My Recipe for a Good Live-Action Adaptation

For the past few years, there were several releases of live-action movies based on Manga, Anime, and Video Games. It has been a hit-or-miss opportunity for every production wherein big budget doesn’t always equate to a great movie. Here, I’ll try to give my two cents on what it takes to translate these media properly. Just a disclaimer, I didn’t graduate from a film or literature related course. These are just purely my opinion, and I based them on the live action movies that I’ve seen so far.

Resembling Cast

It’s one thing to give an actor or actress a make-up and hairstyle to match the character that he or she is portraying, and it’s another thing to pick a cast member who looks just like the character, effortlessly. The latter is quite difficult to fulfill, but when the production pulls it off, it will leave a lasting impression to the audience. One best example I can think of would be Christian Howard who plays Ken Masters in Street Fighter Assassin’s Fist. One look at the guy, and you instantly imagine him executing a Shoryuuken. Beyond the looks, the guy can perform martial arts moves that are convincing enough to emulate the reference character.

Speaking of martial arts moves, picking Takeru Satoh was a perfect choice to play as Kenshin Himura for the Rurouni Kenshin movies.  He’s a trained athlete, and he can do some insane acrobatics combined with elegant swordsmanship. You can see on his execution that he’s the guy for the job. Don’t believe me? Watch this video…

As for an example of a bad casting, you can look no further than Dragonball Evolution. Among other things that this movie had done, the casting alone was a complete mess for me. Watching on mute will leave you confused who’s who. Even Piccolo who can be worked around through proper prosthetic failed to deliver.

Loyalty To Story

One big reason that the fans got hooked with the source material was probably the story. There were events that made the series memorable, and they are looking forward relive these moments. Of course, there are parts that need to be changed or omitted due to the constraint that movies can only run up to three hours, but it should be done in a seamless manner. Kind of like what was done in Death Note. The events were modified, but it still made sense to the overall story. I actually think that the L in the live-action was quite smarter than his anime/manga counterpart.

Now, if only the Tekken movie did not happen. Seriously, the good plot of the video game franchise was murdered by this B-Movie.  The monumental moment where Heihachi threw Kazuya on the cliff was not presented, heck even the story behind the devil gene was not there. Christie’s not using Capoeira, Marshall Law not using Jeet-Kune-Do (Blasphemy!), and the list goes on. The only thing that the movie did right was picking Lateef Crowder as Eddy, but hey, that’s for the Resembling Cast criteria.

Familiar Cinematography

It’s an awesome feat if you’ll be able to remember that shot that exactly captures the same image that you’ve seen in a manga or an anime. Such moments will give you nostalgic fun. Also, if the director can get a clearer view of highlighting the character’s resembling features and skills, it gives the viewers the feel that this medium had been loyal to the source material. Take a look at Rurouni Kenshin (yes, I really love the film, and I’m going to cite it more than once). You can see from the camera angles how Kenshin’s speed and agility were emphasized with beautiful rope works that enabled the actor to lean, bend, and high-jump like the original character.

I understand that the filmmakers have a certain liberty to play with a franchise in the way that they know best. However, I believe that it’s just proper not to ruin that franchise with such style. After all, it was the stuff that the source material was made of that gave it its popularity. Disregarding these factors may prove to be disrespectful to the fans. I hope they will learn from the indie and Asian movie scene on how to do things right. ‘Til then, I recommend the following movies for good samples of live-action adaptations. Enjoy! (~^_^)~

Good Live-Action Movies:

  • Rurouni Kenshin Trilogy
  • Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist
  • Ashita no Joe (Tomorrow’s Joe)
  • Gatchaman
  • Shinobi (Live-Action for Basilisk)
  • Kamen Rider The First and Kamen Rider The Next
  • Garo: Red Requiem

Some of the Anime Shows That I Want to be Remastered

A lot of anime series have been rebooted or re-mastered for the past decade, which entertained a new set of audiences and brought some fun nostalgia for the old ones. Some of the notable franchises are Dragonball Z Kai, Full Metal Alchemist, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Hunter x Hunter, Rurouni Kenshin (New Kyoto Arc), and most recently Sailormoon Crystal. I can’t help but wonder if the other anime series that I’ve grown to love will also follow their path. I remember rushing up to go home after the class so as not to miss the local TV station’s spot for the weekday’s anime series (yes, there were five which corresponds to a specific day for the same time slot), oh memories XD. With this, let me share with you some of the anime shows that I want to be remastered.

