Many popular manga often end up getting turned into an anime and, even further, into a live action series. While some manga are short enough to benefit such an adaptation, others are not. Many have such unique comedy scenes that it would just look ridiculous to have actors play them out. However, the industry doesn’t let anything stop it from turning many manga into live action failures! Since I have already discussed my favorite adaptations (in that article you can also find a brief explanation of what a live-action dorama is), this is your all-things-cute-boys-and-shojo writer Martina presenting to you my top 5 worst shojo manga turned into Japanese live action series.
5. Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon
美少女戦士セーラームーン (c)武内直子/PNP・CBC・CAZBE・東映AG・dentsu・東映 2003-2004
Based on the manga Bishojo Senshi Sailor Moon (Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon) by Naoko Takeuchi
Air date: 4 October 2003 – 25 September 2004 on TBS
Episodes: 49 (each 30 minutes)
Bunny Tsukino was your regular middle school girl until a cat literally fell from the sky, landed on her head, and later on told her that she was Sailor Moon and needed to fight the evil of the world. Their quest is to find the princess of the Moon but also the other senshi who will fight with her and protect the princess.
Who hasn’t heard the story of Sailor Moon? And who has not seen the live action series yet, even if only a few scenes? It’s 49 episodes full of cringe, bad animation, and magical fights. To give them some slack, the series is really old. But even back in 2003, you couldn’t watch it with a straight face without making fun of everything that went wrong with the series. It’s a perfect example of things you can’t and shouldn’t try to show in a live action. The transformation scenes and attacks were strange and Luna looked like a talking and moving stuffed animal the actresses had to carry around. For all the love I have for Sailor Moon, this is not what I would have wanted to watch.
Although it is bad, it’s not that bad to rank higher on this list. The character development is good. You can see how the members grow closer, and the story of the manga/anime is still there and it is fun to watch. As terrible were the visuals, the episodes were fun and always made me laugh. It wasn’t horrible, and one day I might return to the series to attempt and finish it. Just not today.
4. Itazura na Kiss (1996)
©多田かおる / イタキス製作委員会
Based on the manga Itazura na Kiss by Kaoru Tada
Air date: 14 October 1996 – 14 December 1996 on TV Asahi
Kotoko Aihara (Aiko Sato) meets Irie Naoki (Takashi Kashiwabara) at the school’s hallway. Or rather, their lips meet. She bumps into him, they accidentally kiss, and that’s where it starts. She is one of the dumbest girls in her school and he is the school’s genius. When her house catches on fire, her father’s good friend offers them to move in with his family until their home is repaired. And when they reach their short-time residence, Kotoko realizes: She will live together with Irie Naoki and his family!
If you have already read my Top list, you might remember that the same story, albeit the 2013 version, was ranked second. How did the 1996 version get stuck in the worst live action series? One factor is the age. 1996 is a long time ago and I guess the doramas back then were just different. What made it worse was the bad cast and the flow of the story. When this series aired, the manga was still running and that’s why they couldn’t end this series properly. I thought there was no way they could ruin the story, but they did. Kotoko was not only stupid, she was childish stupid. It might have been closer to what she did in the manga, but the same attitude did not fit the series. How were the viewers supposed to start liking her if she behaves like a 5-year-old brat? Also, I had some very personal issues with Aiko Sato’s voice. Please, Aiko, talk normally, don’t scream all the time.
The chemistry between Kotoko and Irie was non-existent and the only thing that made me not put this on the top of the list was the kinda good looking Irie-kun and the fact that there were still some scenes where my heart skipped a beat, mostly thanks to Irie; I ignored Kotoko for the whole series.
In all the other versions, Kotoko is such a lovable character. You understand most of the time why she is doing all the stupid things she does, and that is what makes her cute. In this version… If you were going to watch one of this story’s live versions, maybe you should skip this one. Watch all the other versions out there, but skip this. Save your time. Run.
3. Honey and Clover
©Fuji Television Network, inc. All rights reserved.
Based on the manga Hachimitsu to Clover (Honey and Clover) by Chica Umino
Air date: 8 January 2008 – 18 March 2008 on Fuji TV,
Takemoto (Ikuta Toma) starts his university life by falling in love at first sight with the cute Hanamoto Hagumi (Narumi Riko). They end up in the same circle of friends, with Morita (Narimiya Hiroki), Ayu (Harada Natsuki) and Mayama (Mukai Osamu). And with that, start their problems with friendship, love, and art.
