Lights, camera, Nippon live action!

In America, if a cartoon gets really big, someone gets the idea that it might make a good live action movie. Nippon is no different in this regard. They have been making anime in live action movie form for a while now. In fact, the number of live actions is far beyond the scope of this blog. We are merely going to look at some of our favorite recent anime that have made the jump to the live action format.

One of the most popular and anticipated anime adaptions on both sides of the Pacific, have been the Death Note movies. The anime has mostly been a direct adaption of the manga. Other than a few added or removed scenes, it’s very faithful in its adaptation. The movies takes the 12 book manga and condense them into 2 movies. Like any film that takes that much material and condenses it into two movies, it requires them to remove series characters and plot lines. A lot of the middle, and a good deal of the end, of the manga is either removed or greatly altered. I know a lot of people loved the ending of the movie over the ending of the manga, while other people were rather indifferent to the movie’s ending. I think your preference really comes down to what you thought of certain characters.

The Death Note movies excite me! Especially now that it is licensed and going to be shown at two film festivals here in the U.S. And hopefully that translates into some theater showings afterwards. I really liked them because they basically end where I care for it to, and it ends in the way I would have wanted. I also feel the characters are brought to life nicely. L is right on target as far as I’m concerned. There is this part where he is making kebabs out of cakes and I thought, “yes, this is L!”

Well, apparently Japan loved L and his actor enough to make an L only spin off movie.

And I love L, too! But I’m not so sure about the L movie. Since it will be a completely original script I have no idea what to expect. However, seems like they are just throwing foder to rabid fans and churning something else out. I will probably watch it anyway…

Honey and Clover is a wonderful series that was an easy adaption to the live action realm. It is the story of a group of art students and how they deal with life and what it throws at them. The original manga is a very syergistic mix of comedy and drama. The live action movie tends to focus more of the drama of the story rather than the comedy, for better or worse. Also, Takumi Mayama comes of a bit more creepy than his manga counterpart. In the anime, he does have a somewhat obsessive (and definitely creepy) crush on Rika Harada, but he is a full-blown stalker in the movie. I know some people don’t like the casting of certain characters but I think they did a pretty good job in general.

The series, Lovely Complex, has kind of blown up. First a manga, one of the best selling shojo manga currently in Japan, then this live action movie, and the anime just finished up this year. The manga is licensed and now so is the live action movie! It is a cute, compressed version of the first 8 or 9 books. The seires is a very funny romacne between a below average height boy and an above average height girl. It was quite funny when I realized that Risa, the girl, is only 5’6 or 5’7. It has some really odd humor at times but it is typical humor of live action Japanese television. However, they are really weird and random since they are completely made up moments not appearing in the manga. Minus that, the movie does a good job of bringing the series to life. Teppei Koike, is a great and adorable live version of Otani.

Nodame Cantabile is a delightful adaptation of the popular josei, classical music manga. A lot of the live action adaptations contain a unique form of Japanese humor. As Natrutaki mentioned about Lovely Complex, TV shows tend to have an odd Japanese humor not usually seen in anime or manga. I think of all the movies and shows we mention, Nodame Cantabile best captures the humor of the original manga. It is about as close to a truly live action manga you’re going to get. The only laughter inducing casting is the totally Japanese Naoto Takenaka as the totally European Milch. In Naoto Takenaka’s defense, he makes a pretty darn good Milch.

Speaking of music manga, NANA is probably one of the most adaptable manga into live action. It has an overall real world feel to it, with characters who have believable flaws and grow as the story moves along. It combines music with love and friendship. The music is very good and both singles were hits. This movie as did very well in the theaters, and that is why it got a sequel which I have yet to see! I am holding out hope that the movies get picked up, as the manga is doing well and the anime has also been licensed. I was really impressed with the casting for these roles, especially that of Nana Oosaki. Mika Nakashima looks almost scarily like Nana herself. And Hiroki Narimiya who plays my favorite character, Nobu, is very charming. The movie takes place in what I like to call the first arc of the story, roughly the first four books. Nana Komatsu and Nana Oosaki both move to Tokyo at the same time pursuing different dreams but fate brings them to living together and so beings the story of two Nanas. They stick pretty closely to the manga, a few things take place at different times but overall close to the original. I am looking forward to the second movie, I know Mika is still playing Nana and Hiroki is returning as Nobu. I am interested to see if they start to deviate from the story a bit because the next parts of the series take a decidedly darker turn. If it stays on target, I think I know where the second movie will end.

The Cromartie High School movie is an adequate adaptation of an extraordinary manga. The setup for the live action movie of Cromartie is the same as the manga. Takashi Kamiyama is a good student that winds up at Cromartie high school. A high school filled with nothing but delinquents. Delinquents that include a robot, a Gorilla, and Freddy Mercury. About half way through the movie, it decides to go into its own story about aliens trying to take over the world using the students of Cromartie high school. It’s definitely true to the general spirit of the manga although it has its own style of humor.

I loved the Cromartie anime and was anxious to see the live action version. While I wasn’t disappointed, I wasn’t really impressed either. Clearly it was a step down when Hayashia had no purple mohawk that moved of its own volition. But it did make me laugh and still kept a lot of great moments from the series. I thought the Takenouchi story with motion sickness and switching with the plane hijacker were particularly hilarious and well done.

