©2017 Hiromu Arakawa/SQUARE ENIX ©2017 “FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST” Film Partners
Every year, many popular anime find themselves adapted into live-action theatrical films—and 2017 was no exception. Here are the best this year had to offer.
Genre: Fantasy, Steampunk
Non-spoiler Plot Summary: As children, Ed and Al attempted the ultimate taboo in alchemy: they tried to bring back the dead. However, it didn’t go as planned and left Ed missing and arm and a leg. For Al, it was even worse: his entire body was taken and his soul is now a fixed to a suit of old armor instead. Now, the two travel the land searching for the fabled philosopher’s stone—the one object that can break the rules of alchemy and return their bodies to their former states.
Why You Should Watch It: Fullmetal Alchemist is one of the better live-action adaptations to come out over the last few years. While streamlined to fit the runtime—cutting everything from events to characters—the film never forgets the core of what makes the source material so great: the brotherly relationship between Ed and Al. Ed is trying to protect his little brother (despite the laters neigh invincibility) and Al is worried about existential questions that rise naturally from his unique situation.
The live-action film also does a great job of bringing Fullmetal Alchemist to life—making a world filled with both 1910s technology and a kind of scientific magic. Shot in italy, the architecture is spot on. But what really shines is the costume design. The uniforms look like real clothes and not costumes and Al, despite being CG, looks truly real.
If you’re a fan of the various Fullmetal Alchemist anime or manga, you’ll probably have fun with its live-action adaptation.
Watch It If You Like: Fullmetal Alchemist, Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood
Where You Can Watch It: Japanese Theaters (a Western release is planned)
The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.
Genre: Sci-fi Comedy
Non-spoiler Plot Summary: Saiki is about as far as you can get from your normal, everyday high schooler. He can teleport, turn people to stone with a glance, read people’s thoughts, and even turn back time—and that’s just to start. But in his mind, all these powers are far more trouble than they’re worth. And as we see from his hilarious attempts at living a normal life during his school’s annual culture festival, he’s not exactly wrong.
Why You Should Watch It: Saiki K. is a film all about finding the humor in unintended consequences. Every time Saiki uses his powers—either for his own gain or to help someone in trouble—it tends to snowball into a larger mess than what would have happened if he’d done nothing at all. Even something completely accidental, like losing his glasses can throw the world into complete slapstick chaos.
As Saiki can hear other people’s thoughts, much of the humor comes from the difference between what a character says and what they think. But what really sells the comedy are the actors. Several have long scenes where they say nothing out loud but have to act in accordance with their inner thoughts. To do this, they go completely over-the-top—contorting their faces to fit their internal emotions at any given moment.
Or to put it another way, if slapstick is your thing, this is a movie you will love.
Watch It If You Like: The Disastrous Life of Saiki K., When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace
Where You Can Watch It: Japanese Theaters
Genre: Supernatural Action
Non-spoiler Plot Summary: In a world where a new race of perpetually-resurrecting humans called “Ajin” are discovered, one man finds himself on the run when he discovers that he is one.
Why You Should Watch It: In terms of live-action anime adaptations, Ajin: Demi-Human easily makes it into my favorites list. Made by the same crew that made the live-action Rurouni Kenshin movies, the movie sports the same level of high-octane action with a creative emphasis on the supernatural immortality powers of the Ajin. Being a condensed version of the original series with all the most notable action sequences packed in, the movie is an excellent adaptation that simultaneously successfully manages to be its own thing.
Watch It If You Like: Ajin: Demi-Human, the live-action Ruroni Kenshin movies
Where You Can Watch It: Japanese theaters
Genre: Supernatural, Horror, Thriller
Non-spoiler Plot Summery: After surviving a life-threatening encounter with a human eating “Ghoul,” our hero Ken Kaneki wakes up in the hospital without an appetite for regular food. Ken soon realizes he somehow was turned into a Ghoul and now craves human flesh. But, he resists the urge with all his might. Unfortunately for Ken, he now has to navigate the complexities of Ghouls society all while dealing with being ostracized by human society.
Why You Should Watch It: The genius behind Tokyo Ghoul stems from the notion maybe the things that go bump in the night don’t horrify us. But, perhaps the real monsters we’re afraid of is humanity itself. This is achieved by the drama surrounding Ken. At first, we’re lead to believe the drama is will he or won’t he give into his new found urges of eating people. It’s an unnerving thought to because we rarely, if ever, think about cannibalism.
Yet, what’s truly ailing Ken is acclimate to a new lifestyle where he’s constantly living in the shadows. It makes Ken’s drama very real since his hunger for human flesh ostracizes him from normal human society. Ken becomes the monster he once feared. But, we’re shown all throughout the movie that perhaps he, and by proxy other Ghouls, aren’t the “monsters” we need to fear—that what the Ghouls want is to live a peaceful life just like the rest of us. But, prejudice and hate keeps everyone from achieving that.
Watch it if You Like: Shiki
Honorable Mentions: The Anthem of the Heart, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable Chapter 1.
Genre: Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi
Non-spoiler Plot Summary: 27-years old, no girlfriend, and unemployed, Arata Kaizaki is given the choice to turn back ten years physically and go to high school for a year. Called the “ReLIFE” program, this experiment gives members of society who have “failed” a chance to gain the skills they need to have a decent, civilized life. Arata, on the verge of going completely broke, takes the offer after hearing that not only will the lab doing the experiment cover all his living expenses during the one-year period, they will also introduce him to a good job at a good company if he succeeds at rehabilitation.
At his new school, Arata must fit in with all the youngsters, including the beautiful honor student Chizuru, who despite her seemingly emotionless face is desperate to make friends. Arata begins to connect with Chizuru and the other students around them, helping them solve their problems. However, there’s one catch to the ReLIFE program: once it’s over, all of the people who were involved with him during his experiment will forget about him.
Why You Should Watch It: The source material hasn’t finished its run yet, so the live-action movie had a daunting task: create a film with a proper beginning, middle and end. Unlike an anime, it can be very difficult for manga/anime-based live-action films to get sequels. The way the film paces itself and develops its characters is very, very different from the anime (which was basically a 1/1 recreation of the manga). While it cuts out some characters and changes the roles of others, ReLIFE works as a faithful adaptation with creative liberties, as well as a stand-alone film.
And oh god, the ending… It will have you in tears.
Where You Can Watch It: Amazon.co.jp (No English subtitles)