Anime is a medium that comes in all shapes and sizes, from the colorful, wondrous worlds of Studio Ghibli to the weird blending of teen body horror and social commentary that is Akira. There’s something for everyone, basically, and it’s known for pushing boundaries in more ways than one.
One of the benefits of animation is that it allows creators to imagine all sorts of wacky ideas, or dream up worlds that would be too expensive to realistically render in live-action. The problems begin when an anime becomes a hit, and movie studios start sniffing around trying to turn them into a big screen adventure set in the real world. Trying to recapture what made them work in animated form has proven near impossible for most of these adaptations, and outside of video game movies, it’s harder to think of a subgenre more roundly beaten up on by critics and fans than live-action anime.
That’s not to say that these movies can’t contain moments of demented fun or inspiration, giving viewers scenes and images so insane that they demand attention. Some of the movies on this list are a lot of fun, while others are downright unwatchable, but if you want to see the 15 Craziest Scenes From Live Action Anime, then you've come to the right place.
15 Mark Hamill Turns Into A Giant Cockroach - The Guyver
The Guyver is a cult anime series about a high school student who becomes infected by an Alien armor unit, and is subsequently forced to fight an evil corporation and their various monsters. The series is known for its kinetic fights, freaky monster designs, and the sheer coolness of The Guyver himself.
The series was turned into a low-budget action film in 1991 starring Mark Hamill. While the poster indicates Hamill is playing the title role, he’s actually playing a CIA agent helping The Guyver out. Sadly, the film is a mess, plagued with a terrible lead actor, childish comedy, and for a movie where an Alien warrior fights gooey monsters, it’s remarkably dull.
It does contain one of Hamill’s most memorable, non-Star Wars/Joker-related moments, however. In the finale, his character is infected with a virus and painfully morphs into a giant cockroach thing. The effects were quite impressive for the time, and nothing can beat the sheer lunacy of the scene.
14 Ricky Strangled With Guts - Riki-Oh: The Story Of Ricky
The Story Of Ricky is legendary amongst fans of gore cinema, and it plays like Sam Raimi directed an ultra gory parody of The Shawshank Redemption. The movie features all manner of bloody scenes, from jaws being ripped off to eyes being poked out. Thankfully, it’s all played for laughs, and the movie is essentially a hyperactive cartoon.
One of the most iconic scenes finds the near invincible title character fighting an opponent in a prison yard, and easily beating him. Nearing the end, this prisoner decides to commit suicide by gutting himself, which Ricky -- being a nice guy -- jumps in to prevent. It turns out to be a dirty trick, with the prisoner then using his own intestines to try to strangle Ricky.
It’s gross and hilarious all at once, and if there was any doubt about the film being an outrageous comedy, this moment removed any doubt. Remarkably, it’s not even the goriest moment in the movie. (Don't worry, we'll get there.)
13 Robo Geisha Attack - Ghost In The Shell
Ghost In The Shell didn’t have the impact the studio hoped it would, despite a glossy ad campaign and the presence of A-Lister Scarlett Johansson. The film was dogged by accusations of whitewashing from the beginning, and despite the film’s attempt to tackle the topic head on, this debate seems to have ultimately hurt it at the U.S. box office.
There’s no denying that the film is a visual treat, though, and it pays homage to the original anime in several key scenes. The scene where The Major jumps from a rooftop and interrupts a meeting is almost a shot-for-shot adaptation, and it even pays homage to the robot Geisha from the anime series too. These freaky creations spring to life to hack the brain of a hostage, and the movie briefly turns into a horror flick when they arrive.
Their blank faces combined with their spider-like movements are pure nightmare fuel, and the last thing audiences would expect to see in a major blockbuster. They didn’t last very long, unfortunately, but the scene sure leaves an impression.
