenge of the Fallen, he became one of the most hated directors and producers to ever exist.
— Claire Lanay (@ClaireLanay) August 5, 2016
Skydance is confident that Sword Art Online will work as a live action series since the animated equivalent has such a massive fanbase. The story follows beta tester Kirito and his friends who end up trapped inside a virtual reality next-generation role-playing game. The only way out is to beat the game or literally die trying.
“The game is a world unto itself, filled with sword fighting, monsters, magic and mystery, where the stakes are life and death. Kirito and an ensemble of diverse characters must fight their way through this hostile environment while making lives for themselves in the fantastical world that is Sword Art Online.”
A Sword Art Online game is also being planned as a virtual reality experience.
“At Skydance we are in the business of world-building and SAO is a massive pop-culture phenomenon from which we plan to launch a full-scale and wide-ranging set of live-action franchise extensions across our business verticals, beginning with television. We look forward to working alongside Laeta, Reki Kawahara and the teams at Kadokawa and Aniplex to build out a deeply immersive new universe of SAO in an authentic way that honors its well-established fan base around the globe.
“For years I have been inspired by the inventive and masterful storytelling of the SAO franchise. I’m thrilled to get the opportunity to work with such talented partners to bring this cutting-edge yet timeless story to a new format at Skydance.”
Fans of Sword Art Online might be relieved to know that the people behind the live-action TV series are also big fans of the anime. Hopefully, they get it right where Speed Racer, and eventually Transformers, annoyed their core fan bases. Ghost in the Shell has yet to be released as a live-action film, and fans are already outraged that Scarlett Johansson is set to play an Asian character. The first notable time a white actor was used to play an Asian was in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and then when Sean Connery’s James Bond was given prosthetics and makeup to pass as Japanese in You Only Live Twice.
Times have changed, and social conventions have become less tolerant of these things, though we still have Tilda Swinton playing an Asian in the upcoming Doctor Strange.
Sword Art Online will need to stick with Asian actors and actresses when the characters are themselves Asian, and even then it will need to follow the source material closely to avoid angering purist fans of the original.
[Image via A-1 Pictures]