There are a lot of TV shows out there, and in this golden age of TV streaming, the choices have never been more significant. So how do you cut through the noise and find the “Best of” for any chosen topic? We’re here to help celebrate and shine a spotlight on some of the latest, most fabulous, and unforgettable shows through the years.
For our ongoing series of articles depicting the best anime, our attention this time turns to the best live-action anime films. From JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure to Blade of the Immortal, there’s an excellent choice to whet your appetite!
Guyver II: Dark Hero (1994)
Guyver is an unknown gem to modern anime fans despite having extremely violent and mind-numbing content that appeals to fans of shows like Attack On Titan or Chainsaw Man. Guyver was many old fans’ version of these shows, and to others, their introduction to anime and manga.
Despite being a live-action adaptation that pays little homage to its roots, it leaves a decent impression. This film follows Sean Barker, who destroys the Kronos Corporation. This organization was made up of mutants seeking an alien bio-armor suit called Guyver. Due to their failure, Sean becomes Guyver’s new host.
Guyver leads Sean to an archaeological site where scientists found a spacecraft. To prevent Guyver’s origins from getting leaked, Sean dawns the infamous suit and plans to fight the Kronor Corporation one final time. Its effects hold up well for a live-action adaptation produced in the mid-90s despite a few inconsistencies with Guyver’s suit.
Dark Hero’s storyline and acting lack impact compared to its source material. Although it doesn’t deliver decent acting and storytelling, its action sequences make up for it. The fights feel stylized and look impressive for the time. You can expect intense combat set pieces that will get you pumped up. If you’re looking for an adaptation that offers decent storytelling but invigorating action, check this one out.
Rurouni Kenshin Part I: Origins (2012)
Ruroni Kenshin was a classic samurai anime and often received praise for its handling of samurai, swordsmanship, and mature themes. This anime gave fans an excellent portrayal of these warriors through its grand storytelling and beautiful characters.
Considering its legacy, it was inevitable that someone would want to re-adapt the source material. While fans are haunted by live-action adaptations of their beloved works, Ruroni Kenshin Part 1: Origins gave fans hope for a better future.
The filmmakers used content from the manga’s first two-story arcs to create this movie. Although it doesn’t present anything fancifully, it offers an enjoyable viewing experience for fans and typical movie-goers. The action in this movie is impeccable.
While there is one instance where our characters perform unnatural stunts, everything feels grounded and has phenomenal pacing. Fans will adore seeing this film’s actors go at it with their sharpened blades. On that note, the actors in this film portray the characters respectfully. While the film maintains its anime-like tropes, like quirky conversations and movements, everything feels professional and acceptable.
Inuyashiki is an anime series that flew under the radar when it was released in 2018. This anime revolves around an elderly man and teenager who receives cyborg-like powers after a fateful encounter with an outer space projectile. While the elderly individual uses his powers for good, the younger human uses his for evil.
The anime was a general hit for some, despite the anime lacking in the visual department. While the live-action film directed by Shinsuke Sato adds a few changes, Sato delivers an impeccable movie that will leave viewers in tears. This film benefitted from going a different route than the manga, making events more realistic and less contrived.
The actors who portray our beloved robotic heroes give off performances that rival the anime. The CGI in this film looks better than the jarring visuals displayed in the anime adaptation. The same can be said for the movie’s fight and flight scenes. Some characters that took a backseat in the anime and manga receive more time to shine in the live-action adaptation.
If you’re a fan of the original Inuyashiki manga and are okay with decent retellings, check out Sato’s live-action remake of Hiroya Oku’s sci-fi work.
Death Note (2006)
Love or despise it, Netflix’s attempts at recreating Death Note saw massive hate amongst anime fans and people who weren’t familiar with Takeshi Obata’s manga. Where the Netflix adaptation failed to capture the beauty of that mind-numbing work, Shûsuke Kaneko’s 2006 adaptation excels.
This film follows the manga like a hawk and delivers an excellent portrayal of its characters. The CGI for characters like Ryuk looks dated and doesn’t hold a candle to the beauty of Madhouse’s anime adaptation. While Ryuk’s design looks jarring, everyone else looks and acts fine.
The actors playing Light Yagami and L, respectively, give a stellar performance. They understand the project and evoke the same mannerisms and attitudes as their anime/manga counterparts. While the film adds a few new elements with its adaptation, these incidents won’t turn anyone away from it.
If you’re looking for a more faithful adaptation of Obata’s beloved mystery manga, check out Shûsuke Kaneko’s 2006 Death Note adaptation.
Alita Battle Angel (2019)
Although many critics panned Alita Battle Angel for multiple reasons, fans of its source material enjoyed Robert Rodriguez’s 2019 recreation. Alita Battle Angel offers more soul and passion than blasphemous live-action attempts like Dragonball: Evolution (2009) or Netflix’s Death Note (2017).
Alita Battle Angel features a similar plot as the original. It revolves around a deactivated cyborg named Alita getting revived by a compassionate cyber-doctor named Ido. Once awakened, Alita runs into a dilemma. She can’t remember anything about her past or the world around her. As she learns to navigate her newfound livelihood, Ido will try his hardest to shield Alita from her mysterious past.
While Alita Battle Angel is a worthy adaptation of its manga, its shortcomings prevent it from being a perfect film. The movie can be a bit dense and contains fast pacing to allow it to incorporate some bits from the manga. However, the film’s quick pacing jeopardizes it from prolonging its emotional beats, preventing the viewer from establishing a connection with our cast.
Visually, this film has some beautiful scenery and fun action bits. While Alita’s large eyes may seem off-putting to some viewers, others will adore how it makes the actress appear more like her anime/manga counterpart. Others in this film have a similar wacky aesthetic that can carry mixed reception. Overall, Alita Battle Angel is a glorious live-action adaptation with a few slip-ups.
