The Best Manga-Inspired Live-Action TV Series

Not only is manga (or Japanese comics) an excellent source material for anime (Japanese animation) series and films, but it has also been exploited by live-action television series producers in Asia.

These are some of the best titles you need to watch if you’re a fan of manga.


The 15-volume manga by Soryo Fuyumi (1996) and its prequel series Mars: A Single Horse with No Name (1999) chronicles the story of professional racer Kashino Rei and artist Aso Kira. Rei first met the Kira when the former asked for directions to a hospital and the latter drew him a map without saying a single word. The manga was adapted into two television series called Zhanshen MARS (2004) in Taiwan and Mars: Tada Kimi wo Aishiteru (2016) in Japan. The former featured Barbie Shu and Vic Zhou, while the latter featured Iitoyo Marie and Fujigaya Taisuke.

Asunaro Hakusho

Also called Asunaro White Paper, the three-volume manga series (1992) by Saimon Fumi is a coming-of-age story of five college friends. Two of them, however, fell in love with the same girl and decided to distance themselves from her to protect their friendship. This decision led to disasters that they would later regret. Two live action television series were inspired by the manga. The Japanese series starred Takuya Kimura, Tsutsui Michitaka, and Ishida Hikari; while the Taiwanese series Tomorrow featured Rainie Yang, Eddie Peng, Shawn Yue, and Christine Fang.

Itazura na Kiss

The 23-volume manga by Tada Kaoru (1990) was not completed when Tada passed away due to an accident. However, it was so popular that six live-action television series were made besides the anime and live-action film. It details Aihara Kotoko’s life with Irie Naoki when the former had to move into the Irie household after an earthquake destroyed their home. The six TV series were aired in Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, and Thailand.

Hana Yori Dango

This popular 55-volume series by Kamio Yoko (1992) has spawned eight live-action television series and two live action films in Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey, and India. It tells the story of a girl from a working-class family who caught the attention of four rich boys called the F4 in an exclusive private school. The series is also the best-selling shoujo manga of all time.

Great Teacher Onizuka or GTO

The 25-volume manga by Fujisawa Tohru (1997) tells the story of a former biker and gang member who became a teacher after seeing his lover jump into the arms of a teacher. The live-action television series starred Sorimachi Takashi as Onizuka Eikichi.

Hanazakari no Kimitachi e or Hana-Kimi

The 23-volume manga by Nakajo Hisaya inspired four live action TV series aired in Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea, although another Taiwanese series, Secretly Loving You, is also loosely based on the story. It’s a funny story of a fangirl who tried to get into an all-boys school to meet a famous high jumper.

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