21 Anime We'd Like to See in Live Action

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Taking well-love anime and turning these into live action films has become all the rage in Japan. We're talking about the superb Rurouni Kenshin trilogy, and the hotly anticipated Attack on Titan film. (We can shoot the shit all day about Western audiences being unsatisfied with the released trailers so far, but lemme tell you, son-- out here in the East? Everybody's hyped.)  It's also good to see that Hollywood may have learned its lesson with the horrible white-washed Dragonball: Evolution movie that effectively killed the interest in making a half-decent adaptation. The lesson is clear: leave the Asians to do what they know how to do best-- make crazy fun movies out of their crazy-fun manga and anime stories.

Who would know better about the aesthetics involved in anime than Asians? Trying to simplify these tales and characters to fit a general Western audience shortchanges both the fans and people who want to be introduced to the awesome world of live-action anime adaptations.


When done right, however, live action anime adaptations can bridge the gap between East and West, between the otaku and the casual movie goer. Given an Asian cast and production familiar and respectful of the material and add some big budget Hollywood backing, we could come up with some glorious films. No one quite does fantasy and sci-fi the way the Japanese do.

Here are 22 animes we wouldn't mind having a live action adaptation, given the right circumstances.

  1. The Legend of Black Heaven

    Art credit: AIC A little-known cult classic from back in 1999. The Legend of Black Heaven tells the story of middle-aged salary-man Oji who has nothing going on in his life. He's a poor father, a poor husband, and an all around loser but he used to be the face-shredding lead guitarist of a once fairly popular heavy metal band. That's long in the past now. Until the day a beautiful blonde woman asks him to take his Gibson Flying V guitar again and save the world. It turns out that the galaxy is in the middle of a raging intergalactic war and the heart-pumping sound waves of Oji's music gave a particular group of aliens' spaceship a sonic boost. This may be Oji's last chance to live the dream and save the world through rock and roll. Check out the first episode on youtube.  

  2. High School of the Dead

    Art credit: Yen Press Who doesn't love the zombie apocalypse? On that note, who doesn't love adorable high school girls? Put em together and you get ass-kicking, big boobed, Japanese girls in their sailor-style school uniforms battling zombie hoards and struggling for survival. Throw in some teenaged romance and sexual tension every now and then. At this point, do the intricacies of the plot really matter?   


  3. Hellsing

    Art credit: Gonzo The Japanese have truly mastered the adage "go big or go home," particularly when coming up with story ideas that no one else would touch with a ten-foot pole. I'd love to have been a fly on the wall when Hellsing was conceptualized. Abraham Van Helsing--yes, of Dracula-killing fame--comes back from the dead after 100 long years to lead a royal order of vampire hunters whose main mission is the protect the British queen from a world-wide platoon of neo-nazi vampires.   


  4. Psycho-pass

    Art credit: Production I.G. Drawing influence from Minority Report, Psycho-pass is set in the year 2113, Japan. The Sybil System measures a person's mental state, personality, and propensity for crime. Volatile individuals who may pose a threat to society are apprehended or killed. The show is action-packed, part police procedural, part mystery drama, all Japanese sci-fi.  


  5. Princess Mononoke

    Art credit: Studio Ghibli  

    Can we all agree that any Studio Ghibli film adapted into a live action movie would probably make a killing in the box office? Hell, they don't even need live action adaptations. But on the off chance that they want more money, they could always go that route. Case in point, the heart-wrenchingly beautiful adaptation for Grave of the Fireflies. Was the anime good enough? Hells yeah. Did it really need an adaptation? Not really. Was the adaptation worth it? How could it not be?

    Given that, we certainly wouldn't mind a live-action Princess Mononoke. In fact a live-action fan trailer is already floating around somewhere. A village in medieval Japan is under attack by a corrupted forest god that spreads disease on everything it touches. The Forest god infects the village's prince just as it is destroyed. Now the prince must journey to the Forest to find a cure from benevolent Forest Spirits. There, he meets San, a human girl raised by wolves who resent the steady crawl of human industrialization on nature. Together, both prince and wolf girl must take a stand against the thoughtless environmental harm their kind inflict on the world's natural balance.  


  6. Elfen Lied

    Art credit: ARMS studios In the near future, a news species called "Diclonius" will have evolved. They look predominantly human except for a couple of horns, invisible telekinetic arms, and a hotly-debated propensity for violence. Human beings, being the insecure things that we are, decided to contain this new species and experiment on them to better understand them. The story of Elfen Lied starts when one of the experimented Diclonius subjects escapes a research lab in an explosion of gore and violence and runs out to the town. A couple of teenagers, Kohta and Yuka, come across the Diclonius, who happens to look like a helpless young girl. After witnessing several very violent attempts of the research facility to recapture the girl, Kohta and Yuka decide to bring her home and take care of her. It's a classic nature-vs-nurture tale, complete with moral ambiguity, and questions on what it means to be human, wrapped up in a kick-ass gorefest and disarmingly adorable killer young girls.   


