If there’s one thing that’s almost universally agreed upon when it comes to anime, it’s that live-action adaptations are (almost) always bad. The critical panorama of Netflix live action cowboy bebop last year only serves to back up that claim. This doesn’t just apply to Americans, as almost all of the live-action Japanese anime adaptations on Metacritic have a score below 7.
Anime tends to take full advantage of the medium by being over the top, and that kind of style just doesn’t translate well to live action. Despite all that, there are actually a few hidden gems that have managed to bring their source material to the big screen in a way that works.
Alita: battle angel (2019)
Alita: battle angeldirected by Robert Rodriguez and produced by james cameronis an adaptation of the classic 1990s cyberpunk manga series Gunnmbetter known as Battle Angel Alita, which tells the story of an amnesiac cyborg who sets out on a journey through a dystopian world to find out who she really is. It’s technically not a anime movie from Gunnm doesn’t have an anime adaptation other than a 30-minute OVA from 1993, but that’s just a technicality.
Alita: battle angel is more of an OVA adaptation rather than a direct adaptation of the manga. This is not in his favor, as the OVA was poorly received for making too many changes to the story. The film replicated this by changing Makaku’s name to Grewishka, killing Vector, and including Chiren, who was an original character created for the OVA. However, what makes Alita standing out among other live-action anime adaptations is its faithfulness to its source material, as well as its well-choreographed fight scenes and stunning cinematography. We’ve all seen the memes about Alita’s weird eyes, but by Rosa Salazar masterful performance under the CGI more than makes up for this clunky design choice.
speed racer (2008)
lana and by Lilly Wachowski adaptation of the classic 1960s manga speed racer (Where Mach GoGoGo in Japan) is one of those films that people have come to appreciate more over time. The film tells the story of a young racing driver determined to prove himself in a scene riddled with corporate corruption. It was criticized upon release for its clunky CG visuals, but while it’s true that speed racer is not the best movie the Wachowskis have madethere’s still a lot to like about it.
While the film’s styling could certainly be off-putting at first, the fact that the Wachowskis were willing to take a risk by creating a unique visual style instead of opting for gritty realism like most other blockbusters is worth praising. . The film also stays very true to its source material’s themes of honor and loyalty, while adding insightful, Wachowski-style social and political commentary to it. If you deleted the movie at first, maybe try another time.
edge of tomorrow (2014)
As Alita: battle angel, edge of tomorrow is technically not an animated film, since the light novel from which it is adapted, all you need is to kill, doesn’t have an anime adaptation, but again, that’s just a technicality. edge of tomorrow tells the story of a soldier fighting an alien invasion who finds himself trapped in a time loop after dying in battle. He then encounters another trapped soldier in the same situation, and the two must work together to escape the loop.
movie stars Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt in the lead roles, and alters the Western European setting to make it look like historical battles, especially the Normandy invasion. It also dramatically changes the ending, to one that’s admittedly less punchy and doesn’t make much sense. Still, the rest of the film is faithful to the source material, and a good example of the level of quality adaptations should aim for.
Death threat (2006)
You were probably ready to click when you saw the name Death threat here, but don’t worry, we’re not talking about the Netflix version. We are talking about the Japanese of 2006. The story is divided into two films, Death threat and Death Note: The Family Name, both released in the same year. While the first one’s story is almost identical to the anime, the sequel deviates from it in its second half in order to wrap up the story without having to go through the entire second half with Near and Mello, which would have required an even two more movies.
The pacing gets a little too fast by the end of the shot, but the duology ends up being almost more satisfying than the original for failing to feature these two characters who have never been very well received by fans. Both are good adaptations overall, handling the pacing and characters very well, which are usually some of the hardest aspects to keep cohesive in film adaptations due to the shorter overall runtime.
Rurouni Kenshin (2012)
Rurouni Kenshin is an adaptation of the classic 1990s manga series of the same name. It tells the story of an ancient warrior from the Meiji era in Japan, who wanders the countryside helping those in need to atone for the murders he has committed. Four sequels have been released, the last less than a year ago, and all have been well received.
The manga is considered a classic, mixing the wandering samurai character with romance and themes of peace and atonement. While the films make changes to the story, they do a great job of capturing the charm of the original.
NEXT: From ‘Cowboy Bebop’ to ‘Death Note’: What Anime Fans Need to Finally Embrace the Live-Action Adaptation
The film is set to hit theaters this Christmas.
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