Top 10 Japanese Movies That Need to be Animated

posters of Japanese Movies That Need to be Animated

The world of anime offers a captivating blend of storytelling, visuals, and unlimited imagination. But what about those hidden gems from live-action cinema that would be perfect for the anime treatment?

Top 10 Japanese Movies That Need to be Animated

Have you ever devoured a live-action film and thought, “This would be phenomenal as anime”? We’ve all been there. Anime has the power to transcend the limitations of human capabilities in a production. With an unstoppable imaginative license, these 10 movies can be taken to the next level of art.

10. Departures (2008)

backdrop of Departures , one of the Japanese Movies That Need to be Animated
Departures | Image via TMDB

Departures is a heartwarming film by Yojiro Takita about Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki), a young cellist who stumbles upon a job preparing bodies for funerals. Initially repulsed by the idea, Daigo eventually develops a profound respect for the encoffinment process, finding beauty and dignity in the act of caring for the deceased. The film’s exploration of death, grief, and the importance of ritual would be a profound and moving experience in anime form.

The animation could depict the beauty and meticulousness of the traditional Japanese funeral rites with a sense of reverence. Imagine peaceful scenes filled with soft lighting and calming music as Daigo carefully prepares the bodies for their final journey. The emotional journeys of both Daigo and the families he encounters could be explored with depth and sensitivity. The film’s message of finding meaning in life by confronting mortality would resonate deeply with viewers, offering a unique perspective on death and the importance of honoring loved ones who have passed.

9. Swallowtail Butterfly (1996)

backdrop of Swallowtail Butterfly, one of the Japanese Movies That Need to be Animated
Swallowtail Butterfly | Image via TMDB

Swallowtail Butterfly, directed by Shunji Iwai, is a coming-of-age story set in the vibrant yet harsh world of Tokyo’s youth subculture. The story follows Ageha (Ayumi Suzuki), a young girl who navigates poverty, gang violence, and the complexities of friendship. The film’s unique style, social commentary, and focus on youth culture would be fascinating to see translated into anime.

Swallowtail Butterfly’s visual style is a blend of gritty realism and bursts of color. Anime’s ability to create detailed and vibrant worlds would be a perfect fit for depicting the film’s setting. Imagine bustling streets filled with punks and fashionistas, rendered in a kaleidoscope of colors and textures. The social commentary of the film, exploring poverty and gang violence, could be addressed with nuance and depth in an anime series, offering a glimpse into the hidden struggles of Tokyo’s youth. The characters’ individuality and fashion choices could be amplified through unique character designs and expressive animation.

8. Love Letter (1995)

backdrop of Love Letter , one of the Japanese Movies That Need to be Animated
Love Letter | Image via TMDB

This romantic drama by Hirokazu Kore-eda follows Watanabe Hiroko (Miho Nakayama), a young woman who writes a letter to a past love, only to discover a chain of events that lead to a deeper understanding of herself and her connection to the past. Love Letter’s focus on emotions, scenery, and the power of connection would be perfectly suited for anime. The animation could capture the beauty of the film’s small-town setting and the subtle emotions of the characters, creating a melancholic and heartwarming experience.

Love Letter unfolds at a gentle pace, focusing on the characters’ inner lives and the beauty of the small town. Anime’s ability to capture emotions through subtle expressions and evocative visuals would be a perfect fit. Imagine scenes filled with soft watercolors and dreamlike imagery as Hiroko delves into memories of her past love. The epistolary nature of the film, with letters exchanged between Hiroko and a potential namesake, could translate seamlessly into an anime series, building suspense and anticipation as the characters uncover the truth about their connection.

7. Oldboy (2023)

backdrop of Oldboy, one of the Japanese Movies That Need to be Animated
Oldboy | Image via TMDB

Park Chan-wook’s intense revenge story, Oldboy, would be a gripping anime. The film follows Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-Sik), a man who is inexplicably kidnapped and imprisoned for 15 years without explanation. Upon his release, he sets out to find his captor and exact revenge. The film’s brutal fight scenes, shocking twists, and exploration of revenge and memory would translate well into anime, with the potential for even more dramatic flourishes. However, it’s important to remember that Oldboy is a very violent film, so viewer discretion would be advised.

The action sequences in Oldboy, already intense and balletic, could be further amplified in anime. Imagine the iconic hallway fight scene depicted with a flurry of exaggerated kicks and punches, punctuated by dynamic camera angles and special effects. The psychological aspects of the film could be explored through internal monologues and flashbacks, delving deeper into Oh Dae-su’s descent into rage and obsession. The mystery surrounding his imprisonment and the shocking reveal of his captor’s identity could be paced perfectly in an anime series, keeping viewers on the edge of their seats.

6. Shall We Dance? (1996)

backdrop of Shall We Dance? , one of the Japanese Movies That Need to be Animated
Shall We Dance? | Image via TMDB

This heartwarming comedy by Masayuki Suo tells the story of Sugiyama (Koji Yakusho), a repressed salaryman who finds joy and liberation in ballroom dancing. Despite his initial anxieties and social awkwardness, Sugiyama becomes enthralled by the world of dance. The film celebrates the importance of following one’s dreams and the transformative power of passion, even at an unexpected stage in life.

Anime’s ability to depict graceful movement and capture the beauty of dance would perfectly translate the joy Sugiyama finds in ballroom dancing. The humor of Sugiyama’s initial stumbles and awkward attempts could be accentuated through exaggerated expressions and comical sound effects. Yet, the anime could also emphasize the heartwarming connection that develops between Sugiyama and his instructor, showcasing the transformative power of dance on his personality and outlook on life.

