Live-action manga adaptations are undeniably quite popular, but finding adaptations that live up to the manga is difficult. To help you find a live-action manga adaptation, here’s a list of some of the best out there!
8. My Little Monster (Sho Tsukikawa, 2018)
Shizuku Mizutani (Tao Tsuchiya) does not have friends because, as she sees things, there is no point in having any. They will either disappoint you or waste your time. Instead, Shizuku has decided to put her time into something that will give her results if she puts in the work: her studies. That is until her teacher makes her go and deliver the class notes to Haru Yoshida (Masaki Suda), a troublemaker who got into a fight at the beginning of the school year and has not returned to school since, even after his suspension ended.
However, When Haru meets Shizuku, he becomes delighted at having a friend come over to bring him the class notes. And so, Haru decides to go back to school because if he has a friend there, maybe school will not be so bad. And maybe he could end up making more friends!
My Little Monster is an adaptation full of color and manages to be comical while making room for a serious tone when the story calls for it. Moreover, the actors that play the titular characters, Tao Tsuchiya and Masaki Suda, offer impeccable performances and bring life to the manga characters. Masaki Suda ravenously stole the show with his interpretation of Haru. My Little Monster is a fun and colorful film that will surely capture your attention as it portrays the pursuit of friendship and love.
It is difficult to get, but you can check the availability for the Blu-ray disk on Amazon here: My Little Monster (Tonari No Kaibutsu-Kun)
7. Good Morning Call (Yo Kawahara, 2016 – 2017)
Because her parents had to move to the countryside and she wanted to finish high school in the city, Nao Yoshikawa (Haruka Fukuhara) decided to move into an apartment until a spot opened up in the school dorms. Everything seemed to be going smoothly until Hisashi Uehara (Shunya Shiraishi), one of the most popular guys in school, came in and said that that was his apartment. Come to find out, the teens got scammed, and because neither of them could pay the full rent individually, they decided to start living together secretly.
Of course, contrary to Nao and Hisashi’s wishes, everything gets complicated pretty quickly as Nao’s friends catch on and the number of people finding out their secret keeps growing. To make things even more complex, Nao starts to develop a crush on the serious Hisashi.
This adaptation of Good Morning Call undeniably deviates from the source material. However, it never does it in a way that dramatically impacts the story’s core. Because even with the slight changes in the story, this one maintains the same energy and goofiness the manga offers. In addition, the entire cast does a great job of keeping the story dynamic and fun without letting it slow down throughout the series. Overall, Good Morning Call is a heartwarming story that is binge-watch-worthy.
If you can understand Japanese, you can get the Japanese Blu-ray or DVD (region 2) on Amazon here: Good Morning Call Blu-ray BOX1 (Japanese Audio , No English subs)
Box 2 can be found here: Good morning call DVD-BOX2 (Japanese Audio , No English subs)
6. Princess Jellyfish (Taisuke Kawamura, 2014)
Tsukimi Kurashita (Rena Nonen) is a timid, unemployed, jellyfish-obsessed nerd living in a boarding house called Amamizukan in Tokyo. Amamizukan is home to other equally obsessive nerds and a famous mangaka.
Everything in Tsukimi’s life seems to be fine and orderly until one day, as she goes to observe a jellyfish named Clara (that she named) at the neighborhood pet shop, she gets into an argument with the store clerk. The store placed another jellyfish in the same tank as Clara. A jellyfish that, if left there, will certainly kill Clara. And it is in the middle of this argument that a beautiful girl appears to save the day, managing to rescue both Clara and Tsukimi.
And although this gorgeous girl is the type of person that Tsukimi would normally run away from, she is grateful and glad for her help. But things get complicated the next morning when Tsukimi discovers that the pretty girl that helped her (which she let stay over at Amamizukan) is actually a boy named Kuranosuke Koibuchi (Masaki Suda). A boy that is not allowed at Amamizukan. And a boy who, despite Tsukimi’s pleas to stay away, becomes enchanted with the place, so much so that when
the girls face any problems, he is ready to help them.
Princess Jellyfish is a funny and lighthearted adaptation that, despite its limited time, manages to incorporate a lot of the main plot points of the manga in a way that seems effortless. However, the main selling point of this film is its main cast. The Amamizukan girls and Kuranosuke are able to balance the over-the-top nature of the characters with a sprinkle of realism. The cast is an all-around fun bunch that demands your full attention and is sure to keep you pleasantly entertained.
You can find the Japanese region and version (no English subtitles) on Blu-ray or on DVD (region 2) on Amazon: Japanese Movie – Princess Jellyfish (Kurage-Hime)
5. NANA (Kentaro Ohtani, 2005)
NANA begins with two twenty-year-old girls heading to Tokyo, stuck on the same train and sharing the same name. Nana “Hachi” Komatsu is going there to be with her boyfriend and start a new life, and Nana Osaki, a rock singer, is on her way to Tokyo to try and make it big in the music scene. However, as fate may have it, this will not be the last time the young women find each other. They meet again while looking for an apartment to live in and end up becoming roommates in an old building.
This is the story of an unlikely friendship between two girls who, despite having the same name, could not be more different even if they tried. NANA follows both women as they navigate their lives and struggle to find their footing in their designated paths. All while portraying the deep love they develop for each other as the story continues.
NANA is an amazing depiction of female friendship and manages to illustrate the stories of both Hachi and Nana Osaki with a pure frankness that allows for the development of rich characters and impeccable chemistry. Overall, this adaptation takes tremendous care when it comes to storytelling and portrays the present and the past in a way that feels organic and clean.
