Skydance Television has decided to take on an ambitious project. The studio is producing a live-action TV series of the popular anime and manga, Sword Art Online. Skydance is following a trend in Hollywood, which seems to be leaning towards adapting manga or anime storylines into live-action movies and TV series. So far, Tinseltown’s interpretations have mostly disappointed fans of the Japanese art forms. As such, SAO fans are not too keen on watching a live-action TV series of their favorite anime.
It seems like Skydance is in full gear producing the live-action version of SAO. According to Deadline, the studio already hired Patrick Massett and John Zinman, from Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Friday Night Lights series, to pen the adaptation. The duo will also be the live-action series’ showrunners and executive producers.
Marcy Ross, the President of Skydance Television, expressed the studio’s excitement for the project and having Massett and Zinman on board working on it, reported IGN.
“We’re already deep in development with Patrick, John, and Laeta on our larger than life Skydance SAO series, in which we aim not only to satisfy the franchise’s enthusiastic sci-fi and anime fan base but also to appeal to new TV audiences the world over.”
Based on Ross’s statement, the studio’s target demographic for the live-action Sword Art Online TV series are the fans of the anime and manga, as well as sci-fi fans who may be interested in the sci-fi aspects of the storyline, namely Nerve Gear’s tech and the virtual world.
Fans of the original series, however, will know that SAO has elements of adventure and romance as well. Based on Ross’s comment, however, the live-action adaptation might not focus on Kirito and Asuna’s relationship or Kirito’s personal voyage throughout the storyline.
Skydance seems to be more concentrated on world-building or creating the live-action version of SAO’s reality. In fact, Comicbook reported that Skydance would be creating a virtual reality for viewers of the live-action series.
“(The virtual experience will be a) full-scale and wide-ranging set of live-action franchise extensions across our business verticals,” described Skydance CEO, David Elison, according to the Comicbook report.
The studio hasn’t released further information about this SAO-linked virtual experience. It could be an actual virtual game crafted after the world in the anime, or just a virtual world viewers can enjoy. Either way, the company hasn’t announced how viewers are to tap into this virtual experience. However, Skydance will probably team up with a company that already has VR tech, like Sony or HTC.
Regardless, the anime/manga’s fans are not excited for the live-action series of Sword Art Online. Given the string of live-action anime and manga adaptations released so far, no one can blame them. Most live-action anime adaptations made by western film studios receive mixed reviews at best.
“Movie and TV makers have always used adaptations of work but what’s changed recently is they’re less willing to take a gamble & would prefer to find established works and universes that have franchise potential… which means finding material that has a ton of fans and pre-established base. Unfortunately, the executive meddling often kills it or people putting their own spin,” wrote yolotheunwisewolf on the Sword Art Online subreddit.
“They’re terrible almost always,” said cycl1c on the same subreddit thread.
SAO fans seem validated in their worries, given the direction Skydance Television appears to be taking on the live-action adaptation. In general, Hollywood studios have not really figured out the perfect formula for adapting anime or manga storylines. Western filmmakers still have to catch up to anime and manga writers in Japan.