If you haven’t noticed by now, Netflix is really jonesing to make as many live-action anime adaptations as possible. From the Yu Yu Hakusho and One Piece treatments currently underway to their less successful attempts, we’ll be here for a while. There’s no way of telling whether any of these will succeed after previous tries didn’t pull the desired numbers. But if this is what the streaming service has decided it’s about… allow us to make a few suggestions.
Akimi Yoshida’s shojo/shonen crossover hit Banana Fish gained a loyal following during its 1980s and 1990s run. Even more jumped on thanks to MAPPA’s 2018 anime adaptation, which you can watch on Amazon Prime. As Netflix eyes up anime to adapt to live action, Banana Fish seems like an obvious get. Set in New York, the crime drama features an international cast of characters and a heartfelt story that will resonate for any viewers.
Most of all, it’s a show likely to appeal to people who don’t watch anime. Anime is, after all, still treated more as a genre than a medium. So there are people who simply “don’t watch it.” A series like Banana Fish has enough of a rooting in mainstream storytelling that it could attract the all-important eyes of non-anime-watchers.
Netflix tends to go straight for massive, well-loved anime titles when choosing its adaptations. Gundam, One Piece, Cowboy Bebop, and Death Note, for example. While this brings with it name recognition, it can also bring early judgment. Series so near and dear to a fan’s heart will naturally get heavier scrutiny when adapted. So, while a risk in one sense, approaching a show that’s loved but less universally known might allow for a more even-handed approach. For example, Miracle Girls: first a manga in 1991, then an anime in 1993.
The sweet teen rom-com about a pair of psychic twins has just the right touch of paranormal for fans of shows like Stranger Things and The Umbrella Academy, albeit with a lighter tone. Also, slightly selfishly, a lot of us would just love to see more Miracle Girls-related anything.
Spy x Family
So let’s assume Netflix has no interest in going for less-prestige titles. Let’s say that, rather than courting non-anime-fans and attempting to lead them to stories they might otherwise ignore, they still want the existing anime fan love. And let’s say they must have a prestige title or else. Fine. Spy x Family.
This newer series has a thriving fan base, but (as an anime) is fresh enough that there won’t be literal decades of emotion wrapped up in any approach to it. It’s got a global cast, spy action (which people all over the world love), and a unique relationship at its core. And it’s got Anya.
What would it take for Netflix to stick the landing on a live-action anime adaptation perfectly—both artistically and in terms of viewing numbers? That’s a long discussion for another day.
Speaking of Stranger Things, here are some paranormal anime for fans of the series.