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5 landmark manga-to-film adaptations to watch before Alita: Battle Angel


Post-apocalyptic sci-fi epic Alita: Battle Angel lands in Cineworld 2nd February, but did you know it's based on a Japanese comic art form known as the manga?

The James Cameron/Robert Rodriguez epic derives inspiration from Gunnm, the manga created by Yukito Kishiro. The cyberpunk series focuses on a cyborg who is rescued from a scrapheap and must tap into her memories, all while a band of villains look to co-opt her as a deadly weapon.

The movie adaptation stars Bird Box's Rosa Salazar as the eponymous Alita, and the all-star supporting cast includes Christoph Waltz, Mahershala Ali and Jennifer Connelly. To prepare you for the movie's imminent release, we've picked five other manga adaptations that you need to see.

1) Akira (1988)

The true gateway between manga and the big screen, Akira – based on Katsuhiro Otomo's landmark franchise – is the film that kick-started it all. A two-hour masterclass in the conceptual possibilities of animation, Akira takes what were initially six sprawling volumes of manga and finds a story full of beautiful imagery, memorable characters, and so many engaging ideas, it's no wonder that it sticks with people in the way it does.

The true kicker is when you discover that Akira is completely hand-drawn – when you see all the details, from the lights on the motorcycles to the elaborate character designs and expressions, to the realisation of the futuristic world of 2019, you can definitely see why this is one of the best manga adaptations of all time. It may even be one of the best films of all time.

2) Ghost in the Shell (1995)

Ghost in the Shell is an acclaimed animated film based on the manga of the same name, one that's notably inspired films such as The Matrix.

Following the journey of Major Motoko Kusanagi, Ghost in the Shell is a cyberpunk adventure full of invention and beautiful visuals that directly owe themselves to the source material. It was also turned into a live-action effects-laden remake in 2017 starring Scarlett Johansson in the lead role.

3) Oldboy (2003)

Another entry in the "I didn't know that was a manga" list, Oldboy is a brilliant South Korean movie directed by Park Chan-wook (and later remade by BlacKkKlansman's Spike Lee).

Oldboy is based on the Japanese manga of the same name written and illustrated by Nobuaki Minegishi and Garon Tsuchiya. It's the tale of a man who is abducted and kept in a single room for years, plotting serious vengeance upon his release years later. As he is sent back into the world, we experience a violent, dark movie full of twists, turns, and one of the best hallway fights on cinema.

Chan-wook has since gone on to make even more brilliant Korean and English-speaking movies, but his adaptation of Old Boy remains arguably his crowning glory.

4) Speed Racer (2008)

An underrated Technicolor fever dream, Speed Racer is a manga brought lovingly to life by the Wachowskis (who also directed the aforementioned The Matrix). Their continued love for the graphic novel medium is seen here, leaping off the page and filling the screen with all manner of eye-popping visual possibilities.

The Wachowskis are known for experimenting and doing unconventional things with film (just look at how they popularised the 'bullet time' effect in The Matrix), and their infectious enthusiasm courses through Speed Racer.

5) Edge of Tomorrow/Live Die Repeat (2014)

Some people might not know this, but Tom Cruise/Emily Blunt alien invasion-meets-Groundhog Day film Edge of Tomorrow is actually based on a manga named All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka.

Edge of Tomorrow (renamed Live Die Repeat for the DVD release) is inventive and entertaining and another great collaboration between Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie (Mission Impossible: Fallout and Rogue Nation), who here acts as scriptwriter while Doug Liman directs.

Tom Cruise plays against type here, playing an initially cowardly character who becomes a warrior by reliving his death over and over again. It's stuffed full of unexpectedly hilarious moments and terrific action sequences – bring on the sequel.

Click here to book your tickets for Alita: Battle Angel
, released in Cineworld on 2nd February. Don't forget to tweet us @Cineworld with your thoughts on the movie.

Christopher Francis is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.