I can trace my own personal history with Japanese live action to way back in my elementary days when I was a giddy fan of Kamen Rider Ryuki. Being an early adapter of Power Rangers also, Kamen Rider resonated with me quite well. Something about grown men transforming/putting on suits and taking on monsters and such. Counting Ryuki, I’ve seen a total of seven Kamen Rider installments since then (I stopped when the ‘henshin’ buckles started to look plain dumb). Suffice to say, my entry (if you will) to traditional J-drama went well enough.
*As an aside, to readers who are more primarily anime viewers, “J-drama” (or Japanese drama) is more so an all-encompassing term for live action narratives than a genre. That is to say, although a show may be called a drama, thematically it can be something else entirely.
Drama adaptations of anime, manga, and light novels are relatively hit or miss (in my opinion at least). One of the key things that immediately comes to mind, when talking of where adaptations either soar or crash-and-burn, is loyalty to the source material. There are a lot of levels to this – from character design, to the overall plot. The former is very forgivable, given the creative limits of not only what can be done on screen, but also what looks good and natural (aka black-haired Menma is okay too~). It’s the latter, or the way they choose to adapt the plot, that tends to go a bit awry at times.
The standard “renzoku” (continuing series, more than one episode) is right around 10-12 episodes. This is more or less what we have with one-cour anime shows (although the run-time for a single J-drama episode is usually near twice as long as an anime episode), but a stark difference is that a live action show very rarely gets a second season unless it does reaaaaalllly well. As a result, the decision to either alter plot progression or omit-and-replace certain parts of the story is almost always made, to deal with the lack of time. Movies and one-shots have it worse (I swear I’m not talking about AoT) as they really have an hour and a half at the least to deliver something.
However the feat isn’t impossible, and a number of J-drama adaptations of anime/manga/LNs have already done surprisingly well (at least in terms of how they were as a feature, I don’t really have a good grasp of the numbers they generated, lol). Some of the adapts that I thought did alright would be: Liar Game, Kimi ni Todoke, the Rurouni Kenshin trilogy, Death Note (2015), and Akagi, to name a few.
And now (I rambled a bit too much up there), here are some anime titles that I think would do well should they be adapted as a live action feature-
Sakurako-san no Ashi ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru
[ A Corpse is Buried Under Sakurako’s Feet ]
I’ll start everyone off with something fairly recent (at the time I’m writing this). The first thought I had when I saw the first episode of Sakurako-san was something close to ‘This is something that I’d expect to see from a J-drama instead’. Owing to its pseudo-episodic trend in the early half of the series, it wasn’t that hard to equate it to the standard renzoku format for mystery-themed shows (episodic, with two-episode arcs every now and again). The lack of anything superhuman/supernatural, followed by its mature-ish themes of death and murder, makes this very doable. I’d imagine it’d be something along the lines of how Biblia Koshodou no Jiken Techou and Okitegami Kyoko no Biboroku were done. The only real hurdles that I see would be that the show handles human bones (and I know how the Japanese audience would respond to that), and that the main male lead is a high school boy (but they can always age him up and make him a college student or something).
Kamisama no Memochou
[ God’s Memo Pad ]
Almost the same reasons as the above really. However, where I had genuine interest in Sakurako-san, I had nearly none for the anime adaptation of KamiMemo. Sakurako-san’s selling point as a mystery feature was that it dealt with bones – which was cool; osteologists weren’t regularly depicted in anime before if at all. KamiMemo’s selling point was a NEET detective, and while it sounded cool at the time, what we eventually had was another JC-Staff moe loli (coming right after GOSICK ended probably hurt its chances for success even further). It had promise, and the idea of a little NEET girl solving crimes in the comfort of her computer screens really does sound like it should have been good, or at the very least intriguing. This is one of the cases where I think a live action adaptation could be better than its anime counterpart given the chance.
NHK ni Youkoso!
[ Welcome to the NHK! ]
I can see Welcome to the NHK! as a movie. A rather dark one, sure, but I believe that the heavier, more serious themes of this show (the hikikomori and otaku culture in particular) can be greater emphasized through a live action adaptation. There was a certain irony to watching Welcome to the NHK! as anime when one of the issues it tackles is otaku culture. In that regard, a story, which is really about personal growth amidst the hardships of a very real reality would be more relate-able when seen through real people (though this is really just artistic preference). There are very few works in anime as it is that depict NEETs,and hikikomoris, and even otakus, in a way that Welcome to the NHK! did. It was refreshing, to be honest. And I really just want to see its message delivered in a more fitting medium.
And, finally (though this is very unlikely and more so just for fun)-
Because THIS IS A THING APPARENTLY
Any shows you guys think would be good in live action?😀