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Live-Action Adaptation
From cels to cells.

"There's no better way to make a decent creation look stupid than to make a real guy dress like it!"

In the West, many animated series have to run against the Animation Age Ghetto; one way to get around this and attract a wider audience is to do a live-action version of something originally animated. Even if it utilizes CG and special effects, this will sometimes strip the show of its perceived "cartoonishness". This is also a common device when a live-action movie adaptation is made, which will already be accused of leeching ideas from an older show.

Depending on how the adaptation is done, it may be successful. However, some suffer from Conspicuous CG and end up the film equivalent of a Porting Disaster.

A noticeable example is the Super Hero genre, where the outlandish, colorful nature of the genre seems most fitted for animated form. Yet despite animation gaining a bit more respect nowadays, most theatrical adaptations of superheroes are live-action, with varying levels of success.

One thing that has dramatically changed since the CGI creation of dinosaurs in Jurassic Park is the ability to visualize things that would have only been realistically possible in animation, such as Humongous Mecha.

Contrast Animated Adaptation.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Adapted from Anime & Manga 
  • Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon pulled off the adaptation quite successfully, though it's somewhat inspired by the more odd Sailor Myu theater musicals performed since the original show ended and had a vastly different plot from the anime and the manga.
    • An Americanized live-action adaptation languished in Development Hell for years, with many different people suggested to be a part of the project. The earliest project supposedly would have starred Geena Davis as Queen Beryl, and the most recent rumor suggested Lindsay Lohan as Sailor Moon herself. None of these ever came to pass (and how real any of these actually were was often questioned despite their prevalence in the rumor mills).
  • You're Under Arrest!, which had a fairly 'normal' setting. It only lasted nine episodes, but short Japanese dramas are fairly common and this length does not mean that the show failed.
  • City Hunter
    • Jackie Chan starred in a 1992 live-action version, which includes the famous Street Fighter II fight scene.
    • Two other unofficial adaptations were made in 1991 and 1996, the 1996 version despite changing a lot of names, is commonly considered as the most faithful to the original.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion is supposed to get one... Someday. Concept art by W E T A has been released, but that's it.
  • Zac Efron expressed interest in producing an adaptation of Full Metal Panic!!, drawing a lot of hate from those who only knew him from High School Musical and didn't know or care that he loves the series himself. Eventually he said "it's more than likely not going to happen," which is unfortunate since FMP is a franchise which could actually work as a Hollywood movie.
  • Gokusen, about a school teacher who is the daughter of a yakuza boss.
  • Great Teacher Onizuka has two 13-episode live-action adaptations, one in 1998, the other in 2012.
  • Cutey Honey
    • The live film adaptation — the live-action directorial debut of Evangelion's Hideaki Anno — was actually pretty good, although it had always been a bit deliberately campy.
    • Followed by a live-action television series; the same can be said for it.
  • Maison Ikkoku
  • Saikano was given a live-action film in 2006.
  • Hana Yori Dango. Also available in Mandarin and South Korean.
  • Wicked City had a live-action version produced in Hong Kong that uses little from the original aside from the Vagina Dentata scene.
  • Nana had a live-action version before the 2006 anime version. It's also been a feature film and a manga series... and was #1 in Japan for all three simultaneously.
  • A live action stage production of Revolutionary Girl Utena led to the line "Live-Action is no substitute for the real thing" in a fan-made music video.
  • Death Note
    • It was adapted into two successful movies before the anime went into production. A third movie was released that focused on L. The movies are in a radically different Alternate Continuity from the manga and anime.
    • An American film adaptation has been confirmed, and is set to begin filming in 2011, to be directed by Shane Black.
  • James Cameron is currently working on a partially live-action version of Battle Angel. Though the majority of the actors will be live, Gally/Alita will be CG (possibly other cyborg characters as well).
  • A live action version of Sukeban Deka hit theaters in Japan in September 2006 (and was imported to the United States under the title Yo-yo Girl Cop). There are also three live-action Sukeban Deka TV series, and a Made-for-TV Movie.
  • Detective Conan has a 13-episode live-action series (2011) and four stand-alone specials (2006, 2007, 2011, and 2012) that feature the teenage Shin'ichi solving cases. The series and the 2006 specials take place pre-manga and the 2007 special involves Conan temporarily returning to Shin'ichi form.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima! got one in 2007. Its quality is still up in the air.
  • Golgo 13 starred in two live-action films before he even had his first anime. The first one was released in 1973, where he was played by Ken Takakura, which was followed by a 1977 sequel titled Golgo 13: The Kowloon Assignment, which replaced Takakura with Sonny Chiba.
  • Tantei Gakuen Q had a live-action series in 2007.
  • Video Girl Ai adapted into a Hong Kong film (which used a laser disk instead).
