We’ve entered the age of big-blockbuster, live-action adaptations of anime and manga properties. While common in Japan, it’s been a slow build in the U.S., with most early adaptations flopping commercially (Speed Racer) and/or critically (Dragon Ball: Evolution). While recent ones have been a mixed bag (see the resounding failure that is Netflix’s Death Note), Hollywood continues to mine this rich source of creativity. A Cowboy Bebop Netflix series was recently announced, following hot on the heels of the Alita film, which did good business at the box office and was generally well-reviewed.
But some of Japan’s greatest anime seems to be off limits. When recently interviewed regarding a Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind kabuki adaptation, Studio Ghibli co-founder Toshio Suzuki mentioned that Hollywood had come calling on more than one occasion about turning Miyazaki’s classic into a movie, but the director had “turned them all down.”
Miyazaki knows the ups and downs of adaptations. Many of Ghibli’s films were adapted from previous works, including classics like Grave of the Fireflies and Miyazaki’s own Howl’s Moving Castle. The film usually considered the studio’s worst, Tales from Earthsea, was also an adaptation, a property that Miyazaki had worked to attain; it fell into his son Goro’s hands and resulted in an uneven, maligned final product, one that his father fought against every step of the way.
More personally, Miyazaki has seen his own work adapted poorly. His first taste of western studios was Manson International’s infamously terrible cut of Nausicaa, entitled, Warriors of the Wind. It was years before Miyazaki allowed Ghibli’s films to be released in the west. The famous tale goes that Miyazaki was so adamant about disallowing edits that Suzuki sent Miramax chairman Harvey Weinstein a katana accompanied by a note which read, “no cuts.”
No Nausicaa is almost certainly for the best, as Hollywood’s track record, as mentioned earlier, is poor when it comes to working with manga or anime source material. Still, we can dream of what Ghibli adaptations might look like—in fact, during our celebration of Ghibli movies last month, we offered our take on how we would cast such a movie. Fans of the films have similarly tried to bring Nausicaa to life, with everything from developing working gliders to developing this wonderfully made fan trailer:
Maybe it’s all for the best—it’s hard to imagine that any type of “real world” take on Ghibli could match or even come close to the creative worlds of their films. Like a dream, we can only visit these fantastical worlds in one way to see them in all their glory—anything more tangible only diminishes the beauty of Studio Ghibli’s works.
Featured art by J (reprinted w/permission)