10 Ill-fated Anime Live-Action Movie Adaptations

10 Ill-fated Anime Live-Action Movie Adaptations
Richard Lester stands with film crew on the set of the movie "Butch and Sundance -- The Early Days " | Getty Images | Photo by Nik Wheeler

10 Anime Live-Action Adaptations That Missed The Zing

A person looks at mixtapes | Getty Images | Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld
A person looks at mixtapes | Getty Images | Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld

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Anime, with its rich storytelling and intricate characters, has captured the hearts of viewers worldwide. However, the transition from the animated realm to live-action cinema can be a treacherous journey. In the annals of anime adaptations, some films have emerged as shining examples, while others have left audiences disillusioned. These adaptations bear the weight of fan expectations, often walking a tightrope between capturing the essence of the source material and forging a unique cinematic identity. Join us as we delve into the empire of live-action anime adaptations, exploring the highs and lows, the faithful renderings, and the disappointments that have shaped this ever-evolving landscape. 

1. "Avatar: The Last Airbender"

Dev Patel and Freida Pinto attend the premiere of
Dev Patel and Freida Pinto attend the premiere of "The Last Airbender" | Getty Images | Photo by Charles Eshelman

In the annals of cinematic history, the 2010 live-action adaptation of "Avatar: The Last Airbender" is a glaring misstep. For devoted fans of the beloved franchise, this movie is often treated as a phantom creation, seldom spoken of. The film's existence is met with outright denial by fans, as it represents a regrettable blemish on their cherished series. From glaring casting irregularities to substantial deviations from the original plot, this live-action rendition managed to incite the ire of fans across the board. The performances delivered by the cast left audiences unimpressed, with characters feeling devoid of the vibrancy fans had come to love. In essence, this ill-fated adaptation not only failed as a faithful representation but also faltered as a standalone cinematic endeavor.

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2. "Death Note"

Margaret Qualley attends the
Margaret Qualley attends the "Death Note" New York premiere at AMC Loews Lincoln Square | Getty Images | Photo by Jim Spellman

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Netflix's attempt at bringing "Death Note" to life in a live-action film left fans worldwide profoundly disappointed. The sole glimmer of hope in this cinematic endeavor was the brilliant casting choice of Willem Dafoe as Ryuk. However, beyond this silver lining, the film was a resounding flop. One glaring misstep was the decision to transplant the story from its original setting in the Kanto region of Japan to Seattle, Washington. In addition to this unnecessary change of location, the filmmakers also tampered with the fundamental rules of "Death Note" itself, all in the name of advancing the plot. Moreover, the portrayal of Light Yagami's character underwent a significant transformation, presenting him as an emotionally driven teenager rather than the sociopathic, god-complex-ridden figure fans had come to know. This 2017 adaptation served as a stark lesson for fans, urging them to temper their expectations when it comes to live-action renditions of beloved anime series.

3. "Ouran High School Host Club"

The Ouran High School Host Club | Anaheim, California | Getty Images | Photo by  Daniel Knighton
The Ouran High School Host Club | Anaheim, California | Getty Images | Photo by Daniel Knighton

The live-action adaptation of "Ouran High School Host Club" joins the ranks of disappointing anime-to-film transitions. It's a stark reminder that some anime are best left in their animated form and should be spared from live-action attempts. Aside from the often exaggerated acting, the film's main issue lies in its attempt to condense the rich content of 20 anime episodes into a mere 105 minutes. This breakneck pace results in hurried storytelling, characters lacking depth, and actors trying to overcompensate for the rushed narrative.

4. "Parasyte"

Amityville Horror House | Getty Images | Photo by Paul Hawthorne
Amityville Horror House | Getty Images | Photo by Paul Hawthorne

"Parasyte" enjoys a reputation as a top-notch body horror-thriller-sci-fi anime. However, its live-action adaptation falls significantly short in several areas. The most glaring issue is the subpar CGI, which ranks among the worst in film history. Beyond the visual shortcomings, the live-action version struggles to capture the essence of the original series. Both character designs and personalities diverge noticeably from the source material. The showdowns between humans and aliens, a central element of the narrative, come off as underwhelming due to poorly choreographed action sequences and the lack of intensity from the characters involved. While not the absolute worst, the live-action "Parasyte" ultimately disappoints fans and falls flat.