  • Lupin III: The first movie (Strange Psychokinetic Strategy) is available on DVD in region 1 from Discotek Media. A second film is planned to be released in 2014, for the 40 year anniversary of the first film.
  • A live-action Robotech movie is in the works. Up to now, the movie's progress has yet to be found out.
  • The live-action version of Nodame Cantabile was about as popular as the (later) anime.
  • Dragonball Evolution, a project that languished in Development Hell for years before finally dropping in 2009. Fan reaction was pretty much "No, really, you shouldn't have." It somehow made enough money to justify a sequel (yet considering the backlash, it seems highly unlikely). There is also the much older and obscure Dragon Ball: The Magic Begins.
  • Higurashi no Naku Koro ni has a live-action adaptation, covering the first chapter of the game/anime. (Demoned Away chapter / Keiichi's chapter). The second movie comes out soon; it covers the answer arc to that arc, which is the last arc of the first season. (Atonement chapter / Rena's chapter) Sound novel/anime-wise it's the second in the second season (Kai).
  • In the weirdest example of Multinational Shows, Hana-Kimi received two almost simultaneously live-action adaptations series in Japan and Taiwan.
  • Speaking of Taiwan, this country has seen releases of drama series based in manga, being the most notorious the ones who adapted:
  • There are also several manga that were remade into Korean live-action series: Boys Before Flowers, City Hunter (both had Lee Min Ho as lead), Dr. Jin, and Playful Kiss (which also had a Japanese and a Taiwanese version). Hana-Kimi will have one starting in August 2012.
  • Speed Racer got an extremely trippy live-action adaption in 2008, courtesy of the The Wachowskis. Despite a massive ad campaign banking on the popularity of the show and attempts by the film to pull in both the American and Japanese fanbases (right down to including clips of both the Japanese and American themes), it became a huge disaster at the box office, putting the brakes on yet another potential franchise revival.
  • Two other Tatsunoko Production shows saw Japanese film adaptations — Neo Human Casshern and Yatterman. Science Ninja Team Gatchaman was set to get one as well, but had languished in development hell for years while Imagi's CGI version was announced. After the CGI film plans fell through, Nikkatsu's live action version went into production in late 2012 and was released in 2013.
  • Honey and Clover has been adapted into a movie and two TV dramas (in Japan and then Taiwan).
  • Cromartie High School has a live-action movie. Different from most in that it does not try to stand on its own, but rather is only there to show how much more ridiculous the entire thing would look in live-action.
  • La Blue Girl has one, proving nothing is off-limits.... It's all of three episodes long, and not exactly similar to the anime (which also came from a lesser-known manga). Exhibit A: Yaku is almost indistinguishable from the other girls.
  • Fist of the North Star
    • It got an Americanized live-action debut starring Gary Daniels as Kenshiro and Costas Mandylor as Shin. The film was dubbed in Japanese with Akira Kamiya and Toshio Furukawa reprising their respective roles from the anime series.
    • There were also a few unlicensed live-action versions made in Taiwan and Korea. They make the American version look passable by comparison.
  • Slam Dunk, retitled as Kungfu Dunk. The only thing in common is the sport.
  • The Prince of Tennis got a live-action film in 2006.
  • Detroit Metal City features Kenichi Matsuyama, previously in the Death Note movie mentioned above. It also features Gene Simmons.
  • Crying Freeman, which had both American and Hong Kong feature film adaptations.
  • The Guyver has had two. The first one had Mark Hamill in a supporting role and the second with David "Solid Snake" Hayter as Sean Barker (a stage name he almost used in MGS).
  • Gundam had one. It was a far-future UC title called G-Savior. It was made in Canada. Needless to say, it wasn't that good. Even Tomino officially denounced it. It doesn't help that it was funded in Yen (Canadian dollar is worth a lot more), featured unknown Canadian actors to be dubbed in Japanese, was ham-tastic in terms of acting, and the tech looked on par with that of nearly two-hundred years prior. Not to mention that it was TOO realistic.
  • The anime of Boogiepop Phantom confused many American fans who had no idea that it was actually the sequel to a live-action film adaptation of a series of light novels. Of course even after viewing the film or reading the novels, the show still tends to make little sense...
  • Rose of Versailles, despite never airing in English and being virtually unknown in the English-speaking world, had an English-language film made anyway... by the French. Most fans like to forget it ever existed. It was actually made a year before the anime debuted, so it didn't even have a fanbase in the west that could have saved that clunker from sinking like a stone.
  • 20th Century Boys was turned into a live-action movie trilogy that is among the most expensive (and successful) Japanese film projects to date. However, it has been said that it is difficult to follow if you haven't read the original manga, as the films try very hard to be faithful to it, which means trying to cram 24 volumes into three (albeit long) movies.
  • Hotaru No Hikari has a "drama" adapation.
  • Kaiji has one with Live-Action Light as the title protagonist.
  • Pokémon
    • The show had, in America, anyway, a stage adaptation of the anime simply called Pokémon Live!. Team Rocket is more treacherous, and Mrs. Ketchum at one point lets slip out that she had a fling with Giovanni of Team Rocket. Canon Discontinuity through and through, but the "Who is Ash's father?" Epileptic Trees only had richer soil to grow in.
