- Netflix has had mixed success with its live-action anime adaptations, but One Piece has shown that it is possible to create a successful and faithful remake.
- Early attempts like Death Note, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Bleach failed to leave a mark, but the right anime and adaptation format can result in a work of art that appeals to both long-time anime fans and casual viewers.
- One Piece celebrates its critic approval, proving that Netflix has learned from its past mistakes and can create a perfect anime adaptation with the right mix of excitement, comedy, and emotional impact.
One Piece is Netflix‘s most recent in a long line of live-action anime adaptations. The streaming service has been trying its hand at bringing popular anime to life for the last decade or so, though not all have been as successful with audiences as others. It takes a lot of finagling to bring the larger-than-life stories from series with (oftentimes) hundreds of episodes to a live-action movie or TV series, and Netflix has proven that practice makes perfect.
Though One Piece has shown that a good live-action remake of an anime is possible, several of its predecessors had audiences feeling it couldn’t be done. Early attempts like Death Note (2017) let fans down in a huge way, while others like Fullmetal Alchemist (2017) and Bleach (2018) simply failed to leave much of a mark. However, it seems that the right anime and the suitable adaptation format can mean a work of art that long-time anime fans and casual viewers alike can appreciate. Now, with One Piece celebrating its critic approval, it’s time to take a look at (and rank) Netflix’s complete collection of anime live-action adaptations.
14 Death Note (2017)
Netflix’s Death Note had a lot of promise, with a great cast and a decent budget to get the job done. The problem is that the complex and philosophically interesting anime was grossly simplified in creating a live-action adaptation. Light’s moral arc amounted to nothing, Mia was turned into something entirely different, and Ryuk’s motivations were blurry and uninteresting. Overall, Death Note was a tragic disappointment. Thankfully, Netflix’s Death Note show may set these wrongs straight.
13 Cowboy Bebop (2021)
As a classic anime from 1998, scrutiny was already high for Netflix’s version of Cowboy Bebop. It had the opportunity to be a great success, what with the cult following the original series has developed over the years and fewer episodes compared to newer anime like One Piece, Bleach, and Death Note. Unfortunately, this didn’t work out how Netflix had thought. The series was canceled after only one 10-episode-long season, with critics calling the remake unforgivably dull.
Fullmetal Alchemist: The Final Alchemy was the final film of Netflix’s live-action Fullmetal Alchemist trilogy, none of which performed exceptionally well. Still, this last installation was the final nail in the franchise’s coffin. With a measly 48% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, the live-action sequel was simply trying to shove too much plot into too short a time. Both versions of the original anime were so layered with subplots and massive reveals that even attempting to summarize it all into a film trilogy was asking for a streaming flop.
Netflix’s second Fullmetal Alchemist movie, The Revenger of Scar, focused a good deal of its plot on the familiar villain from the anime, and this saved it a little bit. A little more streamlined than the installment that would come after, this film managed to maintain more of a rise and fall with its plot and wasn’t trying to be too much more than it was. Still, with complaints of poor acting and subpar CGI, Fullmetal Alchemist: The Revenge of Scar only managed to pull a 53% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.
The Fullmetal Alchemist anime was undoubtedly full of action, but a good deal of the plot existed in the dialogue and impactful moments in between. Unfortuantely, this wasn’t how Netflix’s live-action adaptation went about things. Since the anime had two versions—both of which were mostly the same for the first few episodes—fans are very familiar with how the start of Ed and Al’s story should go. Unfortunately, Netflix’s version rushed through everything to dive into the action, resulting in a superficial movie with no clear target audience.
9 Zom 100: Bucket List Of The Dead (2023 – Present)
Zom 100: Bucket List Of The Dead has a premise that is bound to catch audiences’ attention for at least a moment. Though fairly typical for an anime, bringing the idea of an eternally optimistic hero trying to get through a “before I become a zombie” bucket list is rather bizarre for live-action. Still, the Netflix series has proved that it can make it work. Unfortuantely, Zom 100 missed out on driving home the point that being a zombie is preferred to being a mindless corporate monster. The anime was a fun social commentary, but Netflix’s version missed that mark.
