Top 10 anime that could work as live-action adaptations

A live-action Netflix treatment of One Piece is just around the corner, and it’s not the only one. There is also a second set of live-action Tokyo Revengers. This should all be exciting news for fans of these hot anime properties, but for many, there are concerns.

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There’s still lingering bad taste for things like the Netflix take on Cowboy Bebop or the Scarlett Johansson-starring Ghost in the Shell. Are these issues inherent to any attempt, or is it just a case of choosing which animation would work best for this kind of real-world re-imagining? In the spirit of discovery, here are the 10 animations we think have the best chance of achieving the best results if given the live treatment!


10 spy x family

Banner image for Spy x Family

A relatively recent crossover hit, aside from its “I can’t believe it’s not Cold War-era Germany” setting and telepathy, Spy x Family remains relatively grounded in its presentation. This is a major feature of many of these choices, out of default necessity in live-action anime adaptations that come as simple and clean as possible. But it also helps that Spy x Family has a strong, engaging heart regardless of the format it’s presented in.

The story of a spy, a murderer, and a stuntman coming together to find themselves as a family will be as heartwarming and highly entertaining as this live-action drama. Probably the most challenging part of such an adaptation is finding a canine actor who can play the best boy in the entire world, Bond!

9 Vinland Saga

Vinland Saga The best upcoming anime shows and movies from MAPPA

From faux pas to proper piece, Vinland Saga is another series that could have a lot of appeal on a broader scale for the general Netflix audience. The historical focus on Norse can immediately draw many comparisons to the History Channel’s TV series Vikings.

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That’s to say nothing of the crossover’s appeal with Robert Eggers’ The Northman, in which the Vinland Saga got an actual crossover through trade. But the story of Thorfinn’s journey growing in and out of his desire for revenge is a gritty, engaging tale that can stand on its own, and perfectly suited to the muted undertones of the pinnacle of TV’s dramatic storytelling.

8 Lycoris recoil

Banner image of Lycoris Recoil

Another modern hit, but apart from any of those earlier vibes of the time piece. Lycoris Recoil also comes from this “anime” that is more substantial in its setting, being a loving homage to the “Girls With Guns” series of the past. But that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t do well in live action, given the chance.

The story of undercover peacekeepers Chisato and Takena taking odd jobs from the coffee shop they work in, which science based most of its work on the fireworks of films like the John Wick series. Adapting elements like that, along with the distinct downtime to focus on the characters on the show, could work well. And it wouldn’t even have to be a live-action adaptation of the original Lycoris Recoil anime since the world of the series seems tailor-made for spin-offs focusing on Lycoris agents from different regions and circumstances!

7 blue lock

Bashir dribbling with the ball in blue lock

All of these action-packed series make as easy as it gets for a live-action Netflix audience, so why not something pivotal? Other things people love include sports, so in the spirit of another Netflix hit, why not give them a crossover with Squid Game?

The intense survival framework applied to the high-stakes football games of Blue Lock, where losing means giving up your football career forever, provides a unique storyline rather than just watching matches. With Japan’s soccer star rising higher than ever recently in the real world, expanding Blue Lock’s audience through a live-action adaptation might be the natural next step.

6 Bacano!

Bakanoo banner image

Let’s go back to another piece of the time period. Baccano, with its story of immortal gangsters entangled in labyrinthine intrigues in 1930s America, sounds like something that should have been a sure hit with the broader Western crowd. Unfortunately, the anime is out of print and hasn’t been available on streaming for years. What better way to bring it to life for a new audience than with a new live-action adaptation?

The caveat here is that we’d really hope anyone committed to creating such a project would do everything in some gorgeous physical sets of places like Prohibition-era New York or The Flying Pussyfoot train, rather than any CGI-ere green screen.

5 The legend of the galaxy heroes

Banner image for Legend of the Galactic Heroes

Instead of straightforward historical drama, how about speculative historical drama? A legend on its own, Legend of the Galactic Heroes is a long-running classic committed OVA that adapted Yoshiki Tanaka’s novels through the ’80s and ’90s, with a new series of films from IG seeking to do the same.

Regardless, audiences get a sprawling story of space warfare and tough sci-fi, all inspired by Tanaka’s love of historical precedent. The sweeping tales of betrayals and payoffs for long-term plans have been likened to a “game of thrones in space,” so why not just go away and grab a living, breathe, and eat the stuff? It couldn’t be hard to film 110 episodes of live-action sci-fi space drama!

4 Uncle from another world

Banner image of an uncle from another world

An option that may seem strange at first glance, but it works really well if you think about it. One of the central running jokes of Uncle From Another World comes from the fact that the fictional world from which the titular uncle returned was populated almost entirely with beautifully drawn cartoon people, in contrast to his realistic, familial appearances.

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This makes for an obvious hook for a new adaptation: All the present-day pieces centered on the uncle and his nephew are portrayed as live-action goofy sitcoms, with the show centered on animated segments of those in-between flashbacks to a fantasy world! It would be a fun way to break down the components of production and maybe make sure that this hypothetical version of Uncle From Another World doesn’t end in five months until the final episode comes out.

3 My Next Life as a Villain: All Roads Lead to Death

Banner image for My Next Life As a Villainess

The post-isekai crap of an uncle from another world is all well and good, but let’s get “reincarnated in a fantasy world” in this virtual playground reel. My Next Life as a Villainess has some instances of charm, to be sure, but its real appeal is as a fantasy-framed romantic comedy centered around its pure heartthrob, Katarina Claes.

The driving energy of guess how katarina’s heart contest will play across the new dating simulated background of a life actually made for fun in cartoon form. Now, imagine it retold in live action with beautifully realized costumes and sets that match the fantasy aesthetic, and you’ve got something that could steal the hearts of a whole new audience.

2 Black Lake

Banner image of the Black Lagoon

Another story that always felt like it was meant to spark crossover appeal, Rei Hiroe’s hard-boiled tale of smugglers actually draws a lot from movies and TV. One of the main supporting characters is basically just Chow Yun-fat in anime form! The stories Revy, Rock, and the rest of the Lagoon Trading Company fit neatly into movie-sized story arcs, so their packaging and release wouldn’t be out of place in theaters or on a streaming service.

The latter option is probably the better option for Black Lagoon as the sheer amount of violence, and potty language needed to deliver serial justice could push things into unclassified territory.

1 Feline Gunsmith

Banner image of a feline gunsmith

A mainstay of the OVA era in the late ’90s, it’s absolutely a wonder Gunsmith Cats never had its day getting the live-action movie treatment option here. The story of gunsmith Raleigh Vincent and her explosives expert partner Minnie Mae Tompkins mix it up as Chicago bounty hunters, as you can tell from that description, everything American moviegoers love!

The anime OVA series produced by Kenichi Sonoda manga in particular has one of the best car chases ever in anime. Interpreting these kinds of stunts, already inspired by movie classics like The Blues Brothers, would be a beautifully fitting live-action cinematic sensation, something we’re long overdue for.

Next: Love, Death, + Robots: Funniest Episodes, Ranked

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