Lost in Translation usually handles English-language adaptations, in part due to a lack of fluency in other languages. The culture differences can make it difficult to determine how an adaptation is or isn’t working. Serdar at Ganriki covers Japanese works, original and adapted, far better. However, a new Netflix series came up, one that deserves a look here.
Blazing Transfer Student (Honō no Tenkōsei or 炎の転校生) began as a manga by Shimamoto Kazuhiko, running in Weekly Shōnen Sunday from 1983 to 1985, running 118 chapters. In 1991, Gainax produced a two-part adaptation of the manga that went directly to video, covering the first chapters. The manga followed Takizawa Noboru, a transfer student to Honjakuniku High. Late on his first day, Takizawa had to deal with the overzealous hall monitor, Jonichi Koichi, in the manner that all conflicts are dealt with at Honjakuniku, a fight. With help from the lovely Yukari, Takizawa deals with not just the hall monitor, but other students, transferring from school to school, as he develops his ultimate attack, the National Railway Punch!
The manga was a parody of shōnen tropes, turning them all to 11. Every attack was called out. The characters treated the situations as if they were life and death. The anime followed in the same vein, with Takizawa winning against his rival, Ibuki Saburo, because “Takizawa Railway Train Punch!” was the shorter phrase. Blazing Transfer Student was, first and foremost, a comedy. Gainax followed in the same vein with the anime.
An older series doesn’t seem likely for adaptation, yet Netflix dipped into that well. Blazing Transfer Students Reborn, released for streaming on Netflix in 2017, stars the boy band Johnny’s West – Shigeoka Daiki, Hamada Takahiro, Kamihama Tomohiro, Kotaki Nozomu, Kiriyama Akito, Fujii Ryusei, and Nakama Junta – as the title characters, each keeping his name, sort of. Kaga Takeshi, Chairman Kaga from Iron Chef, voices Takizawa, now the principal. Kawashima Umika plays Hikari, a fellow student and Takizawa’s assistant.
At the beginning of the series, Shigeoka arrives at his new school, wondering about the nature of his transfer. The moment he steps foot on campus, he is whisked away by othger students and taken to a boxing ring, where the rest of the transfer students are already fighting. Most are already fighting. Kamiyama is trying to escape while Fujii just poses. Several of the transfer students already have special attacks; Fujii has his Shining Wink, capable of blinding people; Kotaki has his pompadour, which can grow when he needs it; and Nakama has a HUD in his eyeglasses, though it’s not as useful as one would expect. Kiriyama, a weapons master, pulls out a tiny katana. Hamada is versatile with martial arts. Shigeoka turns out to be average. Very average. Nothing special about him at all average.
The fight last long enough for the audience to wonder why the students are fighting. The episode is well aware that this would happen and asks the same thing. Turns out, none of the transfer students know why. They plot an escape. The school locks down, with teams of students hunting the newcomers, some with butterfly nets. One by one, each transfer student is captured and taken back to the ring. Shigeoka, though, has fallen for Hikari, and will do anything for her, including fighting. She encourages him to develop his own special attack, the National Railway Punch!
Back in the ring, Shigeoka tries to summon the National Railway Punch! However, the other students also have that ability. As it turns out, they have something else in common than just the Punch. They are all called Kakeru and have been recruited by Takizawa to clean up schools infested with bureaucratic evil. Each episode following features several of the transfer students being sent to another school to end the evil there. From zombification curry to a girls school that would give St. Trinian’s a fright, the Kakerus are pushed to their limits. All is not right at their own school, though. Takizawa has an ulterior motive. He, with Hikari’s help, is looking for the true blazing transfer student.
The new series may be live action, but it takes its cues from the manga. Sound effects are also written on screen. The fighting is over the top, using wire-fu to hold characters in place in the air as they monologue. Each of the students is a different shōnen archetype: the gangster, the beautiful one, the weapons master, the martial artist, the uber-brain, the crybaby, and the totally average guy. The narrator, Wakamoto Norio, provides the inner thoughts of the characters as needed, along with explaining the unexplainable and occasionally providing snark. Takizawa is exactly as he looked like in the manga and anime, being represented by a statue with holographic projectors in his eyes.
Blazing Transfer Students Reborn doesn’t take itself seriously, though the characters do take their missions like they were life and death situations. The violence is toned down from the manga, in part because what an artist can do with a still picture or an animated sequence for laughs becomes not so funny when done to a real person. Technically, the new series is a sequel, but it makes the jump from manga to live action, bringing along the conventions of the drawn medium to the screen without shame. With a few decades having passed since the end of the manga, the series has some room to play in, yet keeps to the tone of the original.
