Top 10 Fascinating Live-Action Film Adaptations of Manga in Japan

  • The popular culture of Japan has long been known for its adaptations. Manga can be turned into anime or dramas, even movies. Below is the list of live-action adaptations of manga movie that are worth watching. They are also a good start if you are wondering what live-action films to watch this season:

    10. Detroit Metal City (2008)

    This is an adaption from the manga series of the same name, Detroit Metal City (2005) by Kiminori Wakasugi.

    The movie is about Soichi Negishi, a shy young musician who dreams of becoming a successful pop musician. But he has ended up as the lead singer and guitarist of a metal band called “Detroit Metal City.” On stage, he is Johannes Krauser II, rumored to be a demon from hell. Although he hates the role, he has a definite talent for it. The movie then follows Negishi as he tries to reconcile the two very different sides of his life and find out what it really means to achieve his dream.

    Both roles, Negishi and Krauser are portrayed by Kenichi Matsuyama, whose performance in the movie is more than superb! Detroit Metal City manages to be ridiculous and profound at the same time. Loud music but a charming narrative, it’s a great movie to enjoy!

    9. 20th Century Boys (2008)

    This three-part live-action film series is based on the successful, award-winning manga series by Naoki Urasawa.
    In 1969, an elementary school boy Kenji and his friends built a secret base during their summer holidays. They imagined that they had to fight villains who were about to take over the world and write about the scenarios in the “Book of Prophecies.” Years later in 1997, Kenji becomes a convenience store manager and leads a regular life after giving up his dreams to become a rock star. Only when his old classmate dies mysteriously and an entire family in the neighborhood disappears, his boring life suddenly changes. At the same time, a religious cult and its mysterious leader, a friend emerges and a strange chain of events duplicating exactly what was written in the Book of Prophecies occurs.

    8. Death Note: The Last Name (2006)

    Everyone knows about Death Note, from the manga and anime to the movie series and recently, live-action drama. In my opinion, the Death Note movies are not very well-scripted, but the original manga still has its own influence, and once again, we have Kenichi Matsuyama featuring in it. His performance helps put this on the list!

    Death Note: The Last Name is the second in a series of live-action movies based on the Death Note manga and anime series by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. The film tells a story that focuses on a student named “Light” Yagami (later taking on the name “Kira”) who decides to rid the world of evil and criminals with the help of a supernatural notebook that kills anyone whose name is written in it. The police then take part in the case of finding Kira with the help of L – a mysterious and talented young detective.

    This second movie is much better than the first one, in my opinion. Especially the music and unexpected ending. Except for some minor characters who are left in the background and the fact that Death (Ryuk) looks a little ridiculous (as usual), in general, it’s still a thrilling, fiendishly clever movie worth watching.

    7. Gantz (2010)

    Gantz is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Hiroya Oku. It tells the story of Kei Kurono and Masaru Kato, both of whom died in a train accident and become part of a “game” in which they and several other recently deceased people are forced to hunt down and kill aliens armed with a handful of futuristic items, and weapons. Although both the manga and anime are marked for their violence and sexual content, these elements don’t appear much in the movie.

    Good acting, from both main characters Kenichi Matsuyama and Kazunari Ninomiya, solid camera work and the villains are more interesting than Western film villains. About the plot, the characters spend most of their time trying to find out who they are; as well as trying to understand each other.

    6. Thermae Romae (2012)

    Adapted from the manga by Mari Yamazaki, the movie tells the story about a serious ancient Roman architect named Lucius. When a friend takes Lucius to the public bathhouse to cheer him up, he accidentally slips through time and resurfaces in a modern-day public bath in Japan. In Japan, he meets a young manga artist, Mami, along with others of the “flat-faced clan”. Shocked by the many inventive aspects of Japan’s bathing culture, Lucius returns to ancient Rome and garners tremendous attention when he implements these ideas back home. As he time-slips back and forth between ancient Rome and modern-day Japan, Lucius’ reputation as a new bath architect begins to grow.