  7. Samurai Champloo

    Art credit: BurenErdeneSamurai Champloo has a special place in my heart because it brings together two of my favorite things-- medieval samurai sword fighting tales and classic urban hip hop. The story is simple enough. A young waitress name Fuu is saved from sword-weilding thugs by a wandering rogue named Mugen and a masterless samurai named Jin. The three develop an unlikely friendship, and Fuu blackmails the other two to go with her on a journey through feudal Japan in search of a mysterious samurai who smells like sunflowers. Adventures and chaos ensue. What really sells the series for me, aside from some killer triphop beats as background music, is the hiphop aesthetic and sense of humor expertly threaded through the narrative. Beatboxing samurai? Fighting monks defending their marijuana plantation in the mountains? Where do I sign up?  


  8. Darker than Black

    Art credit: Bones In Darker than Black, a couple of mysterious special anomalies open up in the sky above South America and Tokyo, causing certain individuals to develop supernatural powers. These powers come at the price of the individual's humanity, however, and they temporarily lose their grip on empathy and logic while committing heinous crimes. These individuals, known to the public as Contractors, have been recruited by various organizations for their skills as spies and assassins. One contractor, Hie, works for the Syndicate to round up rogue contractors. That is, until Hei realizes that the Syndicate's grand plan is to eradicate the world of contractors like himself.   


  9. Ghost Stories

    Art credit: Pierrot studios Oh, this is a special one.Ghost Stories, the anime is your usual run of the mill horror/ supernatural anime. Young girl moves back to her dead mother's hometown, tries to make friends with local youth, and find out that the school adjacent to theirs is haunted. Supernatural, spooky stuff ensue.  In fact, the original anime didn't really do too well in Japan. So they did what they thought could earn them back some money-- export that shit to America. What makes this anime truly special is that in the process of dubbing the cartoon to English, the Japanese publishers ran out of fucks and more or less told the American studios that they could have free reign on the script. This resulted in the American voice actors retaining the basic structure of the plot but adlibbing most of the dialogue, turning the show into an unexpected comedy. A live action adaptation that melds the serious-mindedness of the Japanese original with off-color American humor would be all shades of awesome. Like those old school Hong Kong Kung-Fu Flicks with bad dubbing. Here's a couple of screen caps from the show--

    Check out the official English dub below.   


  10. Akira

    Art credit: TMS entertainment Ah, Akira.  This 1988 animated classic hardly needs introduction. You know the drill: World War III, Neo Tokyo, rival biker gangs during the apocalypse, telekinetic test subjects escaped from the lab. Hollywood has long had its eye on Akira, and has consistently been met by resistance from both fans and movie studios. Akira just seems too big, too ambitious in both production scale and story content. It would need far too much money to do it right, and even if it's done right, there's no guarantee that it would rake in enough to break even the production costs. But imagine if it's done right. Imagine how unholy and glorious

    it would be.   


  11. Gurren Lagann

    Art Credit: Bandai In the future, human settlements will have been forced to live underground by rampaging beastmen who have turned the surface of the earth into their battlefield. Simon, a young digger tasked to help widen the subterranean territory of his village, accidentally unearths a drill-shaped device and a small robot thing he and his friends call "Lagann." When other giant robots start attacking the village, Simon and Friends activate their mecha to fight off the invaders and break through the surface of the earth.Gurren Lagann is a staple party-of-friends-become-humanity's-best-hope with fighting robots and beastmen.  


  12. 5 Centimeters per Second

    Art credit: mediafactory  

    Let's have a change of pace. 5 Centimeters per Second is a beautifully-drawn animated film that would only probably suffer if translated into life action. On the other hand, the story is grounded and relatable, the art is based on real locations, and there are hardly any fantasy elements in it.

    5 Centimeters per Second is a 3-act film that centers on the relationship that develops between childhood friends Takaki and Akari. The two drift apart after elementary school when Akari moves to another town, but they try to remain in contact through letters. Some other sweet, romantic things happen and the story follows the two to adulthood, through their separate relationships. I  It's a quietly, beautiful anime. I for one would not mind a really good live action adaptation.  


  13. Baccano!

    Art credit: MediaworksBaccanno! can be tricky to explain to the uninitiated. It happens in an alternate history 1930s, when ambitious scientists in New York are scrambling to retrieve a formula for eternal life. Meanwhile, in Chicago, a transcontinental train called Flying Pussyfoot will take on its virgin journey while armed train robbers are aboard. At the same time, the war between rival mafia groups are heating up. Oh, and there's a ship with alchemists making deals with demons. All these seemingly disparate elements inevitably merge and form a sprawling and engaging narrative told from multiple characters' perspectives.Baccano! is action-packed and quirky, with a stellar ensemble of characters, and just the right levels of WTF for an anime that could probably translate well enough in live action.   


