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The 9 Best Live Action Anime Adaptations

The movies on this list will change your concept of live actions!

Live action adaptations of anime have been on the rise recently. The problem is that those responsible for the transition from one medium to the other often end up weighing down creative freedom and disappointing fans of the original material, who see their favorite work become something unrecognizable.

However, not all live action anime is bad and you can still find many worthwhile adaptations out there! To make your search easier, we've put together nine titles that are really good and where you can watch them. Is your favorite among them?

XXX Holic

Holic's drama
Holic's drama

Holic is one of the most famous works by CLAMP, the studio also responsible for Sakura Card Captors and Magic Warriors of Rayearth. The anime based on the manga ran for a total of 24 episodes and the drama released in 2013 earned its place among the best live action adaptations of anime.

The series follows the life of Watanuki Kimihiro (Shota Sometani), a high school boy who suffers from supernatural creatures that only he can see. These beings keep pestering him, until the day he meets the mysterious witch Yuuko Ichihara (Anne Watanabe) and his life is turned upside down. Unfortunately, the title is not available on any of the most popular streaming platforms.

Alice in Borderland

The Alice in Borderland drama
The Alice in Borderland drama

Alice in Borderland is one of those rare cases where people are more familiar with the live-action version than the animation. The drama produced by Netflix and available in its catalog has two seasons and far surpasses the three-episode animation released previously, making it one of the best live action adaptations of anime.

Here the protagonist is a boy called Arisu (Kento Yamazaki) whose expectations of life are almost zero. As an adult, he can be considered a failure since he lives with his parents, doesn't have a job and spends his days playing video games. Everything changes when a mysterious blackout in Tokyo alters reality and he finds himself trapped in a series of games that could cost him and his friends their lives.

Detective Pikachu

The character Pikachu
The character Pikachu

The importance of the Pokémon franchise for otaku is undeniable. Both the games produced by Nintendo and the anime released at the end of the 1990s marked an entire generation. When the film "Detective Pikachu" was announced as a Warner Bros production, many fans were wary of the final result, since American adaptations of Japanese animations have not been very faithful, as can be seen with the fiasco that was Netflix's Death Note film.

But the result couldn't have been more surprising! Detective Pikachu certainly deserves a place among the best live action adaptations of anime. The plot is very simple, showing how Pikachu acts as a good detective alongside a boy who needs to investigate the disappearance of his father. This title is available in the HBO Max catalog and on Prime Video.

Tomb of the Fireflies

The movie Tomb of the Fireflies
The movie Tomb of the Fireflies

Studio Ghibli is known for its deep and touching animations and all this fame was maintained in the production of Tomb of the Fireflies. Later, when the proposal came to turn the work into a movie with real actors, the result was not cheap and became one of the best live action adaptations of anime in existence.

The story takes place during the last moments of the Second World War in Japan and focuses on two brothers struggling to survive. Although it's not available on any well-known streaming service, this is the kind of movie that's worth watching and preparing the box of tissues next to it because, believe me, you're going to need it!

Yu Yu Hakusho

Yu Yu Hakusho characters
Yu Yu Hakusho characters

Despite being a little more recent, the Yu Yu Hakusho series is already among the best live action adaptations of anime ever produced. Having been taken over by Netflix, several aspects of this Japanese animation classic have been maintained, including the characterizations of the characters and the iconic phrases of the Brazilian dubbing that marked an entire generation.

The live action Yu Yu Hakusho, like the anime, introduces us to Yusuke Urameshi (Takumi Kitamura), a young delinquent who ends up getting involved in an accident to save a child from dying. His altruistic attitude ends up taking even the rulers of the spirit world by surprise and, as a result, he receives the right to return to life to act as a spiritual detective and thus redeem himself. Episodes of the series are available in the Netflix catalog.

Alita: Angel of Combat

Characters from the movie Alita
Characters from the movie Alita

Alita is another classic from the 1990s that has been given a movie worthy of being among the best live action adaptations of anime. The story, which combines computer graphics and real actors, manages to convey the essence of the original and restore otaku faith in Hollywood features based on Japanese animations.

The plot follows Alita, a cyborg girl found in a garbage dump whose strength and agility can be considered unusual, making her a formidable fighting machine. The problem is that, even though she is loved by everyone around her, an internal conflict is growing within her and she finds herself increasingly involved in the mission to discover her origins. Alita: Angel of Combat is available for subscription in the Star+ catalog.

Speed Racer

Speed Racer characters
Speed Racer characters

If titles like Alita, Yu Yu Hakusho and Holic can be considered classics, Speed Racer is almost like a sacred entity. The anime released in 1967 was watched by the grandparents of many otaku today and its film version has managed to capture the essence of both the story and the characters very well. And, of course, while giving it a very current feel and establishing it as one of the best live action adaptations of anime.

The plot, which is available on HBO Max, revolves around Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch), a boy who is extremely fast on the track and seems born to compete. The only opponent who seems to be able to compete with his talent is the memory of his dead brother, whom he idolized so much.

Nana

Nana's characters
Nana's characters

Few live action adaptations of anime have managed to please fans as much as the two Nana films. This is usually due to the more everyday nature of the original work, which focused on something much more real than otaku are used to.

The two films, based on the manga written and illustrated by Ai Yazawa, follow the misadventures of two very different women who have to face the harsh reality of life together. Nana is available to watch in the Apple Tv catalog.

Samurai X

The main character of Samurai X
The main character of Samurai X

And speaking of Japanese animation classics, we couldn't leave Rurouni Kenshin off this list. In the midst of many productions that disappointed otaku, the Samurai X movie emerged in 2012 as one of the best live action adaptations of anime, doing very well and spawning a number of sequels.

The movie, which is available on Netflix, follows Kenshin Himura (Takeru Sato), a wandering samurai who wants to leave his bloody past behind. The fights that established the anime as a classic for otaku have been very well adapted here and the story itself has been maintained in a very satisfactory way.

But what about you? Can you think of any other live action movies that could be on this list? Perhaps a future Naruto live action adaptation? Share your opinion with us in the comments! Also check out the 11 best dubbed anime you need to watch! And take a look at the video below to see other live actions that are worth your while!

Nick Narukame
I have a degree in Literature from the Fluminense Federal University. Since 2011, I've been writing about anime for specialized websites and magazines. I'm also interested in manga, dramas, games, cosplay and chocolate. I currently write for Rede Ardente and other sites.

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