If you’ve seen a Hollywood spin on an anime or manga series, you know all about the whitewashing that tends to come along with it. Japanese roles are typically relegated to the background in favor of white leads, and that’s one thing the producer of the live-action Sword Art Online series wants to avoid.
In an interview with Collider, producer Laeta Kalogridis described what she wants from the adaptation, which is in the works for Netflix. First of all, her ideal Sword Art Online series involves Asian leads:
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.
Kalogridis had more to say about the project, so be sure to check out the full article for more choice quotes.