Five unexpected stories that would make great anime

Last week I wrote about some vague story ideas that I’ve never seen in anime before. This week, I wanted to look at stories that have already been told in English-language media which I think would make for great anime adaptations.

Animation allows a story to be told in ways that aren’t necessarily achievable in live-action or the written word. Visual horror, for example, can be much more immediate than written horror – you can’t really write a jump-scare – and sound effects and music add an extra sensory layer to the visuals. Likewise, sci-fi and fantasy can be more elaborate because it’s easier to draw something than to build it or try to integrate CGI into live-action. With animation, suspension of disbelief comes much easier – you’ve only got to look at reactions to the genie in the live-action Aladdin, or the CGI Sonic the Hedgehog from the recent previews.

So here are five stories I’ve enjoyed which I would love to see adapted as anime.

1. Red Dwarf

There have already been a couple of good ‘losers in space’ anime series – ‘Space Dandy’ being the most notable, along with the current season’s ‘RobiHachi’. But ‘Red Dwarf’ is very much a character-driven comedy compared with ‘Space Dandy’s focus on alien worlds or ‘RobiHachi’s comedic adventure story.

An anime adaptation would allow its cast to show off their comedic skills – can you imagine Ono Daisuke and Kamiya Hiroshi as Lister and Rimmer? Even better, the two of them impersonating each other for the ‘Bodyswap’ episode? Kamiya’s suave voice as Ace Rimmer? How about Suwabe Junichi as the Cat? Murase Ayamu as the perpetually perky Talkie Toaster, or Endo Aya as Hilly/female Holly? The opportunities for guest actors would be great too, in episodes like ‘Queeg’ or ‘Timeslides’.

It’d be interesting to see how some of the episodes could be re-worked for a Japanese audience too. How about ‘Gunmen of the Apocalypse’ re-imagined as a Samurai epic instead of a Western, or ‘Better Than Life’ for the obligatory onsen episode? And with animation, there’d be no worries about trying to make overcast British locations look like exotic alien planets!

Although ‘Red Dwarf’ is very much a British show, I think there’s definitely potential for an anime re-working (and it couldn’t possibly be worse than the American re-make). Just as long as Lister doesn’t get some kind of bishounen make-over. Save the bishie sparkles for the Cat.

2. Discworld

Any Discworld story. I’m not fussy.

There have already been two animated Discworld stories – ‘Wyrd Sisters’ and ‘Soul Music’ were adapted by Cosgrove-Hall in the late ’90s, and of the two, ‘Soul Music’ is the only one worth watching, largely because the phenomenal soundtrack makes up for the frankly dated animation.

But can you imagine how incredible some of the Discworld landscapes could look if they were animated now? Each of the Night Watch novels would make a good 12-episode crime-drama series, particularly ‘Guards! Guards!’ (ooh, Tsuda Kenjirou as Vimes!), and ‘Equal Rights’ is prime fodder for a Studio Ghibli movie.

The only problem I can forsee is that there are virtually no bishie young men or moe ladies in any of the Discworld stories. But that could be an interesting challenge for an anime studio. Maybe Bones, given their work on ‘Mob Psycho 100’?

3. Blood Music

This one’s a bit obscure, but bear with me.

‘Blood Music’ is a hard sci-fi novel by Greg Bear. It tells the story of a scientist, Virgil Ulam, who creates ‘thinking’ cells which he injects into his own bloodstream in order to keep them from being destroyed by his employers. The cells, or noocytes as he calls them, are highly intelligent, and not only begin to communicate with Virgil but also work to correct his physical ‘defects’ – poor eyesight, posture, etc. However, they are also infectious, and via the waterstream, infect practically the whole of North America within days. And we’re not just talking about correcting defects – entire bodies and ultimately entire ecosystems are converted into a landscape of flesh. At this point, the novel turns to the viewpoint of characters who have been left behind in this mass assimilation – those who seem immune to the noocytes. In the end, the altered life-forms have to abandon this plane of reality entirely.

Yes, the whole thing sounds bananas. But anime has done horror, particularly body-horror, especially well. Think ‘Parasyte: The Maxim’ or Tetsuo’s transformation in ‘Akira’. Descriptions of the altered landscape in the book are difficult to comprehend, but an animated flesh-scape, with sound effects, would be a terrific way to convey the horror.

The novel’s worth checking out, since the possibility of it actually having any kind of visual adaptation are slim-to-none.

