Live-action Fruits Basket Movie — Another American Rape of a Popular Japanese Manga/Anime?

My work schedule being what it is, I sometimes don’t get around to catching all of the news as it comes out. However, I eventually found out that Fruits Basket has been licensed to receive a Hollywood live-action adaptation into a movie. At that moment, I immediately felt like throwing up at the thought of one of my favorite manga titles (and anime titles as well) being raped, Hollywood style.

Before I begin, I’d like to say that I have nothing against Joshua Long, who’s the executive producer of the live-action Cowboy Bebop movie that’s in production and who recently announced to the folks at ANN that he has licensed Fruits Basket and that they are working on adapting it for a live-action movie.  I know my blog is read by a lot of people in the business and so if Joshua reads this, I hope he does not take my words personally as they are not meant to be that way.

Second, I’d like to say that I have absolutely no objections to live-action adaptations of Japanese manga, anime, light novels, or full novels.  Indeed, I’d love to see more of such works BUT I have grave concerns because frankly, I don’t trust Hollywood to do anything right. Certainly, their track record to date has done nothing to inspire such confidence.

When it was announced that Cowboy Bebop would be made into a live-action movie, I had no real reservations there.  After all, that TV series is nicely set up to easily be made into a movie franchise (though some of the things I’ve recently heard are making me think twice about how this movie will be done).  However, from the start, the idea of Fruits Basket being compressed down from 23 volumes of manga into a 2-hour (tops) movie just makes me sick to my stomach.

One of the things that struck me about the interview with Mr. Long is that he says he is a big fan of the Fruits Basket manga.  I believe him completely.  The other thing that struck me is his insistence that there MUST be changes to said manga to get it to the big screen.  Well, if you are going to compress that much source material into a single movie, then yeah, you’ve got to make massive changes and slash major amounts of things that happen which in my opinion will likely go too far.  But what other changes are in store for us, keeping in mind that this must also be changed to appeal to a wider audience?

This notion of trying to appeal to a wider audience has long amazed and angered me because so often it fails and there are plenty of instances where keeping it real has proven quite successful.

An example of a failure would be the British sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf.  This show was a big cult hit in the U.S. thanks to airing on PBS   It was decided to make an American version of the show and a pilot was shot.  Despite bringing over one of the British actors from the British show, the pilot was just awful (and yes, I’m one of the few who’ve seen it) because the writers and producers trashed the things that made Red Dwarf funny and good and replaced them with tripe to attempt to appeal to a wider audience.

Another instance of this was the movie The Magic Roundabout, which was renamed Dougal in the U.S., redubbed with wonderful American actors (because too many British voices might put American people off the movie, you understand), and given some nice rewrites to appeal to a wider audience in the U.S.  The movie was a success in Great Britain but flopped in the U.S.

I cited two British titles rather than Japanese ones because the culture divide between the U.S. and Great Britain isn’t as large as the divide between the U.S. and Japan, primarily because there is no language barrier between the UK and the US.  Even still, it was felt that the British properties MUST be changed to widen their appeal and in the process appealed to no one.

Now to be fair, there are occasions where an established series or property is adapted for U.S. audiences and does well.  The British comedy series Steptoe and Son was adapted and became the hit classic American comedy series Sanford and Son.  The American series started by more closely emulating its British father before evolving into its own entity.

This brings me back to Fruits Basket‘s movie adaptation.  Again I ask, “What changes will be made?”  Will this film be set in Japan or changed to the US?  If it is changed to the US, then we can expect all the names to change as well and the so-called “adaptation decay” will begin in full force.

I think back to the US adaptation of the manga, which kept things very real thanks to the deft handling of the title by Alethea and Athena Nibley.  Not only was the manga published Japanese style (which had previously been thought to be a barrier to keep Americans from reading manga), but it retained all of the Japanese honorifics (another item believed to make manga inaccessible to American audiences) and brought a Japanese perspective to the English. Despite this, the manga became the cash cow for TokyoPop because the story was kept real and appealed across any divide, real or imagined.

So, since I don’t want Fruits Basket to be raped into something alien to the source manga with a single movie (or even a set of movies), why not create a mini-series instead and do it right from the start?  This way, the amount of stuff that has to be scrapped would be reduced and that alone would improve the live-action version for me.

If you don’t think this would work, I would point you to the 1980 miniseries, Shogun.  I have yet to read the original novel so I don’t know how well it adapts the novel (I’ve read that it is a good adaptation as novel author James Clavell was heavily involved in the making of the miniseries) but Shogun keeps things VERY real starting with the complete filming of the miniseries in Japan to the hiring of a large Japanese cast to the retention of spoken Japanese throughout, including the use of Japanese honorifics when English is spoken in dialog.  In those pre-VCR days, the miniseries was so successful that when it was on the air, it is reported that local businesses saw a drop in business because everyone was home glued to their TV’s.

