While Japanese anime has been steadily increasingly in global popularity (particularly in the U.S.) since the early-1990s, fans looking to see live-action adaptations of their favorite franchises have often seen those hopes come up short. While features like Cutie Honey and Ruroni Kenshin have been well received, and many consider The Wachowskis’ Speed Racer a cult classic, other films like Dragon Ball: Evolution are regarded as some of the worst releases in recent memory by fans. Meanwhile, still other attempts like the upcoming Ghost in The Shell and Akira remakes have been blasted for recasting Japanese characters with white actors.
Now, Warner Bros has announced plans to partner with Toho to produce a live-action version of one of Japan’s most popular manga series – directed by one of the nation’s most controversial filmmakers.
As reported by Variety, infamous Japanese shock-horror auteur Takeshi Miike will direct the first-ever live-action film based on the long-running manga series JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Actor Kento Yamazaki has been cast in the coveted lead role as the hero, Josuke Higashikata, with the film targeting a summer 2017 release date in Japan. No plans have yet been revealed about an international release, though Warner Bros.’ previous co-producing ventures in Japan have typically yielded a limited U.S. release for similar manga-related ventures (the studio backed the live-action Cutie Honey movie in 2004.)
Created in 1987, the series is the second most popular manga of all time in Japan, outsold only by the mega-popular One Piece in its home country. A supernatural action/comedy/mystery melodrama, the story follows multiple generations of the eccentric Joestar Family, whose lineage includes individuals gifted with special powers and skills they use to battle supernatural enemies and collect magical artifacts. The story thus far encompasses eight distinct parts spread across 105 total volumes of manga, and has previously been adapted into multiple animated films, light novels and an anime TV series set to make it’s U.S. debut on Toonami in October.
Miike’s film will be based on the fourth part of the storyline, “Diamond Is Unbreakable.” Set in 1999, the original version of the story followed an illegitimate heir to the Joestar lineage on a quest to prevent a magical bow and arrow from falling into the hands of an evil organization and ultimately involved multiple revelations about the various recurring characters and a subplot about a serial killer. The manga is famous for its highly-stylized action, which involves use of onomatopoeia and elaborate character-poses referred to as “Jojo-dachi” by fans, among whom attempting to imitate these poses is a popular pastime.
At one point best known for directing a shockingly prolific number (often releasing 2-3 films a year) of ultra-violent, surrealistically-stylized features in the horror, martial-arts and yakuza gangster genres; the last decade has found Miike experimenting with more family-friendly fare often grounded in Japanese popular culture: Along with the children’s adventure film The Great Yokai War and the superhero spoof Zebraman, he gained international notice for the live-action anime hit Yatterman and the feature adaptation of the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney video games.