Over the decades, hundreds of live-action adaptations of popular mangas, anime, and video games have emerged. Not all of them have gone on to win hearts and praise. Fans usually look at live-action adaptations with some disdain. And why wouldn't they when these adaptations exploit their beloved source material to develop products that should not exist?
That said, if the recent One Piece adaptation proves anything, good live-actions exist. Great ones, even. So, without further ado, have a look at 13 excellent live action anime and manga adaptations, ranked from best to worst:
1. One Piece (2023)
Finally, the Holy Grail: the live-action that united the snootiest of anime fans worldwide. After all, not every day does a live-action adaptation of one of the, if not the, most popular manga of all time take people's collective breath away.
The show features stellar acting and iconic visuals. The story revolves around a gang of pirates as they race against vicious pirates from other crews to find the true treasure, the ‘One Piece.' This mysterious article has the power to turn a pirate into the ruler of them all. And young boy Monkey D. Luffy, the leader of his scraggly crew called the Straw Hats, will stop at nothing till he has it in his grasp.
2 – Speed Racer (2008)
Speed Racer is not just another live-action movie based on a manga or an anime. It is an experience.
The movie tells the story of young Speed Racer, a boy who looked up to his brother Rex Racer before the latter was killed while participating in a race called The Crucible. The Crucible uses supercars modded with the latest tech and weaponry to participate in its deadly races. And Speed must ally himself with an old rival to win this game of death and danger at any cost.
3 – Let Me Eat Your Pancreas (2017)
First things first, this movie will break the hearts of viewers, and then some. The film tells the story of a cheerful high school girl who brightens everyone's lives. But she is also terminally ill. As the chapters of her short life draw to a close, she resolves to spend the last few months of her life doing things she has always wanted to do.
4 – From Me to You (2010)
From Me to You or Kimi ni Todoke tells a wholesome story of love, friendship, and identity. The story focuses on Sawako, a high school girl with long black hair ostracized by her classmates because she scares them. Characters refer to Sawako as Sadako (the girl from the horror movie The Ring).
But Sawako has compassion, shyness, and loyalty to a fault. So, when popular boy, Kazehaya, and other classmates start paying attention to her, she resolves to get over her social awkwardness and show them how much she cares.
5 – Chihayafuru Trilogy (2016–18)
The Chihayafuru Trilogy tells the story of a high school girl who loves a competitive card game called Kurata. Together with her friends, she starts a Kurata club at her school. But do they have it in them to become the best?
The trilogy tells a tale of friendship and love as the characters together venture into the world of the game and discover what makes them who they are.
6 – Bakuman (2015)
Bakuman tells the story of Moritaka Mashiro, a high school junior recruited by his classmate, Akito Takagi, and crush, Miho Azuki, to draw a manga. Together, they work to create a manga that becomes popular enough to get picked up by the Weekly Shounen Jump.
While the story is a comedy, the story explores the stress that comes with being in the industry. Will the young creators protect their dreams in a world that crushes millions of such hopes? Or will they succumb to the pressures of the back-breaking hard work and competition that is part of the job description in the manga industry?
7 – Ace Attorney (2012)
This one's technically neither adapted from an anime nor a manga. The movie centers around two popular cases from the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney video game. Two years after the movie's release, an anime adaptation of the game followed.
The live-action version follows rookie attorney Phoenix Wright as he tries to solve the murder of his mentor and follows clues from another case that's almost 15 years old.
8 – Bleach (2018)
The movie centers around the first arc of the anime of the same name. It explores the story of young Ichigo Kurosaki, a seemingly ordinary high school student. But Ichigo is not normal. He can see ghosts and soon realizes that he is a reaper, i.e., Shinigami.
The movie tells the story of before a million fights were won and lost. Will Ichigo abandon his everyday life to take up the mantle of Shinigami? The 2018 movie is, thus, an origin story and offers an excellent summary of what to expect from the series.
9 – Nana (2005)
Two girls with the same name and different personalities meet on a night train in Tokyo. They soon begin living together and develop an unlikely friendship. This coming-of-age story adapts a manga of the same name. The movie depicts soft teenage angst and emotion and tells a tale of friendship and identity.
10 – Your Lie in April (2016)
Once a beloved anime, Your Lie In April got a live-action adaptation in 2016. The story follows a once piano prodigy who has lost all will and ability to play after a childhood trauma. One day, he meets an odd girl, and his life changes. An emotional and wholesome story, the adaptation does it justice.
11 – Rurouni Kenshin (2012-2021)
Rurouni Kenshin tells the story of a samurai who has vowed never to kill again. A former assassin, he resolves to help those in need without killing anyone. However, in his quest to help the needy, he constantly encounters people and situations that test his resolve to keep his vow.
12 – Alice in Borderland (2020)
Stuck in a dystopian version of Tokyo, Arisu, a gamer, finds himself and his friends caught up in a literal game of life and death. The 2020 live-action adaptation has three seasons.
13 – Alita: Battle Angel (2019)
Alita, a cyborg designed for battle, gets revived by a doctor who realizes that she has a soul. Armed with that knowledge, Alita sets out to find her true identity and reconnect with her past.
While not a critical favorite, Alita: Battle Angels makes a great one-time watch.