When you look into the Japanese adaptations of manga, anime and video games, it may completely surprise you how many of them there are. Often times we only hear about the bad ones, but in truth, there have been some great adaptations of anime, manga and video games coming out of Japan. So let’s do a breakdown of some of the biggest ones and whether they’re worth watching.
This list is meant to show you that there’s no reason to assume the worst about your favorite manga being adapted to live-action in Japan- just like in the US, there’s good and bad adaptations.
What are your favorite live action adaptations? Did any of them not make this list? Talk about them in the comments!
#1- The Lady Snowblood Movie
Lady Snowblood is a 1973 thriller based on a manga called “Shuriyuki-hime” (a pun on “(princess) Snow White”, translating to “carnage princess” instead) about a woman named Yuki seeking revenge on the men who destroyed her mother’s family and violated her mother. The film was a wildly inventive cult classic that was successful enough to earn sequels and was in incredibly influential in American action cinema- it heavily inspired Quentin Tarantino’sKill Bill, to the point where several shots were copied from the movie and the end credits theme to the first movie is actually the theme from Lady Snowblood.
Is it worth watching? Yes- especially if you’re a devotee to action cinema and into Tarantino’s stuff. This film is an essential part of action movie history.
#2- The Lone Wolf and Cub Movies
The Lone Wolf and Cub movies, starting with the 1972 film Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance, were adapted the manga of the same name and there was even a TV series to boot. The series followed a disgraced man working as an assassin, who had to haul his three-year-old-son to work with him. Considering the sheer amount of films in the series, it’s safe to say they were pretty successful. They’re still well-regarded to this day for their slick cinematography and stylized violence.
We all know Tarantino loves Japanese cinema, because this was another inspiration for theKill Bill Movies- to the point where we actually see his characters watching the dubbed compilation of some of the Lone Wolf and Cub movies, Shogun Assassin, in the films themselves.
Is it worth watching? Once again, if you’re an action cinema devotee, this is definitely an important part of action movie history beloved to this day.
#3- The Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon TV Show
This 2003 live-action television series based on the classic magical girl manga has low-budget effects and hokey fight scenes, but more than makes up for that with its stellar characterization and cool take on the old story. The live-action series explores the backstory of the main characters and develops the relationships between the girls in ways the original manga and anime didn’t and also pulls off some exciting plot twists that give a whole new look at the story. It’s well-cast for the most part and shows a lot of love for the source material.
Is it worth watching? Though there’s some cheesiness that takes some getting used to, I’d say this show is a must for any Sailor Moon fan, magical girl fan or fan of interesting superhero stories. It really adds a lot to the Sailor Moon franchise.
#4- The Mushishi Movie
The common consensus about the 2006 film based on Mushishi, the manga and anime about a traveler named Ginko who solves problems involving supernatural beings called “mushi”, is it probably would have worked better as a miniseries. Many have praised the film for its nice visuals and atmosphere and the acting of the lead, but also pointed out the plot ends up convoluted and dull feeling.
Is it worth watching? Probably not, though the movie has its strengths, the anime or manga is definitely considered a much less confusing and dull ride.
#5- Cutie Honey the Live and the Cutie Honey Movie
The famously raunchy magical girl manga has been adapted both into a 2007 live-action tv series called Cutie Honey the Live and a 2004 film. Both of them are firmly campy and kitschy, just like the source material. They tone down the fanservice compared to the original material out of necessity, but “tone down” still means there’s a hell of a lot of it and it’s even more uncomfortably sleazy with real people if you’re not into that sort of thing.
Both live versions are often criticized for being “tamer” than the original anime and manga, but you honestly couldn’t expect otherwise- if it had tried to seriously have naked women running around, the rating would be sky-high.
The live action film was actually so influential that is got an anime retelling by Studio Gainax in the form of Re: Cutie Honey. That version definitely ups the weird raunchiness and also adds in additional character development.
Is it worth watching? If you don’t mind low-budget camp and like the source material, it’s definitely worth a look.