Slam Dunk

Sure, Kuroko’s Basketball is a pretty cool series on its own, but back then, the anime basketball fever was brought by Slam Dunk. It became a hit here in the Philippines since A LOT of Filipinos are big fans of the sport.

The story revolves around Hanamichi Sakuragi, a high school punk with a long streak of rejection from girls (50 times). One day, he met Haruko Akagi,  another girl who instantly made him love struck again. In the hopes of getting close to her, he joined the basketball team as suggested by Haruko herself, despite his zero knowledge for the said sport. Good news, he was accepted in the team. Bad news, Haruko’s brother Takenori Akagi is the team captain and a super rookie by the name of Kaede Rukawa is stealing the spotlight for the team.

Even though I know how to play basketball, I’m not really a loyal follower of the famous leagues, but this anime gave me a nice perspective of the intense moments of an actual game. Okay, maybe dunking the ball on top of another player’s head is going overboard, but the events keep you hanging in your seat as you watch how the team struggles to win, second by second. If there’s one thing that I want to change with the series, it’s the loooooong flashbacks that happens every once in a while. It’s so long it took Kogure’s three-point shot to reach the rim only after the end of an episode. Ranting aside, this series is really good, and after watching a couple of youtube clips, I realized that this anime could use a digital re-mastering (I also realized how old I am haha… not funny). TOEI, I hope you consider this possibility.

YuYu Hakusho

Before  the phenomenal Hunter x Hunter series, Yoshihiro Togashi made the equally sensational YuYu Hakusho, a.k.a Poltergeist Report for the western audiences, a.k.a Ghost Fighter here in the Philippines. The show is just great; it was re-aired here in the Philippines several times, and yet it still gathers a considerable amount of viewers, though not as many as it was first shown here.

Yusuke Urameshi is a delinquent high school brawler (hey, am I  seeing a pattern here?) who out of sheer response, saved a kid from being hit by a car which supposedly cost him his life. I used “supposedly” because it turns out, he has a shot of having a second life again. The plot gets thicker as it unfolds that Yusuke has a greater purpose to fulfill as a detective of the spirit world. From there, he encounters new formidable foes and allies through his missions leading to the revelation of his real identity.

It’s hard to think of something to be improved in this show other than its outdated animation. The pacing is just right. There was never a dull moment. If there were fillers, then I hardly noticed it. Maybe the fight scenes could be improved, not that there’s anything wrong with it, but more fluid motions can make it more awesome, specially Yusuke’s fight with Sensui. Given that Hunter x Hunter is still running, a remake of YYH may seem less probable to happen, but who knows? Come on Togashi-san, make it happen. ^_^

Time Travel Tondekeman

Popularly known here in the Philippines as Time Quest, this one-of-a-kind story about an accidental time travel led to fun ride full action and comedy with some occasional  trivia about world history and geography. A lot of you may be too young to get a glimpse of this show (it was shown during my elementary school days, you do the Math), but try to watch a few episodes, and it will get you hooked the same way it did for the 90’s kids.

This is about Hayato, a soccer player and Yumi, an aspiring musician who came across a talking kettle Tondekeman, who apparently can travel back in time. By accident, the two were transported to Baghdad, but got separated from Tondekeman in turn as Abdul gets his hands on the technologically-advanced kettle. Since then, Hayato and Yumi continuously try to win back Tondekeman only to end up in another time-travel adventure.

If you’re a bit saturated by action-packed series or dragged by teen-based anime, then this anime has a balance of both. It’s a good refresher and will bring out the child within you. If this gets remastered, the only worry I have is that I will long for the Filipino dubber of Tondekeman. For those who haven’t watched this in local TV,  his chant for traveling through time is a classic. Lilipad! Lilipad! Takure! (Fly! Fly! Kettle!). I know it sounds kinda lame when translated, but this phrase had been instilled to the mind of every child who had watched this show.

Most likely, the 90’s kids will be the ones who will enjoy this post. To be fair, several new series were great too. Too bad, I don’t have much time anymore to follow an anime that runs hundred of episodes (sigh One Piece). Well, if you didn’t have the chance to watch these shows back then, I suggest you give them a try. The trend may be different, and the animation may seem outdated, but you’ll still be entertained. To end this post, I’ll leave you with one of the remade scenes in the DBZ Kai, the Ginyu Forces’ arrival where they added an official soundtrack just for the team itself! Enjoy! (~^_^)~

My Top JPOP Song Revivals and Renditions

I seldom see some JPOP songs get revived by other artists, whether Japanese or non-Japanese, that’s why I thought of writing this post. One local artist actually made it to my list. Can you guess who that is? Well, read on to find out. 😉

Combatler V – TK+9 Factory

I consider the original version as one of the most intense robot anime opening song that I’ve ever heard. My teammate and I even listened to this song during our overtime work to rejuvenate our spirit LOL. The revived version, performed by TK+9 Factory transformed it to something more rock. The result may diverge from its accustomed tune, but I think it fits more with the other modern anime themes, besides, the same level of energy is still in tact with the song. Just watch the video above, and you’ll see what I mean.