    This is a truly entertaining and fun movie to watch, along with good music, fascinating settings, and good acting. Besides having the chance to know more about bath and architectural culture, the romance between the characters does compromise the humor, as the jokes stay strong throughout. Yet at the same time it is touching to see their relationship develop.

    5. Hana Yori Dango (2008)

    This is the last chapter of the Hana Yori Dango series in Japan, based on popular shojo manga series, Hana Yori Dango, written by Yoko Kamio. It also has Korean and Taiwanese drama adaptations.

    The story is set in Eitoku Academy, a school for children from rich families. It follows lead protagonist Tsukushi Makino, a student from a working-class family, and the members of Eitoku Academy’s Flower Four, commonly known as the “F4”.

    Although the movie isn’t at all adapted from the manga and instead is continued from the two drama series, it still had the essence of the characters. And it seems everyone loves the ending!

    4. The Lone Wolf and Cub (1972)

    Lone Wolf and Cub, or a more literal translation of the Japanese title, “Wolf Taking Along his Child”, has a slightly different name as the film. The adaptation has a longer name compared to the original manga: Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance. It tells the story of a ronin (a masterless samurai) who wanders the countryside of Japan with his small child, having various adventures. The manga is created by writer Kazuo Koike and artist Goseki Kojima.

    Despite having one disturbingly violent scene, the editing and cinematography are excellent. Generally, the film is beautiful and is one of the greatest samurai films ever made.

    3. Kiseijuu (2014)

    Also known as Parasyte, Kiseijuu is a science-fiction horror manga series created by Hitoshi Iwaaki. It has been adapted into two live-action films in Japan in 2014 and 2015.

    The story is about humanity suffering from murders all over the world, called “mincemeat murders”. Izumi Shinichi, a high school student who has a parasite living off him, that has replaced his right hand, might be the one to discover the truth.

    This is a well made and decent movie adaption, it actually exceeded my expectations. The storyline is great with plenty of excitement and also contains thoughtful messages. However, if you are a fan of both the anime and manga, then in the beginning of the film, it’d be a bit strange seeing aspects which are nothing like what you have seen in the anime or manga.

    2. Shinobi: Heart Under Blade (2005)

    Adapted from the original manga Basilisk (Basilisk: The Koga Ninja Scrolls) by Masaki Segawa, not only the movie but the manga itself also has different points from its anime. The reason for this is that both Shinobi (in turn Basilisk) are based on a novel, The Kouga Ninja Scrolls.

    The movie takes place in 1614, the Shogun is convinced that the clans are dangerous threats for keeping peace in his lands, and his advisor devises a Machiavellian plan to destroy their best warriors in a competition. Meanwhile, the young Iga Oboro and Koga Gennosuke fall in love with each other. When Oboro’s grandmother, leader of the Ogen clan and Gennosuke’s father, leader of the Danjo Clan kill each other, Oboro and Gennosuke must lead their warriors in the ultimate battle between clans.

    It’s a great movie but not too violent, with a well-scripted storyline. It’s also not all about love, and the action scenes are well choreographed and exciting. Generally, it’s a great movie!

    1. Rurouni Kenshin (2014)

    The mentioned adaptation here is Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno. As you already know, it has great influence on all ranges of audiences. The Rurouni Kenshin manga has over 70 million copies in circulation as of 2014, while its anime has ranked among the 100 most watched series in Japan multiple times. It is praised for its characters’ designs and the richness of the historical setting.

    In this adaption, Kenshin Himura goes up against the evil Makoto Shishio, who is attempting to overthrow the Meiji government. The fate of the country hangs in the balance as Kenshin Himura takes up the sword that he vowed to never draw again.

    This is an impressive production that I’d recommend you to watch! The acting, cinematography, costumes and the historical set design are all extremely good. The fight scenes are excellent too! If you are a fan of the anime, this won’t disappoint you. If you are new to Rurouni Kenshin, this movie might motivate you to look for the originals!

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