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6 Hollywood ripoffs of Japanese anime and manga

By Limarc Ambalina

With superhero film series like "Spider-Man" and "Batman" done and redone to death, it’s become a cliche to say that Hollywood has run out of ideas.

So what do you do when you run out of ideas? Get them from someone — or in Hollywood’s case — somewhere else. For many years now, Hollywood has been trying and mostly failing to adapt popular Japanese anime and manga for the big screen. Likewise, television networks and streaming services have followed suit trying to produce live action television remakes of the same. A good example of this would be Netflix’s live action series "Erased."

Sadly, good examples of American live action adaptations are few and far between. Whether it be the difficulty of adapting stories between very different mediums or failed attempts to please both Japanese and American target audiences, it seems like Western production companies just can’t seem to get it right.

While good live action adaptations may be few, there are some gems out there that definitely deserve a watch. The films or shows on this list comprise three of the biggest failures and three of the most well-done Western remakes of popular Japanese anime and manga.



1. Death Note (2017)

There are very few manga that captured my interest — and scores of others around the world — as quickly as "Death Note" by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata.

From the same duo that brought us the hit series "Bakuman," "Death Note" is a perfectly-paced, heart-pumping crime-thriller about a boy named Light Yagami who finds a death god’s notebook. The story revolves around a “death note” from the journal that has the power to kill whoever’s name is written within it.

As the saying goes, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Light starts his journey by using the death note to rid the world of evil and heinous criminals. However, while being pursued by police and FBI investigators, his sense of morality becomes clouded and eventually he has no problem eliminating anyone who stands in his way.

Following the manga’s release, both anime and live-action film adaptations in Japan were met with marginally high reception and positive criticism. While the American remake rights were initially held by Hollywood powerhouse film studio Warner Bros. Entertainment, it was ultimately Netflix that ended up purchasing the film for its anime category. "Death Note" was officially released solely on Netflix on Aug 25, 2017 and could not be seen anywhere else. It bombed. Receiving a 37% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it had less than half the score of the Japanese live-action "Death Note" film of 2007.

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Too bad the author doesn't know what 'rip-off' means. Ripping off is stealing. Hunger Games is a rip-off of Battle Royale. The Lion King is a rip-off of Kimba. Good or bad, every film in the article was an authorized adaptation. Talk about sensationalism...

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Oops, missed one. OK, at least he got number 6 right.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Most of these are licensed IPs.

The term “Rip-off” implies fraud and unauthorized imitations.

As pointed out already, The Lion King is a rip-off of Kimba.

These listed IPs, however, were all sold to Hollywood.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I don't watch anime and i don't read manga, but i have seen a lot of old Mangas, and most of them are rip-offs of American comics or movies. Godzilla is one good example, it's a rip-off of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. Astro Boy is another rip-off, and Hello Kitty is also another rip-off. There are many lists you can find online of Japanese rip-offs.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Why call them rip-offs at all. They are concept reproductions. Very few companies have concept copyrights on their productions. Therefor, it can be reproduced with a minimum of 15% change without breaching copyright laws. Japan has been exploiting this for decades.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Hollywood feels the need to "Americanize" the Japanese stories because they think a wider audience wouldn't appreciate some of the cultural queues.

They do the same thing with popular British TV and it seldom works there either.

Best to be true to the copied story and let the popularity be cross-cultural, if it works.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

The title should be "The horrible results of white washing!"

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

As for the Battle Royale actor, the name is Takeshi Kitano not Takeshi Takano.

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"white wash".

What a stupid word. Sometimes people mistake movies/theater/series made in the USA as being "property of the world" to judge. The majority population of the US is white, hence white actors! 99% of the actors in japanese dramas are japanese. 100% of the actors in those Ethiopian movies you watch in the plane are black. Ever watched a danish series? Move to China and start complaining about how asianwashed are their movies.

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@finally rich

White washing in Hollywood as I understand is when a stable of perfectly capable actors of a movie character's original ethnicity are overlooked in favor of a Caucasian equivalent. America is fortunate enough to be full of great actors of almost every ethnicity, so characters in movies never need be changed to Caucasian without good reason. The same can't be said of the other countries you've mentioned.

3 ( +3 / -0 )


I think you missed my point a bit.