Love So Sweet – Glay

Yes, you’re not mistaken. A JROCK band revived a song from the famous JPOP boy band Arashi. Originally a theme song to the JDrama version of “Hana Yori Dango”, this song was performed in one of Glay‘s concert. To be honest, I’m still seeking the boy band type of voice that fits with this song, but then again the live performance and the musicality that comes with it (Arashi just danced with the song  while Glay actually played it XD) make it an impressive performance.

Zutto Kimi no Soba De – Oystars(?)

I’m sorry, but I’m not that sure if Oystars was the one who sang this version XD. All I know is that they did a great job considering that the original one was sung by a female singer, Yuki Masuda. For those of you who were too young to know (ouch), this was the second ending song to the anime Flame of Recca. The opening song was performed by Oystars, hence the speculation haha. For those of you who haven’t watched the series, the Filipino version is currently aired so give it a try. One of the pretty decent series I’ve watched back in my *cough* *cough* high school days.

Cha-La Head-Cha-La – Gino Padilla / Flow

For this entry, I included two versions. The first one is from the famous JRock band Flow. This one was used for the recently released DBZ movie “Battle of Gods”. Even though I was disappointed with the movie, the revived song was pretty cool and gave justice to the original version. The other version I included here was actually performed by Gino Padilla. Yep, that same local artist who sang the theme song for an old Close-Up commercial. This version was used for the promotion of one of the DBZ Movies that was shown here in the Philippines, “The Greatest Rival” where Goku fought against Frieza’s brother Cooler. The translation is pretty decent, though some of the measures had to be adjusted, overall it sounded great.

1/3 no Junjou na Kanjou – Flow

Okay, as much I want to avoid entries from the same artist, I guess Flow just knows how to make a kick-ass revival of an anime song. If you’re a self-proclaimed Otaku and you don’t know where this song came from, shame on you LOL. For the others, this song was originally the 6th ending song of the anime  Rurouni KenshinI actually like the new song better. Compare the song with Siam Shade’s version and see for yourself. It seemed like the song evolved to a greater level due to the new arrangement. I’m excited to see their next target song (*_*).

I know that there are other songs that I missed with my limited knowledge of the Japanese music industry, so if you have any recommendations in mind, feel free to post it in the comments section. Now, time to replay 1/3 again. (~^_^)~

My Anatomy of a Good Fighting Scene

DISCLAIMER: I’m not a professional critique or a high rated director of action films. All stuff that I’ll mention here are purely my opinion and mostly not based on any studies in film and audio visual arts but on over a hundred action movies that I watched, which served as my reference materials.

I’ve watched a lot of action movies that I developed a strict taste when it comes to watching them. To some extent, I tend to bypass the story or lack thereof once I see the fighting scenes. Not that I’m saying it is unnecessary to have an engaging plot to create a good action movie, but if the production claims that its movie belongs to the action genre, then they have to deliver violence in its most entertaining form. I don’t think that you can label an action movie as an action movie without any fighting scenes in it. With this, here’s my take on what I think are the elements of a good fighting scene.

Awesome Choreography

In real street fights, you’ll rarely see those fancy backflips or flying roundhouse kicks for the simple reason that it’s impractical to use in such situations. However, your aim in making a movie is to entertain, and in the action genre, one of the most effective ways to execute this is to use awesome fight choreography. This is what I like in a lot of Asian action movies (spare my fanboy side XD). The heavy influence in martial arts has been effectively used, they can have a single template of a story in all movies but each will still stand out based on the unique presentation of the fight choreography.  Speed of movement, strength of strikes, and difficulty of execution. Combine these three characteristics and you can create total eye-candy violence. Take a look at this example:

The three factors I mentioned were totally captured in this fighting scene. Both Donnie Yen and Wu Jing displayed exceptional weapon handling skills that pulled of this fast-paced combat. One wrong mistake could lead the one knocking out the other. It may seem that the overall difficulty is not at par with other fighting scenes, but take a look the timing and placements of each strike and you’ll see how carefully choreographed this scene is. By the way, the choreographer was Donnie Yen himself (*_*).

