13 Finest Live Action Manga Adaptations From Japan
Japanese manga has been a source of inspiration for filmmakers, resulting in a number of live action adaptations over the years. These adaptations aim to bring beloved manga stories to the big screen and cater to the fans of the original works. They often feature a mix of Japanese and Western elements, aiming to appeal to domestic and international audiences.
While many live-action remakes receive criticism for straying too far away from the source material to capture the original story’s essence, many have done a sterling job in transferring the story across. The popularity of manga live-action movies continues to grow, and unwavering excitement for new adaptions are felt both among fans in Japan and all around the world. Here are the 13 best live action manga adaptations to come straight from Japan.
13 Rurouni Kenshin: Origins (2012)
Rurouni Kenshin: Origins is a gripping and visually stunning retelling of the beloved animated series, which tells the story of a former assassin who seeks to redeem himself by protecting the innocent with his unique swordsmanship skills.
The film’s greatest strength lies in its action sequences, which are both thrilling and beautifully shot. The character development is also top-notch, as the protagonist struggles to reconcile his violent past with his desire to live a peaceful life. While the film condenses and streamlines some of the source material, it remains faithful to the spirit of the original story and delivers a satisfying and emotionally resonant experience. It’s a must-see for fans of anime, as well as anyone who enjoys expertly crafted action films with heart.
12 Bunny Drop (2011)
Bunny Drop is a heartwarming and charming adaptation of the beloved manga series. The film tells the story of thirty-year-old Daikichi, who unexpectedly becomes the guardian of a six-year-old girl, Rin, after his grandfather’s death. You find yourself really rooting for him as he rises to the challenge.
This movie captures the essence of the original story’s heart-warming and bittersweet moments. Some fans of the anime series may find fault with the film’s changes and omissions from the source material. However, the live-action version is still a beautiful and poignant portrayal of the power of family and the joys and challenges of raising a child. This live-action remake is a delightful and touching film that holds great appeal to fans of the original series and newcomers alike.
11 Blade of the Immortal (2017)
Blade of the Immortal is a live-action adaptation of the manga series by Hiroaki Samura. The story follows Manji, a samurai cursed with immortality after killing 100 men when defending his sister. He seeks redemption by taking on various assignments to protect others. When he meets Rin, a young girl seeking revenge on the Itto-ryu, a group responsible for the death of her parents, Manji agrees to help her. Together, they embark on a dangerous journey to face the group and its leader.
The film is directed by Takashi Miike, who is known for his violent and unconventional films. It received mixed reviews upon release, who praised its visuals and action but criticized its pacing and lack of depth. However, fans of the manga appreciated its faithful adaptation of the story and characters.
10 Nana (2005)
Nana follows two young women, both named Nana, who become roommates after meeting on a train to Tokyo. Nana Komatsu, or “Hachi,” is a naive and innocent girl who dreams of finding true love, while Nana Osaki is a punk rock singer with a troubled past. As their friendship deepens, they support each other through the challenges of love, career, and personal struggles. Despite their different upbringings, the two Nanas form a close bond and support each other through thick and thin.
The film explores themes of identity, friendship, and the pursuit of happiness. Directed by Kentaro Otani, Nana received critical acclaim for its strong performances, compelling story, and emotional depth. It remains a beloved and iconic adaptation of the popular manga series.
9 From Me to You (2010)
From Me to You is an emotional short film that explores the theme of human connection and the importance of reaching out to others. It follows a young woman who writes anonymous letters to strangers, hoping to brighten their day and ease their loneliness. Through her letters, she shares her own struggles and experiences, creating a bond of understanding and empathy with the recipient.
There’s a powerful simplicity to the movie’s message. It highlights the transformative power of human connection and the impact of even the smallest acts of kindness. The use of soft, warm colors and a gentle soundtrack adds to the film’s uplifting and soothing mood. When viewing this movie, you’re given a beautiful reminder of the power of reaching out and connecting with others, and it’s a must-watch for anyone in need of a little inspiration and hope.
8 Kingdom (2019)
Kingdom follows the story of a young orphan boy named Shin, who dreams of becoming a great general in the Kingdom of Qin. When his village is attacked by enemy forces, Shin teams up with a group of soldiers and sets out to avenge his fallen comrades and protect his kingdom.
This movie is a thrilling and action-packed ride with stunning visuals and impressive fight sequences. The characters are well-developed, and the film does an excellent job of capturing the spirit of manga. The writing is strong and engaging, with plenty of twists and turns to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. It’s definitely a must-watch for fans of the manga series and for anyone who enjoys epic action films with a touch of historical drama.