Check out the DVD on Amazon here: Nana [DVD]
4. My Love Story!! (Hayato Kawai, 2015)
Takeo Goda (Ryohei Suzuki) is a big guy with terrible luck in love because girls do not seem to like him despite all his good qualities. Every girl he has fallen for ends up confessing their love to Takeo’s best friend, Makoto Sunakawa (Kentaro Sakaguchi). Who, in turn, always rejects them in a heartbeat. However, things start to change when Takeo saves a girl being harassed on the street and once again falls in love when the girl, Rinko Yamato (Mei Nagano), chases after him to thank him for his help.
Nevertheless, things soon go downhill when Rinko comes to Takeo’s school the next day to thank him again, and Takeo gets the wrong impression when she briefly says hi to Sunakawa. Takeo misinterprets things and assumes that, once again, this is a one-sided crush. However, as his good friend, he rapidly decides to help them get together. All the while, Rinko tries her hardest to get him to notice her.
In this adaptation of My Love Story!!, the director changes things up a bit since the film chooses to focus on Takeo’s misunderstanding of Yamato’s feelings and Yamato’s efforts to get Takeo. And it is precisely this change that helps the story explain more extensively why Takeo and Yamato are perfect for each other. What’s more, the film’s biggest highlight is its portrayal of the characters’ relationships since the story explores romance and the friendship and loyalty between Takeo and Sunakawa. Despite being quite different from the manga, the film never feels distant or separate from its source material.
This DVD can be difficult to find. If you can understand Japanese, you can get the Japanese DVD (region 2) here on Amazon: My Love Story!! (俺物語!!) Japanese Region 2 Version
3. After the Rain (Akira Nagai, 2018)
Akira Tachibana (Nana Komatsu) used to be the star of her high school track team, but when she got injured one day, she soon lost all sense of purpose. However, after she entered a family restaurant one day to wait out the rain, the manager Masami Kondo (Yo Oizumi), showed her a kind gesture to cheer her up. After this, Akira decided to get a job there to stay close to the manager since she quickly developed a crush on the forty-five-year-old man. Feelings that she decided to confess on one rainy day.
This story uses Akira’s crush to explore her lack of direction after losing the one thing she was truly passionate about. And, despite the age gap between the protagonists, this does not become a problem because Kondo takes a clear stance on the impossibility of the relationship taking a romantic turn. Instead, he tries to encourage Akira to go and pursue her passion for running.
The first thing you’ll notice when watching this film is the beautiful cinematography. After the Rain possesses a cool tone that seems to reflect Akira’s emotions and the overall melancholy tone of the film. After the Rain is a film that brilliantly explores the fear of pursuing one’s aspirations after suffering setbacks. Ultimately, it is an impeccable adaptation that manages to convey the feelings of the manga within a shorter period of time.
If you can understand Japanese, you can find the Japanese Version of the Blu-ray or DVD on Amazon Japan here: After the Rain (恋は雨上がりのように スタンダード・エディション)
2. Restart After Coming Back Home (Ryuta Inoue, 2020)
After quitting his job in Tokyo, Mitsuomi Kozuka (Yuki Furukawa) comes back home to take over the family business. However, Mitsuomi’s plans hit a wall when his father refuses to leave him the furniture store because he believes his son is acting on a whim. Hence, during this time of uncertainty, Mitsuomi begins to form a relationship with the adopted son of his neighbor, Yamato Kumai (Ryo Ryusei), the young man who went to pick him up when he got into town.
Moreover, after Yamato convinces Mitsuomi to help him and his father at the farm, both men have to face situations that make way for them to grow closer. In Restart After Coming Back Home, we see how Mitsuomi, our cold and moody lead, allows himself to come together with Yamato, our sunny and bubbly protagonist, to support and reassure one another. This is a story that takes its time to build the relationships between its characters and manages to highlight the importance of its ordinary nature.
This adaptation of the manga coats the story with a realistic and serene tone. And while the film mainly focuses on Mitsuomi, it develops its characters in a way that allows the viewer to thoroughly feel for Mistuomi and Yamato.
Furthermore, Ryo Ryusei’s portrayal of Yamato Kumai will leave you breathless as he brings the character alive in a manner that ties the whole movie together. Restart After Coming Back Home is a feel-good movie with beautiful cinematography that you’ll fall in love with.
For those of you who can understand Japanese (or what to study it), the Japanese only edition can be found here on Amazon Japan: Restart After Coming Back Home (リスタートはただいまのあとで) [Blu-ray]
1. From Me to You (Naoto Kumazawa, 2010)
Sawako Kuronuma (Mikako Tabe) is a soft-spoken high school girl who, despite her best efforts, cannot get close to people.
According to her classmates, she looks like the ghost girl from the movie The Ring. However, after playing a “who’s brave enough” game at night with her classmates, things begin to take a turn when a couple of guys try to use going out with Sawako as punishment for Shota Kazehaya (Haruma Miura), the nicest guy in class for losing the game.
This rapidly prompts Kazehaya and two other classmates of Sawako: Chizuru Yoshida (Misako Renbutsu) and Ayane Yano (Natsuna Watanabe), to stand up for her. After this incident, Ayane and Chizuru start to get closer to Sawako, and for his part, Kazehaya tries to get as close to her as he can.
From Me to You is a simple story that explores blooming romance and friendships while emphasizing communication and sincerity. However, what makes this film such a good adaptation is its ability to integrate various aspects of the manga in a way that does not feel disjointed and flows incredibly smoothly. Moreover, with a cast that perfectly depicts the manga characters and makes them feel tremendously real, this film is undeniably the most loyal and pristine adaptation out there!
If you can understand Japanese, you can find the Japanese Blu-ray (no English, Japan Blu-ray) here on Amazon Japan: From Me to You (君に届け) Blu-ray
In addition to the anime series and this movie, Netflix also created a TV series in 2023.