So, to avoid massive changes and the trashing of major sections of the Fruits Basket manga, why not go for a multi-episode miniseries instead of a movie?

[Fruits Basket] Student Council“But AstroNerdBoy, changes will have to be made even if they opted to make a miniseries rather than a movie.”
Actually, I do understand this need as things that work on the written page do not always work when brought to the TV or big screen and so some changes are to be expected.  Indeed, if I were given the money and power to make a live-action adaptation of my favorite anime Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-ohki, there would be changes I’d make.  However, the changes I’d make would be to incorporate the materials from the novels, interviews, and doujinshi of Kajishima-sensei to allow for a better flowing storyline throughout.  (As an aside, I’d have three miniseries and three TV movies made to get the whole, canon OVA franchise.)

One would rightly point out that the anime adaptation of Fruits Baskets made changes to the source manga and the anime was very well received.  Some of the additions (the house cleaning with Saki-chan and Uo-chan springs to mind) were positive and fit perfectly with the series but other changes (the big one being the change to Akito-san and the entire curse) were not.  Indeed, I cannot watch the ending of the Fruits Basket anime because those changes bother me something fierce now. It did not bother me before the manga finished but once I read how the story was supposed to go, the adaptation decay becomes bad in the end.

Frankly, I’m surprised that this was licensed at all to be a live-action title.  I understand that Mr. Long obtained the rights from publisher Hakusensha, but considering how manga-ka Takaya-sensei has apparently prevented a second season/series of a Fruits Basket anime adaptation to be made due to her displeasure with the first anime adaptation, I’m surprised she went along with a live-action American adaptation.  Then again, I’m sure that if she were involved in this process, she was sold the same bill of goods that says, “we must change it for American audiences” and not knowing American culture, the Japanese usually agree.

We’ll see how the live-action Cowboy Bebop comes out and that will give or take brownie points away from a live-action Fruits Basket movie for me.  Still, the very idea of compressing so much manga down into a single movie just does not inspire me at all and I’ll have to hear a lot more positive things from non-Kool-aid drinkers before my mindset begins to change.

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35 Responses to “Live-action Fruits Basket Movie — Another American Rape of a Popular Japanese Manga/Anime?”

  1. arimareiji says:

    *tries to make himself believe you’re kidding*

    *facepalm*

    The only way this is going to end well is if we take the Bonnie Raitt approach.

    Papa Come Quick, slightly “adapted” to the situation:

    Gas up the old Ford, get out the road map
    They got a head start about half a day
    Load up the shotgun, put it in the gunrack
    They’re makin’ Fruits Basket down in East L.A.

  2. AstroNerdBoy says:

    We all have our little foibles on things that trigger stuff in us. ^_~

  3. Anonymous says:

    After the initial wave of horror, I thought…y’know, so surreal that it might actually be interesting.

    Although the greatest danger is that it’ll be Twilighted (a young woman, two hunky guys, families under a curse….noooooo, must stop imagining)

  4. Nick says:

    I just hope this doesn’t ruin the fan-base of fruits basket and the movie doesn’t turn out like a dragon ball evolution… cuz this is one of the first and best animes i ever watched.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Overreact much? It’s funny how some people can’t even try to give a project like this a chance without screaming rape from the get-go…

    No one will be forced to see this movie so they aren’t hurting anyone even if it ends up being bad. If Romeo and Juliet can be done with rock music and the mob and guns and end up great, I sure as hell am not going to immediately condemn this just because it’s not Japanese enough or whatever, when we basically know nothing about what will be changed.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I don’t care one way or the other about Fruits Basket but I do understand the concern. Has there been a video game movie adaptation that turned out well?

  7. AstroNerdBoy says:

    Overreact much?

    More so as I get older. ^_~

  8. Ultimaniac says:

    I’m completely amazed you didn’t mention the hour and twenty five minutes of pure childhood murder that was the Dragonball film. Almost nothing in that movie was the same as the original series besides the names used -_- And I know most of us Bleach fans know the same thing is gonna happen to that series too

    http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2010-03-22/warner-brothers-in-talks-for-live-action-bleach-film

  9. arimareiji says:

    No one will be forced to see this movie so they aren’t hurting anyone even if it ends up being bad.

    This is quite true. And if they name it “We Put the Fun in Dysfunctional”, and call the characters Jimbo, Jerry, Luanne, etc, I won’t say another word against it.