ABC announced that it is working on a sequel to the 80s detective series, Magnum, P.I., with John Rogers and Eva Longoria as the showrunners. Longoria’s studio, UnbeliEVAble Entertainment, has access to Universal TV’s catalog. The new Magnum will focus on the detective’s daughter, Lily.
The original Magnum starred Tom Selleck in the title role and ran eight seasons. Set in Hawaii, Magnum ran a detective agency while working as security for the unseen Robin Masters. Magnum had access to some of Masters’ possessions, including a Ferrari, but only under the watchful eye of Higgins, played by Jonathan Hillerman. Helping Magnum were his friends, bar owner Rick, played by Larry Manetti, and helicopter pilot TC, played by Roger E. Mosley; all three had served together during the Vietnam War. While the series had a light touch throughout its run, it did delve into the effect the war had on Magnum and his friends, and would go dark when needed. Later in the series, Rick’s gangster friend Icepick, played by Elisha Cooke, joined the cast.
The new Magnum, is a sequel, as mentioned. John Rogers has said that Tom Selleck is too iconic as Magnum to replace. A sequel leaves Selleck as the original Magnum and leave room for him to make guest appearances. The new Magnum, Lily, did appear in the original series, including the series finale. The character isn’t coming out of nowhere. The new Magnum isn’t just a gender-flipped version; she is part of the continuity.
The difficulty the Magnum sequel will have is getting the tone right out of the gate. It has to match the tone of the original series, not just season by season but also overall. The original Magnum‘s tone evolved as the series progressed over its eight seasons, starting light but getting deeper into Magnum’s history and relationships as the show aired. However, expectations of the new series may require mix the feel of both early and later seasons. It’ll be tough.
What the new Magnum has going for it is show runner John Rogers. Rogers has experience in television with series that can run the gamut between light and dark with the same season and even the same episode. His series Leverage, which can be described as a heist movie in under an hour, has fully-fleshed characters who have camaraderie that isn’t forced. Indeed, the characters don’t always get along, despite being on a team. Rogers has a good grasp on inter-character dynamics, something that the original Magnum also demonstrated.
With adaptations reaching saturation levels, getting buy-in from the audience will be critical for the new Magnun, P.I., but the sequel has several advantages that should help it keep people watching past the first episode. It’ll be a balancing act until the show finds its own way, but it should succeed.
Two adaptations announced this week are raising eyebrows and possibly blood pressures among potential audiences.
First, the BBC announced that it has teamed up with Netflix to produce a four-part Watership Down mini-series. The goal is to introduce the story to a new audience while toning back the “brutal images”. While the movie did have some shots that featured blood, most of the violence was done with discretion shots. However, the mini-series will be using CGI to make the rabbits more life-like, which may make any violence shown more hard-hitting. The animation of the 1978 movie allowed for a separation of reality and fiction, something the new computer animation may blur. With the four one-hour parts, the new mini-series may be able to delve further into the original novel than the ninety minute adaptation did.
The second adaptation is a sequel to Disney’s Mary Poppins. The 1964 movie, which was itself based on a story by PL Travers, was one of the most popular films of its year. While Travers did write eight books featuring Mary Poppins, she wasn’t enamoured with Walt Disney’s adaptation, as seen in the fictionalized account, Saving Mr. Banks. Disney’s sequel, titled Mary Poppins Returns, will follow up with the Banks children as grown ups,
There is a difference between the Watership Down remake and the Mary Poppins sequel. The BBC is expanding the run time available, allowing them to take in more of the original novel. The Watership Down mini-series is also using modern techniques to add realism, while the 1978 movie was done in a rush by an inexperienced writer, director, and producer*. The Mary Poppins sequel feels more like an attempt to cash in on a known name. Granted, the working relationship between Disney and Travers was poor, which may prevent the studio from using an of her other books, but Mary Poppins won five Academy Awards and is still popular. Disney is also working to ensure the movie is a success, including casting Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of Hamilton. Time will tell if the sequel is accepted by audiences.
* To be fair to Martin Rosen, he learned quickly and was able to produce a quality work limited by its length.
Unexpected fan favourites can appear just about anywhere. Marvel Comics has several, characters that, for various reasons, just resonated with readers. With some, such as Squirrel Girl, it’s the innate humour that draws in fans. For others, it’s the rebel of the group. In the various X-Men titles, that was Wolverine.
