The idea behind a remake is based on the cold calculations of accountants. It’s known that half of the audience for Story X will come back to check out a sequel. That means, if Story X did big enough business, it’s worth knocking out a follow-up, just to grab the money. Hollywood is the most notorious offender of course, cranking out unnecessary sequels in which we get Another This, Son of That and Revenge of the Other. Manga do it, too. Sports stories take their heroes to the next championship level, martial arts stories bring on new opponents, and girls’ romances find a handy way to split up the lovers once more. In the case of Ironfist Chinmi, creator Takeshi Maekawa simply started renumbering the books – he declared that volume 36 of the old Chinmi was actually volume one of the “New Chinmi”, thereby hoping to attract new readers, even thought the story simply went on as before.
I’ve always been cynical about remakes, and about stories that outstay their welcome. I’m actually glad that The West Wing came to a graceful halt last month, instead of losing its appeal. But modern times have shown us that remakes need not be awful. In the case of the new Battlestar Galactica, a remake can actually turn out to be far superior to the original.
In the manga world, editors have hit on a new discovery. For some, text isn’t all that important, what matters to them is the image, and they rather wish they could “remaster” old stories, like George Lucas tarting up the Star Wars films. So it is when the classic volleyball story Attack Number One was recently adapted into a live-action TV show, it was decided not to reprint the original. Instead, editors dusted off the original script, and got a new artist to draw it again, keeping the feel of the original, but adding a more modern look, and little details like mobile phones and up-to-date cars. Can we expect to see more of such image upgrades in future? Or are we already up to our necks in them, but someone’s changed the titles so that we don’t immediately notice…?
(This article originally appeared in Neo #21, 2006)