8 Godawful Anime Adaptations Of American Properties

8 Godawful Anime Adaptations Of American Properties

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.

2) Lensman

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.

5) Witchblade

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.

8) Wolverine

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.


  • I thought Batman: Gotham Knight was fine. It was like Animatrix, just a bunch of different animators showing their artistic interpretation of Batman.

  • Are you kidding me?? Gotham Knight was great!

    Highlander: The Search for Vengeance was oldschool Madhouse anime. I dug it

  • I can’t speak to the quality of the rest, but yes Gotham Knight was purpose-built to be a representation of how others view the character. Narrative-wise, and thematically.

    Animation is a beautiful art-form. I think the fact that a fusion of ‘east-meets-west’ even though I hate that phrase like Gotham Knight could have gone very wrong, but it was a fascinating experiment. Most works of animation are simply that anyway.

  • I actually kinda liked Highlander, it was awful yet enjoyable at the same time – so much so I’ve seen it at least 4 times! The animation probably helped it though

    I agree with Starship Troopers however, I couldn’t even finish it

    • I came to post exactly this. Anime TNMT is the very (awesomely) worst of them all, and is super obscure. I would have been very surprised if it was included in the article.

  • and massively pro girl power

    No it wasn’t. Like MLP they designed the show to be enjoyable to anyone. It was designed for kids to enjoy, not little girls. They even mocked that ideology several times during their run.

    • Isn’t that what they mean with “pro girl power”? That girls can be strong and the protagonists of action series not targeted solely at girls?

  • Damn, that first image made me want a decent anime adaptation of some marvel characters, but then it just made me want a good anime adaptation of the first prototype game

  • I actually thought that Wolverine was the best of the four Marvel anime (not saying much though, it wasn’t great). At least the plot was pulled straight from the comics. The Iron Man one was bland, Blade was awful and X-Men was reasonable but boring.

  • I’m glad to see Highlander in there. It was the title that came instantly to mind when I saw the article’s title.

    I didn’t actually mind Witchblade. Admittedly the comic is vastly superior, but the anime was average, not actually terrible.

    On the other hand, I’m having trouble thinking of any anime adaptations of Western movies or TV that are actually good. There are some decent adaptations of books (Arriety for example; Tales of Earthsea, not so much) but no adaptations from video material that I would classify as above average.

    CLAMP’s adaptation of Alice in Wonderland probably deserves an effort for the liberties it took with its material; given Dodson’s reputation as a prude of the most extreme sort, it probably had him spinning in his grave. But Alice was British, not American.

  • Gotham Knight was meh … ok, I liked the Starship troopers invasion one, mainly cause I liked the franchise, I didn’t mind the witchblade one cause I was getting into the comics but it was a pure T&A series (which I didn’t mind). I thought from the picture on the article it would include the Wolverine anime which I watched to but that was about average.

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