    • An unofficial fanmade trailer, titled Pokémon Apokélypse, has received much attention and was even purported to be real at some point. However, it has since been proven to be a fan project. While there are no plans for an actual fan film, the producers have stated that the possibility is not entirely ruled out.
  • Hell Girl got a Live-Action Adaptation that was set within the timeline of the first anime season, retaining the anthology format while notably averting the anime storyline. At a mere 12 episodes, there wasn't much room for them anyway.
  • Paprika is getting the live-action treatment from Wolfgang Peterson; this shouldn't be too difficult since A) all of Satoshi Kon's movies are shot as if they are live-action and B) we've already seen that American film audiences can handle trippy dream plots.
  • Cowboy Bebop is also going to have a live-action movie around the same time (~2012-13 ...or not). While it doesn't deal with trippy dream plots, aliens, or time travel it might have a problem with looking too much like Serenity (or is it the other way around...?).
  • Little known (in the West) manga series Kyou Kara Ore wa!! (Today, It's My Turn!!) somehow managed to get a film version after a six-episode OVA series proved to be somewhat popular. The main characters' defining traits (their yankee hairstyles, blonde perm for one and HUGE spikes for the second) were carried over as well as the makeup budget would allow, and the comic violence remained, though toned down somewhat to allow for real world physics.
  • A big-budget live-action adaptation of Uchuu Senkan Yamato (better known in the West as Star Blazers) hit the big screen in Japan back in December 2010.
  • Warner Brothers have secured the rights to make one out of Bleach. It is scheduled to hit theaters in 2014.
  • It was recently announced that Fruits Basket would be getting a Hollywood adaption. Little is known about it, but they're apparently going to try to make it more realistic. A lot of fans are worried about how that is going to work out.
  • A Last Exile film may or may not be happening; an as-of-yet unnamed producer from New Line Cinema has been eyeing the series since at least 2005, and there was a piece of concept art that was leaked onto the Internet before it was removed, so there may be hope yet.
  • Ouran High School Host Club got the live-action drama treatment in July 2011. The fandom pretty much exploded in glee.
  • Gantz was made into a two-part affair, released in 2010-11. Kenichi Matsuyama count: 3.
  • Arakawa Under the Bridge got a live-action TV series and film.
  • One Pound Gospel
  • Noir has been put into production for a TV series with Starz Network.
  • Kochikame has a live-action TV series. Basically a live-action cartoon.
  • In early December 2011, Ranma ˝ got the live-action treatment, with Yui Aragaki playing Akane Tendō, Kenta Kaku and Natsuna playing male/female Ranma, Kento Nagayama playing Kunō, Maki Nishiyama playing Nabiki, Kyōko Hasegawa playing Kasumi, and Yuta Kanai playing Gosunguki among others (full list here). Sadly, early reports from translators suggest that it rates at best a 2 on the Sliding Scale of Adaptation Modification.
  • IS: Otoko Demo Onna Demo nai Sei has had a TV drama adaptation.
  • Life by Keiko Suenobu has a live-action drama, that for some reason she cuts her hair instead of arms.
  • A live action version of Rurouni Kenshin premiered in Japan on August 2012, to rave reviews and box office success (grossing over $36 million). The film was subsequently released in 60 other countries, where it went on to earn more than $60 million worldwide. Many fans and critics have hailed it as one of the best live action adaptations of a manga/anime series ever made. High praise was given for it's fantastic action sequences and stellar cast (particularly Takeru Sato as Kenshin). You can watch the trailer here on YouTube
    • Because of the success of the film, two sequels were greenlit to be released on 2014. They are Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno and Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends, both adapting the manga's most famous storyline, The Kyoto Arc.
  • Josei manga in general are much more likely to be adaptated into live-action than anime, considering their target audience might not be that much into cartoons. Most 20+ volume series, like Waru, Galboy! and Keirinyarou, were adapted into live-action shows.
  • The Liar Game manga got a live-action adaptation that has run as a two-season drama and two full-length movies so far.
  • A live-action movie of Ashita no Joe, with Tomohisa Yamashita as Joe Yabuki, was released in 2011.
  • Gigantor has a 2005 Live-Action movie.
  • Team Medical Dragon had a two-season Live Action Adaptation.
  • Black Butler is having a live-action movie, tragically, the only character from the series that will be present is Sebastian; the main character being a descendant of Ciel.
  • Production for a live-action Attack on Titan movie started in 2011 and was set to air sometime in 2013, however, due to creative differences, the director quit, pushing the date back. Now, the movie is set to air sometime between 2013 and 2014
  • A live action Princess Jellyfish movie has been announced for 2014, starring Masaki Suda from Kamen Rider W.
  • There is talk of a live action Cyborg 009 movie in the works, with F.J. De Santo (who is also writing the modern adaptation of the series) producing it.
  • In Japan, there are sometimes live shows for children done using costumes that look like the actual anime characters called "kigurumi" or "animegao" that are usually 30 minutes in length. Anpanman, Shimajiro, Sailor Moon, Yume No Crayon Oukoku, Himitsu no Akko-chan, Ojamajo Doremi and Pretty Cure are just a few of the shows to get this treatment.