I would be remiss to not mention that my favorite manga, Maison Ikkoku, got turned into a live action movie and TV series with variable quality. I have oddly enough not seen either, but I have been sort of curious about the TV series. I know that Kyoko Otonashi is played by the woman who portrayed Hermes in the Train Man live action TV series. I liked her in Train Man, so I have a good feeling about that series. I also know the live action movie is supposedly horrible. If anyone has seen either give us a comment. I’m curious to what people think of either of them.

Last Quarter, another Ai Yazawa manga, was made into a live action movie. Since most girls have a major crush on Hyde it is hard to be objective about him. But his role is fairly small. Hiroki Narimiya is also in this movie, as the boyfriend who has a much bigger role than in the manga. The story itself is very odd and supernatural but the players in it are all very human. This is Ai Yazawa‘s power, in my opinion, but I’m not sure the movie gives the character development enough time. It pushes the most developed characters, in the manga, to the side in favor of bigger named actors. And the surprises come off as a little obvious in the movie. It was an okay watch but the characters came off a little flat.

Mushishi is most probably the most critically acclaimed movie on this list. It’s the story of a wandering mystic/scholar, named Ginko, who deals with the mysterious creatures know as Mushi. Mushi are primordial creatures who have a wide variety of strange abilities. Ginko’s job is to fix problems that come from humans and mushi interacting. Mushishi is,for the most part, a series of stand alone stories in which Ginko wanders into villages and learns how the local mushi and humans interact. The stories are often like modern day fairy tales. The movie is an adaptation of 4 stories from the manga. I heard some people complain that they don’t like the look of Ginko or wish that the movie had a new story that was not in the anime or manga. I think that the actor and the costume for Ginko looks good enough. I think the stories in the original manga are excellent so I don’t mind a direct adaption of their brilliance. When it was shown at the Venice Film Festival, they played it under the name Bug Master. It seems to be making the art movie circuit and getting positive reviews. I wonder if this is a title that will be picked up by someone like Viz or will one of the big boy studios like Sony swoop in?

Having seen pictures of the Mushishi movie, I am very anxious to see it. Ginko looks good to me, I’m not sure what the complaint about him is. But then I haven’t seen a drop of the actual movie. Hopefully living in NYC will give us an advantage since we get just about every movie that has a theatrical release. I have a feeling a larger studio may have their eye on it, maybe not Sony but something like New Line Cinema. This may also be why I can’t seem to find a subtitle track for it. Although, changing the name to Bug Master? Not a smooth move. While not wrong, it makes it sound lame and doesn’t inspire people to pack the theater.

I am always interesting in live action versions, maybe because I like to see how close they can come character design wise. Because, let’s be honest, we would love to have some of our most beloved anime characters living and breathing. Just as much as I like to see my favorite books. They aren’t always perfect, sometimes they aren’t even good, but I think it is a kind of adventure in itself to see how they turn out.

Narutaki Currently!
Watching Story of Saiunkoku
Reading I.N.V.U.
Listening to The Pillows

Hisui (Brainwasher Detective) Currently:
Watching Welcome to the NHK
Reading Bleach
Listening to Catch You, Catch Me by Gumi

2 thoughts on “Lights, camera, Nippon live action!

  1. Lothos says:

    Interesting, I didn’t even know they made a Mushishi live action movie. I watched the anime series and liked it very much. That’ll be a movie I definitely pick up the DVD for if it comes state side.

    One of my favorite mangas, GTO, got made into a live action movie and a tv series. The movie I thought was so-so, but the TV series I actually enjoyed very much. Both took out the vast majority of the comedy and focused solely on drama. Onizuka was also much toned down to be less of a super hero seeming character and they focused more on his devotion to his students.

    I watched both Death Note movies and I was pretty happy with how they turned out. L was spot on and I felt that they ended it at a good point. To be honest, I didn’t like the second half of the manga as much as the first half, but I still bought them heh.

    Another movie I enjoyed, which then got turned into an anime, was Zeiram. Fun stuff :) What I’d love to see, though I’m sure it’d probably actually be terrible, is a live action Genocyber movie/series. The anime already mixed in some live action bits and pieces…but I think I’m one of only a handful of people who even watched the series and actually liked it.

    The Battle Royale movies were also enjoyable and I felt definitely held the spirit of the manga. I did like the first movie much more than the second, but I’m a sucker for most anything with Takashi Miike in it.

    The You’re Under Arrest live action series was another one I enjoyed. It’s also another series which took out the comedy present in the anime/manga and focused solely on the drama aspect.

    Oldboy was another movie which took a very different approach than the manga it was based upon. The base story is the same, but the presentation of that story is very different. I like both tellings of the story and felt the movie was excellent in it’s own right. Of all the movies in the Vengeance Trilogy it is definitely my favorite and in my opinion the most well made of the three. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance coming in at a close second and Lady Vengeance definitely being my least favorite of the three, but it is still a well made movie in its own regard. I got lucky enough to have a theatre near me play Lady Vengeance during the international film festival. I would have loved to have seen Oldboy in a theatre.

  2. reversethieves says:

    Well, the Battle Royale movie is based on the novel which was also turned into a manga. I myself loved, loved Battle Royale. The novel is avaliable in English so I hope to read it. As a side note, apparently, the reason the movies have never been released state side is the director really hates Americans, or so I’ve heard. But that could be the lyings of the internet.

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