5. Versus (2000)

backdrop of Versus , one of the Japanese Movies That Need to be Animated
Versus | Image via TMDB

This cult classic by Ryûhei Kitamura is a wild blend of yakuza action, dark humor, and a touch of the supernatural. The story follows Tsukamoto (Masatoshi Matsuda), a recently released convict, who finds himself trapped in a bizarre forest overrun with zombies. With the help of a mysterious woman named Ryu (Ryōko Hirosue), he must fight his way out of this zombie apocalypse while also evading the yakuza who are hunting him down.

Versus’ outrageous violence and quirky characters would be a blast to see translated into anime. The yakuza characters could be designed with flamboyant tattoos and imposing physiques, while Ryu could be a badass swordswoman with a dry sense of humor. The film’s blend of genres would translate seamlessly into anime, creating a thrilling experience that wouldn’t take itself too seriously. Imagine the tension of a zombie chase scene punctuated by bursts of dark humor as Tsukamoto and Ryu quip their way through the chaos.

4. The Ballad of Narayama (1983)

backdrop of The Ballad of Narayama, one of the Japanese Movies That Need to be Animated
The Ballad of Narayama | Image via TMDB

This poignant film by Shohei Imamura delves into the themes of tradition, death, and the harsh beauty of nature in a rural Japanese village. The story follows Orin (Sumie Takashima), an elderly woman approaching the end of her life. In this village, there’s an old custom of obasute – when a person reaches a certain age, they are carried to the top of Mount Narayama and left to die. Despite her initial resistance, Orin eventually accepts her fate, embarking on a journey of acceptance and reconciliation with her family.

Anime’s ability to capture the beauty of nature would be a perfect fit for depicting the harsh yet breathtaking mountain setting of The Ballad of Narayama. The film’s exploration of tradition could be portrayed with respect and nuance in anime. The animation style could reflect traditional Japanese art forms, adding a layer of authenticity to the story. Orin’s internal struggle between filial piety and the fear of death could be explored with subtle expressions and emotional monologues, creating a deeply moving experience for viewers.

3. Audition (1999)

backdrop of Audition , one of the Japanese Movies That Need to be Animated
Audition | Image via TMDB

Audition, a psychological horror film by Takashi Miike, would be even more terrifying reimagined as anime. The story follows Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi), a widower who decides to hold a mock audition for a new wife. What starts as an unconventional search turns into a horrifying descent into madness. A seemingly innocent young woman named Asami (Eihi Shiina) emerges as the frontrunner, but Aoyama soon discovers a darkness lurking beneath her fragile exterior.

Anime’s ability to depict unsettling imagery and exaggerate emotions would perfectly capture the film’s disturbing atmosphere. Asami’s transformation from a shy candidate to a psychotic manipulator could be amplified through unsettling close-ups and distorted character designs. Imagine her sweet smile morphing into a grotesque grin, revealing her true intentions, a classic ode to Junji Ito. The violence hinted at in the film could be depicted with a more metaphorical approach in anime, using splashes of color and distorted imagery to suggest the brutality without excessive gore. This would create a truly bone-chilling experience for viewers, leaving them questioning the nature of human desires and the dangers of seeking companionship in unconventional ways.

2. Labyrinth of Dreams (2000)

backdrop of Labyrinth of Dreams, one of the Japanese Movies That Need to be Animated
Labyrinth of Dreams | Image via TMDB

This mind-bending film by Satoshi Ishii follows Yasuda (played by Etsushi Toyokawa), a weary bus driver whose life takes a bizarre turn. One night, after a particularly frustrating day, Yasuda finds himself trapped on a bus that never seems to reach its destination. He enters a seemingly endless labyrinth of dreams, where the lines between reality and fantasy blur. Grotesque figures, nonsensical conversations, and distorted landscapes plague Yasuda as he desperately searches for a way out.

An anime series based on Labyrinth of Dreams could delve deeper into Yasuda’s psyche, exploring the reasons behind his anxieties and the recurring nightmares that plague him. Each episode could explore a different facet of his subconscious, creating a series of increasingly bizarre and thought-provoking journeys. We can have dreamlike sequences where the bus transforms into a giant fish, navigating a psychedelic ocean filled with talking sea creatures. The surreal imagery of the film would translate perfectly into anime, pushing the boundaries of animation with its distorted characters and ever-shifting landscapes.

1. Ran (1985)

backdrop of Ran, one of the Japanese Movies That Need to be Animated
Ran | Image via TMDB

This film, inspired by Shakespeare’s King Lear, tells the story of Hidetora Ichimonji (played by the legendary Tatsuya Nakadai), an aging warlord overlooking a vast kingdom. Fearing mortality, Hidetora makes the impulsive decision to divide his land amongst his three sons, anticipating a peaceful retirement. However, his power-hungry offspring ignite a brutal civil war, turning brother against brother and plunging the kingdom into chaos.

An anime adaptation of Ran could expand on the film’s internal conflicts. We could delve deeper into the motivations and emotions of each son: Tarō, the eldest, consumed by a sense of entitlement; Jiro, the cunning middle son, fueled by ambition; and Saburo, the youngest, seemingly gentle but harboring a ruthless streak. Flashbacks and internal monologues could explore their descent into madness, adding depth to their Shakespearean-inspired characters. The battles, already visually stunning in the film, could be elevated in anime. Imagine the clashing blades leaving vibrant trails of energy, showcasing each son’s unique fighting style. The vast battlefields could be rendered in breath-taking detail, capturing the scale and devastation of the war.

Just the tip of the iceberg

This list is just a starting point, and there are countless other live-action films that could be successfully adapted into anime. The possibilities are endless, and the future of anime adaptations is bright. As animation studios continue to push the boundaries of storytelling and visual effects, we can expect to see even more innovative and exciting adaptations of live-action films in the years to come.

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