All eyes and ears are on Mackenyu. The Japanese-American actor is the talk of the town following his flawless and charismatic performance as Roronoa Zoro in Netflix’s One Piece. But Mackenyu is no stranger to anime live-action movies. In fact, nearly half (a majority even) of his filmography consists of them. But that’s not what defines his career. Taking on beloved characters with huge loyal followings comes with pressure but he’s always up for the challenge. So, if you can’t get enough of Mackenyu, here are a few more of his anime live-action movies that are a must-watch.
For those new to the Mackenyu train, welcome! Also known as Mackenyu Arata, the actor is the son of the late Sonny Chiba, an actor and legendary martial artist. He’s often credited as one of the first actors to receive fame due to his martial arts skills. So, for Mackenyu, his affinity for acting and action may have come naturally. It wasn’t until Mackenyu turned 16 that he landed his first lead roles in two English film productions. He eventually moved to Japan to pursue acting full-time. Coming from an established acting background might have helped the actor but he certainly earned his own merits over time.
Being a self-confessed fan of many of the anime movies he starred in, Mackenyu brings the characters to life while adding his own take From his early days in Chihayafuru to his roles as villains, Mackenyu has many memorable performances under his cap. His anime live-action movies are a must-watch. So, don’t know where to start? We did the legwork and shortlisted them for you. Of course, watch One Piece first.
A list of Mackenyu’s best anime live-action movies
1. Chihayafuru Trilogy (2016—2018)
Although Mackenyu has worked on some projects prior to Chihayafuru, the actor rose to fame after landing the role of Wataya Arata. And we argue, it’s a role meant for him. After all, they even share the same last name! For his performance, Mackenyu won the Newcomer of the Year award at the Japan Academy Film Prize in 2017. Due to the film’s popularity, it spun two sequels. His character Wataya is a prodigious karuta (a type of Japanese card game) player. His lifelong dream is to become Meijin, the champion for men’s division in Japan. For many who have been following Mackenyu’s career, Chihayafuru was their introduction to his filmography.
2. Peach Girl (2017)
After stealing hearts as Wataya Arata, Mackenyu led the live-action adaptation of another popular Japanese manga, Peach Girl. The movie follows Momo Adachi, who has a secret crush on Toji, played by Mackenyu. The original manga was so popular that it had both a Taiwanese and Japanese adaptation. Throughout his career, Mackenyu established himself as an action star, thanks to his upbringing and background. But watching Peach Girl is a good reminder that romance does, in fact, suit him too.
3. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable (2017)
In 2017, Mackenyu joined the star-studded cast of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, a live-action adaptation of the manga and anime series of the same name. Helmed by renowned director Takashi Miike, Mackenyu took on the role of Okuyasu Niijimura. Upon watching, viewers familiar with the material can feel that Mackenyu really embodied the character. And Mackenyu being the dedicated actor he is, gained eight kilos for the role on top of the gruelling process to achieve Okuyasu’s hairstyle.
4. Tokyo Ghoul S (2019)
As Mackenyu’s career progressed, he started taking on more roles in fantasy or action-based adaptations. Tokyo Ghoul S is one of them, even though he is not the lead character. If you can barely spot Mackenyu in the movie, we don’t blame you. He did take on a minor role in the movie but those familiar with the original storyline know how important (and complex) the character is. With that, we argue that Mackenyu definitely knows how to command a scene even with limited screen time. A true scene-stealer!
5. Kaiji: Final Game (2020)
While this live-action movie is based on the manga and anime series Kaiji, the storyline is completely an original story from writer Nobuyuki Fukumoto. It’s actually the last movie in the Kaiji trilogy, as its title suggests. Mackenyu plays Minato Hirose alongside Tatsuya Fujiwara, who must overcome challenges and games based on skill and luck. As his character is a new addition to this final film, it’s exciting to see what he was able to bring to the table.
6. Rurouni Kenshin: The Final (2021)
Leave it to Mackenyu to be open to not just playing the hero but also the villain. That is exactly his role in Rurouni Kenshin: The Final, the fourth instalment in the live-action movie series of the same name. Being the main character is great, but Mackenyu proved that you can somehow outshine, or at least, make your performance stand out as the bad guy. As Yukushiro Enishi, a mafia leader, Mackenyu went head-to-head with Takeru Satoh’s Kenshin. In fact, the movie was well-received at the box office, becoming one of the highest-grossing movies that year. Critics also praised Mackenyu’s chemistry with Satoh despite their rivalry in the movie.
Mackenyu, being a fan of the original series, really put his heart to play Enishi. He also suggested his own ideas for Enishi’s movements. He also performed most of the action scenes himself. The movie pushed Mackenyu’s status as an action star, following in the footsteps of his late father. Following his turn in Rurouni Kenshin, Mackenyu would be taking on more action roles that require physical training and skills.
7. Full Metal Alchemist: The Revenge of Scar (2022)
Not one to back down from not being the hero, Mackenyu continued to take on villain roles. In the second and third instalment of the Full Metal Alchemist live-adaptation series, the actor played Scar, a villain who targets alchemists working for the state military. Once again, Mackenyu showed his ability to take on a multi-dimensional role. Even series creator Hiromu Arakawa regards Scar as a complex character. It’s no surprise that Mackenyu once again shone as a villain.
8. Knights of the Zodiac (2023)
We know Knights of the Zodiac, was, unfortunately, a box office bomb. But if we’re talking about Mackenyu’s performance, it’s still worth highlighting. Mackenyu did most of his own stunts in this full-fledged English-language role. Fans of the actor already know that he prefers to do the action scenes himself as much as possible and Knights of the Zodiac is no exception. Also, we can’t get over Mackenyu’s insane transformation! It’s not just him as Seiya putting on the armour, we’re talking about the actual physical training he went through.
9. Brave Gunjyo Senki (2021)
Brave: Gunjyo Senki is not a live-action adaptation of an anime but of a manga. But we’re still putting this out here for readers to watch (or rewatch). In the movie, Mackenyu starred alongside the late Haruma Miura. Unbeknownst to some, despite his father being the great Sonny Chiba, what inspired Mackenyu to act was actually Miura. When the actor was 15, he watched a movie with Miura and has since dreamed of co-starring with the actor. The dream came true in Gunjyo Senki.
Besides, the movie is also a whole lot of fun. Mackenyu plays Aoi Nishino, a member of the school’s archery club. One day, thunder strikes, and samurai descend on the school grounds. As it turns out, the school “travelled” back in time to the Sengoku period. Having learned yabusame (mounted archery in Japan) at the age of seven, Mackenyu was definitely able to show his archery skills in the movie.
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All images credit: Netflix
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- Has there ever been a good live-action adaptation of anime?
While anime live-action adaptations don’t have a good reputation, there are some exceptions. Some of these include One Piece, Rurouni Kenshin, and Chihayafuru.
- Does Mackenyu have a wife?
Mackenyu announced his marriage in January 2023.
- Is Mackenyu fluent in English?
Mackenyu speaks English as he was born in Los Angeles and spent part of his childhood and teenage years in the US. He also attended Beverly Hills High School.
- How tall is Mackenyu?
Mackenyu is 178 cm tall or 5 feet 10 inches.
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Hong Kong