10 Best Live-Action Adaptations of Popular Anime

From the classic to the latest titles, enjoy the 10 best anime live action series and movies

10 Best Live-Action Adaptations of Popular Anime

Manga and anime is one of Japan’s most widespread pop cultures around the world for years. Anime began to spread to other countries with mythical series such as Dragon Ball or Mazinger Z.

Today it has thousands of fans and special events dedicated solely to manga and anime. And thanks to new technologies and special effects, a new genre has started to appear: live actions. Companies have learned that manga and anime fans love the possibility of being able to see their favorite characters embodied in flesh and blood.

The problem with live action is that it is complicated. Fans are very demanding, and also in action series or series that include magic or special effects, etc., it’s not always possible to achieve a good result.

But when a good adaption is made, it’s a success. The most recent case is the adaptation of the famous manga One Piece by Netflix. So taking advantage of the occasion, here I bring you our selection of the 10 best live actions, including series and movies!

*Please note that this article contains affiliate links.

1. One Piece (ワンピース)

One Piece Netflix
© Netflix

One Piece is undoubtedly the live action of the moment. After several Netflix live actions that disappointed fans, some had their doubts about this one. But it’s been a huge success and has quickly become number 1 in 84 countries, breaking a record. Eiichiro Oda himself, the creator of One Piece, has supervised and approved the adaptation, and confessed that the idea of adapting the series started more than 7 years ago.

For those who don’t know the series, One Piece tells the adventures of Luffy, who is determined to be the next king of pirates, and his crew-friends. Roronoa Zoro, a well-known swordsman; Nami, a great navigator; Ussop, who is a great marksman; and Sanji, a chef with an extraordinary talent for cooking and fighting. Each of them has dreams to fulfill, and they will support each other to see their dreams come true. A story full of adventures, fights, friendship and more!

2. Rurouni Kenshin (るろうに剣心)

Rurouni Kenshin Netflix
© Netflix

On of the bests live actions ever is no doubt Rurouni Kenshin, with an amazing performance by Sato Takeru as Kenshin Himura. Ruroni Kenshin is undoubtedly one of the most legendary manga/anime both outside and inside Japan. So the announcement of the live action caused a lot of excitement, and did not disappoint.

Kenshin Himura was a legendary assassin during the time of Japan’s internal power wars. After the Meiji Era began and peace came, Kenshin sheathed his sword promising himself not to take any life never again and became a wanderer that travel the country helping people as a way to redeem himself for all the people who had killed. The story begins when Kenshin meets Kamiya Kaoru, an orphan 17-year-old girl who works as a kendo teacher in a dojo.

After 3 successful films, two more were made, set just before and after the first 3 respectively.

3. Fullmetal Alchemist  (鋼の錬金術師)

Fullmetal Alchemist Netflix
© Netflix

Edward and Alphonse Elric lived with their mother Trisha and study to become alchemists until all the sudden one day Trisha dies, leaving the two brothers alone with a big sorrow. Driven by grief Edward convinces Alphonse to try to resurrect his mother through alchemy, breaking the major rule of alchemy. You cannot resurrect someone from death.

Alchemy works according to the principle of equal exchange: to create something, you have to sacrifice something in return. Edward loses his left leg and right arm Alphonse his body, but Edward manages to seal his brother’s soul in armor. From that day, all Edward’s motivation and obsession is to get his brother’s body back. So following the offer of Roy Mustang, Edward become a member of the State Alchemist and work for them.

The Fullmetal Alchemist Live Action was announced in 2016, starring Yamada Ryosuke as Edward, and having a great acceptance and approval from the fans.

4. Death Note (デスノート)

Death Note Live Action
Death Note

No, I’m not talking about the recent Netflix’s adaptation of Death Note (which didn’t please the fans at all), but the Japanese one, made in 2006. It’s a bit old, but it’s still one of the favourite live actions of manga and anime fans.

Light Yagami is an outstanding student who is bored with the world he lives in, and suddenly one day he finds a Death Note, a notebook in which if you write a person’s name, that person die. The notebook belongs to Ryuk, a shinigami (Japanese God of Death).

Light decides that his mission in this world is to get rid of all the criminals under the nickname of Kira and become the “God of the New World”. However the super detective L is not agree with Kira and thinks he is another criminal so he’s determined to catch him. Who will win?

Check Amazon

5. Bakuman (バクマン。)

Bakuman Live Action

Moritaka Masahiro is a high school student with a great talent for drawing, but he wants to become a normal office worker. His classmate Akito Takagi discovers his talent and tries to convince him to become a manga artist for the stories he would create.

Masahiro refuses at first, but it turns out that Miho Azuki, Masahiro’s crush, wants to be a Seiyuu (anime voice actress). Masahiro makes an agreement with her: the two of them will get married when Azuki becomes the voice actress for the anime adaptation of a manga he has drawn. Motivated with the idea of get married with her crush, Masahiro then teams up with Takagi to create their manga serie and get published in Weekly Shonen Jump.

