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Top Ten Best Japanese Live-Action Anime and Manga Films

Updated on January 23, 2017

The Top Ten Live-Action Anime And Manga Films

Unless you live under a rock, you know that anime (Japanese animation) and manga (Japanese comics) are both very popular worldwide. Just do an Internet search for either one. With Hollywood already mining DC and Marvel comics for all they are worth, it's only logical that they would turn to another source for more hits. And they have.

Here are some of the rumored and confirmed upcoming films based on anime and manga and the big names associated with them:

  • Ghost in the Shell (Steven Spielberg)
  • Battle Angel Alita (James Cameron)
  • Bleach (Peter Segal and Michael Ewing)
  • Akira (The Hughes Brothers)
  • Vampire Hunter D (rumored)
  • InuYasha (rumored.. actually, it's been rumored for awhile)
  • Naruto (longstanding rumor)

But this influx of anime and manga movies is by no means the first wave. There are several that have already made the jump to the big screen though not all in the US.

So here are the top ten anime and manga-inspired films that have already paved the path for the next wave!

1. Death Note (2006)

Live-Action Anime - Death Note (2006)
Live-Action Anime - Death Note (2006)

This is probably the best made film out of the whole bunch, and at least the most popular (though how it beats Lone Wolf and Cub is beyond me, but hey, this is popularity, not artistic value).

Anyway, three films were based on this popular manga and anime series by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. First was Death Note, released on June 17, 2006, then Death Note: The Last Name, released on November 3 of the same year, followed a couple of years later by L: Change the World, released in February 2008.

Noticing how well these films have gone over, Warner Bros. is planning a remake.

Death Note (JAPAN 2006) - Trailer

Death Note (2017)

Death Note is getting a reboot, this time in an American film directed by Adam Wingard.
Netflix is developing the film, which is written by Jeremy Slater
The film will star Nat Wolff, Margaret Qualley, Keith Stanfield, Paul Nakauchi, Shea Whigham, and Willem Dafoe.
Fans are a little upset at the casting to say the least.

2. Hana Yori Dango (1995)

Hana Yori Dango (1995) - Live-Action Anime
Hana Yori Dango (1995) - Live-Action Anime

You may not know this film by the the Japanese name, but you may know the American translation, Boys Over Flowers. This very popular shōjo manga series was created by Yoko Kamio. Although a film was released in 1995, the most popular film version was in 2008, released as the end of the live-action Japanese TV series.

Hana Yori Dango
Hana Yori Dango

3. Dragonball Evolution (2009)

Live-Action Anime - Dragonball Evolution (2009)
Live-Action Anime - Dragonball Evolution (2009)

Again proving there is no accounting for taste, Dragonball Evolution comes in at number three. Hey, I did say this list was by popularity, someone out there is looking for it. Of course, this is based on the Japanese manga and anime series written and illustrated by Akira Toriyama and even though the film flopped at the box office (with both critics and with fans), there is a sequel rumored.

Well, they made a House of the Dead 2, so why not?

Well...there wwere a few good things in Dragonball Evolution
Well...there wwere a few good things in Dragonball Evolution

4. City Hunter (1993)

City Hunter (1993) - Live-Action Anime
City Hunter (1993) - Live-Action Anime

This 1993 Hong Kong martial arts action comedy film was based on the manga series written and illustrated by Tsukasa Hojo and it starred Jackie Chan as Ryo Saeba, so how bad could it be?
They even give a nod to Bruce Lee's Game of Death in the film and there's a Street Fighter sequence that you really need to see to understand.

I really don't understand why this film doesn’t show up on all great B-movie lists.

5. Oldboy (2003)

Oldboy (2003)  - Anime Live-Action
Oldboy (2003) - Anime Live-Action

A South Korean film based on a Japanese manga, it's a great film, but very disturbing. It's been reviewed many times, so I'm not gonna go into it too deeply, but let me say it is definitely not for the faint of heart.

6. Fist of the North Star (1995)

Fist of the North Star (1995)
Fist of the North Star (1995)

This is an American straight-to-video released, loosely based on the manga and anime by Buronson and Tetsuo Hara. Again, not the greatest movie in the world, but it has become a cult film and has its share of fans.

It starred Gary Daniels (who will be in the awesome Sylvester Stallone film The Expendables), Malcom McDowell, Costas Mandylor, Downtown Julie Brown (remember her?), and Leon (Big Van Vader) White in it.

How bad could it be?

Fist of the North Star (1995)

7. Cutie Honey (2004)

Cutie Honey (2004) - Live-Action Anime
Cutie Honey (2004) - Live-Action Anime

I've already written an entire article about Cutie Honey that covered the film, so let me just say that I liked this acid trip version of the Power Rangers. It has Eriko Sato in it, so that should count for something.

8. Ichi the Killer (2001)

Anime Live-Action - Ichi the Killer (2001)
Anime Live-Action - Ichi the Killer (2001)

Another disturbing film based on the manga series by Hideo Yamamoto, this is a really well-made movie, but you have to remember, at the Toronto International Film Festival when they had a midnight screening, they handed out vomit bags.

