Anime That Deserve Live-Action Adaptations

Hey, Hollywood! Why haven't these been filmed yet?

More and more anime properties are being chosen for live-action adapatations, but there's still plenty of good candidates for adaptation that haven't been tapped yet.

Here's a selection of anime that would make excellent adaptations to Western live-action productions, mainly because of their ease of adaptation for an audience that's both inside and outside of Japan.

This list will be updated if any of these titles are in fact filmed, and will only contain titles that haven't so far been set up for an adaptation.

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Baccano!. Image courtesy Pricegrabber

Another candidate for live-action episodic TV over film, thanks to the episodic, doubling-back-on-itself nature of the story -- but such epic projects are now becoming more widely accepted on TV (e.g., ). Even the nonlinear storytelling used throughout Baccano! is something used in enough primetime shows that it wouldn't throw audiences for too far a loop. And as for the setting itself, Prohibition-era New York -- that's something mainstream audiences shouldn't have any trouble connecting with.

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Battle Angel Alita

Battle Angel Alita. Image courtesy Pricegrabber

Yukito Kishiro's long-running cyberpunk/action manga story -- which mixes brutal violence with touching human drama -- had its first few chapters adapted into an anime version with good results. For years, James Cameron was talking about a possible live-action adaptation, but that seems to have been shelved in favor of making more Avatar films. It's a shame: modern special effects technology would do justice not only to the visceral but emotional sides of this story. Anyone else willing to step up and make this happen?

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Berserk. Image courtesy PriceGrabber

No other project on this list is less likely to be adapted into a live-action film, but no other project would result in a more striking film. Violent, depressing, and with a scope easily as broad as The Lord of the Rings (and a budget to match), Berserk would be brutally difficult to get made -- but anyone who's seen the OAV or read the original manga will know how much terrifying, spectacular imagery from this series cries out to be filmed. Its length probably best suits it for a miniseries, a la Game of Thrones, rather than a theatrical release, although that might correspondingly constrain the budget. And if any story needs a big budget and a wide-gauge look to it to succeed, this is it.

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Black Cat

Black Cat. Image courtesy Pricegrabber

Former elite assassin Train Heartnet turns his back on the shadowy organization that employed him, and hits the road with hard-luck bounty hunter Sven Vollfied and the mysteriously powerful Eve -- all of whom are on a collision course with the deadly Apostles of the Stars.

Gunslinging, world-spanning action aside (all of which plays like a fantasyland version of a James Bond film), the real attraction of a live-action version of Black Cat would be in its cast. It would be tough to get right, but absolutely worth the effort: see the anime itself to get an idea of how these mismatched adventurers bounce off each other.

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Black Lagoon

Black Lagoon. Image courtesy Pricegrabber

How is it that this hasn't been made into a live-action film? The inspiration for the whole thing was Hong Kong and Hollywood action movies, so for it to come full circle and be thus adapted seems flat-out inevitable. Audiences would welcome this as a complement to (or an advancement on) recent shoot-'em-up joints like The A-Team or The Expendables. The hardest part would be, again, assembling a cast that does justice to Lagoon's crazed collection of characters - they'd need to properly reflect the multi-ethnic flavor of the story.

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Claymore. Image courtesy Pricegrabber

This grim but compelling fantasy series, about a cadre of not-quite-human swordswomen who fight beasts that are definitely not human, has plenty of elements that make it a good candidate for a live-action adaptation. Aside from tons of spectacular things to put on the screen -- like, say, the sight of the heroine taking down one beast after another with a sword bigger than she is -- its setting is not all that far removed from Europe during the Middle Ages. That and its roster of fiercely independent female characters makes it a strong draw for a generation whose standards for film heroines have been set by the likes of Ellen Ripley.

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D. Gray-Man

D. Gray-Man. Image courtesy Pricegrabber

Another show that features a vaguely Tim Burton-esque design -- not to the extent that Soul Eater manifests it, but it's still palpable. Also, this is another show with plenty of built-in appeal for Western audiences; it wouldn't need excessive rejiggering to be either comprehensible or enjoyable. The retro-19th-century look of the show would be welcomed both by steampunk fans and by mainstream audiences who grooved on Sherlock Holmes.

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The Dirty Pair

Dirty Pair - Features. © Takachiho & Studio Nue - SUNRISE. Image courtesy Right Stuf, Inc.

It seems criminal that there's no live-action version of the comedic far-future exploits of Kei and Yuri, the "troubleshooters" who end up making at least as much trouble as they shoot, and who often shoot more than just trouble. Their breed of interplanetary chaos is perfectly suited for a big-screen, big-budget edition. Casting suggestions, anyone?

