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12 outstanding live-action movies every manga fan must add to their binge list

Live-action films, adapted from manga, have brought the best of both worlds to their fans. These critically acclaimed as well as commercially successful movies have traversed the borders of Japan. Moreover, manga’s popularity has led many Hollywood producers to faithfully bring the pages of the comic books to the big screen, resulting in increased interest and fan-following across the world.

Here are some of the most famous live-action films adapted from manga.

Rurouni Kenshin: The Final (2021)

Films adapted from manga - Rurouni Kenshin
Image credit: Netflix

The Rurouni Kenshin film series is among the many adaptations of manga series in the 1990s written and illustrated by Nobuhiro Watsuki. The Final is the fourth film in this series and the last in the story arc.

Set in the early years of the Meiji period, the film shows a former assassin — Hitokiri Battōsai — living peacefully as Himura Kenshin and continuing his pledge never to kill. However, he suddenly finds himself, all those he cares about, and his city under attack by Yukishiro Enishi, who seeks vengeance for something Kenshin had done when he was an assassin.

A sequel to the original trilogy, the film stars Takeru Satoh as Kenshin, besides Emi Takei, Munetaka Aoki, Yū Aoi, and Mackenyu in other prominent roles.

Watch the trailer here.

Death Note (2017)

Death Note film
Image credit: Netflix

Starring Nat Wolff as Light Turner, this Hollywood film — written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata — is based on the acclaimed manga series of the same name. The story revolves around an American high-school student who discovers “Death Note”, a notebook that belongs to a death god Ryuk. He realises that he can use it to kill anyone by merely writing the person’s name in it. As Turner turns into a vigilante, with some encouragement from his classmate Mia, a determined detective called L starts pursuing him.

The cast includes Margaret Qualley, LaKeith Stanfield, and Shea Whigham, among others.

Watch the trailer here.

Blade of the Immortal (2017)

Films adapted from manga - Blade of the Immortal
Image credit: Netflix

Based on the immensely popular manga series by Hiroaki Samura, Blade of the Immortal is a story of Manji — a wandering samurai in feudal Japan who becomes immortal, following an incident that leads to his sister’s death. Decades later, a young girl named Rin Asano requests Manji to help her avenge the killing of her father by a powerful samurai lord and his assassins.

This is celebrated director Takashi Miike’s 100th film, starring Takuya Kimura as Manji and Hana Sugisaki as Rin. Other actors in prominent roles include Sota Fukushi and Hayato Ichihara.

Watch the trailer here.

Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Ghost in a Shell film
Image credit: IMDb

Masamune Shirow’s manga series Ghost in the Shell is counted among the epics in this genre. The 2017 film of the same name is set in the future and features Scarlett Johansson as Major Mira Killian, who is a cyber-enhanced commando of an elite police task force. In pursuit of a criminal who can control peoples’ minds, the Major discovers a secret that threatens to change everything she has ever believed.

Michael Carmen Pitt as Kuze, Juliette Binoche as Dr. Ouelet, and Pilou Asbæk as Batou are among others in the cast. The film also stars iconic Japanese filmmaker and actor Takeshi Kitano as Chief Daisuke Aramaki.

Watch the trailer here.

Oldboy (2013)

Films adapted from manga - Oldboy 2013
Image credit: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle © 2012 OB Productions, Inc./IMDb

This Spike Lee film is a remake of the 2003 Korean movie by Park Chan-wook, which was based on the Japanese manga of the same name. Chan-wook’s film was written by Garon Tsuchiya and illustrated by Nobuaki Minegishi.

Like the manga and the Korean film, Lee’s Oldboy follows the life of Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin), who finds himself locked up in a room for 20 years after a drunken night. Being subjected to immense mental torture during his capture, he suddenly finds himself free. He goes on a violent rampage against his captors, after being forced by a stranger to find out the reason behind his years-long imprisonment.

The prominent cast includes Elizabeth Olsen and Samuel L. Jackson as Marie Sebastian and Chaney, respectively.

Watch the trailer here.

200 Pounds Beauty (2006)

200 Pounds Beauty
Image credit: IMDb

This sweet, Korean romantic comedy is about an overweight girl Kang Han-na, who is a ghost singer for the famous pop idol Ammy. Disheartened by the manner Ammy and the director of the record company’s son Han Sang-jun treat her, she goes for a full-body plastic surgery to only return with a new identity in the hopes of making it big in the entertainment industry.

