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© 1962 Daiei Co., Ltd. actors-revenge-00.jpg

'An Actor's Revenge': Improvised, And Served Cold

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It's normally bad to call a movie 'stagy', but Kon Ichikawa's kabuki tragedy revels in it to great effect

© 2001 Hideo Yamamoto / Shogakukan / "Ichi The Killer" Production Committee ichi-1-00.jpg

'Ichi The Killer': The (Sado)Masochism Tango

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Nearly twenty years later, this remains Takashi Miike's most notorious film, but notoriety is about all it has left going for it

© Hideaki Sorachi/SHUEISHA © 2017 'GINTAMA' Film Partners gintama-2018-00.jpg

'Gintama' (2017): The Fact That Elizabeth Is Played By A Guy In A Suit Is A Feature, Not A Bug

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Fans, this is about as on-target an adaptation of 'Gintama' to a live-action production as you're going to get -- but everyone else, don't walk in cold

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Kon Ichikawa's 'Kokoro': The Wretched Hearts Of Men

Kon Ichikawa's 1955 film version of Sōseki Natsume's classic novel adapts it with fidelity, intelligence, and just enough changes to be stimulating

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After its anime adaptation by way of the Aoi Bungaku series, and a slew of manga adaptations, I turned next to how Sōseki Natsume's Kokoro was adapted into a live-action film by Kon Ichikawa. It does what any good adaptation of this story should do: it's faithful to the structure and the design of the original material, and it breaks your heart in all the right places. A good or great movie can be made from a bad or mediocre book (Perfect Blue), but a great book can be all too easily made into a terrible movie. Ichikawa's Kokoro flanks and complements its source material; you watch the film, or read the book, and neither one gets in the way of the other.

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'Blade Of The Immortal': Die Another Day

A great manga-to-screen adaptation, a good-to-great Takashi Miike picture, and a slightly overlong and ragged samurai flick, in roughly that order

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I never believed anyone other than Takashi Miike deserved to adapt Hiroaki Samura's raucous, blood-drenched manga Blade Of The Immortal into a live-action film, but I didn't believe for a minute it was ever actually going to happen. Then it happened, and I have rarely been happier for having been proved wrong. The film itself, as it turns out, is a great manga-to-screen adaptation, a good-to-great Takashi Miike picture, and a slightly overlong and ragged samurai flick, in roughly that order. But it's hard to be overly critical of something that's a near-textbook example of what to shoot for with a manga-to-live-action adaptation.

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© Hiroaki Samura/Kodansha © 2017 BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL Film Partners boti-2017-000.jpg
©Hiromu Arakawa/SQUARE ENIX ©FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST Film Production Committee fma-2018-00.jpg

'Fullmetal Alchemist' (2017): Ed And Al, In Miniature

Further proof that some anime-to-live-action adaptations need to either be done at the right scale or not done at all

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Let me get one thing out of the way: The big problem with the 2017 live-action incarnation of Fullmetal Alchemist isn't that it's a production with a Japanese cast. The big problem is that a two-hour feature film just isn't the right form factor for this story, and that a Japanese feature budget just isn't enough to deliver the goods on such a story, not even in a cut-down form. This is a greatest-hits and highlights-from version of Fullmetal Alchemist, mounted and staged with the aesthetic appeal of a badly fitted toupée.

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