4. Any Greek myth, legend or historic tale.

When I was a kid, the book I read probably more than any other was an old hardback collection of Greek myths I stole from my mother’s bookshelf. It was falling apart, and was missing half of the final story (The Golden Fleece) but I read and re-read it so many times that I knew those stories by heart. As a young teenager, I saw the 1981 ‘Clash of the Titan’s film on TV, with Ray Harryhausen’s iconic stop-motion animation, and even though it looked dated by then, the stories were still incredible to me.

An anime adaptation would allow for much more seamlessly integrated effects, as well as allowing for the inclusion of big beefy heroes and gods of all shapes and sizes along side regular mortals. The only time I’ve seen Greek gods in anime were the (frankly ridiculous) ‘Kamigami no Asobi’ or ‘Ulysses 31’, which was a show I loved as a kid but was set in space, not ancient Greece.

I would give anything for an anime re-telling of Persephone, or Theseus and the Minotaur, or Cadmus sowing dragon’s teeth to grow warriors then pitting them against each other.

5. Tales of the City

It’s not sci-fi or fantasy or anything that can’t be done with live-action – indeed, the mini-series with Olympia Dukakis and Lara Linney is already great (the first series, at least). But hear me out.

A slice-of-life drama, set in a bustling city, but with canonically queer characters. A Tokyo Tales of the City. Stories about people trying to connect, with some added intrigue and subtle horror (don’t ask about Norman).

As the manga industry starts to give us more relatable stories about the LGBT+ community, I’d love to see something along the lines of ‘Tales of the City’, with adults navigating relationships and trying to find their place in the world, rather than another schoolgirl yuri story or moe romance.

Are there any English-language stories you think would make great anime adaptations? More importantly, who would you cast in them? And wouldn’t Hosoya Yoshimasa and Miyano Mamoru make the perfect Dante and Randal in an anime-version of ‘Clerks’? Tell me in the comments!

8 Comments

    1. Discworld would definitely work pretty well as an anime. The live action movies they’ve made have never captured the zany weirdness of the novels and I think anime could really catch the flavour that permeates the writing.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. oh man, “4. Any Greek myth, legend or historic tale.” reminds me of Magi, this anime that’s a very very loose adaptation of certain parts of 1001 Nights … you don’t know how mad that anime made me with it’s stubborn refusal to make its characters or style look anything like any sort of middle eastern setting (other than the stereotypical kind. maybe I’m asking too much lol).

    I saw an article recently that called Magi (Labyrinth of Magic, The Adventures of Sinbad, and the third series of it) ‘a refreshing respite from the usual Japanese-myth-inspired shows’… is it though? Those ones are done way more accurately to the varied beauty and bizarreness of some character and creature archetypes, and even get super artsy (with the woodblock style for example). maybe I’m just a design snob because I research and work with a lot of different ancient world cultural stuff in my own works and I can’t believe how much wasted potential was there idk lol

    that said, if an anime -could- do an ancient world mythological tale justice without ‘but make it moe / bishounen and unrecognizably from that culture’ I would probably applaud them. There’s so much to be inspired by out there but I know that marketing comes first for a lot of these anime studios so its hard to deviate too much design-wise. I still marvel at One Piece being the most popular manga for several years in a row though, given its unconventional art style compared to other manga, and it gives me hope for something else that looks unconventional to break out in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t watched Labyrinth of Magic, but I’ll try to take a look if I can find it.

      I feel like it’s not often that anime deviates from the recognisable style and character design that everyone associates with the medium, or at least not until recently, with stuff like DevilMan Crybaby or Mob Psycho 100. The one anime I have seen with actual Greek gods, Kamigami no Asobi, did exactly what you said by making all the gods anime bishounen to put them in a high school setting (because anime). I couldn’t take it seriously (admittedly, I only went into it because of the cast). There’s a short trailer here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MboSM26gh0Y – if you want a laugh at the character designs.

      This season’s ‘Midnight Occult Civil Servants’ does feature gods and spirits from many different cultures – one episode had Pandora – all integrated into modern-day Tokyo.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. lmao my friend and I were -just- laughing at Kamigami no Asobi and its ridiculousness. another high school anime are you serious!! it’s really something isn’t it lol. I will hand one thing to them though, the ‘holy sparkles’ stylization on the ‘kami’ kanji in the title logo is kind of clever.

        I’ve heard good things about Midnight Occult Civil Servants! I’m inclined to check it out – thanks :3

        Liked by 1 person

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