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Fullmetal Alchemist

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Image courtesy Pricegrabber

Another show that might well be too ambitious for the big screen -- but oh, to dream of what could be. Alchemist requires almost no reworking to be comprehensible to non-fans, and very little in the anime would be outside the reach of modern special effects. The real issue is the sprawling storyline and massive cast of characters, which could really only be done justice across a full-blown trilogy of films, each weighing in at two-plus hours each. Come to think of it, the biggest obstacle might well be proper casting -- not just for Ed and Al but for characters like Scar (or the other Ishvalans), to properly reflect the ethnic diversity in the story and not just whitewash it.

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Guin Saga

Guin Saga. Image courtesy Pricegrabber

Even the most ambitious feature film adaptation would fall short of ever encompassing more than a fragment of Kaoru Kurimoto's light novel series, which ran to over 120 volumes until the author's death. The recent anime adaptation, though, hints at how the first few books could indeed be compressed effectively, but nothing short of a Lord of the Rings-level adaptation would do for the big screen. A fitting comparison: Guin has been repeatedly described as Japan's answer to Tolkien's own opus. And the sight of leopard-headed Guin himself leading an army on horseback across the desert would be more than worth the cost of a ticket.

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Hellsing. Image courtesy Pricegrabber

A double bonus: not only is this series a perennial fan favorite, it's a melting pot of elements that seem destined to result in a kick-butt popcorn flick. Vampires. Guns. Nazis. Supernatural monsters of all stripes. And various combinations of all of the above, just to make things even more interesting. Blade and Priest hewed pretty close to the same territory, but Hellsing would unquestionably be its own animal next to them.

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Mardock Scramble

Mardock Scramble. © TOW UBUKATA / MS COMMITTEE. Image courtesy Section 23 Films.

Imagine La Femme Nikita as transmuted through one of William Gibson's cyberpunk novels. Actually Mardock Scramble was indeed based on a cyberpunk novel, by Japanese author Tow Ubukata, and this cycle of anime is a direct adaptation of that story. A prostitute is left for dead by one of her psychotic clients, and she's resurrected by a scientist who wants her to testify against the madman in court ... but the way she's been brought back to life soon threatens to allow her to also become a walking death machine. It's violent and visually lush, but loaded with a surprising amount of heart and soul as well, and its near-future urban setting is inherently adaptable to a live-action movie.

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Outlaw Star

Outlaw Star. Image courtesy Pricegrabber

If they can send Cowboy Bebop to the big screen—or at least try to do that—what's stopping them from also doing the same for Bebop's stylish cousin series Outlaw Star? It's probably even easier to adapt in some respects, as there's only a few elements that require being slavishly faithful, and it sports a cast full of quirky, lively characters that hearken back to most every famous Western SF franchise out there, from Wars to Trek and even Firefly.

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The Slayers

Slayers. Image courtesy Pricegrabber

The elevator pitch for a live-action version of The Slayers would probably go something like this: "It's Lord of the Rings, but all the actual heroes were busy somewhere else and these are the people you'd really meet." Comedic fantasy on film has a checkered history, to put it mildly, but a Slayers film could be a nice balance between actual adventure and brawling, all-out humor. Suggested tagline: Epic fantasy. Epic adventure. Epic fail.

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Soul Eater

Soul Eater. Image courtesy Pricegrabber.

Two words: Tim Burton. His visual style and directorial tropes suffuse this series to such a degree it's impossible not to think of it either as homage or as a dare for him to step into the director's chair. And even if he didn't, a live-action Soul Eater would be accessible to both fans and non-fans alike, thanks to the presence of at least as many Western elements as there are Japanese ones. And on top of that, there's no end of characters (e.g., Kid Death, Liz and Patty) likely to appeal to audiences no matter where they hail from.

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Trigun. Image courtesy Pricegrabber

Another case of a show that might well adapt easily, in part because of its setting but mostly because of its characters. It's essentially a Western with some gratuitous SF touches, so the budget ought to be less crazy than most other anime-inspired projects. What would be really crucial here is, again, the casting: you'd need an actor for Vash who could switch between goofy and serious without falling down on either side.

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Vampire Hunter D

Vampire Hunter D. Image courtesy Pricegrabber

Last, but hardly least. On-and-off efforts have been launched to bring Hideyuki Kikuchi's long-running light novel series to the big screen as live-action, but none of them have so much as generated a press release yet. That hasn't stopped two animated adaptations -- an '80s OVA and a spectacular feature film version directed by Yoshiaki (Ninja Scroll) Kawajiri -- from turning heads and popping eyes, but if anything seeing those makes the idea of a live-action D all the more beguiling. The fact it hasn't been made yet is nothing short of stupefying. Guillermo del Toro, call your office.