To say anime is popular in Japan is an understatement. So it’s no surprise that, each year, several anime titles find themselves adapted into live-action feature films. Here are the best that 2016 had to offer.
Death Note: Light up the NEW world
Genre: Supernatural Crime Drama
Non-spoiler Plot Summary: There exist magical notebooks known as “Death Notes.” Whoever’s name is written inside will die. Now, ten years after the first Death Note incident terrified the world, eight Death Notes have been dropped into the world and the supernatural killings begin again.
Why You Should Watch It: This live-action film serves as a sequel to not only the previous two live-action films, but also the manga and anime as well. The story focuses on the next generation of characters–i.e., a new calm and collected killer, a new serious police detective, and a new eccentric private eye. And while the characters’ roles are recycled from the original story, their personalities and how they are used in the story are not. Rather, it is a film that uses the familiar to trick you into complacency before ripping the rug right out from under you. All in all, it makes for an exciting cat and mouse game that is guaranteed to excite fans of the original story.
Watch It If You Like: Death Note, Monster
Where You Can Watch It: Japanese and Australian Movie Theaters
Itazurana Kiss THE MOVIE in High School
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Non-spoiler Plot Summary: After teenage girl Kotoko’s house is destroyed, she and her father move in with a friend of her father’s. Unfortunately, also living at the house is the most popular guy in school–a guy who publicly rejected Kotoko’s romantic confession due to her lack of intelligence mere days before. Now the two are forced to coexist for the remainder of their senior year of high school–all while hiding their new living situation from their fellow students.
Why You Should Watch It: What makes this film stand out from other similar romantic comedies is the pair of protagonists Naoki and Kotoko. Naoki is a smart, serious guy who has no patience for those that can’t keep up with him mentally. Kotoko is lazy but has the potential to be much more than she is. She also has a ruthless streak which allows her to do things that belie her kind exterior–and set up the film for some of its best comedic moments. While the two of them run the gamut from love to hate in regards to each other, they really learn more about themselves through their odd relationship than through anything else.
Watch It If You Like: Hanazakari no Kimitachi e, Hana Yori Dango
Where You Can Watch It: Japanese Movie Theaters
Chihayafuru Part 1 and 2
Genre: Sports, Slice-of-Life, High School
Non-spoiler Plot Summary: Chihaya is a high school girl obsessed with competitive Karuta who dreams of becoming the female Japan champion. Together with her childhood friend, Taichi, she assembles an official school competitive Karuta team with the hopes of competing in the high school nationals.
Why You Should Watch It: While slapping cards off the ground may not sound very much like a sport, it very much is. The movies manage to drive that point home with fast-paced dramatic sequences of players facing off against each other, making what may sound bland into a fascinating showdown. You’re also treated to an interesting cast of memorable characters who all grow as individuals and as a group, starting as outsiders, overcoming their own doubts and flaws, and becoming a real team.
As a double feature, you’re also given a robust story. Each movie covers a different focal point–one from the viewpoint of a novice, and the other from the viewpoint of a veteran. You’re also treated to an outstanding performance by one of the best young Japanese actresses I’ve seen in a while, Mayu Matsuoka.
Watch It If You Like: Yuri!!! On Ice, Cheer Boys!!
Bonus Pick: The Best Live-action Adaptation of a Manga
I Am a Hero
Genre: Zombie Survival/Horror
Non-spoiler Plot Summary: Stuck in a dead-end job as an assistant manga artist and kicked out on the street by his now ex-girlfriend, things couldn’t be worse for Hideo. So, of course, it’s at that point when the zombie apocalypse begins with him trapped dead center in the largest metropolitan area in the world.
Why You Should Watch It: I am a Hero is an ultraviolent romp through the zombie apocalypse that serves to make zombies terrifying again. It pairs over-the-top violence with a hero who is far from your normal zombie movie protagonist. It is not through brains or strength that Hideo continues to survive. It’s because of luck–luck that he doesn’t get bitten while all those around him do as well as luck that he manages to befriend those few who seem made to survive in such a world.
The other way this film stands out from other zombie stories is that it takes place in Japan–i.e., a land with few to no guns. Thus, in a world where survivors can’t simply head to the nearest gun shop and arm up, perfecting traps and melee combat is the key to victory. Then, thrown into the middle of this is Hideo, a man who has one sole possession: his sporting shotgun. This makes Hideo both an asset and an obstacle to other survivors. In a world without firearms, the man with the shotgun is king. …Of course, the thing about guns is that anyone can use one.
Watch It If You Like: Dawn of the Dead (or any other Romero zombie film), The Walking Dead
Where You Can Watch It: Amazon.co.jp (no English subtitles)