And does the main character remind you of anyone from The Dark Knight?

9. Crying Freeman (1995)

Crying Freeman (1995) - Live-Action Anime Movies
Crying Freeman (1995) - Live-Action Anime Movies

This French and Canadian-produced action film was based on the manga by Kazuo Koike and Ryoichi Ikegami. Actually, the 1995 film was the third film based on the manga: In 1990, two Hong Kong films were released that were loosely based on Crying Freeman.

The 1995 film starred another cult action star, Mark Dacascos. You may remember Mark from Double Dragon, Kickboxer 5, and oddly enough, as the Chairman from Iron Chef America.

10. The Guyver (1991)

Live-Action Anime Movies - The Guyver (1991)
Live-Action Anime Movies - The Guyver (1991)

Finally we have a film that may just be my favorite one on the whole list. The Guyver was based on the Bio-Booster Armor Guyver manga series written by Yoshiki Takaya.

I can't really say why I liked this film and the 1994 sequel Guyver: Dark Hero so much, I just did.
Maybe it was the classic cult film cast of the first one that included Mark Hamill, Jimmie Walker (yes..JJ), Spice Williams (my favorite stuntwoman and a really nice person), Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator, 'nuff said,) and one of the great scream queens, Linnea Quigley.

Guyver: Dark Hero, didn’t have the stellar cast the first one did, and they replaced Jack Armstrong (?) with David Hayter (the voice of Solid Snake and Big Boss in the Metal Gear video games), but it got a better reception, some of the critics actually liked it.

Funny how in this poster, at least, they make it look like Hamill is wearing the Guyver armor.

Update: The Rest of the...Best?

Attack on Titan (2015)

Attack on Titan (2015)
Attack on Titan (2015)

Attack on Titan (2015)

Of course, the big news now is that Attack on Titan will be live-action. Two films will be released in 2015. The script was written by Yūsuke Watanabe, Tomohiro Machiyama, and creator Hajime Isayama.The Titans have been revealed, and they look bigger than the ones in the manga and anime.

Since the film came out, the South China Morning Post called the movie, "One of the most perversely original fantasy movies in recent memory, this adaptation of a Japanese manga series is a schizophrenic mix of genres."
Anime News Network said, "Outstanding and immersive aesthetic unlike any other horror movie, swiftly paced and gripping start to finish."
Kotaku said "The First Attack on Titan Movie Stinks".
The Hollywood Reporter said it was "a visually refreshing blockbuster undermined by clichés."
Film Business Asia called it "a trash-horror fantasy that's a big-budget B picture."

More Live-Action Anime

Here are some more live-action anime films that either weren't around when I first did this list, or I just plain missed them. Again, I list them according to popularity, best to last, but from reading the reviews, I don't think anime and manga fans actually like any of these films.

Gantz and Gantz: Perfect Answer (both 2011)
The Last Airbender (2010)
Sky High (2003)
Speed Racer (2008)
Initial D (2005)
Space Battleship Yamato (2010)
Blood: The Last Vampire (2009)
Mushishi (2007)
Casshern (2004)
Cromartie High—The Movie (2005)

Live Action Anime

Which one is your favorite out of these films?

See results

Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Ghost in the Shell (2017)
Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Ghost in the Shell is coming out in 2017 as an, "American science fiction crime film"
The film will star Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbæk, Michael Pitt, Takeshi Kitano, Chin Han, Lasarus Ratuere and Juliette Binoche.
Fans are more than a little upset that ScarJo will be playing the lead.
Having them, "whitewash" the character was bad enough, but then fans found out that the filmmakers looked at using CGI to make Scarlett look Asian, and they got even madder.
Interestingly enough, fans in Japan didn't get upset as upset as Americans because most already assumed that Hollywood would choose a white actress for the lead role.

Live Action Anime And Manga Films Comments

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    • profile image

      Yuo Yoshioge 2 years ago

      i wish "tokyo Ghoul" would be on the list so as "Mirai Nikki."

      well this is very helpfull, and i hope that "Attack On Titans" would be release on full movie live action soon! i can't wait to watch it!!! ^o^

    • profile image

      trigo 2 years ago

      parasyte the movie ! its not on the list

    • profile image

      Kayla 3 years ago

      Seeing Dragonball Evolution on this list gives me nightmares and I bought the DVD thinking it was going to be great :(

    • ronaldmorton336 profile image

      Diablo Del Derek 4 years ago from East coast

      there are so many live action anime that i didn't know about. I would love to see Crying Freedman, Gantz, and Rurouni Kenshin...i also always heard rumors a Trigun live action.

    • sabrebIade profile image

      sabrebIade 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Haven't had a chance to see Rurouni yet so I couldn't put it on here

    • profile image

      KC 4 years ago

      What about Rurouni Kenshin (2012) live action? I would've thought it was considered one of the better adaptations.