  14. Sword Art Online

    Art credit: MediaworksSword Art Online is a newly-launched online multi-player role playing game that uses Nerve Gear, a virtual reality helmet that engages all of a player's senses, allowing them to control their game characters with their mind. Once logged into the game, however, players realize that they can't log out. The only way out, it seems, is to beat the game completely. But a death in game means a player's body also dies in the real world. Inside the game, friends Kirito and Asuna have to fight their way out only to realize that the mystery goes far beyond the game's bounderies.  


  15. X/1999

    Art credit: madhouseX/1999 could have been great if only they finished the story. Set in the end of days just before the new millennium, a young boy Kamui carries the stink of destiny about him. Unbeknownst to him, two factions of superhuman individuals are set to bring about Armageddon.  The Dragons of Heaven want to protect the world from destruction, while the  Dragons of Earth want to destroy the world as we know it and usher in a new age. Both sides are down one person, and are convinced that Kamui is their final man. Kamui now has to choose which side to join as the fate of the entire world rests solely on his shoulders. Unfortunately,  X/1999 manga went on an indefinite hiatus around 2003. No one ever did find out how the story ends. But wouldn't a live action movie or two that could tie things up neatly really hit the spot?  


  16. Code Geass

    Art credit: Sunrise  

    Another alternate timeline story. In this version of earth, the world is divided under three superpowers: The Empire of Britannia, the Chinese Federation, and the European Union.   The Empire of Britannia has commissioned  giant robots to help in their invasion efforts. Japan is now Area 11 under the Empire, and the young Britannia prince and princess Lelouch and Nunally have been exiled there as political bargaining pawns. Lelouch is understandably angry at his King father for this and vows to someday destroy the Empire. Years later, Lelouch comes across a strange woman who grants him the power of "Geass," allowing Lelouch to bend anyone's will to his whim. With this power, Lelouch rises to lead the Area 11 rebellion against Britannia.  


  17. Cowboy Bebop

    Art credit: Tokyopop Who doesn't like Cowboy Bebop? Who doesn't know Cowboy Bebop? The party of space cowboy-bounty hunters turning against their mercenary ways to become the galaxy's unexpected good guys packs a lot of neo-noir punch to the tune of super-addictive jazz pop. One could argue that they already made a Cowboy Bebop live action film in the form of Joss Whedon's Firefly, and one wouldn't be wrong. Still, a Cowboy Bebop film done right would go down like a cold shot of whiskey after a long, hot day.



  18. Assassination Classroom

    Art credit: Shueisha Inc A supremely powerful alien being has destroyed a large chunk of the moon and threatens to destroy the Earth. It isn't completely cruel, however, and offers human beings one year to save itself-- by destroying the alien creature before its self-imposed deadline. There's a catch though. The creature, comically manifesting as a tentacle-limbed crescent moon, has decided to teach a high school class. The government offers any student who manages to kill this creature-teacher a hefty prize money. This is no small task-- not only does the creature posses several supernatural abilities like super speed, it also happens to be the best teacher these students ever had.  There's a rumor going around that Assasination Classroom  is going to get a live action adaptation. As unlikely a story as it sounds, the show is real fun. We can only hope the adaptation lives up to it.  


  19. The Vision of Escaflowne

    Art credit: Sunrise Was it all just a dream? Or maybe a vision? Don't let the cheesy animation style and overly-curled noses fool you. The Vision of Escaflowne takes numerous awesome things and mixes them together in an incredible way. Average high school girl Hitomi is doing really well in the track team to impress upperclassman Amano. Just when she gets her chance to really catch his eye, a shaft of light from the heavens transports her to a strange world of feudal lords, complex court politics, territorial dragons, warring giant mecha, catgirls, and a very angry Isaac Newton fucking around with time and alternate universes. There's some puppy love aplenty in this show, and a whole truckload of manifest destiny.  


  20. Trigun

    Art credit: Madhouse Vash Stampede is a wanted man. Wanted for destroying the city of July, in fact. Now he roams the desert and defends himself against bounty hunters trying to claim the reward money on his head. The thing is, Vash doesn't remember what he's done. To try to atone for whatever harm he's caused, he aims to help people he encounters on his journey, while trying to piece together his past.  


  21. Fullmetal Alchemist

    Art credit: Madman entertainment Since the series ended in 2010, there hasn't quite been any other anime ready to take the mantle left by Fullmetal Alchemist. The Elric Brothers' search for the philosophers' stone to atone for their crimes against humanity set the stage for a sweeping, politically charged, morally thought provoking, and emotionally heart-wrenching ride. Brothers Edward and Alphonse are young alchemists who defied the most basic law of alchemical equivalent exchange by trying to resurrect their dead mother. They paid for this crime with their bodies-- Edward lost an arm and a leg while Alphonse lost his entire body, only able to survive by fusing his soul into a suit of armor. They must now try to find the mythical philosopher's stone that might help them gain what they've lost. To do this, Edward enlists into the possibly corrupt military by becoming a State Alchemist. In their quest, they uncover a nefarious conspiracy-- a planned genocide of an entire people. This is what it takes to create a single philosopher's stone.  To gain what they have lost, the brothers must be ready to sacrifice all that they have and everyone they hold dear.