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Five Live Action Anime Adaptations That are Actually Good

4 Minute Read
Mar 22 2023
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Most live-action anime adaptations are pretty bad, but we watched these five and can tell you for sure, they won’t leave you disappointed.

Some live-action anime adaptations are… bad. Either they’re poorly cast, horribly written, and most often, they just fail to capture the spirit of the animated version and what people really loved about the source material. Other times, it feels like the studio probably did try their best but still made a product that didn’t resonate with fans or even left them very divided. Y’know, like Cowboy Bebop. But sometimes, live-action takes on popular anime are actually worth the time you’ll spend watching them.

 

Speed Racer (2008)

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The Wachowski’s version of Speed Racer is, and I mean this very literally, one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s stupid and goofy and looks like it was filmed on a Hot Wheels track… If that track existed inside somebody’s acid trip. But that’s what makes it perfect. The casting of every single character couldn’t have possibly been better, the way they utilized Spritle and Chim Chim (two characters who could have very easily been almost unwatchably annoying) was hilarious and charming, and the over-the-top computer graphics made it feel like we were looking at a world where physical people had been dropped into a cartoon but somehow didn’t notice. It was never a high-concept movie looking to take itself seriously, it was two hours of Speed Racer nonsense that aimed to look pretty and be fun. And it did all of that while somehow remaining true to the spirit of the original anime.

 

Death Note (2006)

Where the American live-action adaptation of Death Note failed, the 2006 Japanese version succeeded. It mainly follows the same plot as the series, only a little more condensed and with real humans. While this can be a recipe for disaster, Death Note really makes it work. It’s two hours of the same kind of suspense that a fan of the anime would come to expect. Not to mention it has a version of Ryuk that’s incredibly cool to see rendered as a real-world shinigami. He’s undeniably unsettling. In short, 2006’s Death Note works in a way that the Netflix version just didn’t. Plus, there are two sequel movies that tell original stories with the same world and characters. Add a little more lore and world-building to the live-action universe of murder notebooks and death gods.

 

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Space Battle Ship Yamato (2010)

I want it to be impossible to mess up a movie about a space battleship in a universe where space pirates and space trains are also a thing, but we both know it would be very possible to botch that. Luckily, 2010’s version of Yamato manages to make a movie that’s entertaining and futuristically sleek without losing the 70’s aesthetic and charm you expect from this setting. It’s a little drama, a little excitement, and a lot of the nostalgia factor that fans of the series would tune in to see.

 

Rorouni Kenshin (2012)

Rououni Kenshin is at its core a period piece with lots of action and drama. And the live-action adaptation delivers across the board. It’s a movie that a fan of the anime would undoubtedly appreciate but also something that a newcomer to the series who may just enjoy action-heavy films would also really enjoy. This gives it a unique opportunity to create new fans for the source material. It’s well cast, well acted, and has sword-fighting scenes that will keep you invested and excited until the end.

 

Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

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When Alita was announced many of us were dubious. It was an ambitious series to take on with first-look art that could have been taken right out of the Uncanny Valley. But in the end, Alita was an enjoyable movie that paid homage to the original source material. Her weird anime-inspired design stayed weird, but intentionally so. And it was done in a way that made sense for the character and the story. Both the world design and world building were very cool. Plus the visuals of the vehicles, sports, and robotics all came together to create an experience that was immersive.

What’s your favorite live-action adaptation of an anime? Did your favorite make the list? If not, what do you recommend we watch next? Let us know in the comments!

Ja ne, adventurers!

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