Live-action adaptations of anime series are often met with criticism from both critics and fans alike. The challenges of adapting anime to live-action are numerous and complex, which is why many fans are hesitant to see their favorite 2D characters transformed into real-life characters.
For one, the original story and characters of an anime series usually have a unique essence that is difficult to capture in a live-action setting. Furthermore, the transition from 2D to live-action can be jarring for some fans, particularly those who have grown attached to the distinctive visual style of anime.
Despite these challenges, the film industry has never stopped trying to achieve the perfect balance between bringing anime to life and capturing these characters’ emotions, actions, and stories.
In fact, some of the live-action adaptations have been surprising fan favourites and even developed into cult classics that create a smoother-than-expected transition from anime to live-action. These adaptations have proven to be a bridge between anime and live-action, creating a whole new life for beloved anime series.
Here, we will explore the top live-action anime adaptations that are worth watching. We will delve into the best adaptations that have successfully captured the essence of the original anime series, the ones that have managed to portray the characters accurately, and create a new life for them in the live-action world, as well as the ones that have not been successful and the reasons behind their failures.
Whether you’re a die-hard anime fan or just looking for a good movie to watch, these live-action adaptations are sure to satisfy your craving for the excitement, drama, and action of your favourite anime series.
7 Live-action anime adaptations similar to One Piece that are worth the watch
One Piece (2023)
Starring: Iñaki Godoy, Emily Rudd, Mackenyu Arata, Vincent Regan, Morgan Davies, Jacob Romero, Taz Skylar, Aidan Scott, Peter Gadiot
One Piece, an anime series loved by many, has been adapted into a live-action show on Netflix, and it has managed to capture the unique characteristics of the original anime’s world. The show portrays the shifting power dynamics of various pirate and governmental factions and the intrinsic harshness of a planet dominated by several large oceans, which are notable aspects of the anime.
The action sequences are amazing and visually pleasing, and the practical effects used to showcase Luffy’s elastic appendages, giant sea creatures, and other oddities are all impressive. In particular, the amazing pirate ship sets are worth watching alone.
Moreover, the talented cast does an excellent job of embodying the beloved characters from the anime, especially the shockingly believable portrayal of Luffy by Iñaki Godoy. He maintains the character’s comical mannerisms and spot-on delivery of fan-favourite lines, making him one of the most enjoyable characters to watch.
Jacob Romero also does a great job playing Luffy’s friend and crewmate, Usopp, who is one of the characters most impacted by the show’s constrictions. However, in Romero’s hands, his tall tales and selfless actions should still resonate with fans and newcomers alike.
Although Mackenyu looks the part of Rorona Zoro, his stiff take on the bounty hunter-turned-Straw Hat is a little off-putting. Fortunately, when he gets to exhibit emotions like sadness, anger, or regret, he does so to great effect.
Taz Skylar, on the other hand, always puts on a charming display as Sanji. His ability to quickly go from reluctant warrior to compassionate yet abrasive ally solidifies his role as the Straw Hats’ beloved cook.
In short, the One Piece live-action adaptation is a must-watch and it does a solid job of capturing the sense of adventure that has long been the anime’s calling card. Fans of the anime will enjoy seeing the characters brought to life in a new way, and those who are new to the series will appreciate the show’s unique world-building and engaging cast.
Alita: Battle Angel (2019)
Starring: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, Keean Johnson, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Lana Condor
Alita: Battle Angel is one of the few Hollywood adaptations of an anime series that has been able to maintain its loyalty towards the source material. The film manages to stay true to the mannerisms and behaviour of the original characters, which is a rarity in the world of live-action adaptations.
In addition to its faithfulness to the source material, the film also stands out thanks to the unique feature of using 3D eyes for its main character. This is not something that is typically seen in live-action movies, and it adds an extra dimension of visual appeal to the film.
The positive reviews from both fans and critics further cement the film’s status as a successful adaptation. Alita: Battle Angel is a rarity in the world of live-action anime adaptations, as it manages to capture the essence of the source material and deliver a truly enjoyable cinematic experience. It is a testament to the potential of live-action adaptations of anime series, and a shining example of how it can be done right.
Alice in Borderland (2020)
Starring: Kento Yamazaki, Tao Tsuchiya, Nijiro Murakami, Yuki Morinaga, Keita Machida, Ayaka Miyoshi, Dori Sakurada, Aya Asahina
The Alice in Borderland series on Netflix is another one of the few live-action anime adaptations that has been able to successfully capture the essence of the original source material. It has received widespread critical acclaim and is considered one of the best gateway adaptations to the famous franchise. Unlike many other adaptations, it has received positive reviews and is widely recognised as a great example of how to successfully adapt an anime series for live-action.
The TV series is a masterful adaptation of Haro Aso’s iconic survival manga, and it performs amazingly in adapting the manga’s ruthless yet immersive death game sci-fi thriller. It is a captivating and engaging depiction of a death game that is both ruthless and immersive, and it manages to create an atmosphere that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats.
What makes Alice in Borderland stand out is its ability to appeal to both fans of the original source material and newcomers to the franchise. Even those unfamiliar with the source material can enjoy the TV series, thanks to its engaging storyline, well-developed characters, and immersive world-building. The show’s immersive, sci-fi, survival-thriller elements create an atmosphere that is both captivating and entertaining.
