With anime series and anime movies growing in mainstream popularity, we’re seeing more and more live-action anime adaptations. In particular, live-action anime movies.
On the surface, live-action anime movies are pretty exciting. The promise of seeing real actors and actresses portraying the characters and stories that we’ve come to love? There’s something magical about animated media truly coming to life.
But the reality of live-action anime movies is that they’re often disappointing. Whether production companies stick to a faithful adaptation or take creative liberties in playing with the story elements, they can never really live up to viewer expectations.
If they make any changes, it’s called “bastardized.” And most of the time, changes are necessary—it’s simply not possible to adapt a full anime series into a live-action anime movie without cutting bits. But if they recreate the anime beat by beat, it’s deemed “unnecessary.”
But beneath all of that are live-action anime movies that are just plain bad. Maybe the director didn’t understand the heart of the source material. Maybe the CGI or acting is distractingly subpar. Maybe it was clearly butchered to appeal to a new audience.
Here are some of the worst live-action anime movie adaptations that spit on the original anime series they’re based on.
The Last Airbender isn’t on this list because the source material isn’t technically an anime series. Rest assured that if it was, it’d be featured on our list for sure!
5. Parasyte: The Maxim
Parasyte: The Maxim has been adapted into two live-action movies, aptly named Parasyte Part 1 and Parasyte Part 2.
Though both movies exceeded audience expectations with their CGI and willingness to cover most of the series’ important plot points, the overall story skipped a lot of the thrilling scenes from the anime, including some important fights.
The protagonist Shinichi Izumi and his parasyte partner Migi both lost their badass looks from the anime when Shinichi was killed by his mother (as a parasyte) and brought back to life by Migi.
On the other hand, both the baseball throw (anime) and the arrow (live-action) scenes where they kill a parasyte that invades their school were cool, but most viewers still prefer the anime scene.
4. Attack on Titan
Attack on Titan is a fantastic anime series worth watching, centering on the last surviving human stronghold and their battle against giant humanoid Titans who manage to breach the walls of their city.
The live-action adaptation of Attack on Titan is surprisingly faithful to the anime as far as looks and appearances go, but the live-action movie butchers the characters with out-of-character moments.
Some of the important characters have motives they shouldn’t have, leading to scenes and beats that make no sense if you’ve never seen the anime or read the manga. And if you have? The characters’ actions are even more perplexing.
Another thing is that the movie makes the already brutal scenes even more stomach-churning, as the depictions of Titans eating humans feel more real in person. The amount of body horror may be too much for some viewers, and you may even regret watching it.
3. Full Metal Alchemist
Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood is one of the best anime series of all time, featuring an epic-scale story that blends elements of magic with physics. It follows the Elric brothers who are on a mission to bring their bodies back using the Philosopher’s Stone.
As for the live-action anime movie on Netflix? It has surprisingly good graphics, but the amount of plot covered is so tiny that it never reaches any of the cool sequences.
The movie also shafted the villain’s time in the limelight and didn’t give him a proper introduction, leading to weaker motivations and a less nuanced take on his actions. Instead of the anime series’ deeper characterization, we get a flat villain.
2. Death Note
There have actually been two live-action adaptations of the Death Note anime series: the 2006 version directed by Shusuke Kaneko, and the 2017 version directed by Adam Wingard and released on Netflix.
Netflix’s live-action adaptation of Death Note is atrocious, especially when compared to the earlier one. Nearly everything is different.
Not only did Wingard’s Death Note change the actual rules of the Death Note itself, but it also altered key plot points and story beats. The excitement and thrills that come from Light using the Death Note? None of that’s there. It’s completely ruined.
Furthermore, the personalities of the two main characters—Light and L—are different in this Death Note live-action movie. With L showing up in public and goading Kyra to kill him, it’s clear that the director completely misunderstood L’s composed and strategic mind.
1. Dragonball Evolution
Dragon Ball Z is one of the most “legendary” anime series of all time. It follows the adventures of Son Goku and his friends as they save Earth from various villains. The show is packed with martial arts goodness, planet-shaking powers, and mythical dragons that grant wishes.
But the live-action anime movie Dragonball Evolution mutilates the spirit of the show to the point it’s no longer recognizable. It lacks the heart, the energy, and the care of the original anime series.
The story and characters in Dragonball Evolution are so divergent from the source material that it truly bears no resemblance other than the title, some character names and designs, and the Kamehameha.