America has had plenty of experience in taking awesome Japanese anime and making terrible adaptations of them. But for every Dragonball: Evolution, Japan has also borrowed one of our properties, and desecrated it in much the same fashion. Here are eight American casualties in this cross-pop culture war.
1) Batman: Gotham Knight
Released shortly before The Dark Knight, this six-chapter anime anthology boasted some of the best talent in Japan, some of the best comics writers in the U.S., and was masterminded by DC animated wunderkind Bruce Timm. So why did it suck so bad? Mostly because so few of the chapters dealt directly with Batman. Instead, we get stories about Batman from kids, bitching about Batman from cops, and two chapters about Bruce Wayne outside of the Cowl, one a flashback to his training, and one focused on his gadgets, and none of them are even slightly tied to each other. Only two chapters include Batman fighting named villains, and they’re not nearly enough to save this boring, disjointed mess.
This 1984 TV series based on E.E “Doc Smith’s Lensman scifi series isn’t terrible if you like Star Wars. Unfortunately, the Lensman novels are almost nothing like Star Wars, except for being set in space, and reportedly “Doc” was so livid at the wild adaptation that he and his estate have refused to permit any other Lensman adaptation since. Carl Macek, the guy who created Robotech, brought four episodes of the TV show to America as a movie, but had to pull it because of licensing issues; now you can track it down online or on an old VHS. Just remember, do not watch Lensman if you have any affection for Lensman.
3) Powerpuff Girls Z
The original Powerpuff Girls cartoon was simply animated but cleverly written, genuinely funny, and massively pro girl power. When Japan adapted the Cartoon Network series in 2007, they ditched all of that, and turned it into the most straight-forward, mediocre magical girl anime they possibly could. The girls were no longer sisters or had superpowers, at least until they used their magical jewels to transform into the Powerpuff Girls (complete with enormously long transformation sequences (complete with jewels that allow them to change outfits). These new girls are shallow, the original’s wide cast of memorable characters is pretty annihilated, and the show’s subversive humour is replaced with random weirdness. Honestly, PPGZ would be a great satire of magical girl anime series if it obviously wasn’t taking itself so seriously.
4) Highlander: The Search for Vengeance
A Highlander movie from the guy who made Vampire Hunter D sounds like a recipe for success, yet somehow it wasn’t. Somehow The Search for Vengeance was a soulless retread of both the original Highlander movie, as yet another ancient Scotsman hunted down an evil immortal arsehole who killed his family, and Vampire Hunter D, as the protagonist wanders silently through the post-apocalyptic wasteland, not saying anything and getting into period fight scenes. Even that sounds kind of all right, but then you watch it, and it’s clear this is a soulless cash-in without an ounce of creativity.
You’d think that an adaptation of the Image comic, about a cop turned underdressed superheroine thanks to a magic weapon, would be easily adapted to anime — just keep the boobs and action, and you’re done. The Witchblade anime certainly kept the boobs and action, because the show is 50% ludicrously busty ladies fighting each other. But the other half is about main character Masane trying to raise and care for her precocious 6-year-old kid. Trying to pair fight scenes with this down-to-earth human drama sounds like a promising idea, but it’s entirely derailed by the main character’s giant boobs, and the show’s desire to provide fan service. It’s pretty tough to care about the plight of this small family when the kid is literally careening off her mother’s enormous breasts.
6) Dracula: Sovereign of the Damned
This 1980 straight-to-VHS movie is based on Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula horror comic, where “based” in this case means “tries to cram in years of comic storylines into a 90-minute movie creating an incomprehensible mess.” It begins with Dracula stealing a virgin sacrifice from Satan, having a kid with her, getting chased by Van Helsing’s daughter, an old man and a random martial artist, who accidentally kills his baby, but then God resurrects it as an adult who can shoot laser beams from his eyes, and.. hoo boy. Suffice it to say, the movie ends with Dracula eating a hamburger in a New York diner. Obviously.
7) Starship Troopers: Invasion
In 1988, Japan actually made a six-episode OVA series that was faithful to the classic Robert Heinlein novel. In 2012, Japan made this direct-to-DVD movie based on the universe created with Paul Verhoeven’s 1997 movie satire. Except that this CG anime movie is basically one long video game fight scene with no story to tell, no excitement, and no originality. Basically, if you love the novel or the original movie, you’ll both equally find nothing to enjoy in Invasion.
None of the four Marvel anime series made by Studio Madhouse will go down in history as great superhero entertainment, although their X-Men show may come closest. The series that doesn’t come close to mediocre in Wolverine, where they managed to take the Marvel superhero best suited to hang out in Japan and star in an anime series and somehow managed to fuck it up. For starters, Wolverine is a slender, naïve hero with a mullet; despite his muttonchops and claws, he’s nothing like the Wolverine we know (or the one that appeared in the X-Men anime, weirdly). But the plot, while taken from the comics, is rendered paper-thin and riddled with repetitive, uninspired fight scenes.