Starring: Noritake Kinashi, Takeru Satoh, Kanata Hongo, Ayaka Miyoshi, Fumi Nikaido, Yuki Saito, Yusuke Iseya, Mari Hamada
Inuyashiki, a live-action adaptation of Hiroya Oku’s manga, stands out as a unique take on the superhero genre. The plot centers around two individuals who gain cybernetic-themed powers after an alien meteor crashes in Japan. What makes this adaptation great is its ability to explore the humanity of its main character, Ichiro Inuyashiki, as he grapples with his newfound powers and the responsibilities that come with them.
Unlike many other live-action adaptations that prioritise action sequences over character development, Inuyashiki does an excellent job of staying true to the source material and focusing on character growth. This approach makes it an appealing adaptation for both fans of the manga and newcomers to the franchise. It highlights the struggles and conflicts that arise from having extraordinary abilities, and how it affects the individual at a personal level.
Moreover, the film does not shy away from the darker themes of the story, such as depression, alienation, and the consequences of power. The live-action adaptation successfully captures the essence of these themes, presenting a thought-provoking and emotionally engaging story that is worth watching.
Overall, it is an excellent example of how a live-action adaptation can be faithful to the source material while still being entertaining and engaging for viewers.
Rurouni Kenshin (2012-2021)
Starring: Takeru Satoh, Mackenyu Arata, Kasumi Arimura, Issey Takahashi, Nijiro Murakami, Masanobu Ando, Kazuki Kitamura, Yosuke Eguchi, Emi Takei
Rurouni Kenshin is a beloved anime series that has captured the hearts of fans all around the world. The live-action adaptation of this iconic samurai story has done justice to the original anime and manga by highly respecting its source material.
The first installment of the live-action series of Rurouni Kenshin movies was released in 2012 and since then, the franchise has only grown in popularity. The positive reviews of the first movie led to the creation of a sequel in 2014, with more movies rumoured to be coming in the near future.
What makes the live-action adaptation of Rurouni Kenshin stand out is its ability to compete with the high expectations set by both formats. The intense and lightning-fast sword-fighting scenes featuring tight and elegant choreography are a true spectacle to behold. The original trilogy is fantastic, and the Netflix sequels maintain that standard of quality.
Rurouni Kenshin is not only a perfect introduction to the franchise for a new generation of fans, but it also serves as a refreshing and unique adaptation that is both nostalgic and modern. The live-action adaptation manages to capture the essence of the original anime and manga, while also bringing something new to the story.
It is a great example of how a live-action adaptation can be successful in honouring its source material while also bringing something new to the table. The live-action movies are a must-watch for fans of the anime series, and they also stand on their own as great cinematic experiences.
Starring: Kento Yamazaki, Ryo Yoshizawa, Masami Nagasawa, Kanna Hashimoto, Kanata Hongo, Shinnosuke Mitsushima, Masahiro Takashima, Jun Kaname, Takao Osawa
Kingdom, a live-action adaptation of the manga series written by Yasuhisa Hara, has been described as a solid introduction to the story of two orphans who aspire to become generals in a world where war is the norm. While the movie may not match up to the level of its anime or manga counterparts, it still manages to stand out as a great movie in its own right. It is a fantastic example of how a live-action adaptation can stay true to its source material while also adding something new to the mix.
One of the standout features of the live-action adaptation is its impressive blend of fantastic action sequences and character development. The movie effectively portrays the story’s central themes of war and the journey of two orphans who aspire to become generals. It manages to capture the essence of the manga while also bringing something unique to the table.
The film’s ability to appeal to both fans of the manga and newcomers alike is testament to its success as a live-action adaptation. It is a solid introduction to the Kingdom universe, and its impressive blend of action and character development makes it a must-see for anyone looking for an exciting live-action adaptation.
Your Lie in April (2016)
Starring: Kento Yamazaki, Suzu Hirose, Anna Ishii, Taishi Nakagawa, Yuka Itaya, Rei Dan, Maharu Nemoto, Ririka Yoshizawa, Masahiro Komoto, Hirotaro Honda
Your Lie in April is a widely acclaimed romance story that has been adapted into both manga and anime formats, earning a reputation as one of the best in its genre. Although the live-action adaptation of this story may not be as well-known outside of Japan, it is still a worthy iteration of the tale. The movie follows the story of Kosei Arima, who has stopped playing the piano due to a personal tragedy, and Kaori Miyazono, a passionate violinist with an infectious enthusiasm for life.
The live-action adaptation of Your Lie in April successfully captures the essence of the original story, blending romance, drama, and music-focused sequences to create a powerful and emotional experience. The movie effectively portrays the central themes of the narrative, exploring the characters’ journeys through personal tragedy, grief, and healing.
Your Lie in April is a must-watch for anyone who loves a good romance story, and the live-action adaptation is a worthy addition to the franchise, offering a fresh perspective on a beloved narrative.
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(Hero and feature images credit: Netflix/ One Piece & Alice in Borderland)
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Kuala Lumpur