The film is based on Yumiko Suzuki’s manga series Kanna’s Big Success and stars Kim Ah-joong and Joo Jin-mo in main roles.

Watch the trailer here.

I Am a Hero (2015)

I Am a Hero manga
Image credit: IMDb

Hideo Suzuki is a frustrated manga artist who becomes an unlikely hero after a zombie-like apocalypse hits Japan. Armed with his skeet shooting rifle, Suzuki meets Hiromi — a girl who has been bitten and is partially infected by the virus — on his way to a safe place on Mount Fuji. As he tries to protect her, Suzuki comes across a surviving group that would do anything to get hold of his shotgun.

Yô Ôizumi and Kasumi Arimura play Suzuki and Hiromi, respectively, in this critically acclaimed film adaptation of a manga series by Kengo Hanazawa.

Watch the trailer here.

Kingdom (2019)

Films adapted from manga - Kingdom 2019
Image credit: IMDb

Based on Yasuhisa Hara’s manga series, Kingdom is an immensely well-received Japanese film, which tells the story of a real-life Chinese General from third century BC. Kento Yamazaki stars as the protagonist Li Xin. Raised in the countryside and skilled in combat, Xin finds himself at the centre of a conspiracy that has led to the death of his friend and threatens the reign of King Ying Zheng.

Ryô Yoshizawa, Masami Nagasawa, Kanna Hashimoto, and Takao Osawa are also part of the main cast.

Watch the trailer here.

Our Little Sister (2015)

Our Little Sister
Image credit: IMDb

It had been years since the three Kouda sisters — Sachi, Yoshino, and Chika — had met their father. On the day of his funeral, the sisters discover they have a young half-sister named Suzu Asano. Sachi invites Suzu to live with them, and they would go on to develop a bond that is in stark contrast to the fractured lives they had been leading earlier.

Our Little Sister premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was nominated for the highest honour — the Palme d’Or award. It won five Japanese Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director (for Hirokazu Kore-eda), and was nominated in eight other categories.

The film, which stars Haruka Ayase, Masami Nagasawa, Kaho, and Suzu Hirose as the four sisters, has been adapted from Akimi Yoshida’s manga series Umimachi Diary.

Watch the trailer here.

Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

Image credit: © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox FIlm Corp./IMDb

After a gap of five years, the redoubtable Robert Rodriguez returned to film direction with this live-action adaptation of the 1990s manga series by Yukito Kishiro. Alita: Battle Angel is a cyberpunk sci-fi action film set in the far future. The principal character, Alita, is a cyborg found in the scrapyard of Iron City by cyber-doctor Ido, who gives her a new body and her name. However, her human memory is unable to recollect her past. When an intrigued Alita goes on a quest to find her origins, those dear to her land in danger.

Alita is essayed by Rosa Salazar, while Christoph Waltz plays Ido. Jennifer Connelly and Mahershala Ali play other prominent roles in the movie.

Watch the trailer here.

City Hunter (1993)

City Hunter
Image credit: IMDb

Starring Jackie Chan, this hilarious Hong Kong action comedy is about a flirtatious private detective, Ryo Saeba, who gets on a cruise ship to find the daughter of a rich Japanese business tycoon but ends up fighting terrorists led by a Donald MacDonald.

Besides Chan, Joey Wong, Kumiko Goto, Chingmy Yau, Leon Lai, and Richard Norton appear in major roles. The film is based on the popular manga series of the same name by Tsukasa Hojo.

Attack on Titan, Part One and Two (2015)

Attack on Titan
Image credit: yoshio sato – © 2015 FUNimation/IMDb

Like Hajime Isayama’s acclaimed manga of the same name, this two-part film — released the same year — is set in a post-apocalyptic world, where gigantic humanoids, called Titans, kill humans and ravage their settlements. When the Titans attack and destroy his village, Eren decides to avenge the loss. In the process, he and others discover a secret about the Titans.

Serialised from 2009 to 2021, Attack on Titan is one of the highest-selling manga of all time. The film stars the late Haruma Miura as Eren. Kiko Mizuhara, Hiroki Hasegawa, and Jun Kunimura play other prominent roles.

Watch the trailer here.

(Hero/featured image credits: © 2015 FUNimation/IMDb)

This story was originally published on Prestige Malaysia.

Manas Sen Gupta

Manas enjoys reading detective fiction and writing about anything that interests him. When not doing either of the two, he checks Instagram for the latest posts by travellers. Winter is his favourite season and he can happily eat a bowl of noodles any time of the day.