You might think the easiest way to adapt a manga or light novel series is by using the freedom and creative imagination utilized by anime, but live-action adaptations are almost as frequent. While there are others with quality that leaves much to be desired, there are some excellent movies and dramas that have brought many series from the confines of their books into the real world with astonishing accuracy and slapstick comedy that’s just cheesy enough to be entertaining.
5. Liar Game
There’s something about psychological manga that makes them considerably easier to adapt, probably because of how they deal with the nature of people rather than giant robots. Liar Game excels at displaying human nature when pushed to its limits of morality, and the drama does not disappoint. It’s a battle of the swindlers in which an average girl is caught up, so she goes to a professional swindler for help against morally bankrupt and financially desperate competitors.
Nao isn’t my favorite female heroine, but the actress, Toda Erika, does a phenomenal job alongside Matsuda Shota as the mysterious master swindler, Akiyama. The drama has two seasons and a movie, Liar Game: THE LAST GAME.
4. Crows Zero
From director Takashi Miike, known for the uber-terrifying Audition, comes the hyper-stylized world of a boy’s high school at war with itself and one young man’s fight for the top.
Crows Zero has gorgeous cinematography that might as well be gray scaled from the way it plays with lighting and atmosphere. Its violent premise and serious undertones are cut with hilarious deadpan humor, occasionally venturing into exaggerated slapstick, but never in a way that takes away from its serious nature. The ensemble of veteran actors and up-and-coming stars fit perfectly together and practically feed off each other’s talents to produce an enjoyable action fest. Oh, and it has some of the most badass action sequences you will ever see.
Crows has a sequel movie, Crows Zero II.
3. Nodame Cantabile
This is the only rom-com drama series I’ve seen that does the slapstick comedy portions so well, you forget people don’t actually behave like this. Nodame Cantabile consists entirely of exaggerated comedic characters and ridiculous situations, but they’re done in such a way that no character is exempt. Everyone is crazy, and they all happen to be musical prodigies at a prestigious music college, especially the main pair, who are the craziest and most talented of the bunch.
Having comedy is one thing, but Nodame Cantabile also brings an incredible soundtrack to the table with orchestral arrangements of classical music pieces that the characters perform. Before you say anything, watch them perform a Japanese style of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, dressed in traditional hakama and kimono with the titular heroine in a full-body mongoose costume. Yeah, you read that right. The drama has two seasons, and a two-part movie released this past year.
Adapted from the insanely popular shojo series, Nana follows the story of two very different girls with the same name as the title, and the ways their opposing lives intersect.
For me, this movie is impressive because of how smoothly it condenses the original manga into a two-hour movie. That, combined with how well the actors portrayed their characters with such a small degree of separation, leads to an engaging and entertaining movie that fans and non-fans of the manga can enjoy to the fullest. It also brings an incredible soundtrack and some truly captivating visual cinematography.
Nana has two movies.
1. Death Note
Without a doubt, one of the most impressive adaptations out there. It certainly helps that the series has a premise that’s easy to transcribe in any culture; a bored genius discovers a notebook dropped by a grim reaper that allows him to kill anyone just by writing their name in it. That alone is enough to make a movie, but with the bonus aspect of creating Ryuk, the Grim Reaper, in perfectly rendered CG gave this psychological thriller an edge over any other adaptation I’ve ever seen.
The acting is spot on, especially Matsuyama Kenichi’s performance as the enigmatic detective, L, and the movie will keep you on the edge of your seat, begging for more.
It has a sequel movie, Death Note 2: The Last Name, to conclude the series and a third spin-off movie, Death Note 3: L Change the World.