5. "Black Butler"

Harold Brown Royal Butler
| Getty Images | Photo by Tim Graham
Harold Brown Royal Butler | Getty Images | Photo by Tim Graham

The live-action rendition of "Black Butler" takes the beloved story and turns it into a chaotic mess. Departing from the original 20th-century setting, the film transports the narrative to the 2000s, introducing significant alterations to plotlines and character backgrounds. The iconic Ciel Phantomhive undergoes a transformation into Ciel Genpo, a young girl, rather than an established young boy. Even more puzzling, the once-charismatic demon Sebastian is reduced to a bumbling fool, utterly failing to live up to his reputation. Perhaps the most egregious deviation lies in Sebastian's character. Instead of adhering to the Faustian deal struck with Ciel, he inexplicably falls in love with her. This abrupt twist, regardless of one's prior investment in the Ciel-Sebastian dynamic, proves jarring and unacceptable to fans of the original anime.

6. "Attack on Titan"

Shinji Higuchi, actors Haruma Miura , and Kiko Mizuhara attend the
Shinji Higuchi, actors Haruma Miura, and Kiko Mizuhara attend the "ATTACK ON TITAN" World Premiere | Getty Images | Photo by Rachel Murray

Adapting the intricate themes of war, politics, and morality from the modern classic "Attack on Titan" to the big screen is no small feat. Unfortunately, the live-action film version faced a multitude of issues, with the casting of Japanese actors in a story centered on Germans being just the tip of the iceberg. One of the major letdowns of this adaptation is the oversimplification of the characters, reducing them from their complex personas to shallow, self-absorbed teenagers. While the CGI effects demonstrated some level of proficiency, the film seemed overly reliant on visual effects, especially when it came to the Titans, failing to capture the bone-chilling terror they instilled in the original anime.

7. "Dragonball Evolution"

Luffy the Toei animation character and Goku from the TV animation
Luffy the Toei animation character and Goku from the TV animation "Dragon Ball" attend the 39th International Emmy Awards | Getty Images | Photo by Paul Zimmerman

In the ill-fated 2009 live-action adaptation of the beloved Dragon Ball franchise, "Dragonball Evolution", it was evident that the creators prioritized profit over preserving the essence of this iconic series. The casting of Justin Chatwin, a non-Asian actor, as Goku, drew immediate criticism, signaling a departure from the authenticity fans cherished in the original manga and anime. The film's most grievous sin lay in its disregard for the intricate world-building and character development that had endeared fans to the Dragon Ball universe. Notably, the film omitted crucial details about Goku's origins, the source of his remarkable abilities, and his transformation into a Saiyan. This glaring omission not only disappointed fans but also disrupted the established mythology of the Dragon Ball franchise, a narrative tradition that predates even the celebrated "Big Three" of anime. The backlash against this cinematic adaptation was, unsurprisingly, both fierce and enduring.

8. "Fullmetal Alchemist"

Cosplayers Margaret Smith as Samurai Roy Mustang from
Cosplayers Margaret Smith as Samurai Roy Mustang from "Fullmetal Alchemist" (L) and Christopher Canole as Dude Vader | Getty Images | Photo by Daniel Knighton

In 2017, Netflix ventured into producing a live-action adaptation of "Fullmetal Alchemist", aiming to encapsulate the essence of the series by encompassing the first four volumes of the manga. While the effort was commendable, time constraints proved to be a formidable foe. Fans felt that the movie's pacing compressed pivotal events too tightly, leaving little room for the characters to undergo the profound exploration and growth that fans cherished in the original. This lack of character development left avid anime viewers, particularly those who had experienced "Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood", somewhat dissatisfied.

9. "Devilman"

Crowds line up outside movie house | Getty Images | Photo by Bettmann Archive
Crowds line up outside movie house | Getty Images | Photo by Bettmann Archive

"Devilman", a live-action adaptation of the revered "Devilman Crybaby", diverged significantly from its source material. Netflix had previously excelled in bringing the anime to life, but the live-action rendition failed to garner the same enthusiasm. In an era where CGI mastery often dominates the big screen, this adaptation disappointed both ardent anime fans and casual moviegoers alike. The movie's subpar acting, lackluster CGI effects, and erratic plot left a bitter aftertaste, contrasting starkly with the high standards set by its animated counterpart.

10. "Gantz"

A crew sets up cameras for the filming of a mobile phone commercial | Getty Images | Photo by David McNew
A crew sets up cameras for the filming of a mobile phone commercial | Getty Images | Photo by David McNew

"Gantz", known for its grotesque themes and intricate character development, posed a considerable challenge for its live-action adaptation. While the anime adeptly conveyed the multifaceted plot and allowed characters to organically evolve, the two-part live-action film struggled to replicate this success. Despite expanding the runtime, the creators found themselves unable to provide characters with the necessary time to mature and resonate with the audience. This limitation, coupled with plot inconsistencies and unresolved threads, marred the film's ability to capture the essence of the original series.

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