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There are a lot of live actions that are based from anime. To name a few: Paradise Kiss, Kimi ni Todoke and Lovely Complex. Has there ever been a live action film that was purely based on manga, meaning without the manga becoming an anime? Or is it not possible to base a live action film purely on manga (since a manga that has its anime version defines its popularity)?

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    Densha Otoko and 20th Century Boys come to mind
    – Jon Lin
    Mar 5 '13 at 6:39
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There are plenty of cases of this. Yankee-kun to Megane-chan (for some strange reason it was localized as Flunk Punk Rumble in English) is one such example of a manga which never had an anime. Jin is another example which actually had both Japanese and Korean live action versions, and again no anime version. Neither of those are technically films, but there are plenty of film cases as well, including Nana to Kaoru (no Wikipedia article) and Liar Game - The Final Stage. I know of at least 5 other cases of this (and I'm no drama expert), but I'll spare you the list because it's not terribly relevant.

There's really no reason that this should be an uncommon thing. Both dramas and anime are expensive to produce, but that isn't really a reason to produce an anime first. Very successful manga often have both drama and anime adaptations (for instance, GTO). The only reason why you see fewer dramas based on manga than anime is because the physical constraints for a live-action series are fairly limiting compared to anime. When there aren't any such issues it's pretty common for manga to be adapted only as a drama and not as an anime.

If you head on over to some site which indexes J-dramas and K-dramas, you'll find plenty more examples. One such site is mydramalist.info. Another one is mydramalist.com.

If you're only interested in J-dramas, then Wikipedia has a category for dramas adapted from manga. Many of those don't have anime adaptations (easily a majority). For films, it seems that more of them also have anime series, but it's still roughly an even split. This list on Wikipedia is the corresponding list for films, though it does include anime films as well so you'll want to only count the "live-action" ones.

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  • I'm only aware of live-actions that are based on anime. Or probably, I don't read manga that much. :) Is it safe for me to assume that there were more live actions films that were based from anime than films that were based only on manga?
    – xjshiya
    Mar 5 '13 at 6:03
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    @xjshiya I don't know about that. Just browsing through the top dramas on the second site, it seems like a lot of the manga-based ones don't have anime versions. I'd estimate at least half of them don't. Even in the cases where there is an anime version, often times the drama came out first, and it's almost always based on the manga version, not the anime version.
    – Logan M
    Mar 5 '13 at 6:13

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