From print to screen
Live actions are a tricky business. Followers of the original work (whether in anime or manga) are both hopeful and critical, and I tend to be critical. In the first episode alone, I note the actors and actresses, their acting skills, their clothing, the setting, the introductory plot, the special effects and, most importantly, the overall comparison to the original work. Perhaps because the manga (in my case) and the live action are of different mediums that they are not comparable, but the one (the live action) is spawned from the other (the manga), and share the same fandom. For those who are interested in some great Japanese live actions, I’ve compiled the list of some my favourites and (in my opinion) the best.
Gokusen by Kozueko Morimoto
I fell in love with this on the premise alone. I love (physically) strong female protagonists with a hard background. For Yamaguchi Kumiko, her family leads a yakuza group. However, she only wants to be an inspiring and optimistic high school teacher… only that she ends up teaching a class full of delinquents. Don’t expect Gokusen to be serious or dark; Kozueko Morimoto made the manga light and fun. Expect randomness, corny speeches about doing the right thing, and the comradeship among the boys. It’s all about the laughter!
Nodame Cantabile by Tomoko Ninomiya
I love Nodame Cantabile in all its mediums: manga, anime and live action (plus movies). They’re all different, but similar. The live action, in particular in the later seasons with the beautiful settings, is simply stunning. Tomoko Ninomiya’s work was never really heavy on the romance, but rather the everyday lives of professional musicians, and the live action has responded well to Nodame Cantabile’s original message. The main actor and actress, Tamaki Hiroshi and Ueno Juri respectively, are perfectly cast to play the protagonists. Tamaki Hiroshi is cool and a neat freak. Ueno Juri is enthusiastic and knows no boundaries. Nodame Cantabile live action is a must-watch!
Hana Kimi by Hisaya Nakajo
Hana Kimi is a very long manga, and almost tedious. Like all long shoujo mangas, the story becomes more tedious, filled with slice-of-life events surrounding the main couple (who can never seem to come together). It can be very frustrating, but the live action isn’t the same. In 12 episodes, Hana Kimi’s plot becomes streamlined and hilarious. (Spoiler: My favourite episode is when they make the girl-detecting machine/door frame!) There is, of course, romance, but the Hana Kimi live action is more about the friendship between the boys and the protagonist, Ashiya Mizuki. It’s fun and light!
Real Clothes by Makimura Satoru
I have limited knowledge of the Real Clothes manga, but I’ve read through the first few chapters. I’ve actually watched the live action first, and this blurs my impression of the printed work. I can say, however (in my perspective), that the live action is better than the manga. The premise of this work is a mix of The Devil Wears Prada (the movie) and Cinderella — high fashion at its most humble and heart-moving. The protagonist, Amano Kinue, is a hardworking woman comfortable in her mousy, ordinary life. In time, she starts working in the fashion department of a prestigious Japanese department store (sort of like Holt Renfrew and The Bay), and grows to become more confident and sophisticated. The characters are interesting and the plot is streamlined. It is definitely a chick show, but not heavy on the romance. Real Clothes is about self-discovery and the importance of hard work.
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