Manga, a style of Japanese comic books and graphic novels, has become increasingly popular around the world in recent years. It’s no surprise, then, that many filmmakers have sought to adapt these beloved stories into live-action movies. While some adaptations have been met with mixed reviews, others have become instant classics, appealing not only to fans of the original manga, but also to audiences who are new to the genre. In this article, we’ll take a look at 10 best live-action movies based on manga, exploring what makes these adaptations so successful and why they’re worth checking out. Whether you’re a die-hard manga fan or just looking for a great movie to watch, these films are sure to entertain and inspire.
10 Best Live-Action Movies Based On Manga
Road to Perdition (2002)
Initially drawing inspiration from the manga series Lone Wolf and Cub (1970), Road to Perdition is a movie that is technically based on the comic book of the same name. However, unlike the manga that takes place in 1931, the graphic novel and the film adaptation expand on this time line, depicting events from the Great Depression through to a post-Vietnam America.The plot of Road to Perdition revolves around a mob enforcer and his son who are forced to hit the road in order to escape after the young boy witnesses a murder. With a cast featuring top-notch talent such as Tom Hanks, Daniel Craig, and Paul Newman, the movie went on to win an Academy Award for Best Cinematography.
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
Based on the Hiroshi Sakurazaka manga All You Need Is Kill, the Tom Cruise action movie Edge of Tomorrow features a private in the United Defense Force (UDF) fighting against an alien race that has invaded Earth. What sets this story apart is the twist that the protagonist can relive the same day over and over again, similar to the plot of Groundhog Day (1993).
Although there were several differences between the manga and the live-action adaptation, the film still managed to capture the essence of the story. For instance, the main character in the manga is a new private named Keiji Kiriya, while in the movie, it’s a demoted Major named William Cage. Hiroshi Sakurazaka expressed his appreciation for the film’s depiction of the cycle of life and death, the scale of the battlefield, and the realism of the exoskeleton suits, which helped bring the story to life. According to an interview with The Odyssey, the film was skillfully woven from these elements, which were thoughtfully chosen from his original work.
Oldboy, directed by Spike Lee and featuring Josh Brolin as Joey Doucett, is a remake of the 2003 film which was based on a manga. The film follows Doucett’s journey to uncover the truth after being kidnapped and held captive for 20 years. Despite the cult status of the original film, this psychological drama was widely regarded as disappointing. As a result, many suggest skipping the American remake and instead turning to the source material. The original manga, Old Boy, was initially serialized in Japan from 1996-1998 and was later localized in North America by Dark Horse Comics, winning an Eisner award in 2007 for Best U.S. Edition of International Material — Japan.
Although slightly misleading, this horror-thriller film is based on a Korean comic called a manhwa, rather than a manga. The manhwa, by Hyung Min-woo, was published in English by Tokyopop and ran from 1998 to 2007. The story follows a Warrior Priest, played by Paul Bettany, in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by vampires, where cities not controlled by the church are infested with the undead. When the priest’s niece is abducted by vampires, he disobeys the church and embarks on a mission to rescue her before she is turned into a vampire. The manhwa combines elements of Westerns, supernatural horror, and dark fantasy, with angular artwork that is sure to catch the reader’s eye.
Blade of the Immortal (2017)
Blade of the Immortal is a film adaptation of Hiroaki Samura’s popular manga series. The story follows Manji, a samurai in feudal Japan who becomes immortal after his sister’s death. Years later, a young girl named Rin Asano seeks Manji’s help in avenging her father’s killing by a powerful samurai lord and his assassins. Celebrated director Takashi Miike directs the film, marking his 100th project, while Takuya Kimura and Hana Sugisaki star as Manji and Rin, respectively. Sota Fukushi and Hayato Ichihara also appear in significant roles.
Ghost in the Shell (2017)
This Ghost in the Shell, a manga series by Masamune Shirow, is considered a classic in its genre. The 2017 film adaptation of the same name is set in the future and stars Scarlett Johansson as the cyber-enhanced commando, Major Mira Killian, who is part of an elite police task force. In her quest to capture a criminal who can manipulate people’s minds, the Major discovers a secret that challenges her beliefs. Other prominent cast members include Michael Carmen Pitt as Kuze, Juliette Binoche as Dr. Ouelet, and Pilou Asbæk as Batou. Takeshi Kitano, an acclaimed Japanese actor and filmmaker, also appears in the film as Chief Daisuke Aramaki.
Our Little Sister (2015)
After years of being estranged from their father, Sachi, Yoshino, and Chika Kouda reunite with him on the day of his funeral, where they meet their half-sister, Suzu Asano. Sachi invites Suzu to come live with them, and they form a strong bond that contrasts with their previously fractured lives. The film, Our Little Sister, is based on Akimi Yoshida’s manga series, Umimachi Diary, and stars Haruka Ayase, Masami Nagasawa, Kaho, and Suzu Hirose as the four sisters. At the Cannes Film Festival, the movie was nominated for the prestigious Palme d’Or award and won five Japanese Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director for Hirokazu Kore-eda, and was nominated in eight other categories.
Alita: Battle Angel (2019)
Robert Rodriguez, the renowned filmmaker, returned to directing after a five-year hiatus with Alita: Battle Angel, a live-action adaptation of Yukito Kishiro’s 1990s manga series. Set in a distant future, the cyberpunk sci-fi action film focuses on Alita, a cyborg discovered in Iron City’s scrapyard by cyber-doctor Ido, who gives her a new body and a name. Although Alita is unable to remember her past, she embarks on a quest to uncover it, putting herself and those close to her in danger. Rosa Salazar portrays Alita, and Christoph Waltz plays Ido, while Jennifer Connelly and Mahershala Ali appear in other significant roles.
City Hunter (1993)
This Hong Kong action-comedy stars Jackie Chan as Ryo Saeba, a charming private detective who boards a cruise ship in search of the daughter of a wealthy Japanese business tycoon. However, he finds himself battling terrorists led by Donald MacDonald instead. The film features Joey Wong, Kumiko Goto, Chingmy Yau, Leon Lai, and Richard Norton in significant roles. It is based on Tsukasa Hojo’s well-known manga series of the same name.
KITE is an action movie featuring India Eisley as Sawa and Samuel L. Jackson, based on a cult classic manga of the same name. Sawa, an orphaned assassin, seeks to escape the abusive relationship with the corrupt cop who raised her and trained her to kill.Unfortunately, the film did not fare well with audiences and critics, as evidenced by its 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Reviews from notable publications such as the LA Times criticized director Ralph Ziman’s attempt to blend various elements such as hot-girl assassin shtick, trendy exploitation style, and future-shock grimness, stating that it felt like something seen in countless other movies. Similarly, the New York Post labeled it a “kill-a-minute gore-a-thon.”
Also Read: Manga vs Anime: Which is Better and Why?