There have been an influx of live-action anime adaptions over recent years, and more often than note, they fall short of the anime versions for fans. But what would happen if you took things the other way and adapted a live-action film into an anime?
Well, the same risks apply with this as turning an anime into a live-action film. Of course, I’m talking about the fact that changes will often have to be made to account for the switch between mediums and – in the case of a series being translated into a film – available run time. At the same time though, a decent budget and the right studio means that some things are better suited to being animated. Special effects are a good example; a cheap CG monster in a live-action film looks out of place, but the same monster animated in the same way as the animated human characters looks completely different.
Most important I think though is that moving a property from live-action to anime would need to take storytelling style into account. Depending on what style of anime you’re going for, you need certain story beats and character traits to have a chance of slotting in alongside popular alumni. But…that’s no impossible. So, what I want to do today is offer a live-action film that I feel would make a good anime. Specifically, a shounen anime.
That film is: God of Gamblers.
Starring Hong Kong Cinema mega stars Chow Yun-Fat, Andy Lau and Joey Wong, the film first appeared in 1989. The story is fairly simple:
Ko Chen (Chow Yun-Fat) is the titular God of Gamblers, a man so skilled that he hides his identity from the public, and is known only for his slicked-back hair, jade pinky ring, and love of Fedora chocolate. Ko Chen and his girlfriend travel to Tokyo and are enlisted to take revenge on the ‘Demon of Gamblers’ Chan Kam-Sing for a fellow gambler whose father was driven to suicide by the aforementioned ‘demon’.
During this escapade, Ko Chen suffers amnesia and reverts to a childlike state. He is taken in by a rubbish gambler named Little Knife (Andy Lau) and his girlfriend Jane (Joey Wong). Eventually, Ko Chen regains his memories and defeats Chan Kam-Sing, but loses his girlfriend along the way.
There are a couple of reasons I think this would work as an anime. One is that it contains the tonal shifting that you commonly find in shounen titles. Though the set up is a serious one, and things start out as a serious drama, it soon shifts gears. Once Ko Chen loses his memory, we get a lot of comedic moments appearing. From his childlike misunderstandings to slapstick, the humour comes thick and fast. Then, it suddenly becomes more action-focused, building into a revenge tale with a heart-warming ending. Popular series like Bleach mix up the styles like this quite regularly, and for that reason, I think that it really wouldn’t feel out of place among those titles.
From a character storytelling standpoint, the film also feels like it would sit well next to Bleach. As a hero, Ko Chen doesn’t really progress as much as you may like; he does shift from suave to child to cold to suave again though, dealing with the situations he’s presented with like any good hero. But he never really changes in terms of his underlying character. Meanwhile, Little Knife does go through some growth. He moves from someone willing to use this childlike man for his own gains, to genuinely caring for him and wanting to be his friend.
Using Bleach as the continued comparison example here, Ichigo was undoubtedly Ichigo throughout the run. Yes, he got stronger, but his drive and underlying goals never changed. Meanwhile, Orihime was forced to grow with her situation, becoming stronger emotionally as well as physically.
Like recent hit Attack on Titan, the film is also not afraid to show the darker side of things. Ko Chen is hired to avenge a man who suffered great losses through gambling and eventually took his own life. The death of Ko Chen’s girlfriend too is a harrowing scene, and one that would really need a content warning in the current age. Meanwhile, the closing gambling match also features a good amount of manipulation and more violence.
In summary, my basic thinking here is that God of Gamblers, in many ways, plays out like an anime movie already. The pacing is quick, it exudes an anything-can-happen attitude, and the moving between themes would be familiar to many. On top of that, if it were a success, there are a number of sequels and spin-offs that could also be adapted. In fact, the film series is still going, complete with Chow Yun-Fat in the lead, though you may not know it given the latest films have the titles From Vegas to Macau attached.
Those are my thoughts anyway. But what about yourselves? Have you seen God of Gamblers and would you agree that it would make a great anime movie or series? Let me know in the comments below!