Manga Movies: Contemporary Japanese Cinema, Media Franchising and Transnational Adaptation

  • Denison, Rayna (Principal Investigator)

Project Details


Manga, or Japanese comic books, are increasingly becoming the source materials for, not just Japanese, but global cinema. Recent anime (Japanese animation) and manga remakes in Hollywood, and in transnational cinema, have become increasingly high profile, including Dragonball Z, Speed Racer and Blood: The Last Vampire, plus the announcements of American Akira and Death Note remakes, all by well-known producers. As manga cultures become increasingly prominent in global film cultures questions remain about the impact of manga on visual culture in Japan and beyond. In fact, there is relatively little work on the importance of manga and anime to the Japanese film industry, and even less on the impact those media are having on a transnational scale. The project will therefore be formed of two parts: first, an examination of manga media cultures in Japan; and, second, an examination of manga and anime's adaptations for the global marketplace. These two parts will work in concert, attempting to bridge gaps in understanding about Japanese "soft power" as a global phenomenon, while building on current work that discusses the success of Japanese media products at home and abroad.

Consequently, this project seeks to investigate the ways in which manga are used as source texts for Japanese film culture, beginning with an examination of media franchising and manga-to-live-action-film adaptations in Japan. Manga provides the origins for an incredible range of films in Japan, from anime to live action blockbusters to art and cult cinema and yet, its influences on, and history in, Japanese film is relatively unmapped and under-discussed, something this project will aim to address. Indeed, manga tend to form origin points for large multi-media franchises in Japan, a phenomenon which has yet to be investigated in English-language academic work. Doing so would enable a better understanding both of the Japanese film industry, and of the ways in which Japanese media are produced and used in their domestic setting. The project will therefore use case study manga texts to examine the circumstances under which manga are adapted into franchises, and will offer assessments of the most significant forms of inter-media adaptation present in the Japanese market.

Beyond Japanese borders too, the recent global visibility of Japanese anime and manga has seen a variety of borrowings from both classic and newer manga and anime sources. These film adaptations, normally live action but with a heavy emphasis on digital technologies, are offering interesting challenges to Western genres and audiences, especially in filmmaking for children, while also challenging conceptualisations of how digital technologies can and should be used. High profile, relative failures like the Dragonball Z and Speed Racer films offer potential insights into the problematic nature of translating Japanese manga and anime into live-action film, particularly around the use of digital technologies to bridge the gaps between Japanese and American culture. Moreover, the reasons for the choices of manga and anime sources by contemporary American filmmakers will be analysed, as will fan responses to their adaptations, in order to investigate what is at stake for the American and other film industies in adapting manga and anime products. The project will result in the production of a series of journal articles (which it is envisaged will later form the first two sections of a co-authored monograph), while also providing the impetus for manga and anime related events to take place in Norwich (and potentially London) and reports to be sent to industry and various other institutions. A central aim of the project is to provide useful outputs that cut across the divides between industry and the academy, thereby engaging as many potential beneficiaries as possible.
Effective start/end date1/02/1130/06/13


  • Arts and Humanities Research Council: £144,785.00