Part 4 (or Part 1 of Vol 2) of the series on live action adaptation is all about favorites. But before we look at the top 20 list, let's have a recap of the previous parts:

Part 1 is an introduction, showing the growth of Japanese live action films through the years, and favorite manga genres + poll on past popular live action adaptations;

Part 2 celebrates the huge success of Bakuman, the Kenshin trilogy, Parasyte and many of the current live action movies. 

Part 3 features upcoming live-action movies, including Blade of the Immortal, Death Note, Fullmetal Alchemist, Museum, March Comes in Like a Lion. We also featured the list of top box office hits from previous years + poll on favorite live-action genres

While there is general agreement that live-action adaptations of popular manga and anime tend to be loyal to the source, there are a good number of movies that somehow departed from the original story - there may be changes to the main characters or certain twists and turns or perhaps even the introduction of new characters not seen in the manga or anime. Be that as it may, there is a certain curiosity factor that goes for live action productions.

In answering our original question: What's the point of producing live action movies if it sucks, perhaps the answer is that we want to see real actors play the parts. There is always that novelty and excitement to watch Takeru Satoh plays Kenshin, the former samurai assassin turned hero or Shota Sometani brings to life Hitoshi Iwaaki's young hero Shinichi Izumi and his fight against worm alien life-forms in Parasyte. Special mention goes to Yuya Yagira for playing Moyuru Honoo in the Tv series Aoi Honoo based on the life and adventures of some of Japan's most accomplished animators.

And yes, how can anyone ever forget Mao Inoue as Tsukushi Makino or Jun Matsumoto as Tsukasa Domyoji in Hana Yori Dango? Looking far beyond contemporary live action movies, there are the Lone Wolf and Cub series and Lady Snowblood....


The live-action adaptation of Hitoshi Iwaaki's Parasyte is perhaps one of the most exciting casting news in 2013, and the hype surrounding Shota Sometani playing the main role is really worth it. Playing his best friend and romantic interest is Ai Hashimoto, and while I would love to see more scenes featuring their relationship, I think the movie was able to consolidate the whole series of the original manga. It's far from perfect and I have a lot of reservations, but I enjoyed it very much. I think Masahiro Higashide, who is quite an inconsistent actor, was terrific as the alien and mysterious transfer student. 

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Four (4) TV series and a movie make Gokusen one of the most popular live-action adaptation in Japan. The funny, dramatic and exciting adventures of the idealistic teacher Kumiko Yamaguchi (played with such charm by Yukie Nakama) is as enjoyable now as it was when first released. The thing is, school drama/adventures, is a Japanese specialty - be it manga or anime or even live action. 

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usagi drop

Kenichi Matsuyama and Mana Ashida together in a movie is a dream cast!  Based on Yumi Unita's popular manga series "Usagi Drop", this endearing movie is all about a young man and his desire to support his grandfather's illegitimate daughter (who is actually his aunt). Everyone in the family rejects the young girl and Daikichi (Matsuyama) who resembles the deceased old man was annoyed by his relative's insensitivities. He decided to raise the young girl himself and in turn face life difficulties - making him more matured and wise. 

The chemistry between Matsuyama and Ashida is one of the best I've seen in as many Japanese movies. Not only are the dramatic scenes quite effective, one is reminded of how idealistic a young man can be, and whether he struggles and succeeds or fails, depend on his will and love.

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I'm so looking forward to the reunion of Masanobu Ando and Satoshi Tsumabuki who play classmates and buddies in Sang-il Lee's coming of age movie, 69. While there is not much interaction between the two, Smuggler features some thrilling scenes that are hard to forget. James Mudge @Beyond Hollywood remarked:

Eccentric and showing an outlandish sense of humor, it’s for the most part, a lot of fun, thanks in no small part to an interesting and entertaining set of characters, who are generally likable despite being uniformly strange and quirky. Satoshi Tsumabuki does well as the everyman loser lead, and though his last act transformation and some of his behavior is very leftfield, this is in-keeping with the film’s tone, and he makes for a solid and atypical protagonist. The rest of the cast all seem to be having a great time, Masanobu Ando and Takashima Masahiro standing out in particularly memorable roles, and the always awesome Mitsushima Hikari continuing to cement her position as one of Japan’s most talented young actresses. As a result, for all its psychotic whimsy, the film has a surprisingly genuine and big heart, coupled with an upbeat message that hits home most unexpectedly, again setting it apart from other similarly plotted genre flicks. [ read more ]

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Another Satoshi Tsumabuki headliner (this time with Kou Shibasaki) is the supernatural adventure thriller Dororo. Filmed in New Zealand, it's based on the 1960s manga series by Osamu Tezuka. An ambitious warrior Daigo sold his body parts to demons in exchange for world domination, an offspring who is unaware of his real identity (Hyakkimaru) travels all over in search of his "body parts" and in turn discovered the identity of his parents and who he really is. He crossed paths with Dororo (Shibasaki) who is, in turn, became an orphan because of Daigo.

While the special effects are nothing special, the acting is nonetheless noteworthy. This movie pairs Tsumabuki with Eita as brothers and is essentially one of the many productions featuring the two talented actors. Tsumabuki and Shibasaki also headline the popular TV series Orange Days, with Eita as one of the supporting cast.

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mole song

I will say this again, Toma Ikuta remains one of Johnny's most important and accomplished talents. He has gradually improved his dramatic skills that it's hard not to be fascinated by him. In The Mole Song, Ikuta has perfected the role of the naive, idealistic policeman turned undercover agent...