    Adapted from Board Games 
  • You know Hollywood is running out of ideas when they're developing movies based on Board Games: Risk, Ouija, and Monopoly all have movies in development.
  • Battleship
  • Clue — actually a pretty good movie.
    • There was even a Game Show adaptation in the UK, under its original name Cluedo.
    • And now a Hub Network miniseries featuring teenage versions of the suspects hunting down a killer who is none of them.

    Adapted from Comic Books 

    Adapted from Comic Strips 
  • Garfield, going into the "how Jon got his pets" story that the comic and cartoon never touched. The sequel, meanwhile, was straight-up Prince and Pauper. The live-action film made Jon much less of a dork than he is in the comics and even had him successfully wooing Liz. The comic strip accordingly hooked the two of them up around the same time, though movie Jon married her while comic Jon has yet to get that far. Curiously, Bill Murray played Garfield, who had previously been played by the late Lorenzo Music in the popular 80s cartoon series. Lorenzo Music previously played Peter Venkman, Bill Murray's character in Ghostbusters, in the cartoon series The Real Ghostbusters.
    • In fact, the TV movie about Garfield's nine lives showed how Jon got Garfield, and the comic showed Odie was previously owned by a man named Lyman.
  • Blondie has been adapted in several media, most prominently in a series of live action films from 1938 to 1950. They made 28 movies!
  • Popeye, starring Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall.
  • ITV actually made a live-action Andy Capp sitcom in 1988. It only lasted for six episodes.
  • Sweden has a very long tradition of turning humor comic strips and comic books into live-action movies, with the 1940s and 1950s being the golden age. Swedish comics that have been made into live-action movies more than once include 91:an Karlsson, Kronblom, 47:an Löken, Ĺsa-Nisse, and Biffen Och Bananen.

