From Legendary Series to Lousy Movies: The 10 Most Disappointing Live-Action Adaptations, including The Knights of the Zodiac

Perfect for a nightmare marathon

From Legendary Series to Lousy Movies: The 10 Most Disappointing Live-Action Adaptations, including The Knights of the Zodiac
Juan Carlos Saloz

Juan Carlos Saloz

Film adaptations from the world of manga and anime tend to be quite disastrous. Despite Netflix‘s insistence on turning this phenomenon into a cash cow and attempting it over and over again with experiments like Death Note, Cowboy Bebop, or the upcoming One Piece, a quick glance at the reviews is enough to realize that things are not going too well.


Both anime fans and those who are unfamiliar with these series often dislike live-action adaptations. And it’s not surprising. The list of films that have emerged, both from Japan and the United States, based on these ideas is enormous. Some are so bad that they haven’t even crossed the borders of their own country, but today we bring you a list of the 10 worst ones we have seen.

Ah, of course, we have added Saint Seiya (Knights of the Zodiac) to the list, the new film that has just been released and supposedly adapts Masami Kurumada’s original manga. After taking a look at it, it definitely deserved to be in this top ten. From worst to best, let the disasters unfold:

10 – Death Note (2017, Adam Wingard)

At the bottom of the list is “Death Note,” Netflix’s loose adaptation directed by Adam Wingard and starring Nat Wolff. The audience unanimously declared that it had nothing to do with the manga they had read, and it’s clear that the silly love story it portrayed is far from the original psychological plot. However, having Willem Dafoe in the cast does earn some points, whether you like it or not.

09 – Devilman (2004, Hiroyuki Nasu)

The main problem with the adaptation of “Devilman” is that the source material is excellent and highly cinematic, so it’s even more painful to see an adaptation made with so little care. The film has its fans, and as a horror feature, it could be worse, but it seems like nobody is taking the film itself seriously.

08 – Lupin and Cleopatra’s Purple Heart (2014, Ryuhei Kitamura)

“Lupin III” is one of the most acclaimed anime series in all of Japan, and its iconic imagery has reached audiences worldwide and continues to be beloved to this day. That’s why many were eagerly anticipating this live-action adaptation… but it turned out to be a major failure. The story has all the elements to make a great feature film, as Lupin III’s adventures are highly adaptable to live-action. However, once again, we’re faced with an overacted and poorly planned movie.

07 – Black Butler (2014, Keiichi Satō, Kentarō Ōtani)

Black Butler is a relatively lesser-known anime, but its basic synopsis revolves around a young boy investigating mysteries and murders in Victorian England. That’s why a Japanese adaptation of this story for the big screen didn’t make much sense… although Keiichi Satō didn’t seem to mind. The film is a complete disaster that ends up being utterly forgettable… perhaps in this case, it would have been better if it had been made by foreign filmmakers.

06 – Attack on Titan (2015, Shinji Higuchi)

An adaptation of such a “titanic” anime is always eagerly anticipated (whether for better or worse). Moreover, considering that the story is rather somber, a realistic adaptation could… let’s say, work. But no. That’s not the case at all. It’s boring, rushed, and downright strange… and the CGI Titans look much better in the anime, to be honest.

05 – Fullmetal Alchemist (2017, Fumihiko Sori)

In the middle of the list, we have another adaptation that, in reality, could have been done well. Fullmetal Alchemist is one of the best animes of recent years, and its somber tone fits perfectly with the format of a feature film. However, with creative liberties and literal elements that don’t work, it ends up being a strange mishmash that is best avoided.

04 – Death Note: Light Up the New World (2016, Shinsuke Sato)

Yes, Death Note appears twice on this list. This time, with a Japanese film from 2016 titled “Light Up the New World.” It tells a completely new story in the Death Note universe, set a decade after Light Yagami’s story. Well, sometimes it’s not such a good idea to continue something that works with a feature film in a completely different format.

03 – The Knights of the Zodiac (2023, Tomasz Bagiński)

It has just been released and it has already made its way into the top 3. Tomasz Bagiński’s film has the lowest average rating among this year’s releases, and it’s not surprising. Somewhere between Power Rangers and Gods of Egypt, this movie portrays the Saint Seiya universe in such a peculiar way that it could have any other name. Clearly, nothing works in it.

02 – JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable (2017, Takashi Miike)

Translating Jojo’s to live-action is not a good idea. Trust me, it’s something so creepy that it can only work well in animated form. And… well, this movie is just something that happens… But the worst part is that it’s not even entertaining, and with the source material it has, that’s practically a crime.

01 – Dragonball Evolution (2009, James Wong)

At the top 1, there could be no other than Dragonball Evolution. While there may objectively be worse films (spoiler: I don’t think so), it’s no surprise that this “thing” is so reviled by everyone, considering it is based on the most successful manga of the century. It’s not just that the story is a mess, but it also lacks any hint of excitement. It’s worth watching only out of morbid curiosity.


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Juan Carlos Saloz

Juan Carlos Saloz

Cultural journalist specialized in film, series, comics, video games, and everything your parents tried to keep you away from during your childhood. Also an aspiring film director, screenwriter, and professional troublemaker.

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