The Best and Worst Live-Action Anime Adaptations in Movie History
For a Westerner, Japan is such a different world that it could well be on another planet. It has its own long history, usually free from the influence of other cultures, it has its own music, game show culture, entertainment, and even Japanese gambling has its own rules that are nothing like any other in the world. The same goes for anime — it has its own rulebook to play from and doesn’t support tampering. This didn’t stop filmmakers from all over the world to try their hands on adapting beloved anime movies and series to the West with live actors playing the parts. The success of these attempts was, as you might expect, fluctuating, to say the least.
CASSHERN was the big-screen debut of Kazuaki Kiriya, who has previously directed music videos for artists like The Back Horn, Shunsuke Nakamura, and Hikaru Utada. He also wrote and edited the movie, inspired by Tatsuo Yoshida’s anime series called “Neo-Human Casshern”. The movie is a high-profile “tokusatsu” made on a ¥600 million budget with visuals inspired not only by the anime but by the Russian avant-garde. Upon its debut in cinemas, it stayed in the top ten for five weeks and went on to make around $13 million. It was well received by the critics and the audiences alike, except for its English subtitles on the DVD release that was, simply put, awful.
BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE, released in 2009, is considered another example of a good live-action anime adaptation. Directed by Frenchman Chris Nahon, the movie was released internationally to mixed reviews. While the movie couldn’t fill the shoes of its source material, it is still one of the most stunning and beloved live-action adaptations of them all.
We could put “any big-budget Hollywood movie based on an anime” here but let’s just stick to the ones that received the most criticism from the fans of the originals.
One of the anime adaptations considered the worst is the live-action version of ATTACK ON TITAN. The multiple award-winning series was adapted to a live-action feature film in 2015 by director Shinji Higuchi based on a script by Yasuke Watanabe and Tomohiro Machiyama. The movie was called everything between a visually stunning collection of cliches to a pile of crap and a “big budget B picture” and “a trash-horror fantasy”. The movie will be remade by Warner, with Andy Muschietti reportedly directing the remake.
The other title you’ll always find topping any lists of “awful anime adaptations” is James Wong’s take on DRAGON BALL: EVOLUTION. The American live-action version Akira Toriyama’s successful manga Dragon Ball was released in 2009 and attracted the hate of critics and fans alike almost instantly — it stands at 15% (certified rotten) on Rotten Tomatoes, and only its visuals attracted some praise. The film was called a “cobbled-together FX fakery”, a “surreal mess”, a “loony live-action adaptation”, and much worse. Needless to say, the movie was also a massive financial disaster, collecting $57 million worldwide from ticket sales — minuscule compared to its reported $300 million budget.