As far as I know the US is still a majority white country, hence most of the actors available are white, and the main target audience in their country is statistically white. 

Movie roles should be decided mainly on the actor skills, makeup can do the rest.

It's not that minorities are "overlooked", it's just that they are... the minority among the majority capable whites. Producers shouldn't start going out to find the best actors for their movies based on the color of the skin, unless it's really required for the plot. No one would enjoy watching a white Blade or a latina Sayuri.

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@finally rich

Nah I understood, and agree with many of the things you've mentioned. Indeed the US is indeed majority white. Yeah actors should be judged on their skills, and whether they fit the character in question. However I'd argue while the majority of actors are white (it's reasonable to assume, though I don't know the facts) there is not a lack of great actors of minority ethnicities. I'd also say it's worth questioning whether or not the majority white target audience just like to see a bunch of white people on screen.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Just when I had forgotten about that Dragon Ball movie, it's now back to haunt me.

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Don't worry, Japan has their fair share of horrible live action reproductions.

However I think Pokemon detective will partially be saved by Ryan Reynolds

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I think Japan has a bit more of a rip-off history with not acquiring licenses for music/movie clips and other uses.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

 No one would enjoy watching a white Blade or a latina Sayuri.

This is true. But why should people/fans have to watch a "white Gokou" or some of the following :




Just to mention a few.

"white wash".

What a stupid word. Sometimes people mistake movies/theater/series made in the USA as being "property of the world" to judge.

It's not about anime/movies being "properties of the world", its about keeping stories real, original and honest. How would it sound if Hollywood made a historical movie about Gen. Custard, but used a black actor or an Asian actor or a Hindi actor who was "decided mainly on the actor skills, makeup can do the rest"? Or used DMX to play the role of George Washington because it was decided mainly on the actor skills, makeup can do the rest.?

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Hollywood has run out of ideas.

yeah they already don't have any ideas to do anything but stealing from many Japanese shows just watch Honest trailer LUL

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@IloveCoffe: as a true manga and anime fan, especially of the old ones, I can tell you that what you said is absolutely false. It's not true that most of old manga are rip-offs of American comics or movies, I don't know how you can tell something like that, especially since you were never a real consumer of these media, unlike me. Just because you saw some of them that could share similar concepts with American stuff, exactly like some American and European movies and cartoons look rip offs of Japanese works, this doesn't mean "most of" them are "rips-off". It's really absurd. Plus, you took Hello Kitty that isn't even a manga in the first place, only to validate your opinion, and this character has not any similarity with "American something", but with a European character called Miffy.

Americans and Europeans in the past copied many stories and concepts from Japanese works, not only from anime and manga, also from movies, like Akira Kurosawa's masterpieces, but the sad thing is that they continue to do like that also today in a blatant way, see the Hunger Games, without even admitting "the inspiration". Since Italy during the late 70s/80s imported tons of Japanese anime, we know also a lot of stuff that the Americans copied later, but your average American person doesn't know these things, because the Americans saw only very few old Japanese cartoons.

For example, also The Simpson are a rip-offs of a very old Japanese manga and anime, Hajime ningen Giatrus, produced in the 60s:


You can see how The Simpson copied the art style, but not only that, also the concept, because all the characters in The Simpson family have the SAME personality of the characters in Giatrus' family. Homer is basically Giatrus. If you put Giatrus' family in an American setting, you get almost the same thing.

I could list so many popular American works that copied Japanese stuff, that is really obvious to many Italians, but that the American audience doesn't know.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

About The Simpson, as I told you to your average Italian person of my same age, they are an obvious rip-off of Hajime ningen Giatrus: try to look at the comments in this video, that is the Italian opening of Hajime ningen Giatrus:


Just because the American audience doesn't know a show, this doesn't mean the rest of the world is the same. Many American artists think they can copy old Japanese works taking advantage of the fact they are not popular in the US, but they don't know that in the rest of the world the situation is different. Japanese anime made Italian children's childhood wonderful, way more than American cartoons, that were often considered boring and childish as hell.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Astro Boy is another rip-off

Seriously? And what did Astro Boy copy? Pinocchio? Such a pity Pinocchio wasn't an original idea by Disney, but it's an Italian book.

