Anime live-action adaptations are very popular right now, with Netflix being one of the main drivers taking popular anime series and bringing them to life. It can be difficult to represent an anime in a live-action adaptation because of the nature of animated shows and the endless possibilities the medium possesses, so directors and film crews have to be creative in order to do these animated shows justice. Here are five anime live-action adaptations worth checking out.
1. 'One Piece'
One Piece is one of the most popular anime of all time, and when fans found out Netflix was making a live-action adaptation of the beloved series, there were plenty of worries. Luckily, the series surpassed expectations, adapting the series into a faithful representation of the anime while taking care of the limitations live action can introduce with a staggering amount of creativity.
For One Piece to work, they had to get the Straw Hat Pirates right, and they did. Fans are obsessed with the cast of characters from different nationalities and backgrounds who play the diverse crew of pirates that fans have been following for two decades. Iñaki Godoy, Emily Rudd, Mackenyu, Jacob Gibson and Taz Skylar exceeded expectations and delivered one of Netflix’s most popular shows of 2023.
2. 'Alita: Battle Angel'
Alita: Battle Angel is one of the best anime live-action adaptations ever. Fans loved the 2019 film, which faithfully adapts its source material into something digestible and exciting for even non-anime watchers. The motion capture technology used on star Rosa Salazar is incredible, and performances from the likes of Mahershala Ali and Christoph Waltz bolster the movie.
The story follows Alita (played by Salazar), a cyborg who wakes up in a new body with no memories and who must uncover the truth about herself and her destiny. The film made over $400 million at the worldwide box office, making it one of the most successful live-action anime adaptations ever.
3. 'Alice in Borderland'
Alice in Borderland is one of the rare exceptions where a live-action adaptations lowkey exceeds its source material. The 2020 series adapts Haro Aso’s survival series in a way that stands on its own, with two seasons currently available and a third on the way. The series echoes survival films like Battle Royale with its narrative setup and intense do-or-die stakes.
The series stars Kento Yamazaki as Ryohei Arisu and Tao Tsuchiya as Yuzuha Usagi, who are forced to survive in an abandoned Tokyo where they compete in dangerous life-or-death games to extend their “visas” — because Arisu and Usagi will be killed if they expire.
4. 'Rurouni Kenshin'
Rurouni Kenshin is one of the foremost samurai anime. And its live-action adaptation is one of the best. A total of five live-action films have been released, covering most of the story of Rurouni Kenshin. The adaptation is nostalgic for those familiar with the anime but also refreshingly original for newcomers.
The film series follows samurai wanderer Kenshin Himura, a former assassin who has given up his sword after the violence he experienced in the Bakumatsu war. He wanders the Japanese countryside, helping people to atone for his sins.
5. 'Speed Racer'
Created by Tatsuo Yoshida, Speed Racer is one of the most iconic retro anime. Its 2008 film adaptation by the Wachowskis, creators of The Matrix, was poorly received by critics and it bombed at the box office. But since then, it’s been recognized as a groundbreaking movie due to its visual style and use of CGI, becoming a cult classic.
The story centers on Speed Racer, an 18-year-old race car driver pursuing his brother’s career, who is believed to have passed away. The film stars Emile Hirsch, who plays Speed, and Christina Ricci, who plays Trixie, Speed’s girlfriend.