Let's take a look at 10 western books, movies, or television series that would make great anime!
When we anime fans tire of lamenting for the adaptation of manga after manga, or light novel after light novel, we tend to turn our imaginations away from Japan. After all, anime is no stranger to adapting western media. Many books, shows and movies have been adapted from western media into anime form, including Deltora Quest, Spider Riders, Witchblade, Howl’s Moving Castle, Highlander, and Supernatural just to name a few.
This got me thinking of my own wishlist of western media that would make great anime. Here are 10 shows, books, and movies that would make awesome anime adaptations.
Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve
Book Series - Dream Studio: Production I.G. - Dream Format: TV Anime
If you’ve never heard of Mortal Engines, no sweat. It’ll be your new favorite thing in no time. This YA quartet from British author Philip Reeve follows Tom, an apprentice historian atop the city of London. When he’s thrown out of the city, he sides with Hester Shaw, an assassin with the resistance after the life of his master, Thaddeus Valentine, who she blames for the death of her mother.
Sounds pretty run of the mill YA right? My bad. I forgot to mention all of the cities run on tractor wheels. Oh, and the cities eat other cities for resources. Oh, and there’s this huge conspiracy surrounding the city-eating cities, and this huge plot to destroy them. It’s cool that Peter Jackson’s directing a film adaptation of the series, which is due out this December, but just imagine this as an anime...
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Book Series - Dream Studio: A-1 Pictures - Dream Format: TV Anime
Does Harry Potter really need an introduction? I feel like we all know about the boy who lived and his battle with he-who-shall-not-be-named. The cliffnotes version of Harry Potter is that an abused orphan turns out to have an incredible magical gift required to stop some of the wizarding world’s most malevolent forces. In addition to his studies, he must juggle fighting the dark forces, and maintaining the friendships he makes at Hogwarts.
Harry Potter is essentially fantasy shonen in book format. It has the magical boarding school. It has the perfect shonen protagonist and sidekicks. The duels would be incredible to see animated. Hagrid would be moe AF. The mythical creatures would be a sight for sore eyes. But most importantly? QUIDDITCH EPISODES!
Railsea by China Miéville
Novel - Dream Studio: Madhouse - Dream Format: Movie
China Mieville’s Railsea is an interesting reimagining of Moby Dick. Except instead of a sea, it’s a giant desert covered in endless, winding train tracks – the titular railsea. And there’s no whales. Only giant moles. The story follows Sham Yes ap Soorap, a young assistant doctor on a train that hunts giant moles for meat (think whaling but with moles). Her journey among the pirates, monsters, and salvagers alike kicks off when she comes across a series of photographs aboard a trainwreck that hint at the impossible existing.
The history behind the now-derelict world of Railsea, coupled with the mixture of gripping drama and havoc reminiscent of kaiju films, would make for a solid animated feature, the visuals of which I’d only trust to Madhouse.
A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
Book Series - Dream Studio: MAPPA - Dream Format: Movies
Okay, so it’s Game of Thrones, but all the characters are moe idols. That’s it. That’s the show.
More seriously though, A Song of Ice and Fire would make a downright wicked fantasy anime. This large-scale fantasy epic has such an incredible assortment of characters, rich history, and gratuitous violence that would be a treat to see in anime form. It’s tough to really pinpoint the plot, since so much is going on, but A Song of Ice and Fire centers on a number of noble families – such as the Starks or Lannisters – vying to claim the throne of Westeros.
If there’s one studio out there that could handle A Song of Ice and Fire, it would be MAPPA. MAPPA’s history with dark fantasy anime series such as Rage of Bahamut or Garo only strengthens my confidence in their ability to breathe some animated life into the franchise.
A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick
Novel - Dream Studio: SHAFT - Dream Format: TV Anime
You may know A Scanner Darkly from that weird rotoscoped movie where Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., and Woody Harrelson play a rag-tag group of friendly drug addicts. The movie itself was based on the Philip K. Dick book of the same name. It follows Bob Arctor, who lives parallel lives as both a drug addict and undercover police agent. Undercover agents report to their superiors in scramble suits, which scramble their identities. The kicker here is that Bob Arctor’s undercover gig? Spy on Bob Arctor.
The drug-addled, paranoia-fueled philosophy behind the day-to-day of drug addicts living in a world where the war on drugs was lost makes for an interesting dynamic, especially with the sci-fi enhanced police work behind it. The only studio I’d trust visually with this would be Shaft, if only to see drug-addict head tilts.