To be fair, the western movies had its own share of good choreography. I commend Troy in capturing the Greek style of combat and present it in an entertaining way. Most of the fight scenes were set on army confrontations, but my favorite scene is none other than the Achilles and Hector face-off. The pace was just right, and the usage of different weapons was fantastic to watch.

Spectacular Camera Views

Sometimes, the good choreography doesn’t cut it. If the moves were not captured in the right angle, the opportunity to display an excellent execution is wasted. Come take a look at this example:

It’s such a shame that the camera angle was too unstable to follow. Eun-Kyung Shin and her double had a pretty decent performance in the fighting scenes, but the shifts and angles of the camera views did not complement with the actresses’ skill. This is one of things that can get me frustrated in watching an action movie. Actors/actresses are trained to perform at their best but then the end product did not properly capture the scene. Moreover, there are certain parts of a fighting scene that are best viewed in slow motion. Usually, when executing a high-risk maneuver (yeah I watch WWE). However, there’s a limit on how much you can use this element. When abused, the scene can get dragging, which damages the pace of the fight scene (*cough* *cough* Resident Evil Movies *cough* *cough*).

On the other hand, a good handling of camera views can make amateur action stars perform like they are trained for combat for a long time. A good example would be the movie So Close. Shu Qi, is not an action star at all, but although she was trained in martial arts before the production, it’s the good cinematography of the movie that really amplified her performance. Take a look at this one-on-one fight with Karen Mok.

Perfect Playground

I believe that choosing the right place to get it on is essential in determining the limitations for the other elements of a fighting scene. Based on the location, the team can define the set of choreography that can be included in a scene. Different places can present the same choreography on distinctive perspectives. An overhead kick on a wide park may seem mediocre, but do that same move inside an elevator, and you will see the difference. Such confined space will significantly increase its difficulty of execution. On the other hand, a small cubicle will give you limited camera angles to use and a limited number of people to put in. In large areas like parking lots and playground, you have more freedom in the types of choreography that you can use, and you can include more people for a classic one man vs. goons fight scene.

Nobody uses this element better than Jackie Chan. If you watched Jackie Chan: My Stunts, he showed the viewers that he collects different magazine pictures of unique and interesting places in his kitchen wall. That serves as his database of target locations when conceptualizing his next film. He also has his own stunt lab to experiment on various objects that he can improvise as weapons as well as practice on different stunts that he can use on different environments. All these references led him in creating the finest action-packed and stunt-oriented fighting scene that JC can pull off. Well, I can’t find a source for the Playground fighting scene in Police Story 2 (such a shame, it was the best example for this part), so I’ve chosen the couch fight scene in his recent movie Chinese Zodiac. The scene was filmed in what seems to be a typical sofa set. However, they added a nice touch to the actual fighting scene by implementing a Swagger rule that whoever loses his touch from the couch will be declared as the loser of that bout.

Swagger Image

If there’s one thing that makes an action star look awesome… it’s the swag, and a good fighting scene can utilize this element to create those in-between spotlight moments wherein the scene focuses on that main character when he or she is either striking a pose, delivering a hard punchline,  performing single strike knockout, etc. Basically, it’s about anything that can make the action star look fabulous ahem… in a bad-ass way.

I think Jet Li not only mastered the art of combat, but also the art of being a swagger. That fierce look in his eyes scream i-am-a-motha#$*(!%-bad-ass-who-will-kick-your-teeth-down-your-throat. That guy portrays so much swag, I can’t imagine how he can fair with a comic role (but he did in his latest movie, Badges of Fury). I don’t want to sound redundant here, so just watch this end fight in Kiss of the Dragon. All the examples of being a Swagger that I mentioned above had been used here.

Intense Music

I think this is more of a bonus since a good fight scene can live without this, but it adds a nice touch to the final product. Like in other genres, it sets the mood of the scene that something bad or cool is going to happen, and if it’s an action movie, it’s a no-brainer to figure out what will happen next. The music should not only harmonize with the combat’s pace, but it should have the right tune and instrument to be used in each part of the fight.

As much as I want to use a live-action movie, one of my favorite music for a fighting scene is the one used in Rurouni Kenshin. The one played in the first 30 seconds of this video. It’s also worth mentioning that this anime series was able to utilize the use of music to intensify any type of mood of the scenes that it portrays.

Whew. Is it just me, or I just made a long post XD? Maybe it’s because of watching too many fighting scenes that it made me tired after writing this post. Well, I hope you had fun, at least by watching the sample video clips. If you think, I missed anything, or you disagree with some of my points, then feel free to post a comment, but let’s leave the violence in the movies shall we? Peace out! (~^_^)~