    Adapted from Films 

    Adapted from Puppet Shows 
  • Although the original was not, strictly speaking, animated, the live-action film adaptation of Thunderbirds is very much in the same spirit. Though confusingly, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction refers to the original as an animated puppet series, apparently defining animation broadly as giving the illusion of life rather than the usual definition.

    Adapted from Theme Parks 

    Adapted from Toys 
  • Bratz, though it was based on dolls anyway. Fortunately for the fate of the universe as we know it, nobody bothered to go see it.
  • Monster High was supposed to get one in 2012.
    • It's coming in 2016 now.
  • The 2000s Transformers movies, also known as Bayformers thanks to the director, Michael Bay. The production of which gave us the former Trope Namer for And the Fandom Rejoiced via the inclusion of Peter Cullen.
  • G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, which had aims to start a franchise along the lines of Bayformers. It's getting a sequel in the form of 2012's G.I. Joe: Retaliation, starring The Rock and Bruce Willis. Yes. That Bruce Willis.
  • A Masters of the Universe live-action movie was released in 1987. It bombed at the box office, and plans for a sequel fell through.note  A new Masters movie has been in Development Hell for the past several years, though recent news suggest that casting might be starting soon.
  • While a Gormiti movie is in the works, in 2008 there was a musical with Cirque du Soleil choreography.
  • And then there's even a live-action Barbie movie in the works.
  • The American Girls Collection also had a share of live-action films released to mixed or positive reception, starting with a Made-for-TV Movie based on Samantha Parkington's stories in 2004, and was followed by Felicity: An American Girl Adventure (2005), Molly: An American Girl on the Home Front (2006) and the 2008 theatrically released film Kit Kittredge: An American Girl, as well as films based on Girl of the Year characters like Chrissa Stands Strong (2009). McKenna Shoots For The Stars (2012) and Saige Paints the Sky (2013).

    Adapted from Video Games 

    Adapted from Visual Novels 
  • Japanese film director Takashi Miike (of Ichi the Killer fame) released a live-action version of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney in 2012. Trailer. The movie, despite darker and more serious tones compared to the game (which deals with murder cases on a day to day basis, but still) was received warmly and achieved modest success from audiences and reviewers. It helps that the Narumiya/Saitou pair (Naruhodo or Phoenix/Mitsurugi or Miles) wasn't too hard on the eyes, and that Miike wasn't shy in having fun with the gravity defying hair as well as the special effects.

    Adapted from Web Comics 
  • A live-action adaptation of the Krakow Studios comic Spinnerette has progressed far enough to post trailers on YouTube.

