The manga industry in Japan has a yearly revenue of the equivalent of around $3.6 billion, making it one of the top entertainment industries in the country. The books cover a wide range of topics, including slices of life, comedy, action, and of course, horror.
And oh man, horror manga can be nasty when it wants to be. Nasty beyond belief. Just look at the works of Hideshi Hino to get an idea. Japan has a reputation as being one of the finest creators of horror in the world, and their manga is no different. And inevitably, many of their manga series are adapted into films.
One recent series that has been topping sales charts is Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan, which has currently sold $45 million copies worldwide and even outsold One Piece, the best-selling manga series of all time, during the first half of 2014. Hell, the popularity of the series even led to a crossover with the Marvel Universe.
The series takes place in a future where colossal beings known as titans have taken over the world, forcing the remainder of humanity to cower in a walled off city, and focuses on Eren Jaeger, who joins the army to fight the titans after to avenge his mother after she is killed.
So after being turned into an anime TV series, a film adaptation was inevitable. Two films, in fact. Filmed back to back, Attack on Titan and Attack on Titan: End of the World will both be released in Japan this year, less than two months apart. Judging by the trailer, we’re in for some Hollywood style production values.
Still no word on the international release date, but as the series has gathered a large following in the West we hopefully won’t have long to wait to see the titans devouring people. Director Shinji Higuchi certainly has a fondness for things that are big and ugly, as he’ll next be co-directing the Japanese Godzilla reboot.
It seems that two-part adaptation of horror manga are popular, as another series, Parasyte, got the same treatment. The premise for this series is pure freakiness: Aliens come to Earth and take control of people’s brains by crawling into their ears. One of them tries to crawl into the brain of boy called Shinichi, but as he is wearing headphones, it becomes stuck in his hand, where it grows a face. As one cannot survive without the other, Shinichi, and the alien, which becomes known as Mig, are forced to co-exist “peacefully.”
Despite being directed by Takasi Yamasaki, known for the hugely popular $100+ million plus grossing (the exact figure is unclear) Stand By Me Doreamon, the two films opened to a mixed reception in Japan, so hopefully if a third installment is made, they will learn from their mistakes.
Another manga series that has been gathering popularity as of late is Assassination Classroom by Yusei Matsui. And if you assume by the title that you’re in for a Battle Royale-style schoolkids killing the crap out of each other film, then you’ll be disappointed.
Instead, Assassination Classroom follows Koro Sensei (translated as “Unkillable Teacher”), a yellow octopus-like creature who seems to be omnipotent. After having destroyed most of the moon, he threatens the Japanese government that he will destroy the Earth within a year. Whilst they worry about how to stop the new menace, the creature, instead of going on a murderous rampage, decides to become a teacher. Because that’s just the natural thing for a terrorist with God-like powers to do. The government offers the equivalent of $100 million to the class of hopeless, bottom of the barrel students. They jump at the chance to become rich beyond their wildest dreams, and let’s be honest; we’ve all wanted to kill our teachers at certain points. But they soon have second thoughts as Koro Sensei inevitably proves to be the best teacher ever.
A live action film was released earlier this year, which opened in the number one position at the Japanese box office and ended up grossing over $20 million, and a sequel is already planned for next year. If the trailer for the first film is anything to go by, the downright strangeness of the series is clearly intact.
No word on an international release, and sadly, don’t hold your breath. While it may be popular in Japan, the story of a class of delinquent youths and their fatherly terrorist octopus-like teacher is probably just to damn weird to click with a mainstream audience overseas. Looks like you’ll have to import the DVDs of this particular series. But hey, at least that means Suzanne Collins won’t be ripping it off for her next bestseller…
Lastly, everyone’s favorite Japanese filmmaker, Takashi Miike, is working on an adaptation of a series called Terra Formers. Which comes as no surprise really, as he has no fewer than 98 directing credits to his name and on average directs at least three films a year. Outside of Japan he’s best known for his romantic horror Audition and his ultraviolet gangster flick Ichi the Killer. And yes, he directed that infamous “Masters of Horror” episode.
Terra Formers, by Yu Sasuga, follows a failed attempt by scientists to colonize Mars which, what else, ends up accidentally populating the planet with giant cockroaches. Yeah.
Miike has something of a cult following in the West, and as this sounds like a big budget production, hopefully it will get attention here. Miike’s biggest film to date was 13 Assassins, which sadly was heavily edited for its international release, including the removal of a supernatural subplot. Let’s hope that Terra Formers doesn’t get the same treatment.