Check Amazon

6. Nana (ナナ)

Nana Live Action

A classic of classics, Nana could not be missing in this list. Nana is a shojo work by the famous Ai Yaizawa, and probably her most popular manga.

Nana Komatsu is a young girl in love who has been unlucky in her love affairs until she met her current boyfriend, Shoji. Nana and Shoji were happy, but Shoji decides to move to Tokyo to study there. Eventually Nana manages to raise money to move to Tokyo as well. And it’s on the train to Tokyo that she meets Nana Osaki, with whom she shares a name but a totally opposite personality. While Komatsu is childish and innocent, Osaki is mature and down-to-earth. She and her punk band called Black Stone go to Tokyo to try to make a name for themselves.

In spite of their differences, the two Nanas end up living together and creating a great friendship. But problems will arise along the way. Nana Komatsu (nicknamed Hachi) is a big fan of a famous band called Trapnest, with Reira as the singer, who has a beautiful voice. What she doesn’t know is that the bass player of the band, Ren Honjo is Nana’s ex-boyfriend, and former bass player of the Black Stones.

The series was a huge success and two live actions were made, voiced by Mika Nakashima as Nana Osaki and Yuna Ito as Reira Serizawa.

Check Amazon

7. Chihayafuru (ちはぱぶる)

Chihayafuru Live Action

Chihayafuru is a curious manga as it focuses on karuta, an ancient Japanese card game quite complex.

Chihaya Ayase is an elementary school student with a normal life, until one day she meets a new transfer student from Fukui, Arata Wataya. Arata is a great karuta player, who dreams of becoming the best in Japan. Arata believes that Chihaya has a natural potential to play karuta, and encourages her to do so. Infected by Arata’s enthusiasm, Chihaya also becomes a karuta player and aspires to become the best female player in Japan. They are joined by Taichi Mashima, Chihaya’s childhood friend.

The first Chihayafuru live action premiered in 2016, with the now loved by all Mackenyu (Roronoa Zoro in One Piece) as Arata.

Check Amazon

8. Gintama (銀魂)

Gintama Live Action
© Netflix

Gintama has probably one of the most peculiar plots in the world of manga and anime.

It’s set in ancient Edo (Tokyo today), in the time of the samurai, like many other series. But in Gintama, humans have been attacked by aliens called Amanto (yes, you heard right, aliens and samurai). The humans lose against the aliens as they were much stronger, and the Amanto begin to rule.

The use of swords is forbidden in the country, so the samurai fall in disgrace. Among them we have Gintoki Sakata, a silver fighting samurai, played by the famous and talented Shun Oguri. Gintoki lives with his apprentice Shinpachi Shimura and an alien teenage girl, Kagura, and the three of them do all sorts of jobs to try to pay the rent.

9. Parasyte

Parasyte Live Action

Continuing with unusual plots and aliens, we have Parasyte. In that case the story is set in today’s world, with a low-profile high school boy as the main character. Shinichi is a fairly normal teenager, neither popular nor hated, going about his normal life. Until one day aliens come into the world, infiltrating people through their ears. These aliens are like parasites, which end up taking over the body of the person they have taken over.

But Shinichi was listening to music at the time, so his parasite couldn’t get in through his ear and went to his right hand. From that moment on, Shinichi and Migi (right in Japanese), his parasite, will have to learn to live together. Not only that, but being a weird case, they will also have to join forces to face the other parasites, who want to kill them.

Check Amazon

10. Gokushufudou(極主夫道)

The Ingenuity of the House Husband Live Action
© Netflix

The last live action on the list, Gokushufudou or also known as The Ingenuity of the House Husband in Japanese is a fun story about a former yakuza turned house husband.

Tatsu was a feared and legendary yakuza, nicknamed as “the Immortal Dragon”, until one day he falls in love and abandons the life of crime for his wife. His wife is the one who works in a company, so he is in charge of doing the housework. Tatsu turns out to be very good at housework, which he takes very seriously, and even makes friends with the other housewives in the neighborhood.

As I said, is a really fun and light story to spend a nice time.

Hope you have enjoyed my list! For more recommendation about Japanese movie, dramas or anime, you can check these articles too!!

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Written by

From Barcelona to Tokyo. Coffee & Adventure lover🌏☕️ 

I started to like Japan because of the anime, music and doramas, but after my first trip to the country I found what I love the most: traveling around, the culture and history. I have travelled a lot in Japan, but I still have many places to discover that I want to share with you🙋🏼‍♀️ Let’s discover Japan together!


Also, as a foreigner living in Japan for over 6 years I understand what kind of things are difficult when you move here and I want to help other people in the same situation that I have in the past.