    Adapted from Western Animation 
  • Scooby-Doo, the first film which heavily parodied the original and featured the title character (and The Scrappy himself) as a CGI creation. A theatrical sequel and a direct-to-video prequel followed.
  • Yogi Bear, which features the characters from the show as CGI creations and looks like it's going to be a homage of the show. So far it seems very close to the source material, and Justin Timberlake's Boo Boo voice is actually pretty good. It's basically the cartoon in live-action, unlike other adaptations that take the In Name Only approach.
  • The Flintstones has two live-action films, one featuring a star-studded cast of John Goodman as Fred, Elizabeth Perkins as Wilma, Rick Moranis as Barney, Rosie O'Donnell as Betty, Elizabeth Taylor as Wilma's mother and even saw Halle Berry in a small role before she was truly famous. While poorly reviewed, it was a financial success and seemed destined to spawn a franchise... except that the eventual sequel languished in development hell so long that the entire cast moved on. The later prequel, trying to tell how Fred and Wilma fell in love, came out six years later and bombed.
  • The Rocky and Bullwinkle show spawned several live-action films from its numerous segments.
    • Boris and Natasha was a made-for-television film (though it eventually got a theatrical release) that had little to do with the show thanks to rights issues, but starred the titular spies. Instead of Rocky and Bullwinkle, the duo had to contend with Agent Moose and Agent Squirrel.
    • The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle eventually got made almost entirely because Universal had the film rights and needed to make the film. It had languished in Development Hell for years beforehand. Since the resulting film had No Fourth Wall, it made hay out of this as the plot begins when FBI Agent Karen Sympathy has to climb a lighthouse and literally greenlight the entire film herself.
    • Dudley Do-Right put Brendan Fraser in the title role, not long after he had just donned a loincloth to play George of the Jungle, another Jay Ward creation. Unlike the latter film, this one tanked.
    • The horrible performance of both the Rocky and Bullwinkle film and Dudley Do-Right killed production on a live-action Peabody and Sherman film. The project recently revived as a CGI film at Dreamworks instead.
  • George of the Jungle had two live-action films, one with Brendan Fraser that was a massive success for Disney and one that had to go straight to DVD. As both films operated on the principle of No Fourth Wall, the second film engaged in Lampshade Hanging over the cast change.
  • Inspector Gadget starred Matthew Broderick. Though the film was a critical disaster and despised by fans, it made enough money to spawn a direct-to-DVD sequel... starring French Stewart. Ironically, the latter was more faithful to the cartoon show that spawned it.
  • Josie And The Pussy Cats moved into Charlie's Angels-esque Action Girl-style.
  • Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, starring Keenan Thompson as the lead character and used a plot in which a depressed teenage girl ends up summoning the characters from the cartoon into the real world.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender got an M. Night Shyamalan adaptation in 2010 — The Last Airbender. (The name was changed because of trademark conflicts with James Cameron's Avatar; they decided not to fight it even though Avatar: The Last Airbender came first.) They condensed the first season into a movie, hoping to make another two movies based on the other two seasons. However, the film was a disaster (largely due to not letting the original creators on the writing team as well as changing a number of things around) dashing any hope for more movies despite the film ending on a Sequel Hook.
  • Ben 10: Race Against Time, with Lee Majors as Max Tennyson and Sab Shimono and Robert Picardo in supporting roles. The second movie, Ben 10: Alien Swarm was based off the sequel series, Ben 10: Alien Force
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks got one with CGI chipmunks in 2007, and had a sequel in 2009, and a 3rd in 2011
  • A made-for-TV movie based on Dora the Explorer is one its way. Of course, the non-human characters will be CGI, since the original series had a cast of animate objects and funny animals.
  • The Fairly OddParentsA Fairly Odd Movie: Grow Up, Timmy Turner!. Starring Drake Bell as a twenty three year-old Timmy Turner still in the fifth grade; he still has his fairies due to acting like a kid since if he does he gets to keep them, however falling in love with a beautiful, twenty three year-old Tootie threatens to break them apart since its a rather adult thing that fairies aren't needed for.
  • Word of God states that the Kim Possible movie So the Drama was originally supposed to be like this. However, due to the flop of the movie version of Teacher's Pet, the movie was instead made to be a Disney Channel Original Movie, which is a shame because unlike others, this one could've had potential, especially if they had Christy Carlson Romano and Will Friedle playing their actual roles.
  • Winx Club has had countless theater adaptations all over the world, the most well-known ones being Winx Power and Winx on Ice. No live-action movies, yet.
  • Code Lyoko was adapted into a live-action(/3D) sequel series, Code Lyoko: Evolution, released in early 2013.
  • The Electric Company is probably the Ur Example for this trope relative to Western Animation, as it occasionally remade its own animated sequences into live-action skits, sometimes Lampshading and Parodying the original. Either way, Hilarity Ensues.

Negima!?Franchise/Negima!OVA
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Kid ComTurn of the MillenniumLong Title
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Limited AnimationAnimation TropesLustful Melt
The Last AirbenderImageSource/Live-Action FilmsPower Tattoo
Limited Special Collector's Ultimate EditionThe Millennium Age of AnimationThe Movie
Limp and LividImageSource/Western AnimationPrisons Are Gymnasiums

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