7 Our Little Sister (2015)
Three sisters live together in Kamakura, Japan in the live-action remake of Our Little Sister. When their estranged father passes away, they discover that they have a younger half-sister named Suzu, who they invite to come live with them. As Suzu adjusts to her new life with her three older sisters, the film explores themes of family, love, and forgiveness. The performances from the cast are excellent, particularly Suzu Hirose as the titular character, who delivers a heartfelt and nuanced performance.
The film is a poignant and touching portrait of sisterhood and family bonds, with beautiful cinematography and a gentle, melancholic soundtrack. It’s a movie perfectly suited to those who love a comforting movie full of intimate and heartfelt drama.
6 Attack on Titan (2015)
Attack on Titan is a two-part Japanese live-action film adaptation of the popular of the same name. The movies take place in a post-apocalyptic world where humanity is threatened by the Titans, gigantic humanoid creatures that devour humans. The film follows three friends, Eren, Mikasa, and Armin, who join the military to fight against the Titans and protect humanity.
Some truly stunning special effects have been used in this movie to create some brilliant action sequences that perfectly capture the intensity of the manga. Both parts do tend to sway away from the source material, however, in their own visually stunning way, they offer a unique and thrilling take on the story.
5 Ichi the Killer (2001)
Ichi the Killer is a controversial and graphic Japanese crime-horror film directed by Takashi Miike. Kakihara is a sadomasochistic yakuza enforcer who is searching for his missing boss and encounters a mysterious, seemingly invincible killer named Ichi. You will truly find yourself on the edge of your seat from start to finish when witnessing the intensity involved.
This movie involves some extreme violence and disturbing imagery which led to its banning in several countries. However, beneath the surface-level shock value, Ichi the Killer is a well-crafted and stylish film that explores themes of power, violence, and the nature of evil. This live-action remake is a challenging and provocative film that’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s also a thought-provoking and well-executed piece of cinema.
4 Lady Snowblood (1973)
Lady Snowblood is a classic Japanese revenge film directed by Toshiya Fujita. The story follows a woman named Yuki, who is born in prison and raised to be an expert swordswoman and assassin to seek revenge on the people who killed her family. It’s a real rise-to-the-occasion kind of movie, and you’re really wishing luck on vengeance to be won.
Well-executed stylized violence, beautiful cinematography, and striking visual aesthetic are plentiful in this remake. Lady Snowblood has been cited as an influence on several other films, including Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill series. It remains a classic of Japanese cinema and a must-watch for anyone who appreciates stylish and well-executed revenge films.
3 I Am a Hero (2015)
I Am a Hero is a Japanese horror film based on the manga series of the same name by Kengo Hanazawa. Hideo is a struggling manga artist and assistant who finds himself caught up in a zombie outbreak in Tokyo. Despite his lack of physical prowess, Hideo becomes a hero and protects those around him. The film is a thrilling and terrifying take on the zombie genre, with a focus on the psychological effects of a zombie apocalypse on its survivors.
While some viewers may find the pacing slow at times, the film’s attention to character development and emotional depth adds to its overall impact. It’s a thrilling and engaging horror film that’s sure to please fans of the manga series and zombie genre enthusiasts alike.
2 Orange (2015)
The live-action remake of the manga Orange is a faithful and compelling adaptation that captures the emotional depth and complexity of the original story. Directed by Kojiro Hashimoto, the film follows the same basic plot as the manga original, exploring the themes of regret, memory, and the power of human connection. With its strong performances, heartfelt script, and stunning visuals, the film is a standout example of a successful live-action adaptation of a beloved manga.
While some fans may have reservations about the changes made to the original story, the film remains a moving and powerful exploration of the human experience and a poignant reminder of the importance of living in the present and cherishing the moments we have with the people we love. The live-action Orange is a must-see for fans of manga, and a compelling film in its own right.
1 Kakegurui – Compulsive Gambler (2019)
The live-action adaptation of Kakegurui – Compulsive Gambler is a visually stunning and engaging take on the popular manga series. Directed by Tsutomu Hanabusa, the film follows the same basic plot as the original story, exploring the twisted world of a prestigious academy where students engage in high-stakes gamblingbattles. With its colorful cast of characters, stylish visuals, and intense gambling scenes, the film is a faithful and engaging adaptation that captures the essence of the manga.
While some fans may prefer the original manga, the live-action version is a standout example of a successful adaptation that captures the source material’s spirit. It is a thrilling and entertaining film that will appeal to anyone after a great manga adaptation to lose themselves in.