Unreasonably popular MMORPG anime Sword Art Online has been revealed to have yet another live action production in the works, as it has been announced that the anime is getting its own live action Netflix series, which the executive producer has assured fans will not “whitewash” the cast…
Screenwriter and producer Laeta Kalogridis will be serving as executive producer and will also be writing the script; additionally she has also taken part in an interview, where she touches on the heated debate of “whitewashing”:
Interviewer: What would you like to see with the live-action English version of [Sword Art Online, the] popular Japanese novel and anime franchise? What do you think the best English version of that is?
Kalogridis: Well, let’s get the obvious bit out of the way, right away. SAO is an essentially Japanese property, in which Kirito and Asuna, who are the two leads, are Japanese.
In the television show, Kirito and Asuna will be played by Asian actors. Whether or not that was the question underneath your question, it’s not a conversation about whitewashing.
When I sold it to Netflix, we were all on the same page. They are not interested in whitewashing it, and I am not interested in whitewashing it.
In terms of the secondary characters, because the game is meant to be global, the way it’s presented in the anime and in the light novels, there are secondary characters that clearly are from other parts of the world, like Klein and Agil.
To me, it’s very obvious when you watch it that you’re meant to take that this game spans the globe, but Kirito and Asuna are very clearly located as kids from Japan, and Tokyo, if I’m not mistaken.
That is what we will be doing because that is the story. They are, in my mind anyway, much like Major Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell, defined in part by being seminal characters in an Asian piece of art. That’s the first and biggest thing.
Laeta Kalogridis also conversed about the aspect of adapting the anime’s story:
The second thing, in terms of what I would like to see for SAO, is that I feel it’s a much more aspirational story about hope and much less about darkness than Altered Carbon is.
Asuna is sort of the savior of the world, in my mind and in the mind of the showrunners, [Patrick] Massett and [John] Zinman, who are doing the show.
There’s a real ability to explore a fantasy-based The Lord of the Rings / Game of Thrones kind of world through the lens of these people who are trapped in it and don’t necessarily want to be there, but who have to learn how to survive in it.
What I’m most interested in is all of the human stories, when everything else falls away and it’s life or death, in a place where you were never expecting to be trapped.
That’s what I loved about the original anime and that’s what I love about the live-action adaptation, as we are currently envisioning it.
The promise that Kirito and Asuna will be played by Japanese actors (or more likely – “Asian” actors) may be the only faithful element of the series considering the track record for western produced live action anime adaptations…