Series vs. Films vs. Shorts – My Opinions on Japanese Live Action Adaptation Formats

I remarked back in in this post, about talking about my ‘stance‘ on various anime and manga controversies. There’s a section to talk about Series vs. Films vs. Shorts but my live action takes! I’ll be focusing on Japanese live action films and dramas, that are adapting anime or manga in this little blog post.

Series (I.E. Drama Serials)

I have to say that series are still the best way to go. I will nearly always default on the having a serialization going over a film, short, etc. It just comes down to having the time to develop ideas fully. Most Japanese drama serials are around 12 to 13 episodes, at about 45 minutes per episode. A bit of a higher time commitment then a typical anime, although there are a lot of dramas as of late doing anime-length (15 to 25 minutes) episodes. Also due to the nature of dramas it might take an episode or two to really get started, but once the ball it rolling the momentum rarely let’s up.

It also helps that most JDrama serials know how to tell a story in the timeframe given. There’s a lot of consideration for what, and how the events from the source material are going to be portrayed verses just throwing in everything they can. There’s very rarely series that ends on an open or unfinished note, which is really satisfactory. The few occasions when this does happen, there’s usually a second season already scheduled or a ‘final movie’ conclusion planned. Which oddly enough is a double edged sword in most cases. When you fall in love with a cast, and really like the direction the plot has taken 13 episodes just isn’t enough! It can be a sigh of relief though if the story isn’t connecting the way you thought it would.

But I have to admit, that I’m not the best at watching drama serializations of my favorite anime and manga… It’s still so much easier for me to watch a movie or marathon an anime. However! I am getting more into drama serials every year, especially with the world of classic gems, anime/manga adaptations or not, left for me to discover and share with you guys!

Films

Dear lord. These are so hit and miss when it’s a live action adaptations that it physically hurts me. I have seen the highest praises sung about certain film adaptations, and I have seen them get absolutely roasted to where only ashes remain. It’s hard not to put these into these distinct categories, since a lot of anime and manga live action adaptation films fail to actual adapt the source material. These adaptations are produced quickly, since there is a limited time frame that the pre-established fanbase will maintain their interest in a franchise long enough to see the live action version of the project. (At least, that’s what a lot of studios and producers seem to think.)

It’s a harsh reality that I’ve only just come to fully realize during my time in Japan. Despite my critical words earlier though, most live-action adaptations really more likely land somewhere in the ‘meh’ category. There’s no way to cram a 20+ volume series, shonen or shojo, into a single two hour film. So what you get is the cherry picked, but aesthetically pleasing highlight reel of events, that usually has a muddled if not outright choppy timeline of events. Some examples of this being Daytime Shooting Star, and One in a Hundred Thousand for shojo. I have been told that both the Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure and Fullmetal Alchemist live-actions were very much the same. I do say that without having seen those myself, but based on reviews and friend’s reactions.

Every once in awhile you’ll get one film that knocks it out of the park regardless. One of the oldies but goodies being the first Gantz live action film. I remember seeing that without knowing it was a manga first, and it was still that good. I’d also out Tezuka’s Barbara and BLEACH in this category. Mostly since Barbara‘s staff knew how to actually adapt the manga to fit a feature film, not just hit every panel beat for beat. BLEACH being in this category since the director knew they couldn’t do the tried and true highlight reel for such a massive story. Instead, they opted to pick the beginning until a certain point to adapt and left it there. I’ve also been told that the Rurouni Kenshin live action films are in this category, but again, not something I’ve seen.

I’d be more interested in seeing more adaptations, albeit a bit less musical in execution, like Love is Hard for Otaku. At least the director and scriptwriter had the idea that it was an adaptation, not a beat for beat repeat of the source material, and did something with it. It still veered a little to the left, but at least it gave a solid effort (and had a generous budget) to try.

Shorts

I don’t have too many examples to put in this category when it comes to live action adaptations. When it comes to being sourced from anime or manga, either it has the audience and budget for feature film or a prime time drama or it doesn’t. There’s not a lot of space, or monetary incentive to do much else with materials like that. A lot of ‘shorts’ in Japan tend to be indie projects, or between drama season fillers averaging around an hour or an hour and a half max long. Most of these drama specials are usually a quick spin off of something recently aired, or an original work verses having anime or manga as source material. Licensing even in Japan is still a lot of money.

