Top 10 Live-Action Film Adaptations of Manga [Linwood’s Picks]

Ajin Demi-Human

My first introduction to anime was watching ‘Fist of the North Star’ with my father when I was a baby. Hilariously, my mother forced him to pick more child-friendly shows to put on, as she deemed what we were viewing “too violent”, so one could say that my love for anime and manga is almost hereditary as he was quite fond of both during his childhood as well. With the cancellation of the horribly received Netflix adaptation of ‘Cowboy Bebop’ only after one season, many have been left wondering if Japanese manga and/or anime should even be touched. I heavily disagree, as I find there to be very little difference between doing so and the cornucopia of successful live-screen American comic book adaptations outside of the superhero genre that general audiences aren’t aware have made impacts on the small screen. ‘Happy’, ‘Preacher’, ‘Deadly Class’, ‘The Boys’, ‘Resident Alien’, ‘Vagrant Queen’ and ‘Wynonna Earp’ to name a few.

Simply put, manga is just comic books from Japan. No better or worse than American graphic novels and should not be pedestalized as sacred forms of text. I personally judge the adaptation separately from the source material as changes can either improve or lessen the overall work of art. Not everything translates well, no matter the country.

With that little rant aside, I’m a cinephile, first and foremost, so this list will be focusing on my favorite live-action adaptations of manga. Unless the anime definitively represents the property, I also don’t compare how well a series translates into cinema. I’m not a big fan of intentionally remaking an animated series when there is more to interpret from the book.


“A high school student discovers he is an Ajin, a demi-human being. He ends up a fugitive on the run because of his powers.”


“Brutal warfare breaks out among Tokyo’s street gangs, known as “tribes.” Who will emerge victoriously? Territory, friendship, pride, love… Everything is put on the line in a desperate struggle for supremacy! The world’s first “battle rap musical”?! Set in an alternate Tokyo of the near future, director Sion Sono continues his run of sensational films with the explosive street gang tale Tokyo Tribe. Tokyo Tribe is the first live-action adaptation of the best-selling manga series “Tokyo Tribe 2,” by Santa Inoue, which has sold 2 million copies and has been published in Asia and even the west to great popularity.”


“The film follows two young men, Kei Kurono (Kazunari Ninomiya) and Masaru Kato (Kenichi Matsuyama), who are killed in a train accident. After their deaths they find themselves transported to another world, where there exists a black ball known as Gantz. Inside the Gantz is a bald man on life support.”


“A year has passed since he defeated the Cronos Corporation, but Sean Barker (David Hayter) continues to struggle with his ability to call upon the powers of the Guyver, a suit of armor developed by aliens, when he must face evil. Hoping to find answers as to why he has received this ability, Barker arrives at an archeological site in Utah, where scientists have uncovered an old alien spacecraft that might solve the mystery. However, the Cronos Corporation is still after him.”


“A sadomasochistic yakuza enforcer comes across a repressed and psychotic killer who may be able to inflict levels of pain the enforcer can only dream about.”


“Cursed with immortality, a highly skilled samurai in feudal Japan promises to help a young woman avenge the death of her parents. Their mission leads them into a bloody battle with a ruthless warrior and his band of master swordsmen.”


“The film follows the story of Oh Dae-su, who is imprisoned in a cell which resembles a hotel room for 15 years without knowing the identity of his captor or his captor’s motives. When he is finally released, Dae-su finds himself still trapped in a web of conspiracy and violence.”


“Yuki is imprisoned and sentenced to be hanged. Before she meets her death, she is recruited into the secret police and becomes caught in a web of corruption, assassination and coercion.”

2. AZUMI (2003)

“In 19th-century Japan a master swordsman turns a girl named Azumi (Aya Ueto) and a group of other orphans into assassins whose mission is to eliminate hostile warlords. When one such warlord orders the destruction of the young assassins, his lackey liberates a fearsome killer named Bijomaru to accomplish the task. A grisly battle ensues as Azumi and her comrades fight for survival.”


“Incarcerated for assault and manslaughter, a man (Siu-wong Fan) survives in a futuristic prison by resorting to more extreme violence.”


“Set several centuries in the future, the abandoned Alita is found in the scrapyard of Iron City by Ido, a compassionate cyber-doctor who takes the unconscious cyborg Alita to his clinic. When Alita awakens, she has no memory of who she is, nor does she have any recognition of the world she finds herself in. As Alita learns to navigate her new life and the treacherous streets of Iron City, Ido tries to shield her from her mysterious past.”

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