I had a hard time watching this series. I started it mostly for the good cast. Ikuta Toma and Narimiya Hiroki are great actors and I was expecting a lot. But the story is way too boring. The characters do nothing, and even if something is happening, the reaction time is too slow. I felt bored most of the time, and if it weren’t for the eye-candy, I might have not finished this series at all. What also kept me mildly hoping for improvement was a random kiss in the middle of the story. But I was disappointed again and even cute Hagu-chan couldn’t save this series. In the end, I didn’t even try to read the manga, since I was bored out of my mind while watching the dorama.
2. Deep Love – Ayu no Monogatari
Based on the manga Deep Love: Ayu no Monogatari by Yu Yoshii and the cell phone novel Deep Love by Yoshi
Air date: 2 October 2004 – 25 December 2004 on TV Tokyo
Ayu (Iwasa Mayuko) is a high school girl who views the world as a filthy, hypocritical, and hedonistic place in which only money holds any real value. That’s why she moonlights as a prostitute. Her life changes only when she meets two people: an old woman, who reaches out to her, recognizes her situation and helps her, and Yoshiyuki, a young boy she falls in love with but who has a weak heart.
I remember that I had only heard good things about this series. I liked the theme very much, because it shows a very real problem and how the protagonist deals with it. But in the end, Deep Love must have been too ‘deep’ for me, as I was trying really hard to not drop the series. It is a very serious story, where a young high schooler is selling her own body. There are even drugs involved and physical violence. And, as the title suggests, there is also love.
I was keeping my hopes up for things to get better as the series progressed, but that wasn’t the case. Ayu just loses everything, a victim of here fate until the very end. And the love that is promised in the title? It just feels non-existent. With such a heavy story, I need a burning love to make me feel good about the ending. It needs to convince me that her life got better even the tiniest bit, maybe because she has found that one love, and that this love is strong enough to make her forget all the other bad things happening around her. But it’s rather a weak little candle instead of some well-fed campfire. The worst part about it is that the story is so depressing, yet I never felt like crying. And if a depressing story can neither make you cry your heart out nor feel at least a tiny bit comforted by the ending, then it’s a waste.
1. Princess Princess D
Based on the manga Princess Princess by Tsuda Mikiyo
Air date: 29 June 2006 – 14 September 2006 on TV Asahi
In this all-boys boarding school, some strange things can happen. In accordance to their Princess system, every year, three freshmen are chosen to become Princesses. It’s very honorable work, as the princesses are very popular and loved by many boys of the school. And that’s how Mikoto (Sato Takeru) is chosen together with Yujiro and Tooru to wear pretty dresses. And Mikoto does not like his new job. So, he plays along but rather half-heartedly until he gets called out by the new transfer student Otoya. Otoya thinks they neglect the system and starts a rivaling team called Dark Princesses. And what are those feelings Mikoto has when he’s with Otoya?
When I do not finish a series, there is something seriously wrong with it because I try to finish most of them. But this one… I couldn’t. What was this even supposed to be? I had reached Episode 6 and nothing had happened aside from a guy trying to get away from other guys who want to dress him up in pretty girl dresses. I tried to watch it for the promise of Boys Love, but the series was so boring that it made it hard for me to stick through until the end. There is nothing to say but congratulations to Princess Princess D for being the worst live action adaptation a manga has ever had! This was the series that broke me, the one that I couldn’t finish and probably never will. It should take the crown and enjoy it, just like the princess that it is.
My Worst Live Action Shojo Manga Adaptations
This concludes my worst shojo-manga-turned-live-action ranking. I think this is even more personal than the best five ranking, though I tried my best to list some good reasons for ranking the series this way. I didn’t include a comparison to the manga because I wanted to judge just the series. Usually I watch the series first and then go for the manga. Deep Love, Princess Princess, and Honey and Clover were so boring or, I didn’t dare to read the original story. I read Sailor Moon before watching the series, and the same goes for Itazura na Kiss, which are the exception in this list. That doesn’t mean that the original story for the rest of the series on this list is as bad as its drama adaptation. But its series were so bad that I’ll never know.
You can now read about the adaptations that made all the fans proud, The Best Live Action Shojo Manga Adaptations:
The Best Live Action Shojo Manga Adaptations