My Top 10 Live-Action Adaptations Based on Romance Manga

If you like manga and anime, have you considered watching a live-action film, stage play or drama of your favorite manga? Below I’ve got my favorite live-action adaptations of romance manga. You don’t have to read the manga to love the stories in the adaptations, but perhaps you’ll discover a new way to get a taste of your favorite stories outside of anime and manga! Feel free to share your top ones with me.

Honey and Clover (Viz)

Honey and Clover (Viz)

10. Honey and Clover, the film, 2006

Comments: A slice-of-life story that immerses you in the story. I recommend the Japanese film for its ability of making you care about all of the characters and their lives.

Honey and Clover is a manga written and illustrated by Chika Umino, it won the 27th Kodansha Manga Award for shoujo. Viz Media licensed the English manga.

Manga summary (MyAnimeList): Takemoto Yuuta, Mayama Takumi, and Morita Shinobu are college students who share the small apartment. Even though they live in poverty, the three of them are able to obtain pleasure through small things in life. The story follows these characters’ life stories as poor college students, as well as their love lives when a short but talented 18 year old girl called Hanamoto Hagumi appears. Adaptations: Live-action Japanese movie, two live-action dramas (Japan and Taiwan)



Hana Yori Dango DVD cover (Japanese drama)

Hana Yori Dango DVD cover (Japanese drama)

9. Hana Yori Dango, Japanese drama, 2o05; Hana Yori Dango season 2, 2007;  Hana Yori Dango Special, 2008

Comments: I prefer the Japanese drama adaptation over the Korean drama. The Japanese drama had a lot more depth, including the supporting cast. It turns out that the stars of the drama, Inoue Mao and Matsumoto Jun, have been dating for several years and began their relationship while filming the drama. They are rumored to be engaged.

Boys over Flowers (Hana Yori Dango), the manga, was written and illustrated by Yoko Kamio. It ran in Shueish’s Margaret magazine from 1992-2003. It’s one of the best-selling shoujo manga in Japan. The English manga is licensed by Viz media.

Manga summary (MyAnimeList): Tsukushi Makino, a working-class girl, attends an elite elevator school called Eitoku Academy, populated by children from rich, high-society families. She is the “weed” of the school surrounded by all the rich kids including the “Flower” Four (F4). The F4 leader and son of the wealthiest, most powerful family in Japan, Tsukasa Domyoji, takes an interest in Tsukushi, because she is the only girl at Eitoku who doesn’t fawn over him. However, his hot-headed nature and bullying ways are originally a major turn-off for Tsukushi, who has her sights set on someone else. Adaptations: Two live action drama series (Japan and Korea), two live-action Taiwanese films

Full House promotional poster (Korean drama)

Full House promotional poster (Korean drama)

8. Full House, Korean drama, 2004

Comments: This was one of the first dramas I’ve watched and it was also my introduction to Korean singer, Rain. It was a really cute story even though the kisses were a bit too clean! Still I advise you watch it for the story.

Full House is a Korean manhwa by Won Soo Yeon. It was published in English by Central Park Media, a company that went bankrupt in 2009.

Manga summary (Wikipedia): Ellie lives in “Full House,” the house that her architect father built before passing away a few years ago. She loves the place, but one day people come to kick her out, claiming that the place now belongs to the famous British actor Ryder Bayer. Furious, she grabs her scripts that she has worked hard on writing, and wanders, trying to figure out why her house was taken. While walking across the street, she narrowly avoids being hit by a car, but the wheel does roll over her foot. And the owner of the car turns out to be none other than Ryder Bayer. As compensation for the accident, she asks for her house back, but he refuses, and they decide to enter a contract marriage and split the house between them. The manhwa is about their explosive marriage, and how they eventually fell in love with each other despite cataclysmic fights and dirty scandals. Adaptations: Korean television drama

Kimi wa Pet (Japanese drama)

Kimi wa Pet (Japanese drama)

7. Kimi wa Pet, Japanese drama, 2003

Comments: The Japanese drama perked my interest in reading the manga. I like that it wasn’t focused on high school or college students, but instead a woman with a career who was looking for a serious relationship. Although the premise sounds a little odd, don’t let it dissuade you as Sumire’s pet plays an intricate part to Sumire’s development.

It’s a josei manga by Yayoi Ogawa. It ran in Kodansha’s Kiss magazine from 2000-2005 and was licensed by Tokyopop. It won the 2003 Kodansha Manga Award for shoujo.

