live action

Sometimes fans groan when they hear that their beloved book is going to be made into a movie. Manga fans often have the same reaction when they learn that their favorite manga will be turned into a live-action film or drama adaptation. But not all of these adaptations turn out to be cringeworthy. Readers on one Japanese website chose the best live-action adaptations of popular manga. Do you agree with their ranking?

The ranking was the result of 906 eligible responses to a survey on Japanese website, MyNavi Woman, conducted from November 16 to November 23 of this year. Here are the top ten picks:

1st place: Hana Yori Dango (drama & movie)
Original author: Yoko Kamio; Publisher: Shueisha

2nd place: Nodame Cantabile (drama & movies)
Original author: Tomoko Ninomiya; Publisher: Kodansha

3rd place: Death Note (movies)
Original author: Tsugumi Ohba; Original illustrator: Takeshi Obata; Publisher: Shueisha

4th place (tie): Kimi ni Todoke (movie)
Original author: Karuho Shiina; Publisher: Shueisha

4th place (tie): Rurouni Kenshin (movie)
Original author: Nobuhiro Watsuki; Publisher: Shueisha

6th place (tie): 20th Century Boys (movie)
Original author: Naoki Urasawa; Publisher: Shogakukan 

6th place (tie): NANA (movie)
Original author: Ai Yazawa; Publisher: Shueisha

8th place (tie): Ping Pong (movie)
Original author: Taiyo Matsumoto; Publisher: Shogakukan

8th (tie): Thermae Romae (movie)
Original author: Mari Yamazaki; Publisher: Enterbrain

8th (tie): Kindaichi Case Files (dramas & movie)
Original authors: Yozaburo Kanari & Seimaru Amagi; Original illustrator: Fumiya Sato; Publisher: Kodansha

Let’s take a closer look at some of the comments for the top five picks.

1st place: Hana Yori Dango

“The F4 members were all well-suited for their roles. Tsukushi-chan was also portrayed perfectly!” (29-year-old, female)

“The cast and soundtracks in the dramas and movie were great, and I was drawn in as much as in the original manga!” (29-year-old, female)

“It was cool to see the wealthy world of the F4 transformed into real life.” (27-year-old, female)

Almost all of the comments praised the superb casting. The real-life F4 beautiful boys all had to overcome the tough hurdle of living up to the fans’ expectations, after all. Also, theme songs like Arashi’s “Love so Sweet” and Ai Otsuka’s “Planetarium” contributed to the popularity.

Hana Yori Dango is such a loved story that it has already been adapted into live-action dramas in three different countries, with a fourth American version confirmed! It’s fun to check out the differences between the Japanese, Korean, and Taiwanese versions.

2nd place: Nodame Cantabile

“A big reason why I liked this drama was because I could actually hear the classical music played in the original manga. The casting was also great.” (23-year-old, female)

“Juri Ueno really captured the character of Megumi Noda. I think the drama successfully expanded on the world of the manga!” (25-year-old, female)

“It was a great choice for Hiroshi Tamaki to star as Shinichi Chiaki.” (34-year-old,female)

Many voiced their excitement about hearing the compositions that music university students performed in the manga in the drama as well. There were also many comments about Juri Ueno’s talent at playing the messy but loveable Megumi Noda. And looking back at it, casting was amazing for Masumi Okuyama (the afro guy with a maiden’s heart), played by Keisuke Koide.

3rd place: Death Note

“I loved the depiction of Light Yagami/Kira by Tatsuya Fujiwara. His shouting was impressive.” (23-year-old,  male)

“Kenichi Matsuyama played the part of L perfectly.”  (24-year-old, male)

The casting for main characters Kira and L were great. Some participants also commented positively about the movie’s different conclusion from the original manga.

4th place (tie): Kimi ni Todoke

“Mikako Tabe starring as Sawako and Haruma Miura as Kazehaya were perfect for their roles. I was even more moved by the movie than by the manga!” (27-year-old, female)

“My first reaction was, ‘Mikako Tabe’s going to play Sawako?! But she did a really great job.'” (24-year-old, female)

Great acting was acknowledged here, too. The actresses of Sawako’s friends, Natsuna Watanabe and Misako Renbutsu, also proved popular with participants.

4th place (tie): Rurouni Kenshin

“Takeru Satoh’s performance as Kenshin Himura was consistent with the atmosphere of the original.” (21-year-old, female)

“I got a better opinion of Takeru Satoh.” (28-year-old, male)

Many people agreed with the choice of Takeru Satoh as Kenshin. Even though the original manga featured many amazing battle scenes, the live-action film’s action scenes were not unrealistic.

Author’s note : I was a bit disappointed that my two favorite Japanese dramas of all time didn’t make the top ten. First, I have watched 1998’s inspirational Great Teacher Onizuka [GTO], adapted from Tohru Fujisawa’s eponymous manga, countless times. Takashi Sorimachi really nailed the role of tough-guy but aspiring teacher Onizuka. And isn’t it adorable that he and co-star/on-screen love interest Nanako Matsushima ended up getting married in real life? Last year’s drama remake starring EXILE’s Akira was also entertaining, but the original live-action version will forever be my favorite. Second, 2007’s live-action drama of Hisaya Nakajo’s manga Hanazakari no Kimitachi e never fails to make me laugh. The quirky characters (especially Toma Ikuta doing Nakatsu’s hilarious internal dialogues), gender-bending trials of girl-secretly-disguised-as-boy Mizuki, and music combine to make a light atmosphere with occasional touching moments.  

I have also enjoyed Gokusen, Kimi wa Petto, and numerous others. It’s a pleasant feeling to see a beloved manga reproduced in live-action so faithfullly. Next time you’re looking for something to watch, why don’t you try one of the series on this list?

Sources: My Game News Flash, Mynavi Woman
Image: Movie Mash