8 Bleach (2018)
The Bleach anime ran for 366 episodes, so there was no way that Netflix would condense the plot into a single movie. Therefore, the platform’s 2018 adaptation stuck to the initial arc of the series, and this was the right choice. The film wound up rather well-rounded, and audiences gave it a fair 75% on Rotten Tomatoes. Still, a lot was left unsaid, so though Bleach itself was a fun ride, it wasn’t entirely satisfying. It might have done much better as a live-action anime TV show like One Piece.
7 From Me To You: Kimi Ni Todoke (2023 – Present)
Though most of Netflix’s anime adaptations have stayed within the action genre, the platform took a stab at a romance with From Me to You: Kimi ni Todoke. Overall, it seems to have worked relatively well. It might have functioned fine as a movie, but the original anime was adapted into a live-action TV series, making it an even more true-to-source adaptation. Still, it’s hard to say that Netflix’s version has had much to add, making the new series seem difficult to justify.
6 The Ingenuity Of The Househusband (2021 – Present)
The anime version of The Way of the Househusband is a hilarious series of short episodes about an ex-Yakuza turned househusband. Of course, this means it isn’t quite as heavy-hitting as series like One Piece or Cowboy Bebop, but there is something extraordinary about watching the main character, Tatsu, get so much delight out of domestic tasks. One of the best things about Netflix’s live-action adaptation, The Ingenuity of the Househusband, is that Kenjirô Tsuda, who voiced Tatsu in the anime, plays the character in the flesh. This makes it a delight, but this version still lacks the original’s comedy.
5 Kakegurui (2019 – Present)
The manga Kakegurui follows a high school whose social structure depends entirely on gambling—which means a reasonably simple premise to adapt into a live-action TV series. For this reason, Netflix’s Kakegurui succeeds where others have failed. Without the larger-than-life aspects that typically make up anime, this series didn’t require too high of a budget. Moreover, the writers managed to adapt Kakegurui almost perfectly from the source material, with very little left out. Of course, without all the action and camp, it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but its two seasons are still a relative success for Netflix.
4 Rurouni Kenshin – The Beginning (2021)
The live-action Rurouni Kenshin movies, which started in 2012, weren’t initially produced by Netflix. However, after their success (both independently and on the streaming platform), the streaming hub decided to create its own movies using the cast of the live-action trilogy. Rurouni Kenshin – The Beginning tells the story of the titular samurai’s early years and the tragic romance that made him turn away from his life of killing. The film was artistically done and brings to mind the samurai movies of old while never losing sight of the original anime—all factors that helped the film earn an impressive 89% on Rotten Tomatoes.
3 Rurouni Kenshin – The Final (2021)
Perhaps the best thing that Netflix could have done with its Rurouni Kenshin adaptation was to split the ending into two parts—one to fill in the details of Kenshin’s past and the death of his wife and another to explore how the consequences of this time seeped into his later life. Rurouni Kenshin – The Final saw the Battosai finally face off with Enishi, with all the emotional impact that this entailed. This meant for a well-rounded film that showed a great deal of respect for the source material—and even managed to enhance it. This is why the movie managed a whopping 100% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes (but an 88% audience score that keeps it from claiming a higher rank).
2 Alice In Borderland (2020 – Present)
Though the Alice in Borderland anime miniseries is undoubtedly popular, it’s the manga that has solidified itself in fans’ minds. This benefited the Netflix series since it had a little more freedom to organize its adaptation in the best way possible. Ultimately, the streaming platform made a great choice in keeping this a series rather than a movie (it’s clear the movie adaptations have a more difficult time). Alice in Borderland‘s first seasons kept audiences binging, and season 2 kept the ball rolling, allowing the Netflix series to claim a 99% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.
1 One Piece (2023 – Present)
The One Piece anime is absolutely massive, with over a thousand episodes released since the series got its start in 1999. It also has one of the largest fanbases of any anime, meaning Netflix was set up to fail with its adaptation. With a mixed bag of failures and success in the world of live-action anime, no one was entirely sure what to expect with One Piece. However, it seems that, through trial and error, Netflix figured out how to make something spectacular. The excitement, comedy, and emotional impact of the original anime are all accounted for, proving (so far, at least) that it really is possible to create a perfect anime adaptation.