– by Joseph Jammer Medina

Looks like the anime/manga/light novel-to-American live-action genre is doing pretty well for itself these days. First (and perhaps most notably) we have the upcoming GHOST IN THE SHELL flick, starring Scarlett Johansson; then there’s the upcoming DEATH NOTE Netflix movie, which WILLEM DAFOE HAS JUST SIGNED ON FOR; we also have Robert Rodriguez and James Cameron hard at work on a BATTLE ANGEL ALITA film (renamed ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL). Slowly but surely, this genre seems to slowly be horning its way into the mainstream. Now I feel like it’s only a matter of time before we get a live-action American SUMMER WARS movie, but I digress.

In addition to all these upcoming titles, Variety reported that SWORD ART ONLINE (SAO), the popular light novel and anime series is up next to get the American live-action — this time, as a TV show. According to the outlet, Skydance Media, who also currently produces GRACE AND FRANKIE for Netflix, has acquired the TV rights for the franchise.  

For those unfamiliar, the premise revolves around a young beta tester for an immersive and revolutionary MMO called SWORD ART ONLINE. Things take a turn for the worse, however, when him and thousands of other players are trapped inside the game. Now, whenever someone dies in the game, they die for real. It’s an interesting (albeit not completely original) premise that had a lot of promise. I can’t personally speak on the light novels, but the anime adaptation started off okay enough — not great, but okay. The series quickly devolved into an awkward, domestic wish-fulfillment scenario that sent the series careening off a cliff.

Either way, under the right hands, this is a property that can certainly do a lot of good for American audiences, as a lot of the themes and conflict transcend cultural barriers. I truly appreciate that Hollywood is starting to produce more and more of these anime properties. What’s more, they actually seem to be picking the properties that adapt rather well (no more DRAGON BALL-esque adaptations, please) to Western sensibilities, which is important. 

In addition to the TV series, Skydance Media plans to launch a SWORD ART ONLINE virtual reality experience through Skydance Interactive. What the specifics of that are are currently up in the air.

Skydance Media CEO David Ellison had the following to share about the acquisition:

“At Skydance we are in the business of world-building and SAO is a massive pop-culture phenomenon from which we plan to launch a full-scale and wide-ranging set of live action franchise extensions across our business verticals, beginning with television. We look forward to working alongside Laeta, Reki Kawahara, and the teams at KADOKAWA and Aniplex to build out a deeply immersive new universe of SAO in an authentic way that honors its well-established fan base around the globe.”

SAO author Reki Kawahara said:

“I am excited and moved that ‘Sword Art Online’ will be adapted into a live action series by the highly respected Skydance Media. I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation and gratitude to everyone involved in this project, and to the fans all over the world who have so generously and enthusiastically supported SAO.”

TERMINATOR GENYSIS writer Laeta Kalogridis will pen the script for the pilot and will also serve as executive producer along with Ellison, Dana Goldberg, and Marcy Ross. Kalogridis said the following regarding the upcoming SAO TV series:

“For years I have been inspired by the inventive and masterful storytelling of the SAO franchise. I’m thrilled to get the opportunity to work with such talented partners to bring this cutting-edge yet timeless story to a new format at Skydance.”

Let’s hope they have a strong streak with these anime adaptations, and maybe the next big things can be both video game and anime properties once the superhero train has slowed down.

What are your thoughts on SAO getting a TV adaptation? Let us know in the comments below!

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SOURCE: Variety

Joseph Jammer Medina is an author, podcaster, and editor-in-chief of LRM. A graduate of Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Television, Jammer's always had a craving for stories. From movies, television, and web content to books, anime, and manga, he's always been something of a story junkie.