Renowned filmmaker Sang-il Lee (李相日) already have a casting history with Ken Watanabe and Satoshi Tsumabuki, among the talented stars in his latest project, Anger (Ikari).

A man brutally murders a married couple and leaves behind the words "Ikari" ("Anger") written with their blood. The killer undergoes plastic surgery and flees. [ AsianWiki ]

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Tsumabuki was the lead in il-Lee's 2004 coming of age movie, 69, with Masanobu Ando and Hirofumi Arai. They had a reunion via Villain, il-Lee's most award-winning film, where Tsumabuki won his first Japan Academy Best Actor trophy. The film also went on to win various awards inside and outside Japan. In Anger, Tsumabuki is playing a gay character. I'm not sure if this is his first gay role, but this is one of the highlights of the film for me. He is supposed to be involved with the character played by Gou Ayano. Ayano is one of the three individuals suspected in perpetrating the crime, upon which the 3 arcs in the movie are supposed to be connected to.

In Part 1, we talked about five rather 'old' BL (Yaoi) Japanese movies. Most of them were produced with a limited budget and cast relatively unknown actors - though one of the lead stars, Takumi Saito turned out to become a popular and respected dramatic actor later on. He's one of the few who successfully avoided being typecast as a gay character. Some were not so lucky - including the charming Yasuka Saito.

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Fast forward to 2015, the sleek, sexy and delightful Seven Days hit the big screen and re-ignited the BL craze. Of course, the previously released Doushitemo Furetakunai (starring Yonehara Kousuke and Masashi Taniguchi) can be considered essential Japanese BL as well. Both may not have huge budgets, but they managed to enchant the Yaoi audience who are hungry for a BL-themed movie.

Updated for 2016: This article first appeared on May 2012 and remains one of the site's flagship articles. A lot of people have requested me to update the list to include new titles, and I also want to rewatch the movies with a different (albeit with a more critical pair of eyes). Among the new titles worthy of recommendation are Seven Days (starring James Takeshi Yamada and Tomoki Hirose) and Doushitemo Furetakunai (starring Yonehara Kousuke and Masashi Taniguchi). I will talk about them in details in the next part. Also, we're going to celebrate the Takumi kun series, featuring the one and only Kyuosuke Hamao in Part 3, stay tuned!

So you think you've seen the best BL (Boys Love) movie already, right? Guess again! If it's not Japanese then you ain't seen nothin' yet. If it's not made in Japan, then it's not really Yaoi. While I've seen a good number of BL themed movies such as Thailand's The Love of Siam and Bangkok Love Story, HongKong's Amphetamine and Bishonen, there are certain distinctions that make Japanese BL-themed movies different.


Probably the most important distinction is the creator of BL-themed movies. There are some extremely talented female manga authors who create the best Yaoi stories in Japan. Their take on love and relationship between young men is different from everyone else - especially from the filmmakers who produced BL-themed movies outside - the kind of characters, how they behave, how they react and relate to other characters are the distinctions of Yaoi as compared to, say the German movie Summerstorm, the Canadian hit C.R.A.Z.Y, the TV series Queer as Folk and the movies I've mentioned above. There is a particular emphasis on tenderness, jealousy, insecurity and reconciliation in most of the Yaoi movies I've watched. There is also the distinction between the roles - following the Seme-Uke formula, where one is usually the dominant partner, while the other is the submissive one. In other movies, there is still that constant struggle for dominance in the relationship.

In Part 1, we featured 10 favorite Japanese live action films, in Part 2, we'll celebrate our top 10 favorites. 

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Hana Yori Dango and Crows Zero are like staple live action Japanese movie recommendations. Both represent beloved genres - the romantic side of youth and its violent, thrilling opposite. With Shun Oguri featured prominently in both series (and movies), he represented quite a few famous manga/anime characters throughout his acting career. Mao Inoue, who is considered one of Japan's most talented actresses, has made quite a lasting impression in Hana Yori Dango, not to mention her reportedly romantic relationship with her co-star, Jun Matsumoto.

Both HYD and Crows also feature personalities going against the 'establishment', with Genji (Shun Oguri) fighting to take on the gang in Suzuran High, while Makino (Mao Inoue) fighting for her right to co-exist inside the posh, prestigious escalator school Eitoku Gakuen. Genji's struggle to become the #1 boy in the ultra-violent school is more than a coming of age tale since it depicts friendships, loyalty, and even family issues. On the other hand, Makino brings to focus class struggle and the arrogance of the elite. The romance between Makino and Domyouji (Matsumoto) provided more than just excitement and thrills for fans of both actors. The chemistry between them remained unmatched by subsequent adaptations.

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. 


Psycho Drama list of 100 favorite Japanese films through the years.