'One Piece' to 'Avatar': Anime Fans Answer What Makes Live Action Successful

Anime lovers discuss their take on the live action genre and Netflix's adaptations of One Piece and Avatar.

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24-year-old Geetansh Gupta, who has been a fan of anime since he first caught a glimpse of it on Animax TV, told The Quint,

"Adaptations, when done right, do hold the power to intrigue people to read the main inspiration behind them, which is what their main aim should be."
Geetansh Gupta

Netflix's latest release, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and the 2023 live-action adaptation of One Piece are testaments to the above statement.

Within the first week of its release, One Piece broke records by becoming Netflix's No 1 TV series in 84 countries, surpassing popular shows like Wednesday and Stranger Things. The show also got renewed for a second season amidst the writers' strike in Hollywood.

Avatar: The Last Airbender also took no time in making it to the streamer's Top 10 series. Fans can officially expect the show's second and third seasons to air soon.


The Surge of Anime in India

In the 1960s, anime only had a niche following in the West. With the arrival of digital platforms, animated media globally proliferated, and Japanese anime became present-day mainstream there. The effect of this could be felt back home in India too.

Manali (23), who stepped into the world of anime with Detective Conan, shared that anime and manga both gained popularity in India during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Anime lovers discuss their take on the live action genre and Netflix's adaptations of One Piece and Avatar.
According to a report by Spiel Anime, OTT platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Crunchyroll experienced significant growth in India during the 2020 lockdown, with subscribers increasing by nearly 40 percent. This surge in popularity led to a 500 percent increase in anime slots.

These platforms have played a crucial role in bringing anime to a wider audience and have been catering to anime lovers since 2017. Netflix's 2017 production of Castlevania, the highest-rated original anime on MyAnimeList, also set a high standard for other streaming platforms. This growth in anime streaming helped to expand the anime market in India gradually.

Soon, the advancements in animation and cinema sparked interest in transforming anime into live-action adaptations (LAAs). Over the years, we've seen numerous adaptations of popular anime and manga series like Death Note, Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan), Rurouni Kenshin, and Ghost in the Shell.

However, these LAAs weren't well received by the audience until recently.

Original Vs LAAs

Upon asking anime fans, we found out that it's kind of an unspoken rule among pop culture fans that live-action adaptations were never meant to be. For instance, another anime enthusiast, Kevin Fernandes (24), told us that the best way to describe them is "lacklustre."

“More often than not, they've been total letdowns. Lacklustre is the best way to describe them – like, they missed the memo on what made the original shows so damn good. I've seen a few attempts, and it's like they're trying to fit a square peg into a round hole," he added.

Speaking about why the original 'reigns supreme', he further said, "The original reigns supreme for a reason: time. You have all the time in the world to bond with the characters, experience their highs and lows like a friend. Character development thrives in the original, allowing them to evolve authentically."

Anime lovers discuss their take on the live action genre and Netflix's adaptations of One Piece and Avatar.

Other fans unanimously agreed that LAAs have long been considered unsuitable due to issues like poor casting, weak CGI, oversimplified plots, and unconvincing acting.

Aaron Nayagam (23), who believes "anime is like therapy," added, "LAAs don’t necessarily always do justice to the original manga; there have been times where the comic is completely rewritten when it is being brought to life via an animated series."

"Original is always better. Anyone who says otherwise is highly mistaken."
Aaron Nayagam

Likewise, Manali said, "I don't really believe in live action. For me, it's always been about the animation. Just the animation. And with live actions, they always change a part of the story, which I hate."

Genevieve J (25) also agreed that the original has an upper hand in this case, as remakes can sometimes "overdo or exaggerate" some elements of the original content.

What Makes Live Action Successful?

After a long run of unsuccessful LAAs, Netflix's One Piece and Avatar: The Last Airbender broke the curse by combining various factors – from phenomenal casting and believable CGI, to a brilliant screenplay – to create a successful adaptation.

We asked fans what, according to them, makes a live-action adaptation successful and here's what they had to say:

Geetansh (24), who has consumed a decent amount of LAAs such as Alice in Borderland (2020), Inuyashiki (2017) and Alita Battle Angels (2019), said that the most important part is 'adapting' the anime/manga and not 'aping' it.