Manga summary (Anime News Network): On top of being sexually harrassed by her boss, demoted and dumped by her fiancee for his pregnant mistress, Sumire finds a homeless boy on the street. In an attempt to scare him off, she offers to take him in as a pet and he gladly accepts. They begin to develop an odd sort of relationship as Sumire sets out on her quest to find the perfect man. Adaptations: Japanese drama, South Korean film

Itazura na Kiss, 1996 Japanese drama

Itazura na Kiss, 1996 Japanese drama

6. Itazura na Kiss, Japanese drama, 1996

Comments: I watched the 1996 Japanese drama and it is still one of my all time favorite dramas. Although it’s ancient by today’s standards, the actors (especially Sato Aiko) really pulled you into the story with their excellent acting. Kotoko and Naoki really stood out as polar opposites, yet them falling for each other was done in a way that was believable. I watched the first season of the Japanese remake starring Miki Honoka, and while she is adorable and it stays true to the feelings between the characters, I can’t help but think Sato Aiko WAS Kotoko.

Itazura na Kiss was written and illustrated by Kaory Tada who died in 1999. It ran in Shueisha’s Margaret magazine beginning in 1990 and the manga continued to run with permission from her husband. Digital Manga Publishing has the English license.

Manga summary (Wikipedia): In this romantic comedy story, a high school girl named Kotoko Aihara finally tells a fellow senior named Naoki that she has loved him from afar since she saw him on their first day of high school. However, Naoki, a hottie “super-ikemen” (handsome male) who is smart and good at sports, rejects her offhand. Fate intervenes when a mild earthquake ruins Kotoko’s family house. While the house gets rebuilt, Kotoko and her dad stay at the home of her dad’s childhood bestfriend…whose son is Naoki. Naoki eventually falls for Kotoko and starts to have romantic, protective feelings for her. Adaptations: four live-action dramas (Taiwan, a 1996 Japanese drama, 2013 Japanese remake, Korean)

Antique Bakery movie poster (Korean)

Antique Bakery movie poster (Korean)

5. Antique Bakery, Korean film, 2008

Comments: Although the BL was not heavily present in the film, I still suggest watching it for the witty characters and interesting relationships. Joo Ji Hoon, who plays as Kim Jin Hyeok (and represents Tachibana in the manga), is lovable as all the men are in this movie.

The manga, by popular mangaka Fumi Yoshinaga,  ran in Shinshokan’s Wings magazine from 1999-2002 and is licensed in English by Digital Manga Publishing. It won the 2002 Kodansha Manga Award for shoujo manga.

Manga summary (DMP): When an old antique shop re-opens as the hottest new bakery in an unsuspecting neighborhood, there’s no doubt that a few surprises are cooking. Love, rejection, old high school flames and the most delicious boy-to-boy affections all blend together to make a treat unlike any other. The Antique Bakery is now open… care for a dessert Adaptations: Japanese drama, Korean film

Cast of Goong (Korean drama)

Cast of Goong (Korean drama)

4. Goong, Korean drama, 2006

Comments: Goong, the Korean drama, takes us through an alternate reality with the Korean royal family. This was my first drama ever and it will forever be one that I will recommend to those who want to see a couple (who seem to have nothing in common) grow despite the obstacles thrown their way. This drama also has beautiful formal wear and traditional Korean attire.

It is a manhwa by Park So Hee publish in Wink, a Korean manhwa magazine by Seoul Media Group (which also publishes Bride of the Water God). It is licensed in English by Yen Press.

Manga summary (Yen Press): Monarchy ended long ago in Korea, but there are still other countries with Kings, Queens, princes and princesses. What if Korea had continued monarchism? What if all the beautiful palaces which are now only historical relics were actually filled with people? What if the glamorous royal family still maintained the palace customs? Welcome to a world where Korea still has the royal family living their lives! But for Che-Kyung, a high-school girl, this is a tragedy, since she has to marry the prince who turns out to be a total jerk! Adaptations: Korean drama


Hana Kimi cast (Japanese drama)

Hana Kimi cast (Japanese drama)

3. Hana Kimi, Japanese drama, 2007

Comments: This is a cute romantic comedy with a great soundtrack. If you like gender-bender romances, I highly recommend the Japanese drama.

Hanazakari no Kimitachi e by Hisaya Nakajo, ran in Hakusehnsha’s Hana to Yume magazine until 2004. It is released in English by Viz Media.