    But I would NOT bet on this happening. Which means that this movie is very likely to tar the reputation of one of the most deservedly well-loved shoujo titles out there.

    Say that someone you know tells you they’re angry because people are going around trashing the reputation of someone they cherish. Would you blithely tell them “Oh, stop overreacting and screaming about it! No one’s forcing you to listen to it.”?

  10. AstroNerdBoy says:

    @Ultimaniac — I didn’t watch that title which is why I said nothing about it. Then again, I’ve never seen the anime nor read the manga either. ^_^;

    @Arimareiji — Not sure if you question was directed at me or at Anon. However, I will say that when it comes to adaptations, folks get riled up, depending on their feelings for what is being adapted.

    Take Transformers for example. I watched very little of the cartoon back in the day and so had no vested interest in the series when Michael Bay came out with his version. I liked the first movie (didn’t care for the sequel) though I didn’t like how the robots weren’t easily identified in their robot form. My friend Taco’s Rule was quite angry when he heard Micheal Bay was adapting the series into a movie and though Michael Bay did make some changes based on fan input, for TR, the Bay version did not meet his expectations on what would make a good live-action adaptation.

    I had a few friends very passionate about their dislike for the changes made to Lord of the Rings. I didn’t like the neutering of Gandalf and I didn’t like how Merry and Pippen were changed but that wasn’t enough to stop me from liking the films.

    So for whatever reason(s), hearing that Furuba was going to be made into a live-action movie caused me to have a very passionate and negative reaction. Heck, I waited a day to write this piece just to try to gain some perspective and not write anything as negative as I could have. ^_^;

  11. Kota-kun says:

    Well in my own opinion, if Hollywood adapts anything from a book, manga etc. the end result is generally leaves us all with the impression that it could have been better, usually arguing their case with the point :The director should have kept closer to the original storyline, character’s personality etc. You see it in anime adaptations of manga, such as Negima.
    I personally am not looking forward to the Bleach live action… and never read Fruits Basket so I’m neutral to that.
    But if they must make a live version, try to keep it as close as humanly possible so that it doesn’t ruin it for the fans. That includes Bleach too. They should also get in contact with the author and see what ideas they have.

  12. arimareiji says:

    @ANB: Sorry for the ambiguity, my entire response was to the quote I posted from Anon2.

    ~~~~

    A sentence I should have added to that post to make more sense of it: “Because that’s pretty much what you’re doing, when you tell people who have fond memories of Furuba that they should be quiet about someone dragging its reputation through the mud.”

  13. Anonymous says:

    @arimareiji

    Sorry, but that’s a really lame analogy. No one is going around trashing the reputation of anyone here, people are forming a lynch mob because they think someone intends to trash the reputation of someone they like just because they heard they’d said something about how that person would need to change a little to land a well-paying job. It’s classic overreaction and you know it.

    You must think people are idiots if you think a bad adaptation will inevitably destroy the reputation of the original. It may not be the best advertisement, but that’s about it. If you know that Hollywood often makes bad adaptations, what makes you think other people don’t know this? Everyone I know is aware of this, so they wouldn’t automatically judge the original even if the movie sucks. What I’m talking about is giving this project a chance, at least until we hear something more specific about the changes. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

    @ANB

    If you liked some movies that the fans of the original works weren’t happy about then obviously just because something has changed doesn’t mean the result will be terrible. It’s almost impossible to please hard core fans unless you make a movie only for them, and that would be poor business. It’s not fair to slam a title you have vested interest in when if you came into it cold you wouldn’t care about the changes.

  14. oh-ki says:

    wait you don’t want any changes to furuba but you’d change tenchi if you could make it? :confused:

  15. Cat says:

    Am I the only one who feels weird seeing middle-aged guys ranting about “rape” and “tarnishing” of a manga aimed at teenage schoolgirls? <_< >_> I don’t mean to offend anyone, just sharing my feeling.

    As for the movie, I really hope they can do the manga justice. Unfortunately I don’t think I can stop myself from seeing this movie even if the buzz is bad, because it’s too hard to resist the desire to see your favorite characters come to life… -_-

  16. AstroNerdBoy says:

    oh-ki said…

    wait you don’t want any changes to furuba but you’d change tenchi if you could make it? :confused:

    The changes I’d make to a live-action TM!R would be to incorporate ALL of the supplemental stuff that Kajishima-sensei wrote. Remember, the entire story of TM!R is not just told in the OVA’s but in doujinshi, novels, a book answering 101 questions fans had from the first OVA, and interviews Kajishima-sensei has given.

    So, some changes to include this additional canon material is understandable.