Takashi Miike leaves respectability, restraint, and decency at the door in this out-and-out balls-to-the-wall cops vs. yakuza farce. Inept rookie cop Reiji Kikukawa (Toma Ikuta) falls short of busting a city councilor who's caught molesting a teenage girl. Fired without ceremony, he is quickly rehired for an undercover mission to infiltrate a yakuza clan. Reiji's new colleagues give him a baptism of fire with an unorthodox initiation rite: he gets beaten up, tied naked to the hood of a car and driven around at top speed, and is coerced into shooting another cop. Reiji soon befriends Crazy Papillon (Shinichi Tsutsumi), the No. 2 in the gang. Sharing Reiji's taste in fashion as well as his distaste for drugs, they face down the diamond-toothed "cat" Nekozawa (Takashi Okamura) and his gang. How far will Reiji go in the yakuza underworld, and will he be able to bring down the gangsters in the end? [ The Japan Society ]

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The slice-of-life features in Ushijima, the Loan Shark are but some of its most delectable attractions. Starring Takayuki Yamada (and ably supported by Gou Ayano, Kyosuke Yabe and Hiromi Sakimoto), 

Ushijima (Takayuki Yamada) runs Kaukau Fiance, a black market lending agency which scourges its clients with interest rates as high as 50% for 10 days. Ushijima chases down his debtors, who normally come from the bottom of society, with ruthless efficacy.

Supporting roles played by Masataka Kubota, Yuya Yagira, Irie Jingi, Masaki Suda and many more provide such diversity in the characters portrayed in the movies and TV series - definitely worth it!

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Fumihiko Sori's directorial debut PingPong is probably one of the most under-appreciated live action Japanese movies ever. Headlined by Yosuke Kubozuka and Arata, this sports-drama, coming of age live action is based on Taiyo Matsumoto's manga about table tennis players who competed for a high-stakes tournament. 

Matsumoto is one of Japan's most highly-regarded artists. An article in The Japan Times has this to say:

Matsumoto is widely known for creating comic-book worlds populated by young male misfits, his notoriety for such stories no doubt fueled by what’s been adapted to film. “Blue Spring,” directed by Toshiaki Toyoda (2001), follows rivalling high school troublemakers; “Ping Pong,” directed by Fumihiko Sori (2002), follows rivalling high school table tennis champions; and the anime “Tekkon Kinkreet,” directed by Arias (2006), tracks the lives of homeless urchins. That’s not to say Matsumoto neglects adults or that he cannot write about women. Earlier works show his breadth in character study, such as “Number 5,” which prominently features a pregnant character named Matroshka, and “Zero,” which follows the lives of aging boxers. What makes his latest work so impressive, however, is that though he continues to depict a world of boys and girls flailing in an emotional crucible, he has made a deceptively simple change in tempo that represents a sea change in his manga genre. [ source ]

Acting-wise, Arata and Kubozuka really made waves playing the competing table tennis players. With Arata's cool demeanor versus Kubozuka's flamboyant character plus the ping pong matches that are all exciting!

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The casting news of Joe Odagiri and Yu Aoi for the new movie "Over the Fence" is not just exciting for me, it's a much-awaited reunion between the two talented and award-winning actors. While Over the Fence also features Sota Matsuda, Mushishi is all about Odagiri and Aoi.

Mushishi also known in English as Mushi-Shi: The Movie and Bugmaster, is a 2006 Japanese fantasy film directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, based on the manga of the same name. It stars Joe Odagiri as Ginko, a traveler who dedicates himself to protecting the populace from supernatural creatures called Mushi. 

The film debuted at the Venice International Film Festival in 2006 and was screened at several other festivals prior to its theatrical release on March 24, 2007, in Japan. The DVD was released in Japan in 2007, in the United Kingdom in 2008, and in North America in 2009. The film has received a mixed response from film critics. Many praised Odagiri's performance and its visual but critiqued the plot and mythology as confusing. Mushishi received nominations and awards at film festivals and was among the 100 highest-grossing films of 2007 in Japan.

Animated Opinion says about the movie:

Mushishi is a good example of strange and slow creepy horror, the sort which makes you twitch and clenched your jaw rather than make you jump, the storyline has been honed to a fine art over its several incarnations, meaning that the film is a fantastic rendition of the story, rather than a heavily watered down version. If you are planning on watching it, however, bed down comfortably, get your snacks and your drinks in at the start, and attach the catheter, it’s gonna be a long one. [ source ]

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Aside from Toma Ikuta, Ninomiya Kazunari, and Yuto Nakajima, Ryo Nishikido is a personal bias. Of course, pitting acting talents with Ryo may be hazardous to his "acting health" in the sense that he is not really very consistent. Having said that, a previous movie entitled A Boy and His Samurai or Chonmage Purin is a good example of what he can do given the right role (with evidently enough inspiration). Bill Graham @Collider was spot on in his review:

Director Yoshihiro Nakamura is on a roll. The Japanese director has continually scored big at Fantastic Fest, with 2009’s Fish Story and 2010’s Golden Slumber. He is back with a film that is on a smaller scale yet is possibly more charming than his previous two films combined. A Boy And His Samurai is a quiet, frill-free story of the complications this world can create when trying to balance work and family. Predictably, the film features a young, endearing boy who gains a transported samurai as his caretaker in modern Tokyo. While many of the standard adjustments to a foreign time themes are explored, Nakamura makes sure to tell a story that we can all relate to and fall in love with. Filled with endless charm, the film is rarely laugh-out-loud funny, but it might lead to a goofy smile continually present on any onlookers [ source ]

Stay tuned for Part 2, featuring the 1-10 rankings!

How about you? Have you seen any of the live action movies above? Let us know what you think!

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