There’s been a recent respiring of interest in Hollywood live-action adaptations of video games, with the commercial and critical successes of "Detective Pikachu" and "Sonic the Hedgehog" likely part of the reason. The latest franchise to be announced for the Hollywood adaption treatment doesn’t star cute animal friends, though, but members of Japan’s organized crime syndicates, as Sega has announced that its Ryu ga Gotoku series, known simply as "Yakuza in English-speaking territories, is being turned into a live-action film in conjunction with U.S.-based production companies 1212 Entertainment and Wild Sheep.
"Yakuza" isn’t the first non-kiddy Japanese video game that Hollywood has taken an interest in, as it’s preceded by U.S.-produced live-action adaptations of "Double Dragon," "Street Fighter" and "Resident Evil," among others. However, this will be the first Hollywood film version of a video game that’s not only made in Japan, but set there too, as the events of the "Yakuza" games take place in real-world Japanese cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, and Onomichi, with the majority of the pivotal events taking place in Kamurocho, a fictional Tokyo neighborhood that’s modeled extremely closely on Shinjuku Ward’s Kabukicho district, and the overwhelming majority of the cast of the games’ characters is Japanese too.
What makes the choice even more unusual is that the Japanese film industry has been producing yakuza-themed movies for decades. As a matter of fact, there’s already a "Ryu ga Gotoku/Yakuza" live-action movie that was made in Japan by prolific director Takashi Miike, which was released in 2006. Not surpassingly, a number of Japanese Twitter users have expressed concerns as to whether or not foreign production companies will be able to handle such an inherently Japanese story.
“I think even if they use a Japanese cast and set it in Japan, it’s just going to feel off somehow.”
“This is a bad idea.”
“A total diss to Miike.”
“Please, no. Remember what happened when Hollywood made a live-action Dragon Ball movie?”
“There’s no way foreigners can make a story that really captures the yakuza philosophy.”
“I wish they’d just spend the money making a new Yakuza game.”
“There’s no need to make a live-action movie The games are fine by themselves.”
That’s not to say that everyone is opposed to the idea, as Japanese Twitter users on the other side of the debate have reacted with:
“What? They’re really doing this? Looking forward to watching it!”
“The French-made live-action City Hunter was really loyal to the source material. As long as the producers have love for the original work, they’ll do a good job!”
The barriers the live-action "Yakuza" faces won’t be only of the cultural type, though. With seven mainline games, there’s the question of which part of the saga to adapt, and even within individual games, the story can meander at an extremely drawn-out pace. A big part of what’s made the series a hit is its massive number of side quests and mini games. Protagonist and former yakuza enforcer Kazama Kiryu’s quests for revenge are frequently suspended for hours on end as he goes to sing idol songs at karaoke, manages a cat cafe, puts together a baseball team, eats every variety of ramen offered in the city, and compliments webcam chat girls on their busty physiques. Without those diversions, "Yakuza" doesn’t feel like "Yakuza," but on the other hand, it’s hard to see how they’d fit in a traditional three-act film structure, and if the shifts in tone would be as smooth with real actors as they are with video game models, leading to comments like:
“People are going to have high expectations for a karaoke scene.”
“If they include scenes of Kiryu throwing bicycles and signs at people, and wrecking convenience stores and cafes in fight sequences, then I’ll probably watch it.”
“I’m looking forward to seeing live-action actors throw off their suits with one smooth sweep of their arm, like they do in the games.”
“I think Yakuza would work better as a CG animated movie.”
“I’d like a Netflix drama series instead.”
With no attached cast or crew, or a projected release date, we’re probably going to have to wait a while to see which of the many possible directions the "Yakuza" movie chooses to go. Personally, though, we’re happy to possibly have another chance to worm our way into the franchise.
Source: Twitter/@SEGA_OFFICIAL, Twitter/@ryugagotoku, Twitter/@livedoornews, Twitter/@famitsu
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