Wolverine first appeared in the final panel of The Incredible Hulk #180, with the story continuing the next issue. Conceived as a mutant agent of a Canadian intelligence agency, Wolverine reappeared in the first issue of Giant-Size X-Men, the soon afterwards in X-Men #94. His popularity grew, exploding in the 80s as the anti-hero movement began. This popularity led to a four-issue mini-series, Wolverine, helmed by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller. With Wolverine’s in-universe longevity, thanks to his mutant healing factor, writers could look at various parts of his past, adding depth to the character. Popularity with fans led to Logan to several mini-series, cross-overs, becoming the anchor in the weekly Marvel Comics Presents, his own ongoing series, joining the Avengers, and the lead of a cartoon. He has joined Spider-Man as a means of letting readers know a title is part of the Marvel Universe just by appearing in a new character’s comic. Wolverine has been a Canadian secret agent, a teacher, an X-Man, a crime lord, a ronin, a soldier, an Avenger.
The Wolverine, released in 2013 by Twentieth Century Fox, takes a look at a moment in Logan’s long life, with Hugh Jackman returning as the title character. The movie opens at a prisoner-of-war camp in Japan in 1945, across the bay from Nagasaki. Logan is the first to hear the approaching B-29 bomber, but a Japanese officer also hears it and frees the prisoners to prevent their deaths in the coming bombing run. As the prisoners run for their lives, the officer remembers the one in the hole, Logan, and frees him as well. Logan, though, recognizes what is about to happen. There is only one bomber. However, instead of also running, the officer joins his superiors as they commit seppuku. Logan prevents the lethal stabbing, and both watch as the second atomic bomb ever explodes. Hauling the officer along, Logan returns to his cell in the hole, where he protects the officer from the fireball with his own body.
Logan then wakes up from the dream within a dream. As he shakes off the nightmare, he realizes that he’s in the Yukon, where he went after the X-Men movies.* He spends a typical day, a trip into town for supplies followed by work in the woods. He ignores the boisterousness of a group of hunters, not wanting to get involved or be noticed. That night, though, he hears their screams. When he investigates, he finds their camp torn apart and a bear in the throes of agony from an arrow. Logan puts the poor beast out of its misery and heads to town. He easily finds the hunters, including the one survivor of the bear’s rampage and starts asking questions, wanting to find the owner of the poisoned arrow he pulled from the bear’s body. Before an all-out brawl can start, a tiny Japanese woman introduces herself and her katana. The hunters don’t take her seriously, but she demonstrates finesse with the weapon, killing no one while making precise cuts that show that it was her decision to keep them alive. As she leaves, she invites Logan to follow her to her car.
The young woman introduces herself as Yukio, representing Yashida, the dying CEO of Yashida Industries, who has requested Logan, the Wolverine, to talk to him before he passes away. Yukio, herself a mutant who can see how people will die, manages to persuade Logan into going to Tokyo, though just for one day. As for the hunters, Yukio sees them dying in a week in a car crash.
In Tokyo, Logan is reunited with the Japanese officer he saved, Yashida himself, who is in the final stages of cancer. Yashida asks his doctor, Dr. Green, and his family, son Shingen and granddaughter Mariko, time alone to talk with Logan. With everyone out, Yashida makes an offer to Logan, the end of Wolverine’s long suffering, the removal of his powers and transferring them to the dying man. Logan refuses. Later that night, Yashida passes away. That same night, Jean Grey returns again in Logan’s dreams, only to turn into Dr. Green.
Yashida’s funeral the next day is somber and formal. Logan, though, senses something is off just before the Yakuza gangsters reveal themselves. One gangster produces a shotgun from underneath his monk robes and shoots Logan. While shooting the Wolverine is never a good idea, this time, Logan is staggered. The wounds don’t close as rapidly as they should. Logan doesn’t let the wounds slow him down as he demonstrates that he is the best at what he does. Still, he is slowed down by gunshot wounds, far more than he should be.
The gangsters’ target is Mariko; they attempt to kidnap her, but are stopped by not only Logan, but by Harada, who is making accurate bow shots from rooftops over a kilometre away. Logan is the only one to spot him, but since Harada is assisting Mariko, does nothing to stop the archer. Instead, he grabs Mariko to take her away from the fighting and the gangsters. The pair work their way through Tokyo, running from the Yakuza, until they reach the train station. Mariko loses Logan in the crowd at the station and boards a bullet train to Nagasaki. As she starts to relax, Logan falls into a seat across the aisle from her.