All that being said, there are a fair amount of drama specials that are manga and anime based. These projects tend to have more limited fanbases. Usually it’s for older series, or ones that have a very short source material. The only ones I’ve seen have been the three Black Jack specials that aired between 2000 and 2001, and Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms in 2018. I have to say both worked out well, clocking in around an hour and a half for the Black Jack specials, and just over an hour for Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms‘s story. They were alright, and fit snugly in their sense of being an adaptation, and time limit. I could go on more, but I would digress a lot since my favorite series is involved.

Given I haven’t seen as many of these, I don’t have a truly concrete opinion. The market for these is severely limited due to airing period being in-between seasons, a weird hour-ish in length, and typically only being aired once or twice if they’re lucky. Quite frankly I don’t see these taking off at all or any time soon since any franchise would rather have a feature length film or drama serial, good or bad, under their belt so they can justify production time and budget.


Personally, I think all three have their strengths and weaknesses just like in my anime stances. I will still always hail the drama serial into a final movie as being the most satisfactory in terms of adaptations, having the time to develop ideas and execute them the best. However my watching habits will always point towards the movie adaptations, good and bad, given their succinct run times and excuse for me to have a popcorn and Pepsi.

I hope you found this brief look at my live action watching habits and opinions on adaptation styles interesting. If you’re a fan of any title mentioned, or any title where you were overjoyed or crushed by it’s live action adaptation I’d love to know. I always love hearing from die-hard fans of franchises about what’s the best their franchise has to offer, and where to avoid. So be sure to drop a comment below! With that I’ll see you next post!

6 comments

  1. Honestly, I never liked the idea of live action adaptations of anime/manga. Films like The last airbender and Dragonball didn’t help my opinion. They were horrible! I was like never ever again will I watch live adaptations of manga/anime.

    What changed my mind was actually Rurouni Kenshin (You really should watch it). Sure, they didn’t get everything in it, but it was a faithful adaptation compared to the others above. Like you said, most of them tend to be a hit or miss. Other live adaptations I liked was Kiss me at the stroke of midnight, Daytime Shooting Star(although I think they would have been better as a series as more important details could have been added), Byoushitsu de Nenbutsu wo Tonaenaide Kudasai,Kiss Him not Me and Alice in Borderland.

    Another one I’m interested in right now is the Netflix adaptation of One Piece. Of course they can’t cover the whole of it(it hasn’t even ended) but they are picking a few of the early arcs. Since I was impressed by Alice in Borderland, I have a little hope for it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a good point because I didn’t even mention that non-Japanese adaptations tend to god awful. I can’t believe I spent money on the Dragonball adaptation back in the day. The Netflix adapatation of Death Note? Won’t even watch that if someone paid me. lol

      I’ve really heard a lot about Rurouni Kenshin. My best friend is an avid fan and has seen every adaptation of that story she can get her hands on. She’s also pumped about the two final movies coming out this year. Kiss me at the Stroke of Midnight was really good too! Granted, I didn’t know the source material but I feel like it got the spirit of the series well. The original Death Note movies are still some of my favorites as well.

      Oh man, I still need to get to Alice in the Borderland. I know it’s really good, but I am swamped with work and other series ATM. I’m very excited to watch it when I can. And I saw that Netflix is going after One Piece. I’m hoping that whoever gets cast for each role don’t get roasted alive. It’s so popular that I feel like they won’t be able to please everyone with it… Hopefully the actual story is done right.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s my hope as well! The characters are he major issue and I hope they get the casting right. I also hope they go the way of AIB and cast actual Japanese people and not foreigners (unless they want to follow Eichiro Oda’s nationality spec of each character) I did see a picture of the person rumoured to be playing the role of Nani and she looks okay. Whether she gets the character right….. I hope you get the time to watch Alice in Borderland. I watched it in two nights and ended up not getting enough sleep for work 😂

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s probably the rub. Half the audience will want an all Japanese cast, and half will want Oda’s nationality specs to be followed in regards to casting. I actually googled her as well, and at least physically she looks alright. It seems she actually knows One Piece as well so that’s an added bonus.

        I’m hopefully going to get to it sometime this year. Which is so open ended, but I’m not sure when my schedule will open up for watching it so quickly!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Horimiya (which is currently ongoing) is really good so far.

    In This Corner of the World was an absolute masterpiece (could not recommend enough). Marry Me! was also fun, as is Mairunovich. And I also really enjoyed Alice in Borderland.

    Like

    • I’ve been watching the anime of Horimiya, so I’m wondering if I should start watching the live action as well. >..<

      Marry Me! I'm hoping I can get back to soon, since even though I didn't read the manga, I do like the cast a lot. Mairunovich is on my list to watch ASAP! Also thank you for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

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