Welcome to my first recurring feature, in which I share a western comic book, video game, book or any other work that should be turned into Anime, because lets face it, what part of that idea isn't awesome? Let's dive into the pop culture pool and see what we find today!
Title: Warhammer 40.000
Publisher: Games Workshop
Authors: Original design/rules by Rick Priestley, several revisions and new versions since then.
Genre: Science-Fiction Tabletop Miniature Game, coiner of the "GrimDark" concept, essentially a multimedia universe that has expanded into everything, from tabletop games, rpgs, videogames and countless novels and fanworks. The Imperial Cult or being a Chaos Cultist are probbaly this close to actually be admitted as a religion along with Jedi in some countries census.
What is it about?:
IN THE GRIM DARKNESS OF THE FAR FUTURE THERE IS ONLY WAR
"It is the 41st Millennium. For more than a hundred centuries the Emperor of Mankind has sat immobile on the Golden Throne of Earth. He is the master of mankind by the will of the gods and master of a million worlds by the might of his inexhaustible armies. He is a rotting carcass writhing invisibly with power from the Dark Age of Technology. He is the Carrion Lord of the vast Imperium of Man for whom a thousand souls are sacrificed every day so that he may never truly die.Yet even in his deathless state, the Emperor continues his eternal vigilance. Mighty battlefleets cross the daemon-infested miasma of the Warp, the only route between distant stars, their way lit by the Astronomican, the psychic manifestation of the Emperor's will. Vast armies give battle in His name on uncounted worlds. Greatest amongst his soldiers are the Adeptus Astartes, the Space Marines, bio-engineered super-warriors. Their comrades in arms are legion: the Imperial Guard and countless planetary defence forces, the ever-vigilant Inquisition and the tech-priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus to name only a few. But for all their multitudes, they are barely enough to hold off the ever-present threat to humanity from aliens, heretics, mutants — and far, far worse. To be a man in such times is to be one amongst untold billions. It is to live in the cruelest and most bloody regime imaginable. These are the tales of those times. Forget the power of technology and science, for so much has been forgotten, never to be relearned. Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in the grim dark future there is only war. There is no peace amongst the stars, only an eternity of carnage and slaughter, and the laughter of thirsting gods."
Yeah, the first time I read that introduction I was amazed this wasn't actually a manga or anime (seriously...that description alone sounds like Go Nagai, Kentaro Miura and Yoshiaki Kawajiri getting together to come up with a roleplaying game back in the 80's); all the tropes and themes are there, for the Emperor's sake: Superhuman warriors clad in power armor, fighting for either humanity or for evil, demonic monstrosities from another dimension. Alien empires divided into light and dark factions, both hell bent on exterminating each other. A hive minded alien species that devours all on its path. An alien covenant of species where the needs of the many mean the individual is nothing. A ever spawning race of creatures for whom war isn't just a lifestyle, but their sole reason for being. A race of cybernetic, near immortal beings that has awakened after eons to exterminate all life with no given reason or explanation. Seriously, Warhammer 40K takes the most common tropes and cliches of the science fiction genre and brings them up to eleven, presenting a dark and grim setting where there are no heroes, no villains or even a concept of good and evil: there is only a war for survival among the stars, where billions of lives are extinguished every day, everywhere.
There is a reason why Warhammer 40K pretty much gave birth to the term "GrimDark": there is little to no hope, love or justice in this fictional universe where the only constants are war and death, no matter the species, society or location. Humanity is essentially a corrupt Theocracy were xenophobia and inquisition are part of everyday life and were every human is either cannon fodder for the enemies of humanity or a simple cog in a galaxy wide empire where human life has little to no value besides its worth to the Empire of Man as a whole....and thats a suitable alternative considering what is out there, in the vastness of space.
From corrupted humans and space marines that serve the Gods of Chaos, entities so vast and evil a human mind can barely comprehend. The Eldar, a once proud and advanced race whose pride and superiority brought a cataclysmic downfall that divided it into two opposing factions, one struggling to preserve their legacy and culture while the other preys upon other species as part of their service to the Chaos Gods. There is also the Tau, an alien empire that has embraced an advanced form of socialism/communism where everyone and everything is organized, trained and made in order to ensure the greater good of the whole. There's the Orks, a fungal race of warriors whose whole culture, society and biology are war minded, essentially plowing through the galaxy when not fighting among themselves. Then there's the Tyranids, essentially a biological, planet devouring locust horde of evolving creatures controlled by a hive mind hellbent on devouring all organic life. And finally there´s the Necrons, an eons ancient race of cyborgs whose sole purpose is to rebuild their empire and reclaim their biological forms, exterminating everything on their path in order to do so.
So yeah, life expectancy in this universe is pretty much measured in seconds, if you ask me.
With almost three decades of tabletop games, miniatures, RPGs, video games, novels and more, adapting Warhammer 40K into any form of media is a daunting task. What moment in the chronology to focus on? What races to feature, and in what roles? What characters to develop and place as protagonists?
In my opinion, the best way to adapt Warhammer 40K into an anime series would be to go full "Animatrix" or "Robot Carnival" on it. Just make it an anthology based on the setting, its characters, races and history, and pick and mix genres.
You want some action and humor? Give Commissar Ciaphas Cain a few episodes of him trying his best to avoid being killed by the universe, his own fame or both. You want a sci-fi "The Dirty Dozen"? There's the "Last Chancers" novels. You want massive Space Marine action and warfare? Take your pick of the novels, comics or videogames starring the various Space Marine chapters. Seriously, with the MASSIVE amount of material available, pretty much every genre is represented and is ripe for the picking and adapting.
Or you could go epic and just adapt the whole "Horus Heresy" as a series. That's the other safest bet in terms of target audience satisfaction here.
Who should adapt it into Anime?
Okay. Let's face it. It would take an studio that is comfortable with epic, larger than life storytelling, massive gore and violence levels, and an art style that somehow could both pay respect to the GrimDark style of Warhammer 40k while remaining visually unique AND somewhat non divisive to a more casual western audience.
Yeah, I guess MADHOUSE is the right studio for the job. Just make sure they are in full Hellsing Ultimate, Ninja Scroll, Black Lagoon, Claymore, Lodoss War or Vampire Hunter D:Bloodlust modes, and they would absolutely nail the grim, dark and violent world of Warhammer 40K. Its a risky bet, but when taking into account their curriculum and the amount of their works that have been made with a western audience in mind, they are a damn solid choice. The world of Warhammer 40K isnt pretty by a longshot, but there is an elegance and beauty to its bloody, grim and dark vision of a future were there is only war, death and survival, and Madhouse has proven that with the right director and creative team, they can nail such combinations of violence, horror and action.
Besides, what are the chances of any western studio or production giving such a hardcore property a proper adaptation that respect its visceral violence, dark setting and grim setting while making it as grand and over the top as it requires? (video games and comics aside, I mean).
Yeah, I thought so too.