    • profile image

      Willliam B 5 years ago

      I love Fist of the North Star even though the ending in the manga didn't satisfy me. Due to there are still lots unanswered questions that were left in the story. Like how did Raoh had a son who's the mother of Raoh's son.

      I still wish that Silverster stallone was the one who took Kenshiro's role in the movie. I still wish that Burunson and Tetsuo Hara continue the Fist of the north star manga. Even though it reached 45o plus chapters.

      Thank God they adapted the Gantz manga into a movie. I just don't know if they will still follow the original storyline. Due to the manga is 250 chapters long and still going.

    • profile image

      Jesse 5 years ago

      NO ikigami and dragon ball was horrible

    • profile image

      koso 5 years ago

      i wanna ask where are 20 century boys movie?

    • StephanieBCrosby profile image

      Stephanie Bradberry 6 years ago from New Jersey

      Thanks for this hub. I had no clue some of my favorite anime had potential upcoming movies (Naruto and Bleach). Also, I did not know that movies based on Dragonball and Guyver. Based on the covers, they don't seem like ones I would want to buy. I watched the Death Note series up to almost the end. So, I did not want to go see the movie and spoil things. But maybe I will buy that one.

    • JYersak33 profile image

      JYersak33 6 years ago from Statesville, NC

      There are so many different versions of so man different stories. As you said Batman, Superman, basically all comic books. All book to movies have changes. So there shouldn't really be a big problem with it.

    • sabrebIade profile image

      sabrebIade 6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      JYersak33: You know you have a point. I don't recall Batman fans freaking out because Batman Begins differed wildly from the comic books.

    • JYersak33 profile image

      JYersak33 6 years ago from Statesville, NC

      Would love to see those ones you posted at the beginning actually come to light. Great shows, hopefully they would do better than some. I agree with your list of ones already out as well. I found Dragonball Evolution both good and bad really. Bad for hardcore fans that wanted a movie to follow the show. Good for a fresh new take on it.

    • KBEvolve profile image

      Kenneth Brown 6 years ago from United States

      Dragonball: Evolution was utterly forgettable. There are no excuses for that plot. Guyver and Fist of the North Star were decent in their own rights though.

    • profile image

      monark 6 years ago

      come on give dragonball: evolution a break trying to make a 2 hour movie from an anime of 160 something episodes is a tad bit hard the storyline was way off but as a movie it was good even though i grew up with dragonball as a kid i didn't expect a live action movie to be true to the storyline no movie really is so come on guys give them a break...

    • profile image

      emily_jassie 6 years ago

      wow nice movie hope they came a new ones like forbidden kiss and Kare's first love and many it................:).....

    • profile image

      anon 6 years ago

      as if no crows zero or zrows zero 2

    • Nick Malizia profile image

      Nick Malizia 6 years ago from USA

      Very cool list. I've seen Oldboy, Fist of the North Star (good campy fun), Crying Freeman (Love Mark Dacascos as both martial artist and new Iron Chef host)and creepy Ichi. Honey Flash looks pretty awesome.

    • toddwertz profile image

      toddwertz 6 years ago

      Nice list, Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      Edgar Ramire-Otaku 6 years ago

      When I watched Dragonball:Evolution I was really Disappointed, Story line was change!

    • profile image

      Dude .... .___. 6 years ago

      They should never make a movie out of an anime/manga that is as long as Dragon Ball or Dragon Ball Z or Dragon Ball Z Kai or whatever! I'm not a fan of the show but there's like millions of spin-offs or something like that isn't there? No way could you put all that into one movie and make it make sense. And I've seen the trailer when it came out. Didn't interest me in the slightest. And I've heard them thinking about Death Note .. Zac Efron does have hair like Light Yagami. He just needs to reach DEEP down inside himself and find that evil psychopath.. Who do you think could play L? lol

      And Vampire Hunter D. Dude I'd LOVE to see that. Love it!

    • profile image

      K-Pop Kaine 6 years ago

      the dragon ball "Sequel" will actually be a reboot. will have more info confirming this.

    • anime_nanet profile image

      anime_nanet 7 years ago from Portugal

      Quite an interesting hub! You did your research and just gained a new fan!

    • profile image

      dragon ball z action figures 7 years ago

      Great list other than dragon ball... that was a shame.

    • profile image

      IronMan 7 years ago

      there will be a dragon ball sequel it is called DragonBall:Reborn

    • sabrebIade profile image

      sabrebIade 7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      spookyfox and neilyamit: Well I did say that with Dragon Ball there was no accounting for taste, and that Old Boy was a great film...LOL

      I was kinda amazed DB had that much popularity.

      And a sequel?

    • spookyfox profile image

      spookyfox 7 years ago from Argentina

      Can't believe I'm seeing Dragon Ball and Oldboy under the same category.

    • profile image

      neilyamit 7 years ago

      The list is agreeable except for DragonBall.