Mai, The Psychic Girl was the first full-length manga series to be published in English, and for a whole generation of us it was the first manga we fell in love with. Can Tim Burton do it justice?
Burton has been trying to direct a Mai film for years now — he was reportedly on board as director in the early 1990s. And now Latino Review reports that Burton is coming back to the project, after Sony let go of it following eight years in Sony's circle of development hell. Burton is putting the project on his front burner — although it's not clear if he's aiming to do it before his Maleficent adaptation.
And it's easy to see why a live-action Mai could be a huge success, with its relatable main character who's trying to learn to use her powers responsibly, while running from an evil organization that wants to control the world. At first blush, the story sounds pretty similar to Push, Heroes and a ton of other stories. What makes Mai so special is its young heroine and her complex, soap-operatic relationships.
I found issues of the Eclipse/Viz run of Mai in the bargain bins in the early 1990s, and wound up buying the whole run super-cheap. Along with Crying Freeman, it was the first manga series that really sucked me in and made me run through the floppies like popcorn. I think it was the wistful art style, combined with the strong focus on the characters, and the constant worry that Mai would go off the rails and start abusing her powers.
Can Burton do this series justice? If he has respect for the material and doesn't try to impose his own campy sensibility on it too much, then sure — but here's hoping he doesn't try and shoehorn Helena Bonham-Carter or human-puppet goth costumes and makeup into the project. Fingers crossed! [Latino Review]