UA:LA’s Pilot Episode is Live Action Anime Done Right

Everything about this My Hero Academia-inspired short feels anime-esque without ever once looking cheesy or cartoonish.

Various attempts have been made at creating a bona fide live action animé over the years. By ​“live action animé,” however, I don’t simply mean a live action adaptation of an animé title, but rather, a live action film that captures animé’s visual style and aesthetic.

I consider movies like Casshern, The Matrix, Ping Pong, and Speed Racer to be successful attempts at that. But one of the best live action animé titles that I’ve seen in recent memory is UA:LA. Inspired by the ultra-popular My Hero Academia series — in which those blessed with superpowers attend a special high school where they’re trained to be heroes — UA:LA moves the story to Los Angeles, where a plucky young hero tries to stand up for what’s right, and soon finds himself in way over his head.

The angles, the camera movement, the editing, the action choreography, the music, the depiction of the superpowers… everything about UA:LA feels very animé-esque (I mean, just check out that shot at the 1:55 mark) without ever once looking cheesy or cartoonish. Even if you know very little about My Hero Academia, it’s still possible to thoroughly enjoy UA:LA for its energetic visuals alone.

UA:LA was written, directed, and edited by Christopher Cowan, who has worked on action sequences in Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Solo: A Star Wars Story, and Wonder Woman. As for the hero, he’s played by Gui DaSilva, who has performed stunts in several Marvel movies, most notably as Black Panther. (Both Cowan and DaSilva have appeared in Corridor Crew’s ​“Stuntmen React” video series, which I highly recommend. This video, in particular, features Cowan talking about UA:LA and animé’s influence on his filmmaking.)

To date, there’s only been this pilot episode, but Cowan et al. have expressed a desire to make more episodes. Here’s hoping they get their wish, because as a longtime animé fan, I love everything about this short, and I definitely want to see more.