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Legendary's Live-Action 'My Hero Academia' Finds Its Director

Anime and manga are more popular around the world than ever before, thanks in no small part to the streaming video boom. It's no wonder that Hollywood has come calling, and there are currently dozens of Japanese comic and animation properties currently in development as live-action TV series or movies. With the rights for most of the well-known US comics already spoken for, anime and manga looks like a potential goldmine. 

My Hero Academia is among the biggest names in both anime and manga right now, with a substantial following worldwide. Taking much of its inspiration from US superhero comics, it's a bit of a no-brainer for adaptation, and sure enough, the rights were picked up by Legendary back in 2018.

For the uninitiated Kohei Horikoshi's manga and the anime based on it are set in a world where most people are born with superpowers called 'Quirks'. This leads to a world full of US comic-book style costumed superheroes and supervillains. It follows a high-schooler Midoriya (also known as Deku) who was born without a Quirk but still dreams of being a hero, as he enrols in UA, the world's most prestigious superhero Academy.

It's been all quiet ever since (the happenings of the last 18 months probably didn't help) but in that time, the franchise's popularity has only continued to grow. Now Legendary have finally announced that they have secured a director for the project.

And it's an interesting choice. Despite this being an American production, the director they have hired is Japanese, making his English-language debut. Shinsuke Sato got his start in the Japanese movie industry as a screenwriter back in 1997 before making his directorial debut with action movie The Princess Blade in 2001. He has been a prolific filmmaker ever since, on occasion even petting out three films in a single year. He also wrote and directed the 3D CG animated feature Oblivion Island for Production IG in 2009.

Crucially though, his filmography features several manga and anime adaptations.  The Princess Blade itself started life as a manga by Kazuo Kamimura, but Sato has since directed live-action movies based on Gantz, Library Wars,  Death Note, Kingdom, I Am A Hero and Inuyashiki. Most famously he also helmed the live-action Bleach movie and the Alice In Borderland series, both available on Netflix.

He has a lot of experience adapting Japanese comics for the screen, so it will be interesting to see what he can do with a Hollywood-sized budget. It also bodes well for avoiding the pitfalls the American adaptations of Ghost In The Shell and Death Note fell prey to. My Hero Academia is heavily influenced by US culture, but it's still set in Japan and features a Japanese cast.

Hiring Sato in no way guarantees that Legendary won't relocate the film to the US and westernise it- complaints about 'whitewashing' are largely a western phenomena that doesn't seem to have much traction in Japan itself. In fact, cynics might even think that Sato could be used by the studio as a shield against any such complaints.

We choose to hope for the best here at AFA, and won't be expecting anything else until we see evidence to the contrary. A My Hero Academia movie certainly could be a whole heap of fun. Sato's prior adaptations have been fairly well-received on the whole, so that's another point in its favour

The film does not yet have any writers attached (or at least they have not been announced). The only other confirmed people involved are producers Jay Ashenfelter and Alex Garcia. It does not yet have a release date or even a release window.

My Hero Academia joins the sizable list of anime and manga with western adaptations in various stages of production including Cowboy Bebop, One Piece, Hellsing, Naruto, One Punch Man, Sword Art Online, Tiger and Bunny, Mobile Suit Gundam and more.