Manga summary (Viz): Mizuki Ashiya is no slouch when it comes to a challenge. She’s a star of track and field at her high school, after all. So when she falls for fellow athlete Izumi Sano, she figures out an ingenious plan to get close to him. Now she’s moved to Japan, enrolled in the all-male high school Sano goes to, and become his roommate! How? She’s disguised herself as a boy! Whatever happens next, things are about to get seriously complicated! Adaptations: Japanese drama, Taiwanese drama

Devil Beside You promotional ad (Taiwanese drama)

Devil Beside You promotional ad (Taiwanese drama)

2. Devil Beside You, Taiwanese drama, 2005

Comments: The Taiwanese drama, The Devil Beside You, catapulted me into the world of Taiwanese dramas with handsome Mike He, who plays a bully who is not what he seems. This drama gets really deep and is not always cutesy and covers some relatively heavy topics well, including taboo relationships.

The Devil Does Exist, as the manga is named, is by Mitsuba Takanashi. It ran in Shueisha’s Bessatsu Margaret magazine from 1999-2002.

Manga summary (MyAnimeList): High school is hard for Kayano. When she tries to confess her love to the kind but distant Yuichi, the school bully Takeru makes her life hell. But things get worse when Kayano’s mother gets engaged to Takeru’s father, the school principal! Adaptations: Taiwanese drama (Devil Beside You)

Switch Girl!! promotional ad (Japanese drama)

Switch Girl!! promotional ad (Japanese drama)

1. Switch Girl!!, Japanese drama, 2011; Switch Girl 2 season 2, 2012

Comments: Wooh! This one is a rollercoaster. It’s not for the easily “squicked.” Nika’s habits are certainly gross but the character is really enduring and likable. The story itself is hilarious as we follow on her adventures of navigating school while hiding her real self. Despite the humorous situations, which are sometimes over the top (but in a good way), the relationship between Nika and Arata, who has his own secrets, gives you warm and fuzzy feelings.

Switch Girl is by Matsumi Aida. It’s a teen comedy published in Margaret magazine by Shueisha. It was the top-selling manga in Japan in 2011.

Manga summary (ANN): The series follows a seemingly ultra-cool and stylish girl named Nika Tamiya, but the fashionable persona is all an act that she “switches” on when she is out. At home, she “switches” off and reveals her true slovenly self that almost no one at her high school knows. One day, a transfer student named Arata Kamiyama moves into her apartment complex and discovers both sides of Nika. Adaptations: two Japanese dramas (one is a sequel)

There are a lot more live-action adaptaions than the ones above including Absolute Boyfriend, Nana, Sailor Moon, Skip Beat, Mars, Nodame Cantabile, Paradise Kiss, Kamikaze Girls (story turned manga and film).

Which ones have you seen and liked the most?



Current News and Trends Writer
Writer/photographer obsessed with villains and megane. Hobbies include watching anime and dramas, gaming, eating Korean food, and reading.

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  • wow i definitely agree with this list. i have watched jdrama since late 90s and after dicovering manga., i can say that only at certain point such adaptation is acceptable. the rest is either over acting, nonsense without creativity and dull. imagination is something over the top. adaption is going to turn it into reality. such a heavywork precisely. at the moment the best adaptation is heroine shikkakku. film turn the male mc into lovable character.

  • I have been reading manga and manhwas for a long time but I was never into J dramas despite seeing them played in TV. Watching 5-ji kara 9-ji made made me discover j dramas again and it’ll be my Top 1 in my jdrama list. Switch girl seems funny I think I’m gonna check it out. Thanks for the list!

  • Some of these adaptation I really did not enjoy because I hate over the top acting, which is pretty common with live actions based on shoujo manga. But they are worth watching though. The characters are likable and very funny- most of them. From your list, Goong would be my top favorite.

  • Of those listed I’ve only watched Hana Kimi. But it was highly enjoyable. 🙂

    These aren’t dramas, but I look forward to seeing My Love Story!! and the new Toshokan Sensou live action when it comes out. I still want to see Ao Haru Ride and Strobe Edge live actions as well.

    • Ao Haru Ride is really good! I loved how they handled the reveal of Kou’s mother. That whole scene made me tear up numerous times. And that ending!

    • I would also recommend you to see itazura na kiss , it’s really funny and enjoyable , i am sure that you will enjoy it.?

  • Great!!! I hope J-drama’s get more recognition then K-dramas do. K-dramas are great, don’t get me wrong, but I like the simple look the J-dramas have. A few I really enjoyed:
    Hotaru no Hikari for Fujiki Naohito and some amazing chemistry!
    Itazura Na Kiss
    Movies: Toshokan Sensou live action
    Rurouni Kenshin-pretty obvious about the main otp but done very well to build up in future live action movies. Plus, Takeru Sato!

    The Korean dramas I really liked:
    Secret Garden

    • You should also check out Cinderella and the four knights , even thought it’s a korean drama romance comedy manga it is really good and the actors are perfect ?

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