When it comes to anything, you can almost bank on a live-action movie adaptation if that particular thing happens to be famous enough. From video games and books to toy characters and more, live-action films are almost always the end result of something gaining fame worldwide. Anime is no exception, and while it deviates away from the medium, there have been some live-action anime films that ended up being good.
Let’s take a look at some of the anime series that got the live-action treatment over the years. Some have had massive budgets or received rave reviews while others have had shoestring budgets and didn’t hit with critics. Here are five anime series that received a live-action adaptation.
Cowboy Bepop is a largely popular anime series that originally aired for a short period of time in the late 1990s. Years later in 2021, the live-action adaptation aired on Netflix. The series is set over 100 years into the future and follows the space bounty hunter crew on the spacecraft, the Bepop, as they go around capturing criminals throughout the endless realm of space. Viewers had mixed reviews and felt the series didn’t live up to and provide the depth of the original anime series.
Death Note started out as a Manga created by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. It was first released in 2003, later getting its own anime television series in 2006, and a live-action film in 2017. The film follows a student, Light Turner, who discovers a notebook that brings death to whoever’s name ends up in its pages. The owner of the book, the death god Ryuk, is the stunning creature most associated with the series and film. The film got mixed reviews, with critics complaining the film felt rushed.
Bleach got its start in the 2001 manga written and illustrated by Tite Kubo, later getting its own live-action adaptation with the release of the 2018 film. It follows the story of Ichigo Kurosaki, a high schooler in the town of Karakura who can see ghostly entities that others can’t. SoulReaper Rukia Kuchiki is led to Kurosaki while hunting an evil spirit, referred to as Hollows, that attacks the family. Kuchiki transfers her powers to Kurosaki after being wounded by the demonic entity, giving them all the responsibility of a SoulReaper overnight. The film had a positive rating overall and was well-received by viewers.
Starting in 2001, Fullmetal Alchemist was a manga that was published by the Enix company that’s more known in North America for its video games and merger with Square. The original manga had a decade-long run and had multiple animated series during its run, with the most recent being Brotherhood in 2009-10. A trio of live-action films has been made, with the first release in 2017 in Japanese theaters and on Netflix on a global level. Reviews were far from positive, though, and the budget was incredibly low considering the size of the fanbase.
Ghost in the Shell
Ghost in the Shell started as a manga in 1989 and received several animated series and films throughout the 1990s and 2000s. A live-action version was announced for 2017 with Scarlett Johansson landing the lead role of Major Motoko Kusanagi. The casting was met with some controversy due to ethnicity mismatches, though it still performed well in theaters with $170 million worldwide. The film was produced by Avi Arad, who was known for producing each of the Spider-Man films to hit the big screen since the original in 2001. While Ghost in the Shell received lukewarm ratings, it still became a must-see for fans of the anime.