Universal Pictures has bought North American rights to TBS' period action-fantasy Dororo which has already sold to 20 countries throughout Asia and Europe.

The film is based on a manga created by Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy) in the 1960s, which went on to become a famous animated TV series. The characters also served the basis for a game released for Sony's PS2 console, raising awareness of the franchise well before the feature went into production.

Filmed predominantly in New Zealand, the film is directed by Akihito Shiota and stars Satoshi Tsumabuki (Nada SoSo) and Kou Shibasaki (Sinking Of Japan, One Missed Call). Tsumabuki plays a young warrior who goes on a quest to retrieve his own body parts sacrificed to 48 different demons before he was born.

The film features action sequences choreographed by legendary action director Tony Ching Siu-tung (Curse Of The Golden Flower).

Universal Pictures vice president Michael Joe said: 'In the past couple of years Japanese films have experienced a renaissance. Not only Hollywood is watching, but the whole world.

'Dororo is based on the work of Osamu Tezuka, whose genius is recognised around the world. The film has already been bought by 20 countries and fans everywhere are waiting to see it. You could say it's already become a phenomenon.'

TBS, one of the largest television networks in Japan, had a strong 2006 with hits such as Sinking Of Japan, which earned $44m, Nada SoSo ($25.2m) and Kisarazu Cats Eye: Sayonara Game. However, the December release of Nana 2 failed to come close to the original's box office take.

Toho releases Dororo on 300 screens across Japan on January 27.