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Top 6 Japanese Anime/Manga Live Action Adaptation Movies

Updated on May 5, 2017
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From the anime and manga into a Live Action Film
From the anime and manga into a Live Action Film
From the anime and manga into a Live Action Film | Source

Japanese manga and anime bring a lot of layers for the characters, settings, and the overall story. There have been a number of movie adaptations that surprised, pleased, and at some point even disappointed some of the most avid fans as well as regular movie-goers. Still, among those that had great popularity in terms of creativity, appeal, and justice to the original source, here are the top six that gave a good show (or at least close to it).

Most of the fans of the manga and the anime wish to see the best adaptation of their favorite stories. However, it cannot be ignored that there will be added features, variations, or unpredictable twists to the film counterparts. In this list, the movies are included based on their justice to the originals as well as for the extra features that the directors and casts put in the show.

Rurouni Kenshin

The trilogy brought out surprising justice to the original. It is, in fact, difficult to place all the exciting and touching appeal of the anime series as well as the manga in such a short film. The best feature of this film (and the succeeding installations) are the fight/action scenes. They were filmed with just the right amount of striking movements without making it overly exaggerated. The use of the special effects and computer graphics were not excessively placed as well, so the scenes looked more natural. Even though there were altered scenes from the manga, its story and the way the film conveyed it was better compared to other live-action adaptations.

However, the characters were developed in a slow and limited time. Also, most of the concern that are lacking would be for the back stories related to the other characters (e.g. Sanosuke, Kaoru, etc.). Still, the entire franchise gave justice to the story with its own unique appeal, and the casts did fair with a great part to Takeru Satoh. With special credit to its good soundtrack as well.

Detroit Metal City

Detroit Metal City (DMC) gives a hilarious ride with its crazy acting and story. Soichiro Negishi (Kenichi Matsuyama) is a nice but shy college boy who wants to be a pop singer. He enjoys singing cheerful songs, however, in the course of fulfilling his dreams, he comes upon a scary manager who turns him into a Death Metal band singer. His band, known as Detroit Metal City, gradually becomes popular, but Negishi is troubled with this situation as he performs on stage as Krauser. He sings with a loud voice, spitting out bad words from the lyrics of the band's song which is far from the type of music he used to sing. However, after each performance, he goes back to his shy persona. This seemingly dual personalities is not exclusive to Negishi but is evident to the rest of the DMC members. No one acts the way they portray themselves on stage.

It's interesting to see Kenichi Matsuyama play this role because it's different from his more popular role as L (Death Note) and Toru Watanabe (Norwegian Wood). However, many might get disturbed or distracted with the songs. Even though the melodies might be catchy for metal rock fans, the lyrics are dark. Still, the overall appeal of this comes close to the idea of manga and anime actions. Also, with the name of the band is based on KISS' song Detroit Rock City, Gene Simmons has a surprising cameo in this Japanese adaptation.


An adaptation of the 1960s manga (comics series) by Osamu Tezuka, this 2007 film had a lot of difference from its origin. Many might get disappointed with some scenes, and especially with the computer generated imagery (CGI). However, even with those flaws, the acting and story made up for those. Even with its major deviation on screen, the Dororo film was able to preserve the main elements of the story. It is best credited for keeping the friendship between the rascal, Dororo (Kō Shibasaki), and the swordsman, Hyakkimaru (Satoshi Tsumabuki). Their relationship was built in a slow yet steady pace. The casts also include Eita, Kiichi Nakai, Yoshio Harada, and others.

Director Akihiko Shiota made a fun film that is enjoyable to watch. With the dirt, dust, and laid back settings, he was able to create the right mood for a period and fantasy sides of the story. It is worth watching for the fantasy appeal and good back story.


This 2006 film is based on a manga series of the same name. Also known for its loosely made The Bugmaster in its English release, Mushishi is a complex story with fantastical settings. Its director, Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira), also co-wrote this film adaptation with Osamu Tezuka (Metropolis). In this sense, the movie is expected to have been deeply complex and sometimes incomprehensible in some of its parts.

Even with this kind of storytelling, the adaptation was not an unpleasant film to watch. It will leave you with the images of the Mushi and the terrain of Japan that made proper use of CGI. It was also shot beautifully due the transitions of scenes are slow, with a confusing flashback altogether. There is also some surprising appeal to the subplots in the story, especially that of Ginko (Jo Odagiri) and Koro (Nao Omori). The characters acting lived up to give this film a satisfactory credit.


Shinobi mixes the story of superheroes/superpowers with a Romeo and Juliet tragedy. Director Shimoyama Ten made a great adaptation of the story that grazed the pages of the manga series (Basilisk: The Kōga Ninja Scrolls). It's also a satisfying film with Jo Odagiri (Mushishi) together with Yukie Nakama.

The story revolves the relationship of the two main casts who are both caught up in a complex circumstance. Its casts great acting and the touching scenes that are rooted from the touching love story made this a good adaptation. However, the two-hour film seems short to build more of the plot. Still the CGI scenes gave justice to the battles.

Death Note

Death Note may have received varied reviews since its release in 2006, but in its own credit, the twists in the adaptation made it an interesting watch. The story involves a series of killings among Japan's most notorious criminals. These events start a cult regarding the mysterious executioner as an avenging angel. However, in reality, he is a law student named Light Yagami (Tatsuya Fujiwara) who received the Death Note which lets him kill anyone by writing their names in it.

The casts were able to recreate the Japanese manga with its interesting subplots. With an additional acting of Kenichi Matsuyama as the brilliant L. Even though the first part of the film moves in a slow momentum, it gives a satisfying, complex, and darker layer to its plot towards the end. This opens up the opportunity for its sequel, and a spin-off installation with L: Change the World.

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Up and Coming Live Action Films

With the rise of live action films, there is another one that excited manga readers in 2015. Bakuman is an adaptation of the manga series written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata.

Fans of the series felt the rush of anticipation as the movie gives a new face to the story. It is also top billed by Takeru Satoh (Rurouni Kenshin) and Ryonosuke Kamiki (voice actor: Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle). There are a lot to anticipate and expectations are high.


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