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The best anime to live-action adaptations ranked

From Rurouni Kenshin to Death Note, there have been many great live-action films

Anime to live action adaptations have been delighting and bemusing fans for years, but some are truly great like the Rurouni Kenshin franchise (Netflix/Warner Bros)
Anime to live action adaptations have been delighting and bemusing fans for years, but some are truly great like the Rurouni Kenshin franchise (Netflix/Warner Bros)

Live-action adaptations of beloved anime and manga have long been something that fans hope for, but also fear might go wrong.

Over the decades countless manga and anime to be adapted into live-action, some have been very bad (looking at you, Attack on Titan and Fullmetal Alchemist) but others have been excellent.

Read more: Everything you need to know about One Piece

The next highly-anticipated release is Eiichiro Oda's iconic One Piece, which is now streaming in its entirety on Netflix, and ahead of its release, Yahoo UK is looking back at some of the best live-action adaptations to date.

Jacob Romero Gibson as Usopp, Mackenyu as Roronoa Zoro, Emily Rudd as Nami, Iñaki Godoy as Monkey D. Luffy, Taz Skylar as Sanji in One Piece (Netflix)
Jacob Romero Gibson as Usopp, Mackenyu as Roronoa Zoro, Emily Rudd as Nami, Iñaki Godoy as Monkey D. Luffy, Taz Skylar as Sanji in One Piece (Netflix)

The best anime to live-action adaptations ranked

Beloved anime series like Cowboy Bebop failed to translate well onscreen, while Akira has long been discussed as a potential live-action adaptation, but there are ones that have worked well.

Read more: The First Slam Dunk review: Global smash hit is a masterful sports drama

Here are some of the best anime to live-action adaptations.

7. Bleach (2018)

Bleach (Netflix)
Bleach (Netflix)

Bleach is an iconic manga and anime series first created by Tite Kubo in 2001, it follows teen Ichigo Kurosaki who becomes a Soul Reaper, someone who can defend humans from evil spirits, and is then recruited into the Soul Society.

The manga was adapted into an anime from 2004 to 2012 in its original run, and a new anime series adapting its final arc began airing in 2022. It was also adapted into a live-action film in 2018.

While not perfect, the live-action film features some interesting action sequences and did well in casting Sota Fukushi and Hana Sugisaki as Ichigo and Ruika.

6. Blade of the Immortal (2017)

Prod DB © Warner Bros. - Oriental Light and Magic - Recorded Picture Company - GyaO - Ken-On - Kodansha / DR BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL (MUGEN NO JUNIN) de Takashi Miike 2017 JAP./GB avec Takuya Kimura japon feodal, japon traditionnel, samourai d'apres le manga de Hiroaki Samura
Blade of the Immortal (Warner Bros.)

Takashi Miike brought his unique vision to Blade of the Immortal when he directed a live-action adaptation of Hiroaki Samura's seminal work in 2017.

The action film follows samurai immortal Manji (Takuya Kimura) who becomes the bodyguard for young girl Rin Asano (Hana Sugisaki) and helps her in seeking revenge on those who killed her parents.

Blade of the Immortal is an action-packed film imbued with Miike's provocative style thanks to its ultra violent sword fights and rich characterisation of Samura's characters.

5. Erased (2017)

Erased (Netflix)
Erased (Netflix)

Kei Senbei's heartbreaking manga and its anima adaptation were given the live-action treatment twice, once as a movie and then as a Japanese drama on Netflix. While both live-action adaptations are good, it is the second that we are recommending today.

Read more: One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda asked AI to write the next chapter of his manga. Here's the results (NextShark, 4-min read)

The story follows Satoru Fujinuma (Yûki Furukawa) who develops the ability to send his consciousness back in time and change the past, when his mother is murdered he returns to his childhood to save his mother and also help stop the kidnapping of his friends.

4. Bakuman (2015)

Tokyo, Japan. 2nd July, 2019. Japanese actors Takeru Sato (L) and Ryunosuke Kamiki in yukata, summer kimono attend a promotional event for the 700 million yen
Takeru Sato and Ryunosuke Kamiki starred together in Bakuman, a live-action adaptation of the manga and anime of the same name (Alamy Live News)

Based on Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata's manga series of the same name, Bakuman follows two students who team up in order to make their dream of becoming manga artists a reality.

Starring Takeru Satoh and Ryunosuke Kamiki as artist Moritaka Mashiro and writer Akito Takagi, the film is uplifting and compelling story that features a great soundtrack and unique visuals to bring the world of manga to life.