    Now, I also understand the need for changes in the opposite direction. For example, in the Harry Potter movies, all of the Elf liberation stuff was removed and I was glad because in the novels, it was always a distraction. However, the movies often cut too much other stuff so that if you hadn’t read the original novels, some things didn’t make sense. That’s why I’m glad the final novel has been made into two movies rather than butcher it to death to squeeze it into a single movie.

  17. AstroNerdBoy says:

    Cat said…

    Am I the only one who feels weird seeing middle-aged guys ranting about “rape” and “tarnishing” of a manga aimed at teenage schoolgirls?

    For me, Furuba is something that may have been targeted at teen girls, but ended up appealing to a much wider audience, both male and female. Its like the Harry Potter novels, which were written for kids but became insanely popular because adults enjoyed reading them as well.

    So, my rant is no different than middle-aged fans ranting about the Transformers adaptation, the Lord of the Rings adaptation, or any other adaptation. ^_^

  18. Cat says:

    I think you misunderstood me. +_+ Fruits Basket is a fantastic manga and it’s totally cool with me if you like it no matter how young or old you are. People’s choice of sexual purity related vocabulary in this context was what created a weird image for me. OoO

    To be completely honest it’s a turnoff when older fans start ranting, I think they should be more mature. What’s appropriate for people to like shouldn’t depend on age, but I expect the behavior to differ from those my age. I hope you understand what I mean. ^_^;

  19. Katherine says:

    Umm, I’d just assume not watch that crap… but I’ll probably be too curious to refuse. I watched The Last Airbender with excitement and then vomited afterwards. I guess I’d watch a live-action film of Fruits Basket just to see what my reaction would be… >/////<

  20. Anonymous says:

    Considering you liked Tenchi Daisanki, I don’t think you should have anything to do with a Tenchi live-action movie. Sorry dude, but anyone who thinks Daisanki was a good thing should be banned from the set as the first order of business :p

    To soften the blow I’ll agree with you that this Furuba adaptation doesn’t sound promising. It would be nice to be wrong about that.

  21. AstroNerdBoy says:

    People’s choice of sexual purity related vocabulary in this context was what created a weird image for me. OoO

    Ah, I see. Well, I apologize for the use of the term. I’ve used it before whenever something gets mangled, whether a movie or something at work or whatever. ^_^;

    To be completely honest it’s a turnoff when older fans start ranting, I think they should be more mature. What’s appropriate for people to like shouldn’t depend on age, but I expect the behavior to differ from those my age. I hope you understand what I mean. ^_^;

    I understand what you mean and no doubt you are right. That said, one thing you’ll discover as you get older is that while your tastes may change and what things were important at one point may not be important later, the core of who you are does not change. For me, I’ve always been a very passionate person. Had I been 20, what I wrote would have been much more fiery. ^_^;;;;;;

  22. AstroNerdBoy says:

    @Katherine — I’ll obviously keep an eye open (the project may never end up off the ground for all I know) and if I’m wrong, I’ll fess up. ^_^

    @Anon — *lol* I think you’d change you mind about what’s in “Daisanki” if I were executive producer to a live-action TM!R franchise. ^_~ The problem with that story (and I need to sit down and blog out this) are several, one being that there were some assumptions that fans would have at the very least have seen GXP first. The more you knew about the other stuff from Kajishima-sensei, the more the story at the end makes sense. By incorporating that information within the confines of the visual medium, the entire story would flow much better and avoid certain time wasting moments. ^_^

  23. Anonymous says:

    Dude, if you’re mocking me for Daisanki with your quotes, I’m calling it that because OAV 3 makes me think of a single episode, so it should really be OAV Series 3 but that’s too long so the Japanese title works better.

    The reason I didn’t like Daisanki is not because I didn’t know enough background for it. I’ve read what has been translated of the True Tenchi novels, the 101 questions book and the KO doujinshi and I’ve seen GXP. It’s a little insulting if you think my negative opinion of Daisanki comes from ignorance. It just wasn’t good compared to the first 13 episodes.

  24. JonBob says:

    I don’t think a bad movie spells certain doom for the furuba series. Take Tsukihime. “There is no Tsukihime anime”, but the series is still well received.

  25. Vie says:

    I really wish the word “rape” wasn’t used in this context. It’s really troubling, potentially triggering, for victims of rape. Why aren’t descriptions like “botched”, “ruined”, or “changed beyond recognition” good enough to describe a series being ill adapted? I get that this is a serious topic for a lot of people are passionate about (including myself) but nowhere near the actual tragedy that’s real life rape.