British Comedy Series - Dream Studio: Kyoto Animation - Dream Format: TV Anime
I know this sounds like a weird one, but stick with me. Peep Show is a British sitcom that follows mismatched flatmates Mark and Jeremy – Mark being the uptight 9-5er and Jeremy being the easy-going partier. They don’t always see eye to eye, but sometimes friendships need that. Sometimes Mark needs to loosen up a little. Sometimes Jeremy needs to grow up a bit. As long as they have each other, nothing bad can really go wrong, right? Well, as human nature would have it, things tend to go wrong – quite often, rather quickly.
KyoAni’s bread and butter tends to be slow-paced slice-of-life shows, so if any anime studio would revel in adapting a sitcom, it’d be them. The gimmick of Peep Show is that the camera angles don’t tend to be traditional, and often are shot from the direct view of Mark or Jeremy. It would be interesting to see how that worked in anime form.
Reality TV Series - Dream Studio: David Production - Dream Format: TV Anime
If Kitchen Nightmares were adapted into an anime, I think it’d probably be a lot like Food Wars!, but Gordon Ramsay yells at Soma every 5 minutes. More realistically, it would follow a rather manly Gordon Ramsay on his trek across Japan in search of crestfallen restaurants in desperate need of an upgrade. Now throw in some Jojo-styled manliness – the likes of which only David Production could replicate – and we have ourselves a recipe for the perfect anime.
The translation of Ramsay’s infamous potty mouth would be a peculiar one, but seeing a muscle-clad Gordon Ramsay faffing about a kitchen screaming oi, teme at the sous chefs would be a treat we could all sink our teeth into.
The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
Novel - Dream Studio: Wit Studio - Dream Format: Movie
There’s always room for more horror and suspense anime, ones about sentient walking plants doubly so. The book follows Bill Masen, a scientist who specializes in the care, study, and cultivation of triffids – towering venomous carnivores cultivated for their oils. After waking up from temporary blindness following a triffid strike, he finds everyone is now blind from green flashes brought on by comets the night prior. Now Bill must make his way through the streets of London in search of safety.
While horticulture itself usually isn’t scary, there’s something eerily unsettling about the fact that poisonous man-eating plants walk the streets. Wit Studio would probably be the only studio which could replicate that suspense and terror, having done it perfectly in Attack on Titan and Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress.
Sci-Fi Media Franchise - Dream Studio: Ufotable - Dream Format: TV Anime
With Ufotable’s success at adapting large scale media franchises such as Fate, this sci-fi space opera could be in no better hands. Anime is no stranger to the world’s 2nd largest media franchise either. There are loads of references to the movies in various anime and manga, including Daicon IV, Berserk, Gintama, Doraemon, and Princess Jellyfish, just to name a few. Some fans have gone as far as to draw parallels between the Jedi of Star Wars and Newtypes of Gundam (whether that’s intentional or a coincidence being how close the two were to releasing).
The coming-of-age rebellion story, coupled with the gratuitous tie-fighter dogfights and lightsaber battles, would make for one show you’d be on the edge of your seat for week after week. I think each trilogy could probably be adapted in one cour, but at this point, I’d even take seeing Clone Wars reanimated in its entirety as long as Ufotable got their hands on it.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Book Series - Dream Studio: Bones - Dream Format: Movies
From spaceship-stealing presidents to poetry-loving aliens, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has a special charm that boys, girls, and little green people across the universe can love. It follows the incredibly British Arthur Dent, who in attempting to stop the demolition of his house, learns from his best friend Ford Prefect that the Earth is about to be demolished. After a few pints at the pub, the two hitch a ride on a ship and proceed on a journey through the stars in search of answers to life, the universe, and everything.
Anime has the unique marketability to sell just about anything. Look at Dr. Pepper sales after the first series of Steins;Gate aired back in 2011 after all. If the Japanese towel industry ever finds itself in a slump, anime studios know just what British science fiction series to adapt.
BONUS: King of the Hill
Animated TV Series - Dream Studio: P.A. Works - Dream Format: TV Anime
You got that right: we’re doing a meme entry! King of the Hill has already claimed some notoriety in anime fandom as being one of the greatest anime of all time (if only second to Cory in the House).
King of the Hill follows the Hank Hill, his family, and their dysfunctional band of friends and neighbors as they navigate the challenges of daily life, propane, diminished glutes, lawnmowers, and more. Sometimes Hank’s modest sensibilities are challenged, but as a man of his word and a man of character, he never stands down.
While the closest we’ll probably ever get to a King of the Hill anime was the 1-hour episode where they went to Japan, we can only hope that one day, you’ll get a Crunchyroll notification that says “Release: King of the Hill - Episode 1”.
What about you folks? Got a favorite book, comic, TV series, or movie you want to see in anime form? Sound off in the comments below!