I've been kicking this idea about for a while now, but my friend and colleague Kinky's great article about diversity inspired me to actually get off my lazy ass and put it into words.
Hear me out: if I could hypothetically choose one anime series for western filmakers to adapt that I think they'll have a hard time fucking up completely (but probably will, knowing them), it'll have to be the explosive action seinen thriller Black Lagoon. Here are a few reasons why:
Diversity isn't a problem
If you've never heard of it, Rei Hiroe's Black Lagoon is set in the fictional location of Roanapur in Thailand, a port town filled to the brim with all manner of criminal organisations. Italian, Russian and American mafias, several South American cartels, Chinese triads and a whole load of other groups from all around the world reluctantly coexist in this forgotten part of south-east Asia. If that ain't diverse enough for you, I don't know what is.
Even the main cast, the eponymous Lagoon Company, is one of the most racially varied main squads I've seen in anime. There's the imposing African-American leader Dutch, sociopathic Chinese-American gunslinger Revy, Jewish computer expert Benny from California and their newest recruit, former salaryman Rock from Japan. Hollywood adaptations of anime have earned a lot of flack over the years for racelifting characters, but if they adapted Black Lagoon they wouldn't have to.
It's surprisingly feminist
One of the biggest complaints about anime from unfamiliar western audiences is that its representation of women can be shocking at times. Sure, this kind of attitude is less common these days and the upcoming Alita: Battle Angel movie seems to try and tackle that opinion, but that can't be said about Black Lagoon, where some of the most badass and powerful figures in Roanapur are women. Out of the main cast, Rock is more often the damsel-in-distress despite being a guy and Revy has the highest kill count by far, but even she has nothing on Balalaika, leader of the Russian mafia, former military commander and all-around terrifying boss bitch. And who could forget spec ops-agent turned maid Roberta, who has an entire arc where she kicks the Columbian and American military's respective asses? Race and gender inclusvity aside, the trans community can probably be represented by Hansel & Gretel, but the less said about them the better.
It's pretty much a Hollywood action movie anyway
As far as being a completely over the top pastiche of/love letter to the action movie genre as a whole goes, I'd say Black Lagoon's equivalent in the video game world is Just Cause. Both are about shit blowing up and making it look as cool as possible, which, if Michael Bay's career is anything to go by, is a tried and tested formula in the world of Hollywood. IfJust Cause can get a live action movie, then why can't Black Lagoon? The series is pretty grounded in reality and doesn't have a convoluted backstory that'd have to be dumbed down for movie audiences or fantasy/sci-fi elements that'd only beget terrrible CGI like other anime series Hollywood has gotten their mitts on. I'm not saying it'll be a good excuse to make another generic action flick, but if it had the same kind of stylish choreography as John Wick orThe Raid it'll do more than justice to the source material.
There's already an audience for it
Due to its exotic setting, wide range of characters and excellent dub, Black Lagoon is without a doubt much more popular outside of Japan than it is in the author's native country. This only makes it worse that Hiroe is prone to Kentaro Miura levels of hiatus that last for years; the last volume of the manga to be officially released over here was four years ago, and the anime concluded with the Roberta's Blood Trail OVA series that finished in 2011. Fans are eagerly awaiting for more Black Lagoon content, and a well-done live action movie close the source material would be perfect.
This is all my humble opinion, though. Don't blame me if some Hollywood studio writers find this article and end up making another Ghost in the Shell but with less cyberpunk and more guns.
Are you a fan of Black Lagoon? (If not, you're missing out.) Do you agree with this list and that it'd be a good candidate for a live action movie? What other anime/manga serie s would you choose for a potential live action? Drop your thoughts in the comments!