Anyway, the denial is big between the Americans, but I am not surprised, only your typical American-centric view and pride. This doesn't make what I said any less true.

I am Italian, but I have not any problem to admit that Sergio Leone copied stuff from Akira Kurosawa, in Italy we know it.


At least we admit the things, unlike other people...

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

@IloveCoffee: now I saw your history comments, I understand WAY BETTER why you wrote that post...

Should we start to list the South Korean rip-offs of Japanese manga and anime? They were never exported to the West exactly because they were blatant rip-offs, like Ranma 1/3, copy of Ranma 1/2.

At least in the case of Americans/Europeans/Japanese it was mainly a matter of controversial inspiration, the Koreans simply copied everything...not even the effort to change the title properly.

0 ( +2 / -2 )


I don't know why you consider Astro Boy a rip-off, but there's a Korean rip-off of it, together with many other Korean rip-offs of Japanese manga and anime.


Again, there's a reason if they were NEVER exported to the West. Korean art style in comics is heavily influenced by Japanese art style also today, but while heavy influence can be accepted, blatant copies like these Korean old comics can't be accepted.

The Lion king could be considered a rip-off of Kimba, but NEVER to the extent of these Korean things, and this is why we can enjoy both the Lion King and Kimba, despite some controversial opinion about it, while these Korean comics wre never sold in the West.

Osamu Tezuka art style was influenced by Disney, but all his works are original stories, not copies of Dinsey movies.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Osamu Tezuka art style was influenced by Disney, but all his works are original stories, not copies of Dinsey movies.

Plus, about this, Osamu Tezuka's stories were REALLY original, while most of Disney movies are based on popular European fairytales, anyone wants to deny this, it's only in denial for some reasons, nothing more than this, because everyone knows that Disney didn't create The Little Mermaid, SnowWhite, Cinderella, Pinocchio, Aladdin, etc...while I'd like to know which stories Osamu Tezuka copied. All his works are original stories.

@IloveCoffee: you could watch the anime "Dororo", based on one of his manga. Watch both the old anime, and the modern remake. Both are good. Later, tell me which American story it copied. I'm curious.

Ranma 1/3, copy of Ranma 1/2.

The correct name was Ramba 1/3...also more hilarious.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

About Hollywood, can we admit HONESTLY that they need some free and new ideas? Speaking about authorized adaptations, they are currently making these manga/anime live actions:


Cowboy Bebop

One Piece

Your Name

And I am forgetting probably something. About the whitewashing thing, sometimes it is clearly a problem. If for example they decided to make a Ranma 1/2 adaptation, the story makes sense only with its Japanese setting, including its Chinese characters. In Japan arranged marriages still exist, I don't think the same can be said about America.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

some fresh* and new ideas, I meant.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

 All his works are original stories.

Alex, we know you're the resident "Japan can do no wrong even though I've never lived there" guy, but really, your fanboydom and blinders are ridiculous on this subject.

Let's look at your so-called 'god of manga," Tezuka.

What started the 'manga explosion'? Shin Takarajima, literally New Treasure Island.

Lost World? Again, a rip-off.

Angel Gunfighter is literally a rip-off of The Lone Ranger.

Metropolis, Faust, Age of Adventure (which is basically a bunch of western ideas thrown in a blender and someone hit the button), and the list goes on and on and on.

So no, Tezuka wasn't all original ideas. The ripping off goes back and forth, and has for going on 50 years. I find it hilarious that you mention that Sergio Leone 'borrowed' ideas from Japan without mentioning the entire genre that he ripped off, namely American westerns.

So please, you can stop your delusional arguing anytime now.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

@David Varnes: I find also more funny American nationalism and pride, that makes people completely oblivious to the facts. What you are calling "rip offs" are not clearly "rip offs", your definition of rip off is really contrived. At this point, there's not a single fictional work in the US that can be considered "original", everything is a rip off of European ideas and works.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

What you are calling "rip offs" are not clearly "rip offs", your definition of rip off is really contrived. 

As is your definition of 'original.'

I've never claimed that the works I mentioned were American, except for perhaps The Lone Ranger, which is similar to many knight errant tales that pervades many cultures, including of course Robin Hood, King Arthur, and others.