Logan’s tenaciousness is rewarded. Several gangsters have also boarded the train. Logan spots them and tries to deal with them. Adamantium claws are not the best weapon in an enclosed space, especially if trying to keep the space enclosed; Logan rips through the outer wall of the train car. At first, it works to his advantage, letting him toss out a couple of gangsters, but he, too, is soon dragged out of the bullet train. The fight winds up on the top of the train, still travelling at 300km/h** and ends when Logan bluffs the last gangster into jumping at the wrong time.
The pair leave the train at the next stop, long before reaching Nagasaki. Stopping at a love hotel, Logan gets patched up by a veterinary student after collapsing. His healing factor is completely shut down, yet he insists on protecting Mariko through to Nagasaki and beyond. They take a bus to the reborn city, where Mariko’s grandfather had built a sanctuary for the family. Logan recognizes the view. He looks for and finds the cell he was in when the atomic bomb exploded.
During the time at the sanctuary, Logan and Mariko fall in love. Yukio, still in Tokyo, has a vision of Logan dying, and heads to the haven to warn him. The Yakuza catch up and kidnap Mariko, taking her away before Logan can stop them. After some interrogation of the sole gangster stopped by Logan and some investigation, Logan and Yukio return to the Yashida residence, where they do not find any security. Eariler, Harada and his ninja had arrived to rescue Mariko from her father. Dr. Green also appears and poisons Shingen, leaving with Harada. Logan, not finding anyone, heads to Yashida’s hospital bed and uses the X-ray machine there to find out why his healing factor isn’t working. The X-ray reveals a device attached to his heart. Yukio reminds Logan of the vision she had: him, on his back, his heart in his hand. Logan, however, performs his own open heart surgery.
Shingen, left for dead by Dr. Green, appears. Yukio fights him off as Logan tries to remove the device. The Wolverine does, indeed, die on the table, but instead of his heart in his hand, he has the device that had blocked his healing factor. Yukio keeps Shingen away from Logan, the fight a standstill. Despite the flatline beep, though, Logan’s body repairs itself. Shingen manages to get the upper hand in the sword fight, but before he can kill Yukio, Logan stops him. The fight’s tenor changes. Logan is no longer hampered by his lack of power. Cuts that would kill another man just get him angry. Shingen’s best attack, one that, if The Wolverine was an anime series, would leave Logan cut in twain, does little to stop him. Logan leaves Shingen alive, reminding him that he tried to kill his own daughter.
Yukio and Logan work out where Mariko is taken. Logan heads out to Yashida’s birthplace and enters the family compound. Harada confronts him, and tries to point out that getting further is a death sentence, not realizing that Logan has solved that little problem. Ninja move in to attack and are cut down. Harada, realizing that there’s nothing gained by throwing more ninja at Wolverine other than giving Logan practice, orders his men to use bows insteads. The archer poisons his own broadhead arrows, and, after many arrows, all with cables attached, Logan is brought down.
Inside, when he awakens, Logan finds out what has been happening. The family’s Silver Samurai, protector for many generations, has been modified. The pilot needs Logan’s healing factor. Logan, however, refuses to go down without a fight.
A lot happened in the movie, to say the least. Before I analyze The Wolverine, I want to make reference to Adaptations and the Superheroic Setting, which discussed the creation of using a different universe in different media. The short version of it: Comic books tend to have a lot of continuity behind them. With the Wolverine, there is forty years worth of stories since his first appearance in 1974. While fans of the character are aware of the backstory, not everyone in the audience is. Setting the X-Men movies as their own cinematic universe allows the film makers room to tell the story they want without spending half the running time explaining everything that has happened prior. Adding to the complexity, The Wolverine also has to fit in with the previous movies; X-Men: First Class was, essentially, a prequel to X-Men, not a reboot. It’s an interesting position to be in, where interesting is akin to the “Chinese curse“.
The film makers, in the DVD extra***, mentioned that they used the Claremont-Miller mini-series as a starting point, using the dichotomy in Logan’s nature to be both soldier and loner. Mariko has appeared not only in the mini-series but also in the regular X-Men title and is, for the most part, portrayed the same. Logan’s visions of Jean flow from the events in X2, though it’s possible that the film makers could be angling towards the Dark Phoenix Saga or that what Logan remembers is not necessarily how things are, thanks to Days of Future Past. Time travel really messes up continuity. The Wolverine focuses on Logan as Logan, not his superhero identity. This focus has appeared in the comics, including his time as the anchor for Marvel Comics Presents and his own mini-series.
