Features
Best live adaptations of anime


Date Posted: 19 August 2017


Did you like the live action adaptations of these anime series?

While it is common to see the best manga properties given life in its anime form, they do not often get to take the next step into making a live version of the story. Often times, the best stories of these manga or anime may have bombastic premises that could implode the visual effects budgets, or sometimes it's hard to find actors that could portray the sometimes overly exaggerated characters to make an impact as much as they do in cells or frames.

That seems to have changed in recent years with manga publishers trying to extend the lifespan of some of these best stories and taking the risk that their life action counterparts may even perform better than their animated cousins, while giving audiences a new gateway to engage with their properties. This is more evident in 2017 which is set to have one of the strongest line of live action adaptations in years with some of the most well-loved anime series by fans.

Already it has seen the adaptations of "Ghost in the Shell", "Blade of the Immortal", "Your Lie in April", "March Comes Like a Lion", there are also the upcoming adaptations of "Gintama", "Full Metal Alchemist", "Jojo's Bizzare Adventure", and "Tokyo Ghoul" that have not yet reached our screens.

To commemorate this year of adaptations, we like recounting some of the best adaptations so far that has managed to stand on their own without the pressure of being faithful to their animated source material.

Death Note

When a notebook with the power to kill anyone whose name is written on it falls into the hands of an idealist student, an intense game of cat-and-mouse begins between the owner of the Death Note and the detectives who try to capture the anonymous killer. While the live adaptation of the anime series may have its own fanbase and detractors from those who preferred the anime series based on the manga by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, "Death Note" from 2006 and its following sequels could mark the beginning when publishers and creators see the potential of a manga series being fully realised beyond its pages and animated frames. The feature adaptation even managed to get its own life by straying a little from the source material, even continuing to inspire spin-offs in Japan and most recently a western remake for Netflix.

Chihayafuru Part 1 & Part 2

Since she was introduced to the competitive world of Karuta; a Japanese card game, it has become the dream of Chihaya to form a Karuta team and one day earn the title as Queen of Karuta. While the anime and manga series by Yuki Suetsugu was a major hit that inspired new generations of Karuta players in Japan back in 2011, it did not enjoy the off-the-press rush to have its own live adaptation. However, when fans came to hear of the announcement that a live action adaptation was to be made for 2016, they were not disappointed that it maintained much of the vibrancy of its characters, the respect for its culture, the romance of its leads and the thrills of the sport that was felt in the anime series. Some adaptations are just worth waiting for.

Bakuman

Moritaka Mashiro and Akito Takagi are aspiring manga artists and writers who try to reach their dream of being able to make manga for a living. When they make their breakthrough do they finally enter into the tough and competitive world of manga creators. Another well-loved manga and anime series from the creators of "Death Note", this much more light-hearted but still passionate in tone adaptation is very much a homage to the very medium that is was adapted from. "Bakuman" gets it right that it is about each and every character who struggle for their passion, told between the covers of deep love for the manga tradition. While the anime had far more space to develop its characters, only in the live adaptation would you be able to see the entire collection of actual manga titles put together on screen that puts you on a nostalgia trip.

Kimi ni Todoke

Sawako, or better known by her classmates as Sadako for her likeness to the ghost from "The Ring", is a wallflower of her class and is a shy from making friends. When her classmate Shota Kazehaya starts to approach her, her world starts to open up as she tries to get her feelings across to him. Compared to the more overpowered premises of shonen manga, shoujo romances are relatively easier to adapt with a lower budget, but fans would not easily forgive if it messes up the feel of its characters and the dramatic proceedings to love. Made a year after the debut of its anime series, "Kimi ni Todoke" stays pretty faithful to the blossoming of Sawako's personality, thanks to her loyal friends and the little but emotional conflicts of love that made the manga and anime series by Shiina Karuho such a sweet love story that was the Best Shoujo Manga of the Kodansha Manga Award in 2008.

Ore Monogatari!!

Gouda Takeo is an imposing high schooler that is liked for his physique, fearsome appearance and his heart of gold. When Takeo rescues a pint-sized and adorable Rinko Yamato from harassment, a budding love story begins for Takeo who is not made for romances. It would seem impossible to literally re-enact the overly sweet moments from the anime of Kazune Kawahara and Aruko's source material without flinching, but the live adaptation of "Ore Monogatari" knows where it needs to get it right; its casting. Finding the right actors for their animated counterparts, the sting of losing the funnier and sweeter moments is less felt, and the cast should be commendable for being able to make their comedic moments on their own.

Usagi Drop

Regular salaryman and bachelor Daikichi attends his grandfather's funeral, only to find that his grandfather had fathered a 6-year-old daughter. When none of his relatives are willing to take in the illegitimate daughter, Daikichi decides to adopt the girl and becomes her father overnight. Made alongside the anime series with little to no reference from each other except for coming from source material by Yumi Unita, the live-action of "Usagi Drop" is admittedly less heart-warming than the whimsical anime, but it becomes its own beast by focusing on the hard hitting realities of parenthood with no experience and support, and also the little rewards that make it all worth it. Not to mention the child performance of Mana Ashida that put her on the map.

Detroit Metal City

Soichi Negishi is a lover of Swedish-pop who dreams of becoming a musician in that genre, but finds himself gaining fame and fans in the least expected place; as the lead vocalist of a death metal band. While no one knows of his alter ego, Soichi finds it difficult to reconcile his true love to his alternate persona, especially when it comes to his infatuation with a girl who loves Swedish pop and having to live up to his reputation as merciless God of Death. Fans may find little to no difference between the animated and live action version of "Detroit Metal City", which are both enjoyable because they are willing to embrace the contrasting absurdity and obscenity of its source material. It is only a matter of preference of the audience if they like to see this outrageous comedy played out by live actors or hand-drawn caricatures, as both are still entertaining romps of seeing Soichi being true to himself.

Fune wo Amu

A socially awkward linguist working for a publisher is recruited to create a new Japanese dictionary that could sail across the ocean of words and meaning. Not quite based off an anime series, as the live adaptation of "Fune wo Amu" came years before its anime debut, but it manages to say as much in brevity to what the anime could with 11 episodes. This is mostly thanks to the patient direction of Yuya Ishii that presents a silent stoicism and careful crafting of its lead characters, showcasing how the quiet ones work to achieve great things and was thus entered as Japan's representative for the 2014 foreign Oscars.

The Rurouni Kenshin Trilogy

Rurouni Kenshin is a ronin who lives at the start of the Meiji Restoration. Hiding away his true identity as the famed Batousai, Kenshin seeks to start a new and simple life without bloodshed and with his new found friends at Kaoru's dojo, but his past and skills calls to him. Attempting to make a live adaptation of a seminal anime classic more than 10 years since it had aired and ended could be just stirring a hornet's nest, but the "Rurouni Kenshin" trilogy has shown that adaptations can be more than just showing reverence to the source material. Never any less ambitious in its choreography, stuntwork, production value, and even staying true to its outlandish costume design to match its anime predecessor, the Rurouni Kenshin trilogy stands to show how a live adaptation not only can be epic and corny at the same time, but with the right dedication to detail and the means to finance it, it can even create a classic from a classic.

Writer: Casey Lee





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