"Anime isn't real so making real things look like anime won't work. Often characters in LAAs try to act quirky, which would only work in animation so it ends up feeling jarring and doesn’t translate well," Geetansh said.

Anime lovers discuss their take on the live action genre and Netflix's adaptations of One Piece and Avatar.

Geetansh added, "Rather than focusing on stories of popular shonen anime, which are difficult to adapt due to their special quirks and styles, which might not translate well in real life, creators should focus on slice-of-life, comedy, or sci-fi storylines that are easier to adapt in comparison."

According to Kevin too, sticking to the source material is crucial, "Attention to personality traits enhances growth and interactions. Altering these, as seen in Aang's portrayal, affects character relatability and story tone. Believable CGI is essential for anime's fantastical elements. Over-the-top effects, like in The Last Airbender film, detract from immersion."

Anime lovers discuss their take on the live action genre and Netflix's adaptations of One Piece and Avatar.

"Character development beyond the main plot adds depth and relatability, facilitating emotional connections. A compelling soundtrack enhances emotional impact, elevating the viewing experience. In essence, successful adaptations strike a balance between fidelity to the source material and creative interpretation," Kevin added.

Casius Cardoz (27) also shared his thoughts on the same note.

Anime lovers discuss their take on the live action genre and Netflix's adaptations of One Piece and Avatar.

Casius added, "It would be really amazing if One Piece paved the way for studios to create live action adaptations just like how Roger started the great pirate era."

Speaking about the success of Avatar: The Last Airbender and One Piece, Genevieve added, “I believe 99 percent of the excitement about the show was because of the nostalgia from our childhood's Nickelodeon series. The key elements of characters like the jasmine tea, Aang's air ball, or even Momo's mischievous angle were super nice to click with. One Piece, on the other hand, was for me all about how well they could bring the sketches to life.”

Similarly, Manali shared, "Mackenyu has become so popular with his role as Zoro in the One Piece Live Action and even Taz Skylar as Sanji. Ian Ousely as Sokka in Avatar Live Action resembles his character a lot too, as opposed to the movie."


A Guide to Exploring Anime 

Anime has a long history in India, with many Indians growing up watching Hindi-dubbed versions of Dragon Ball Z, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Pokémon. However, the demand for more overseas content led to many OTT platforms investing in localising anime by translating subtitles, dubbing in regional languages, and culturally adapting certain elements.

Crunchyroll is leading this trend by offering mainstream anime like Naruto, Demon Slayer, and Vinland Saga in Hindi-dubbed versions. Nevertheless, some argue that localising anime in India may reduce the significance of the Japanese influence it comes with and make it more cringe-worthy.

If you're someone who is curious about exploring the world of anime and manga but doesn't know how to do so, we have got you covered. We asked anime fans to share their suggestions for beginners.

Geetansh suggested that beginners should avoid "being swayed by ratings" and watch what they resonate with the most. He added:

Anime lovers discuss their take on the live action genre and Netflix's adaptations of One Piece and Avatar.

"Beginners can always watch initially in an English dub if they aren’t really comfortable watching it with subtitles, as it can be difficult to follow it at first," Geetansh assured.

Similarly, Kevin urged rookies to explore the wide range of genres that anime has to offer.

Anime lovers discuss their take on the live action genre and Netflix's adaptations of One Piece and Avatar.

Genevieve added, "Start small, watch something that's easier to relate to and only watch it in Japanese with English subtitles otherwise it's just not worth it."

Shravani Medhekar (23), who is a manga fan, also shared her suggestions.

Anime lovers discuss their take on the live action genre and Netflix's adaptations of One Piece and Avatar.

Some of the most-suggested shows include:

  • Death Note

  • Naruto

  • Demon Slayer

  • Jujutsu Kaisen

  • Attack on Titan

  • Black Clover

  • Haikyuu!!

  • City Hunter

  • Your Dress Up Darling

  • One Punch Man

  • Maid Sama

  • Spy Family

  • Bleach

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