Balancing the different aspects and origins (film and comic) of the character is a fine line, but the movie manages to walk it. Anyone familiar with Logan from either just the comic or just the movies will have no issue with Jackman’s portrayal. There are liberties taken; in the comics, Harada is the Silver Samurai and a mutant himself. The changes, though, don’t take away from Logan, nor do they substantially change the events. While The Wolverine follows the movies more than the comic, the essence of Logan is caught and portrayed well.
Next week, a second look at Mr. Peabody & Sherman.
* The X-Men movie timeline gets a bit convoluted. X-Men: Days of Future Past ignores X-Men 3 completely. The Wolverine seems to do the same thing, but there are elements, such as the Jean Grey dreams, that hint at something else, like a timeline that is about to change.
** Speed limit in Ontario is 100km/h, or a bit over 60mph.
*** DVD extras are a boon to these reviews. Sometimes, a bit of insight into the process of making the movie helps figure out why some decisions were made.
Once again, the review is about another movie still in theatres, so I’ll try to avoid spoilers as much as possible.
March turned out to be movie-filled for me, as I managed to catch several in the theatres. The first three, The LEGO Movie, Mr. Peabody and Sherman, and Veronica Mars were all adaptations. The last movie, Muppets Most Wanted, falls into an odd designation.
I’ve reviewed Muppet movies in the past, with The Muppet Movie and The Muppets. Muppets Most Wanted is a sequel, the eighth of The Muppet Movie as Bunsen Honeydew points out in the movie, and all of them coming from The Muppet Show. Muppet movies fall under one of three types. The first type is where the Muppets play themselves. The best example is The Muppet Movie, where it was sort of how the Muppets came together. The second type is where the Muppets play characters based on themselves*. The Great Muppet Caper is a good example of this second type. The third type is where the Muppets play completely different characters, usually in an adaptation. Muppet Treasure Island shows that the Muppets can be both themselves and another character in this third type. Both The Muppets and Muppets Most Wanted are of the first type of Muppet movie. This is where it gets difficult to figure out whether the lastest film is a sequel, an adaptation, or a bizarre hybrid out of Bunsen Honeydew’s labs.
Muppets Most Wanted picks up right where The Muppets ended, with the sets being struck, the props being returned, the extras going home, and even the cameras being put away. All the cameras, but one, which is still rolling. The Muppets don’t just break the fourth wall; they shatter it, twist it, and turn it into origami. After a song about making the sequel, they are convinced by Dominic Badguy**, played by Ricky Gervais, to take The Muppet Show on a world tour. The origami crane that was once the fourth wall is now a Moebius strip. Meanwhile, the new number one criminal, Konstantine, who looks very similar to Kermit, has escaped. And the camera is still rolling.
There is no doubt that the movie is well worth seeing. Danny Trejo in a song and dance number alone is worth admission. Psycho Drive-In has a full review of the movie. The question, though, is Muppets Most Wanted a remake, reboot, or adaptation, or is it just a sequel? To even try to answer that question, I had to examine the details. First, Muppets Most Wanted happily calls itself a sequel to The Muppets, which was a reboot of Muppet movies that owed its existance to The Muppet Movie. At the same time, the latest film couldn’t exist without The Muppet Show. While the rest of the movies wouldn’t exist, at least in their existing forms, there’s always a possiblility that Muppet movies would happen. Muppets Most Wanted needs The Muppet Show for the plot. Indeed, the movie shows the backstage shenanigans that happen when Kermit is removed from managing the show.
Yes, Muppets Most Wanted is an adaptation. The form is of a documentary of The Muppet Show on tour with a criminal genius using the ensuing chaos for his greatest crime, except for being a documentary. All the hallmarks of both The Muppet Show and previous Muppet movies – zaniness, camoes, self-deprecating humour, Miss Piggy trying to woo Kermit, severe damage to the fourth wall – are on display. The Muppets themselves are as people remember. Thus, Muppets Most Wanted is not only a sequel of The Muppet Movie, but an adaptation of The Muppet Show, one that has raised the bar on expectations of Muppet films to come.
Next week, Miami Vice.
* I know the Muppets are puppets, but bear with me. Each Muppet has a distinct personality that has been shown for up to fifty years.
** Pronounced Bad-zhee. It’s French.