Live-action films get a bad rap. It’s very difficult to replicate an animation using real actors, so it’s no surprise why most studios fail. Only a select few studios do a fantastic job capturing the essence of an animated character in a live-action film.
Accurate and entertaining live-action anime films are hard to find, but they do exist. These live-action anime films stand out as the best of the bunch.
1. Death Note
No, I’m not talking about Netflix’s live-action version of Death Note—that atrocity deserves a place as one of the worst live-action remakes.
In 2006, Japanese director Shusuke Kaneko created a fantastic rendition of Death Note. Thankfully, this film doesn’t screw up the wildly popular series.
The computer-generated version of Ryuk obviously doesn’t look the best (what can you expect for 2006?), but at least the story and characters stay true to the original manga.
You’ll find that the film’s portrayal of the tension between Light and L is just as riveting as the anime.
Despite its release date in 2019, Alita: Battle Angel has been in the works since the early 2000s. James Cameron, the filmmaker behind Avatar, produced Alita: Battle Angel. Thankfully, this film does justice to the classic manga series.
While some fans aren’t fond of Alita’s wide-eyed CG look, others beg to differ. In my opinion, the film’s spectacular special effects bring the cyberpunk world to life.
As Alita struggles to find her purpose as a cyborg, you’ll quickly get absorbed into her world and story.
Most viewers who watch the live-action version of Bleach start the movie with extremely low expectations. If you too have been burned by many awful live-action anime adaptions, Bleach will serve as a huge surprise.
The live-action remake closely follows the original storyline, with the soul-reaping Ichigo Kurosaki centerstage.
Although the movie is a little less than two hours long, it still tells an in-depth and detailed story—this makes it watchable whether you’ve previously seen the anime series or not.
Since Rurouni Kenshin is such a noteworthy anime to begin with, you’d think that a live-action counterpart could never match up. However, this is yet another film that exceeds expectations.
The live-action adaptation of Kenshin consists of three parts that all do a phenomenal job at recreating the anime’s fight scenes and establishing an authentic Meiji Era setting.
5. Old Boy
Even though Garon Tsuchiya’s manga, Old Boy, was never created into an anime series, it still deserves a spot on this list.
When the kidnapped Oh Dae-su gets released from captivity after 15 years, he seeks out the perpetrators for bloodthirsty revenge.
Korean director Park Chan-Wook decided to make a film out of the series, which eventually gained a huge cult following. The director may have changed the names of the original manga characters, but the story still retains its violent, action-packed punch.
6. Crows Zero
The live-action movie, Crows Zero, is a prequel to the manga, Crows. Takashi Miike is one of Japan’s best directors, and his take on Crows doesn’t disappoint.
It’s set in Suzuran All-Boys High School, a school filled with juvenile delinquents. The students, called “crows,” form gangs and are constantly vying for power.
When transfer student Genji Takaya arrives on campus, he hopes to bring all the students together.
Orange is unlike any other live-action movies on this list. It’s not action-packed or violent, it’s more of a low-key fantasy romance. Still, it manages to capture the essence of the original manga.
Like the manga, the live-action adaption follows 16-year-old Naho Takamiya. She receives letters from her future self, and comes to find out that these letters predict what happens in her life.
Is There Hope for Live-Action Anime?
Unfortunately, the list of amazing live-action anime adaptions isn’t very large. What’s even more unfortunate is that we can’t expect this list to increase by much in the near future.
Good live-action renditions of anime are far and few in between, so it’s best to set our bar low.