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Vol.5 - Page 2

From Manga to Live Action

The quick establishment of this method of making live-action versions of the manga is not only due to the enormous popularity each work possesses. A lot of it has to do with the nature of manga itself. Manga, at the same time as being only one of the forms of mass entertainment, is an excellent engine and treasure chest that creates marvelous stories.

Manga takes up 20% of the total sales of Japan’s publishing industry and dominates 40% of the published circulation. Manga readers often times are repeaters of reading manga since a majority of the manga are published as on-going series, and even if not, readers of manga have high tendencies in adopting the habit of reading manga of one kind or another. This means that manga market in Japan is firmly rooted, and for a work to not only survive but moreover win through the fierce competition of such matured market means that the story and the characters of the manga are proven market acceptance. Naturally, the chances of gaining success with TV dramas or films based on manga like that become strong.
The situation, nevertheless, has been like that for a good few decades. Then what kicked the back of makings of live action, instead of or in addition to making of anime? It is mostly due to the rapid development of digital image and screen technology. With the amazingly fast development of these kinds of technologies, the worldview of manga became expressible live-action with great reality especially when it comes to SF works or those with imaginative settings like DORORO. Like discussed in the other page, the grand-scale worldview, the time&location settings as well as creatures/monsters appearing in DORORO was said to be impossible to filmatize for a long time.
(c) 2007 Film DORORO Production Committee

Just for a little note, there has been an interesting survey conducted some little while a go by team consisted of manga artist Monkey Punch (artist for Lupin the 3rd, Lupin III) and editors. According to this survey, there are roughly 100 new stories being made on average as part of manga magazines which means that about 36,500 stories are being born in a year. Though these numbers include one episode of an on-going series, the ones that do not go through magazine publishment, ones on newspapers and self-published works are not included suggesting the number to rise higher if you count them all. Manga is really an engine of stories, and Japan is truly a country full of stories.

In terms of a means that create stories there are always novels, but the reason for manga being more suitable for live-action than novels lays in the very basic nature yet the most conspicuous factor of manga – the pictures. Manga is a visual picture of having the storyline and illustration together all the time. Furthermore, the details cover not just the figures of the characters. Their facial expressions and movements, background images, the camera angle, light effects, the timeline are all provided visually like a detailed storyboard of a film, and the manga-distinctive use of ma, panel arrangement and onomatopoeia (see volume 1 for details) describes the precise kind of atmosphere and tension each scene own. These characteristics of manga dramatically simplify the process of making live-action versions as compared to novels.

These characteristics, however, are not very surprising if you consider the fact that one of the founders of today’s Japanese manga culture Tezuka Osamu was a big fan of films. His style of drawing and building the stories is called “story manga” and the distinctive point about this style is that the amount of information in each panel is limited to the minimum. At its earliest stage, manga was already like a visual hard copy of films.

Following and enhancing the story manga style of Tezuka’s is Otomo Katsuhiro’s (AKIRA) drawing style. Adopting story manga, Otomo also included the style of American and European comics of making the drawings in each panel worthy enough to see them as independent pictures. This style is not so easy to study as it is very dependent on his drawing skills which are exceptionally excellent.

Stories based on certain themes such as action (battle), sports, dance, music and art have higher chances than other to become successful works. A good example of this is the recent success Nodame Cantabile, and is perhaps reflected in the fact that the next work Japanese people want to see live-action of is the mega-hit basketball manga SLAM DUNK. Nodame Cantabile being based on the theme of (European) classic music succeeded in taking away the “difficult parts” in the original manga such as the names of composers and music technical terms by using actual classic music as background music. I will write more about Nodame Cantabile in the following articles. It is also easier for the drama/film to become as one established story apart from the original because it has a firm theme.

For these three chief reasons – high success potential, technological development and the characteristics of Japanese manga – live-action shooting became extremely common and popular in Japan today. Nonetheless, these very same elements also turn into the downsides and at times crucial failure factors of live-action makings.
Nodame Cantabile
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Made in Japan Contents
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