Bakuman may not be as universally acclaimed as Ohba and Obata's iconic work Death Note, but Bakuman showed their ability to do something different and share a closer look at the manga industry and its failings.

3. Death Note (2006)

Desu nôto last name Death Note - last name Year  2006 Director  Shusuke Kaneko Ken'ichi Matsuyama, Tatsuya Fujiwara Based upon
Ken'ichi Matsuyama and Tatsuya Fujiwara as L and Light Yagami in Death Note: The Last Name (Warner Bros.)

Netflix may be attempting to adapt Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata's hit series for a second time with the Duffer brothers, but there's already a great live-action adaptation available for fans. In 2006 two films were released, Death Note and Death Note 2: The Last Name.

Read more: Every Upcoming Hollywood Anime Live-Action Adaptation That's Got Fans Stressed (Kotaku, 11-min read)

Starring Battle Royale's Tatsuya Fujiwara and Ken'ichi Matsuyama as Light Yagami and L, it follows the thrilling cat-and-mouse game that begins between them after Light comes into possession of a Death Note, and decides to change the world into a utopia without crime only to become a megalomaniac himself.

While the live-action movies made some major changes to the original plot, they are still the best live-action adaptations of Death Note to date.

2. Orange (2015)

(L to R) Director Kojiro Hashimoto, actor Dori Sakurada, actor Ryo Ryusei, actress Tao Tsuchiya, actor Kento Yamazaki, actress Hirona Yamazaki and actress Kurumi Shimizu pose for the cameras during the screening of the film ''Orange'' on November 23, 2015, in Tokyo, Japan. 300 lucky fans attended the event (the odds of winning a ticket were 1 in 810). The movie hits Japanese theaters on December 12. © Rodrigo Reyes Marin/AFLO/Alamy Live News
Director Kojiro Hashimoto and the cast of Orange (Alamy Live News)

Based on Ichigo Takano's manga of the same name, Orange is a heartfelt drama about high school student Naho Takamiya (Tao Tsuchiya) who begins receiving letters from herself 10 years in the future asking her to help undo her biggest regrets around new transfer student Kakeru Naruse (Kento Yamazaki).

The film charts the original's moving story of grief, loss and regret through a touching narrative that will have viewers breaking out the tissues.

Technically speaking the live-action film came before Takano's manga was adapted into an anime series, which was released in 2016, however the strength of the film makes it an essential watch for anyone looking for a great live-action adaptation.

1. The Rurouni Kenshin franchise (2012 to 2021)

RUROUNI KENSHIN, (aka RURONI KENSHIN: MEIJI KENKAKU ROMAN TAN), Takeru Sato, 2012. ©FUNimation Entertainment/Courtesy Everett Collection
Takeru Satoh as Himura Kenshin in Rurouni Kenshin (FUNimation Entertainment/Courtesy Everett Collection)

The Rurouni Kenshin film franchise is the best example of a anime to live-action adaptation done right.

Directed by Keiishi Otomo, the franchise adapts Nobuhiro Watsuki's classic manga about former samurai assassin Himura Kenshin (Takeru Satoh) who vows never to kill again after helping bring about the Meiji era in Japan, and who is forced to face several enemies from his past.

There are five films in the franchise which were released from 2012 to 2021 - Rurouni Kenshin, Kyoto Inferno, The Legend Ends, The Final, The Beginning - and they bring the source material to life with thrilling sword fights, stunning set pieces and a hugely talented cast led by Satoh.

RUROUNI KENSHIN: THE LEGEND ENDS, (aka RUROUNI KENSHIN - PART III: THE LEGEND ENDS, aka RURONI KENSHIN: DENSETSU NO SAIGO-HEN), Tatsuya Fujiwara (standing), Takeru Sato, 2014. ©FUNimation Entertainment/Courtesy Everett Collection
Tatsuya Fujiwara and Takeru Satoh as Makoto Shishio and Himura Kenshin in Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends (FUNimation Entertainment/Courtesy Everett Collection)

For those waiting eagerly for One Piece, Roronoa Zoro actor Mackenyu appears in the last two films in the Rurouni Kenshin franchise as Enishi, a young man seeking revenge on Kenshin for the role he played in his sister's death.

The manga originally ran from 1994 to 1999 and it inspired an anime series from 1996 to 1998, a new anime adaptation began airing this year and is being simulcast on Crunchyroll. The live-action films are available to watch globally on Netflix.

Watch: The trailer for Netflix's One Piece