Blade of the Immortal (2017)
Blade of the Immortal (2017) is a frenetic action-centric adaptation of Hiroaki Samura’s manga by the same name. As an adaptation, this film trims away at some of the crucial elements that made Samura’s manga memorable to his fandom. Some vital characters didn’t receive enough screen time to warrant fans’ attachment to them.
Some backstories were pushed aside to make way for something else, which may spark hardcore Blade of the Immortal fans’ disinterest in this adaptation. On the other hand, if you’re unfamiliar with Samura’s manga, you’ll walk away from this live-action film pleased. The film takes place in Japan during the mid-Tokugawa Shogunate period and follows a skilled samurai named Manji.
He is immortal and no conventional wound can kill him. Manji comes from a past of bloodshed and angst. His acts of vengeance in the past led to 100 samurai dying before him. In the present, he befriends a girl who wants to avenge her parents’ deaths. Therefore, our narrative focuses on Manji’s quest to slay the swordsman responsible for taking this girl’s parents’ lives.
As a samurai film, it holds enough merit to warrant fans’ attention. It has many jaw-dropping fights that are spaced out phenomenally and some emotional segments that’ll strike fans at their core. Despite some characters feeling simplistic compared to their manga iterations, Blade of the Immortal (2017) features sufficient violence to keep you on your toes.
Many Kingdom manga fans despise the anime for its poor handling of Yasuhisa Hara’s original 2006 work. The anime’s animation and utilization of CGI held it back from being a work adored by Hara’s fandom. While Kingdom 2019 directed by Shinsuke Sato doesn’t capture the manga’s grittiness, it feels more like a love letter to Hara’s work than the anime.
Kingdom 2019 follows two slave children named Xin and Piao. They reside in China and vow to become sufficient generals when they’re adults. One day, a warlord arrives at their farm and takes Piao back to his palace. After some time passes, Piao returns to the farm with fatal wounds, angering Xin. With vengeance in his heart, Xin embarks on a quest that’ll lead him into trouble with several horrid individuals.
This film provides fans with epic fights that’ll get their adrenaline pumping. Some scenes feel slightly comical and less serious. However, it matches the manga’s atmosphere perfectly. There are numerous themes scattered across Kingdom (2019) that center around friendship, loyalty, and tragedy. The acting is decent but can be grating because many actors yell a lot.
The Tokyo Ghoul anime adaptation helped Sui Ishida’s manga gain more attention from mainstream anime audiences. While the series would take a dip in quality after the first season, many people hold fond memories of the anime.
Tokyo Ghoul (2017) directed by Kentarô Hagiwara isn’t a solid adaptation but it holds up better than other live-action interpretations. The movie follows the events of season one where its protagonist Kaneki receives his ghoulish powers from a terrifying woman named Rize. Afterward, Kaneki joins a faction full of ghouls and comes into contact with two police officers. We proceed from there.
The film often suffers from being too explanation-heavy as it attempts to jam events from season one in roughly 2 hours. The acting in the film offers mixed baggage. While the actors play their roles effectively, many may find its casts tries too hard at recreating the source material’s dramatic segments. Tokyo Ghoul’s (2017) fight scenes will leave viewers satisfied as the cinematics used for Kaneki’s transformation looks decent.
If you’ve never watched or read Tokyo Ghoul, you may enjoy Hagiwara’s adaptation a lot.
School-Live! was one of those seasonal anime series that took off but hasn’t seen the light of day. Many viewers enjoyed the show for offering a Madoka Magica-like spin on the more sub-genre. While the anime offers wonderful voice acting, creepy visuals, and a mixed narrative, the live-action adaptation feels more complete.
This film was directed by Issei Shibata and follows the series’s four protagonists Yuki, Kurumi, Yuuri, and Miki. It focuses on their teamwork and effort to survive in a post-apocalypse setting. In addition to flesh-eating zombies, the girls must deal with Yuki’s strange delusive behavior. This film cuts and changes some things around from the anime and feels closer to the manga regarding atmosphere and tension.
Some side characters that served minor roles in the anime, make a larger impact in the film. One of them being Megu-nee, Kurumi, Yuki, and Yuuri’s teacher. The ending will leave fans in tears like the anime did, but doesn’t offer an annoying cliffhanger, hinting toward a sequel. This is a decent self-contained work with enough jumpscares and spooky imagery to hold you over.
Give it a watch if you’re looking for a fun and thrilling zombie flick.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable Chapter 1 (2017)
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is one of the most beloved manga and anime series. From its countless memes, iconic one-liners, and epic fights, series creator Hirohiko Araki hasn’t disappointed fans yet. However, adapting JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure into anything other than manga or anime can be challenging. This is because the series introduces superpowers called Stands.
Each stand evokes fantastical elements that many thought wouldn’t look great in real life. That was until they saw 2017’s JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable Chapter 1, directed by Takashi Miike. Unfortunately, Miike had to cut corners and exclude some core material from Araki’s manga to retell certain events from Diamond Is Unbreakable.
Many non-JoJo fans may find themselves confused by what’s taking place on the screen and may need to read up on Araki’s manga to understand this film’s events. While the film has pacing and story issues, it makes up for it with some engaging fight sequences. The stands don’t look as impeccable as their anime counterparts. Some Stand designs look ridiculous, but in motion, they feel on par with the anime’s visuals.
If you go into this live-action adaptation with context, you’re in for a rewarding time.
So, there we have it, our picks for the 10 best live-action anime films of all time!
What do you think of our picks? Do you agree? Are there any notable omissions? Let us know in the comments below!