Live-action adaptations of beloved anime series are often plagued by poor receptions from both critics and fans. In many ways, live-action anime films, as well as adaptations of other formats like video games and book series, face many challenges when trying to adhere to the original story. Anime can be considered especially risky to make real, given that most fans might prefer that many of their favorite characters stay in 2D form.
However, despite this hesitant audience, the film industry never stops trying to find the perfect balance of bringing anime to life and capturing these characters’ emotions, actions, and stories. Some of these adaptations are surprising fan-favorites and cult classics that create a smoother-than-expected transition from anime to live-action. What are the best live-action adaptations of anime that are worth checking out?[external_link_head]
Gintama is one of the more popular anime series with both Japanese and Western audiences. Because of the attention given to the prospective live-action creation, many fans ended up being genuinely impressed with the film and character depictions.
Fans expecting another mess-up might be pleasantly surprised by how easy Gintama is to digest as a live-action film. They are also likely to marvel at the cast’s ability to capture the natural mannerisms of the source material’s well-known characters.
9 The Disastrous Life of Saiki K
While many live-action adaptations tend to change many aspects of the source material, The Disastrous Life of Saiki K was not concerned with pulling theatrical punches. This was one of the main reasons the reception of the film itself was so mixed during its premiere stages, and why critics still can’t agree on how the film panned out.
Regardless of the overall reception, the live-action adaptation does not stray at all from the narrative held within the manga and anime. Throughout the events of the film, the aesthetic and pacing can be described as erratic or just plain crazy. This may be a surprise to many expecting a more realistic depiction of the characters, but the mannerisms of people like Saiki are very on-brand with his anime counterpart.
8 Death Note (Japanese Version)
With the recent advent of Netflix’s Death Note live-action remake and the subsequent flaring hatred from critics, it’s fair to acknowledge the alternate version. Japan had already created a live-action version of the famous anime series centering around the characters L and Light Yagami. While the Netflix version took many creative liberties, the Japanese version clung closely to the appearance and behavior of the characters in the show, as well as keeping a close tie to the original storyline laid out in the anime and manga.
Furthermore, many fans related to the overall horror genre present in this version, which was the original intention of the anime. It was never meant to be conformed into a different version, which is why adhering closely to the source material is often key in attaining a level of acceptance from anime fans.[external_link offset=1]
7 Terra Formars
As a manga, Terra Formars had an extensive run that would eventually lead to an anime season of 13 episodes. While this addition was created in 2014, a live-action proposal and film were carried out shortly after in 2016.
Many reviewers either found the movie amusing enough to keep them entertained. Filming of this live-action adaptation also uniquely took place in Iceland, which is a great distance away from most other live-action films that center around Japan.
6 Blade Of The Immortal
While not a well-known anime for its time, Blade Of The Immortal achieved relative fame for venturing into the live-action arena. The actors were well chosen for their respective roles and relay the mannerisms of the characters perfectly, and many fans found that the original allure of the anime was carried over into this format. The almost overdone amount of blood, gore, weapon-based fighting, and underlying currents of supernatural power make this film a success.
Released in 2017, Blade of the Immortal should be one of the go-to live-action anime movies for just about anyone. The movie itself covers the first two story arcs of the series.
5 Ace Attorney
One of the most iconic games and then anime series in history, there is seldom any young adult who isn’t familiar with the faces of Ace Attorney. This franchise has covered a lot of ground over the years. Because of this unique and mixed heritage, the film had to capture both film and video game attributes at once.
The result of this great experiment in live-action was surprising, to say the least. Ace Attorney was even heralded as the best video game movie of its time. The film came out in 2012 and was primarily based around the second and fourth cases shown in the first game.
4 Rurouni Kenshin
The first installment of the live-action series of Rurouni Kenshin movies came out in 2012. The film’s positive reviews led to a sequel being created in 2014, with the hope of more in the near future. The series not only highly respects the original anime and manga, but also manages to compete with the high expectations set out by both formats.
Much of this is achieved through the intense and lightning-fast sword-fighting scenes that feature tight and elegant choreography.
3 Speed Racer
An older anime from the ’60s era, Speed Racer was also known as Mach GoGoGo during its prime. Even though older anime either have shaky adaptations or little audience interest, Speed Racer is often considered an underrated treasure of a movie and something of a cult classic.
This movie came out in 2008 and has since been a stalwart companion for many fans of older anime. To speak more of its credentials, the live-action adaptation was even nominated for a number of film awards and has a sequel in the works with a complete script already finished.
2 Alita: Battle Angel
One of the few times that Hollywood took an interest in the world of anime and managed to get it right, Alita: Battle Angel is one of the few outliers in the popular-media world when it comes to live-action adaptations. Many fans of the source material and also unfamiliar critics reviewed the film positively.[external_link offset=2]
A rare feature that also sets it apart from other Hollywood adaptations is how loyal the plot is to the source material, and that carries over into the actor’s mannerisms and behavior. Even the 3D eyes added onto Alita seemed to go over smoothly, something that is normally avoided or shunned in the live-action community.
1 JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable Chapter 1
Released during the prime JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure era in 2017, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable Chapter 1 was swarmed by the vast amount of anime and manga fans familiar with the successful series. Even on the more merciless critic websites like Rotten Tomatoes, the live-action adaptation got a majority of positive reviews centering around the film’s effects and uniqueness.
The movie manages to capture the style, costumes, and colorful environments of the manga and anime. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable Chapter 1 is often regarded as one of the best live-action adaptations of an anime series in history, and for good reason.
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Kara Joan Hunsdon (20 Articles Published)
Kara Hunsdon is an avid reader, gamer, and writer based out of New York. She has been a freelance writer, sustainability leader, and is now a List Writer for Valnet creating content for Game Rant. Kara is a graduate of the State University at Potsdam with a Bachelor of Sciences degree. She enjoys anime, gaming, community gardens, and stealthily taking naps when no one is looking.
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