Over the years, there have been times where anime shows and movies have made it to Hollywood. Specifically, we’re talking about live-action remakes of anime classics that have previously had a cult following. Sadly, some of these remakes have been poor, to say the least, however this list is not for failures. Instead, this is a list that celebrates the best anime live-action remakes and shows that when done correctly, you can have the best of both worlds. With this said, here are the 5 best live-action remakes of classic anime.
Perfect Blue and Black Swan
Whilst Black Swan wasn’t a direct remake, it was undoubtedly inspired by the 1997 cult classic, Perfect Blue. Perfect Blue was about a young lady who became an overnight celebrity. During this rise to fame, she battled feelings of isolation and paranoia. In what is regarded as Satoshi Kon’s finest work, Perfect Blue had twists and turns throughout. Thirteen years later, Black Swan was born and although it had a different setting, the context of the film was the same.
Further, as a homage to the original, director Darren Aronofsky openly admitted that he was inspired by Perfect Blue. This could be seen with direct camera angles and visuals from the original that was used in Black Swan. Not only this but Black Swan also had its own intricacies whilst still remaining faithful to Perfect Blue. Ultimately, Black Swan was critically acclaimed in its own right whilst showing new fans an insight into the world of anime. To this day, the original and live-action remake are held in high regard by anime fans and in mainstream cinema.
Death Note and the 2017 remake
Death Note is clearly one of the biggest anime and manga series ever. From its inception, it spawned video games, spin-offs, and a mass of merchandise which proves its commercial prowess. In 2017, its status was further lifted into the public consciousness when it was made into a live-action film. Here, the legendary Willem Dafoe played Ryuk and the movie had a budget of over $40 million dollars. Who would have thought, an obscure anime-horror would one day make it big? Having said this, unlike Black Swan – this remake left fans divided.
According to some, the remake was too Westernized and lacked the charm of the original anime version. Nonetheless, it was an important film for at least one reason alone. This was that Ryuk was successfully utilized in CGI-form. In live-action remakes, this translation hadn’t been used very well in the past. However, even the most critical of viewers would agree that Ryuk was a treat to look at. Even though this remake was relatively average, it may have paved the way for more CGI-remakes in the future. Because of this, the live-action version of Death note is a worthy consideration in terms of anime-crossovers.
Ghost In The Shell and the 2017 remake
Like Death Note, the classic Ghost In The Shell also got a live-action remake in 2017. Similarly, it also had mixed reviews but was visually stunning. Regardless, no one can deny the impact of Ghost In The Shell and its influence on both eastern and western culture. However, it’s not just the literal remake that Masumune Shirow influenced either. In fact, many claim that The Matrix was also heavily influenced by Ghost In The Shell. The original manga had themes of a cyberpunk, dystopian future that was dominated by technology and philosophy. Sound familiar? In 1999 The Matrix took global plaudits for bringing deep ideas to a mass audience. However, true Ghost In The Shell fans will know too well that the original manga laid the foundations for its success.
Moving away from The Matrix, the 2017 live-action remake featured a slick-looking Scarlett Johansson as Major and had a huge budget. Unlike Death Note though, fans may have expected it to do more in terms of pushing its original themes. This was a key critique of the remake that looked the part but at times fell short in pushing its philosophical ideas. Regardless, compared to the Dragonball live-action remake, this was far from bad.
Sailor Moon and Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon
Unlike the others on this list, Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon remained in Japan and was tailored towards a Japanese audience. This was also different in that it was a TV series instead of a stand-alone movie. This show ran for 49 episodes and remained faithful to the original. With this in mind, you could expect a variety of funky dance moves and bright colors. Because of this, most of the fans from the original show saw the Pretty Guardian version as a success.
Obviously, the key difference between the two is that the original had hundreds of episodes whilst the live-action remake had 49. Because of this, the Pretty Guardian version sometimes lacked the character development that was seen in the original anime. This is somewhat understandable, considering it had to be condensed into less episodes. Regardless, it’s still seen as a success and it even had a live concert that plays into the musical themes of the original.
Fullmetal Alchemist and the 2017 remake
Yet again, it seems like 2017 was the year for anime live-action remakes. This was once again funded by Netflix who seemed to be pushing a clear agenda this year. However, Fullmetal Alchemist was exclusively released in Japan and didn’t make it to a western audience.
A fun fact about the remake is that Square Enix helped in its production. This is the company behind hit video games such as the Final Fantasy series.
Anyway, the Fullmetal Alchemist remake maintained its usual dark themes and centered around a philosopher’s stone and an evil parasite. This movie was generally well-received by fans who enjoyed its stylistic approach. The result was that in the same year, a remake was planned for the future. To date, this remake is still in limbo but hopefully one day it is released. Perhaps one of the issues with this adaptation is that it lacked the creative visuals that are harder to replicate in real life. Nonetheless, it proved that going forward, anime can certainly hold its own in a live-action setting.
Tom Higginson is a keen anime enthusiast who began watching it as a child with Dragon Ball Z. Since then he has developed a taste for writing and these days his favorite show is Attack on Titan. In his spare time he can be found either writing short stories or watching anime.