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5 Anime & Manga That Could Make Amazing Hollywood Live-Action Flicks


Welcome to The Top 5, where every week, we list five things for a given topic. These topics can range from “5 Things We Liked About The Power Rangers Teaser Trailer” to “5 Things We Want (Or Don’t Want) In Ben Affleck’s The Batman.”

Of course, because everyone has an opinion, there is sure to be some disagreements, which is why, despite the title “The Top 5,” very rarely are these actual “best of” articles. Instead, they’re meant to provide entertaining insight, and to stir a discussion, and give everyone a chance to speak their mind. 

If you have a suggestion for a Top 5 piece, send them my way via #TheTop5LRM on Twitter. If I choose your topic, I’ll be sure to give you a shoutout!

Now, on with today’s topic!


If this year was a make or break year for video game movies (between Warcraft and Assassin’s Creed — we’ll see how it all pans out after the latter film is released), then 2017 may very well be the same for anime live-action adaptations. Within the year, we’ll get both a theatrical release in the long-awaited Ghost in the Shell adaptation, starring Scarlett Johansson, and the Netflix release of Death Note, starring Nat Wolff. Should the two of those films succeed, it’s very possible Hollywood may turn to other anime properties for adaptation.

Of course, the process of selecting title that are worth bringing overseas is no easy task. With anime, you have a definite difference in culture. Motivations of characters may seem off to the mainstream American audience, or even the different treatment of sexes could be a dealbreaker to a lot of these folks because of the unfamiliarity of Japanese conventions. It’s because of this that not just any anime will do for an adaptation. There need to be real universal themes, and dare I say, a potential to downplay the culture of the story when it plays no real part in the plot. It’s more than just a matter of, “I like this anime and it’s my favorite.”

With that in mind, here are 5 anime or manga series that could perhaps be most geared for success at the get-go for a Hollywood adaptation.


Image via Viz Media

Image via Viz Media

You may have heard of an anime/manga series called Astro Boy. The show aired decades ago in the U.S., and despite being an anime, it had a very rounded, Disney-esque look to it, as author Osamu Tezuka was heavily influenced by Walt Disney. While quaint by today’s standards, the stories told in its pages are classic, and it even received a relatively recent (albeit terrible) CG animated film adaptation. Understanding how timeless many of the stories were in the manga, acclaimed thriller manga author Naoki Urasawa adapted a famous arc into an 8-volume series entitled Pluto.

Pluto follows German android detective, Gesicht, and his investigation of a series of murders — the murders of powerful robots, one of which was an icon of peace in its own country. Little does Gesicht know that the rabbit hole goes deeper than even he can possibly imagine. Although based on a rather campy interpretation, Urasawa creates a living, breathing futuristic world full of nuanced characters and believable motivations. If you’re a fan of mysteries, thrillers, or just plain good storytelling, I highly recommend Pluto.


This one is definitely a bit of a gimme. A couple years back, this anime kind of took the world by storm. The plot focused on a walled civilization. What were they protecting themselves from? Giants. Man-eating giants. For as long as anyone could remember, they’ve been safe from the deadly creatures. But one day, a particularly huge giant breaks a hole into one of the outer walls, breeching their safe zone, and pushing the civilization further into its walled confines. How did these giants break down the wall? Can humans possibly defeat these creatures? What other mysteries lie on the outside of the wall? Those are some of the many questionsthe manga and anime strive to answer.

In an era where adaptations are accused of whitewashing, Attack on Titan stands as one of the properties that wouldn’t be terrible with a white cast, as it has a very European aesthetic to it. In fact, with the more recent live-action Japanese adaptation of the property, the visuals of the piece played in stark contrast to the characters. Add in underwhelming visual effects, and you have a bit of lukewarm film. Given the budgetary strengths of Hollywood, Attack on Titan is a property that would greatly benefit — and with its universal, primal story, it’s something that audiences would not need to go out of their way to understand.


Death Parade is a series that plays out like an extended episode of The Twilight Zone. The story follows Chiyuki, a woman with no memory of her life who stumbles into a fancy bar. This bar, it turns out, is something of a way station in the journey to the afterlife. When two people die at the same time, they are sent to this bar, where they participate in parlor games that expose their darkest sides. Based on the revelations during these games, the bartender, Decim, decides who will be sent to Hell, and who will sent back to Earth for reincarnation. Over the course of the 12-episode run, Chiyuki assist Decim in this decision-making process, and begins to question the entire system.

Would this to become a film, it would have to be approached like an indie flick. This visuals would have to be gorgeous, but apart from that, it wouldn’t likely take much more than $20 million to make. If handled properly, in fact, I can see this being a potential contender for an Oscar. Just imagine someone like Darren Aronofsky handling this, and the possibilities become endless.


Image via Viz Media

Image via Viz Media

Another story from the master of thrillers, Naoki Urasawa. This is a story that could not be told in a single film. At the very least, it would take 3, but I can see this turning into a 5-film series, when all said and one (the Japanese live-action series ended up at 3 films). 20th Century Boys is an epic, decades-long spanning tale that hops around between the 1960s, the 1990s, and into the 2000s. Its story ranges from a Stand By Me-esque tale of adolescence and ambition to a futuristic dystopian world in the vein of 1984 and Brave New World.

It’s one of those stories that’s difficult to pitch in a sentence, but I’ll take a crack at it in a few: Kenji has grown up with big ambitions ever since he was a young boy, but as a middle-aged man, his life ultimately seemed to culminate to his running a convenience store and taking care of his niece, Kanna. One day, he stumbles upon the trail of a mysterious cult, and over the course of the next few months, terrorist attacks begin unleashing around the world. What’s stranger is that these attacks are being carried out in the same way him and his friends used to write about decades prior when they were kids. Can Kenji put a stop to these attacks and the rise of a cult before it’s too late?

It’s a film series that’s grand and scope, and I could very well see the likes of director David Fincher tackling the subject matter very well.


Of all the anime on the list, this would be the easiest to tackle, as this one is already a feature-length story. Additionally, it’s an anime that has a very Hollywood-like structure. Set in sort of an alternate present day, Summer Wars revolves around a social network/utility that is taken over by a malevolent virus. This virus threatens to cripple business activity, and it, in effect, holds the world hostage. In a time of peril, the world bands together to take down this virus and save the world as we know it. It’s a high concept, for sure, and given that it’s set during a family reunion, the movie is also careful to give the audiences a vested interest in the characters.

In order to make this work, all that would need to be done is for the setting to be adapted from a Japanese countryside to a rural American countryside, and you’re pretty much be set. Make a couple tweaks here and there, and you’ll have yourself a fun little blockbuster for audiences to escape to.

What do you think of our list? Do you agree with these choices, or do you loathe the idea of a good film being set on the basis of its adapability to American sensibilities? Let us know in the comments down below!

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