But I'm also not such a blind fanboy to claim that Tezuka was 'original' in all of his works, as you did. More of his works were 'inspired' by Western influences, to the point of literally ripping off titles and plotlines, than not.

It's as ridiculous as someone claiming that Detective Conan is original.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Just a thought, but why live action everything? A lot of the appeal I get from anime is the artwork. I can't admire the artwork if it's not there (ie live actioned). Ducktales live action would be ridiculous, to use an American show.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@David: again, according to your contrived logic, basically nothing can be called "original" and everything is a rip-off. All American martial arts movies are rip-offs of Bruce Lee movies, and so on. I hope you understand that taking inspiration is something that everyone does, but one thing is inspiration, another copying blatantly. I don't need to live in Japan to consume Japanese or American media, and everything you called "rip-off", isn't a rip-off according to anyone, except for you.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Alex, your idea of a 'rip-off' isn't a rip off according to anyone except you and the author of the story, who as many others in this discussion pointed out, is anything but a rip-off. A licensed remake with royalties paid to the original producer isn't a rip-off.

As for American martial arts movies, just what are you talking about? If anything, you should give credit to an American for the modern martial arts movie as Bruce Lee was American. He was the one who revolutionized martial arts movies from the so-called 'chop-socky' Shaw Brothers farces that were made before and after his death.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

@David: the Korean "Ramba 1/3" is a clear case of a rip-off of the original "Ranma 1/2". An illegal copy with very minor changes.

Netflix Death Note isn't a rip-off, it's a legal adaptation of a Japanese manga.

Osamu Tezuka's works are original stories, they can contein some western influences, but they are not based completely on other people stories.

Most of Disney movies are legal adaptations of books and fairytales, and you don't call these things "rip-offs".

Same with the series by Nippon Animation belonging to the "World Masterpiece Theater", based on Western books for children.

E.T. by Steven Spielberg is an original story, like the Tezuka's works, despite he isn't the first one who has created stories about aliens, of course.

I hope you are able to see the difference between all these things. It has nothing to do with what you called "Alex fanboyism". I am not even a boy, honestly, but a woman.

1 ( +1 / -0 )


What does a Korean rip-off have anything to do with your commentary on Western or Hollywood's lack of ideas? It doesn't. You introduced that particular non sequitir and keep going back to it as if it's some disputed fact. Nobody disputes it, and nobody cares about it.

And no, not all of Tezuka's works are original stories. For example, changing 'The Lost World' from a hidden plateau in South America (in Doyle's version) to an alien planet is no more 'inspiration' than saying that Ramba 1/3 is inspired by Ranma 1/2.

As for your gender, I don't care. Fanboyism, fangirlism, I really don't care. You have rose-tinted glasses on about Japan, and they're so thick that you refuse to think that anything done by Japan (specifically in the realm of pop culture) can ever be considered negative in any way.

Fine. But you're factually wrong.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

@David: but I never said that the article was right in calling "rip-offs" the movies it listed, except for Hunger Games. I just disagreed with @IloveCoffee, and I said that there are many American works that are rip-offs of old Japanese manga and anime, but I spoke for example of Giatrus, that isn't even in the list of this article. If you are upset with this article, you are right because except for Hunger Games, all the other works are legal adaptations.

P.S. Bruce Lee started to work in Hong Kong movie industry way before to become an American citizen. Anyway, martial arts are not really an "American thing".

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Ramba 1/3 is a complete copy of Ranma 1/2. It's not "inspired" by Ranms 1/2. Again, learn the differences between the different concepts. I spoke about the Korean rip-offs because they are clear examples of real rip-offs, while @IloveCoffee said that Astro Boy is a rip-off...really? Nobody never considered it a rip-off of something.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

P.S. Bruce Lee started to work in Hong Kong movie industry way before to become an American citizen. Anyway, martial arts are not really an "American thing".

Incorrect. Bruce Lee was born in San Francisco, and was an American citizen from birth. He returned to the US from Hong Kong at 18 to go to university, and spent years working in martial arts and in Hollywood before going back to Hong Kong to make The Big Boss. If you count his adult roles (as he was a child actor in Hong Kong as well, but minor roles only), he spent just as much time in Hollywood as he did in Hong Kong's movie industries.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

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