Home Entertainment Top List Thursday – 5 Anime series that should be made into live-action movies

Top List Thursday – 5 Anime series that should be made into live-action movies

5 min read

Walking out of Pacific Rim a few weeks back, I realized two things: 1) My heart was still thumping like a racehorse on tik from all the adrenalizing “F–k yeah!” moments, and 2) that film was about as close as we, the human race, had ever come to make a true live-action anime movie. All that was missing were the impossibly large eyes and gravity defying cleavages.

This got me thinking, not about cleavages, but rather what anime series would be a perfect fit for a live-action feature film. Anime covers such a wide range of genres that we could pick quite a varied list. Here are my top 5 choices.

[DISCLAIMER: There are a ton of anime shows that I would love to see live-action versions of, but unfortunately for most of them, their scope and ambition just wouldn’t work well in a 2-hour long movie. I’d rather have them go the big budget TV series route though, but that’s not the list I’m compiling today]

Black Lagoon

When an anime about a team of gun-savvy, modern day pirates/mercenaries lists its main influences as Quentin Tarantino, James Elroy and John Woo, then you have to wonder how nobody thought to turn it into a movie yet. What also helps with Black Lagoon, is that the tale of the crew known as the Lagoon Company, is a completely international one. The team is comprised a mix of races from all over the world and find themselves based in a port in Thailand.

There’s none of that Japanese weirdness/culture clash issues to overcome, and due to the nature of the show’s narrative – the Lagoon Company takes on a variety of jobs, pitting them against an ever changing roster of enemies – it would mean that writers could pick and choose the best bits, staying true to the source yet also still telling an original tale. The biggest problem is that the film might get lost in the glut of other action flicks out there, but when last have you seen a Hollywood blockbuster where modern day pirates are the protagonists?

Perfect Blue

When Mima, lead singer of an insanely popular pop-idol group, decides to leave the group to focus on an acting career, her fans are not too happy about it. This criticism, coupled with the pressure of trying to prove herself in a new career, prove too much for Mima, and she secretly has a mental breakdown, starting to hallucinate that somebody is stalking here. Here’s the kicker though: A deranged ex-fan really is stalking here. Suddenly, Mima’s world becomes a Hitchockian nightmare where she’s never sure what’s real and what’s not. Something that becomes a huge problem when people start being brutally murdered around her, and she has no idea whether the murders are real, or even who the one is doing the killing.

Perfect Blue is the type of twisted psychological thriller that just screams of the type of vintage David Lynch mindf–king that we’ve come to know and occasionally go “WTF?” at.

Ghost in the Shell

With the amount of modern sci-fi films that Ghost In The Shell influenced, it’s simply astounding that somebody hasn’t tried to make a live-action movie out of it yet. The future-tech world of cyborgs and brain-hacking is so amazingly rich in character and boasts such incredible visual design, that with today’s high fidelity visuals this could be a masterpiece in the right hands. And with the wealth of challenging, mature stories that exists in this world, a script for a standalone live-action film won’t be that hard to come up with.

I just have one requirement though: there has to be a scene of a lady ripping a tank apart with her bare cyber-strengthened hands.

Ninja Scroll

Ask most Western anime lovers of my generation what their first major anime series was, and most of them will answer “Robotech”. Ask them what their first mature, badass, coolest anime that made them fall in love with samurais was though, and I’m pretty sure you would hear the name Ninja Scroll. The tale of Jubei Kibagami and his battle against the 8 Devils of Kimon has every single ingredient needed to make it a kick-ass feature film: A cool hero packing a sword, ninjas, memorable monsters, over the top violence and steamy sex.

Most importantly though, I’d love for them to make a live action version of this story, so that hopefully somebody can actually explain to me exactly what is going on in this crazy story.

Cowboy Bebop

Look up officially published “Best Anime of All Time” lists, and I guarantee that the name Cowboy Bebop would either top most of them, or be pretty close to doing so. And there’s a reason for that: It’s just that damn good. Everything from mature and deep stories, to well developed characters, to ridiculously good animation, to arguably the greatest soundtrack in anime history and all taking place inside this incredibly well thought out future world based around humanity’s expansion into outer space.

And while the group of “cowboys” – aka bounty hunters – on board the spaceship Bebop go on a huge number of adventures, they’ve actually made the job of doing a live-action adaptation easy by producing a standalone animated film, Cowboy Bebop: Knocking on Heaven’s Door, back in 2001 that would be ripe for the picking.

The show has racked up tons of awards, and has firmly cemented its place in pop culture, which of course means that I’m not the first person to think that this needs to be made into a movie. There’s been talk of a big budget Hollywood styled blockbuster for number of years, with Keanu Reeves attached at one stage to play group leader, and resident supercool badass, Spike Spiegel. While I think there’s definitely enough of a resemblance for Reeves to make this believable, I’m just not sure he has enough of the innate coolness that would be required for the character.

Whoever gets cast though, the fact of the matter is that somebody needs to make this happen. The show’s creator, Shinichiro Watanabe, indicated back in May of this year that the movie production was still “underway” but that the “details are secret”.

Last Updated: August 15, 2013


  1. Though it is not really considered Anime, Megas XLR!!!


  2. Lardus-Wolverine

    August 15, 2013 at 14:51

    What? No Robotech? No Gundam? At least I recognised Ghost in a Shell!


    • Kervyn Cloete

      August 15, 2013 at 20:17

      I love Robotech so damn much, and it was a hair’s breadth away from being on the list, but eventually I realized that its one of those that would work better as a series.

      A single movie would barely have enough time to cover the start of the Macross Saga, which would essentially just see the SDF-1 being teleported into space. There wouldn’t be enough time to (properly) chart everybody’s fight back to Earth. So either they just leave everything hanging with no real resolution, or they cram it down to 90 mins and probably lose a lot of what made the show so good.


      • Lardus-Wolverine

        August 15, 2013 at 21:10

        You, sir, are correct. We need a proper new series of Robotech!


  3. Kromas

    August 15, 2013 at 14:51

    Blue lagoon was good but not good enough for this. I would rather have Full Metal Alchemist (or even Full Metal Panic after the awesome that was Pacific Rim) in its place.


    • Kervyn Cloete

      August 15, 2013 at 20:18

      There’s far too much story to cover in Full Metal Alchemist!


      • Matthew Moorcroft

        January 16, 2014 at 04:13

        Fullmetal Alchemist should be a trilogy if it’s done. It could be done similar to Lord of the Rings, filmed back-to-back as one film.


  4. WernerE

    August 15, 2013 at 15:30

    I think Akira might also be pretty cool


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