  26. AstroNerdBoy says:

    Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Dude, if you’re mocking me for Daisanki with your quotes, I’m calling it that because OAV 3 makes me think of a single episode, so it should really be OAV Series 3 but that’s too long so the Japanese title works better.

    No, I wasn’t mocking you. ^_^; I was simply being too lazy to use italics for the name.

    JonBob said…

    I don’t think a bad movie spells certain doom for the furuba series.

    Well, the manga will still be good and folks can point to that should the movie suck.

    Blogger Vie said…

    I really wish the word “rape” wasn’t used in this context. It’s really troubling, potentially triggering, for victims of rape. Why aren’t descriptions like “botched”, “ruined”, or “changed beyond recognition” good enough to describe a series being ill adapted?

    Some words carry more weight than others.

  27. arimareiji says:

    Vie: Remember, we’re Americans. Hyperbole is our stock-in-trade.

    We can’t “try to prevent something”, we have to “declare war” on it. (How do you declare war on drugs, anyway?) We can’t “give 100%” of our maximum effort, we have to “give 110%”, then “120%”, then “200%”, then “1000%”. And it’s not enough for us to “ruin” something, we have to “rape” it.

    (Though our British cousins are catching up to us quickly when it comes to “raping” classics. I just found out today that they hired Nick Jonas to play Marius in Les Miserables. Yes, that Nick Jonas.)

  28. Allison says:

    I’ve thought about Fruits Basket as a live action movie for awhile. In fact, probably before Long acquired the rights for it…

    And I just about fully agree with you, I came to the same conclusion when I had thought about it that it would be more feasible to make a tv series adaptation rather than a movie. the taiwanese drama adaptation of MARS had some adjustments but was overall well-received, for example.

    The manga, being 23 volumes long and chock-full of content, would be pretty much impossible to film. Another story that got the same comment? Watchmen. And they tried to film that, as we all know. I haven’t watched it, but from what I heard, if you’ve read the graphic novel, it’s terrible, and if you haven’t, then it’s good. I’m not even thinking about potential Hollywood rape, but Furuba falls under “impossible to film” for me. So this is a very difficult project to take up. Frankly, I can only pray that if Long sticks with a movie, then it better be amazing, i.e. he has a stroke of genius that captures Fruits Basket to its fullest on-screen potential, while sticking to the story.

    One of the changes I’ve heard was that Tohru living in a tent was going to be changed. That makes sense, because that wasn’t really realistic in the first place. But that’s all I’ve heard.
    So now I pray….

  29. Amy Wallis says:

    only just heard about it now… -facepalm-

    and i totally agree with you on that it would be better as a mini series… infact i often think of how animes and such would be much better made into mini series’ rather than movies (like deathnote, wasnt that bad, but couldve been better… and now this talk of an american version with zac efron -shudder-)
    fruits basket is one of my favourite animes and certainly in my top 5 mangas but when i think of them doing it as a live-action movie all i can think of is it failing epically in the eyes of anime-fans and being loved by young children who have never heard of it before as an anime… ive felt the same about other such occasions *cough*twilight*cough* and have been proved right… although it is quite depressing…
    but who knows! i hope ill be proved wrong… cause i know that ill go and see it… even if everyone claims it as crap

  30. Anonymous says:

    Agreed.

  31. Anonymous says:

    I love Fruit Basket, its been four years when I first saw Fruit Basket and till this day I’m still watching the anime. This is the first time that Im hearing that they are going to make a live hollywood movie. I really excitied to see how they are going to make the movie, but I do agree in one thing how are they going to make a movie with a 23 volume manga, it juat doesnt make sence fitting all of those volumes into one movie. I feel that its a mistake doing it that way, but if they have in mind that they are going to make more then one movie, then I say to the filmmakers go ahead make the movie. I think all of us can relate when someone reads their favorite book and all of a sudden they are going to make a film and us fans will get very protective of our books. In the film industry they cant have everything from the book into the film it just doesn’t work that way in the film industry, but what will make the film successful is having excellent actors and most important staying true to the story. At the end of the day no one will take away the original work that we fell in love with in the first place, that we will always have.
    There is something else that i do agree with you I think they should make Fruit Basket into a t.v series, film is way to fast, and with t.v. is slow paced, there would be more from the manga, each character stories will be more longer, as oppose to film im guessing they would be short, unless like I said there planning to make sequels then I’m guessing their stories would be more longer.
    Overall Im so excitied for the film I can’t wait to see it. Fruit Baskets is one of the best storytelling mangas I’ve read , and the anime was excellent.

  32. shaleem dean says:

    why dont they finish the anime seriers, or make a anime movie to finish the whole movie: )

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