12 The Exploding Head - Fist Of The North Star
Fist Of The North Star is essentially the Japanese version of Mad Max, where a warrior roams around a post-apocalyptic wasteland and defends people from roving gangs of bandits. He’s trained in a martial art that allows him to target key pressure points on opponents, which usually causes them to explode in speculator ways.
It was turned into a low-budget, straight to video movie in 1995, where martial artist Gary Daniels took the lead. Daniels certainly had the physique of the character, even if his acting skills are somewhat lacking. The movie around him is muddy and loaded with camp silliness, and despite some inspired moments, the small budget prevents it from living up to its potential.
It does its best to recreate a signature move from the series, where Ken uses his power on a nasty bandit. He walks away from the poor chap after performing the move, and the guy's head soon swells and expands thanks to some rubbery special effects. It’s an odd combination of awkward and awesome, a description the fits the movie perfectly.
11 The Pebble Dance - The Last Airbender
M. Night Shyamalan has certainly had an interesting career, becoming the toast of Hollywood thanks to The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, before embarking on an epic run of duds like After Earth and The Last Airbender. He’s had something of a comeback in recent years with The Visit and Split, and long may it continue.
The Last Airbender arguably stands as his biggest folly, being an adaptation of a beloved anime series that lacked the heart and soul of its source. The acting from the main cast is unbearably stilted, and there’s little in the way of impressive action to make up for it.
It does have a few crazy scenes, however, include a one take fight where young Aang and various other element benders have a big scrap. It’s clunky and technically dazzling all at once, and it includes the delightfully awkward Pebble Dance, where a group attacking Aang perform an odd little dance routine before tossing some small pebbles at him.
10 The Giant Baby - Attack On Titan: Part One
Attack On Titan has become a major cult franchise, thanks to the wildly imaginative story and likable characters. It’s set in a future where humanity has walled itself off from man-eating giants, and teenagers are trained with special flying units to take them down if they attack. The life expectancy of someone in this role isn’t very long, and they usually meet a grisly death.
Attack On Titan was adapted for a two-part Japanese movie in 2015, which featured some impressive old-school kaiju fights but angered fans with certain pointless changes to the source. Chief among these was the inclusion of a Baby Giant who appears out of nowhere in the first half of the movie. The source material established that giants can’t reproduce, so where the little one came from is anyone’s guess.
The baby still makes for a surreal, creepy visual, however, and while it may have angered certain fans, it still became one of the most discussed scenes from the original movie.
9 The Guyver Monster - Guyver: Dark Hero
Guyver: Dark Hero was a massive improvement on the aforementioned original film, where the same director returned and made a much grittier version of the character. The budget was even smaller, but the fight scenes and monsters were vastly improved upon, the suit looked even cooler, and the terrible lead of the first outing was replaced by David Hayter, the longtime voice of Solid Snake in the Metal Gear Solid video games.
There’s no end of craziness happening in the movie, where the hero traces the mysterious origins of his armor and attempts to get some answers. This ends with a final battle where the main evil creature merges with another Guyver unit, turning itself into a superpowered warrior.
The final battle is a delicious combo of stilted dialogue ripped from a bad anime and awesome fight choreography. Mainstream action films rarely end with such a bizarre showdown, and Dark Hero needs to be embraced for it.
8 The Literally Apocalyptic Final Battle - Devilman
Devilman is an insanely popular manga and anime series, dealing with a teen who fuses with a demon to defend humanity from an impending demonic apocalypse. It’s a mix of surprisingly good characters and gory monster battles, and it's also famous for a rather grim turn of events where the hero's family and love interest are brutally slaughtered, his best friend turns out to be Satan, and he ends up being killed in their final showdown.
The Devilman movie from 2004 is notable for being faithful to the source...in addition to being voted one of the worst Japanese films of all time. It’s a delirious mix of awful acting, terrible special effects, and the occasional touching moment, all of which meet head on in the finale.
The hero confronts his former best friend/Satan in a church, and then they turn into PS2-era monsters and have a fight that literally ends the world. The world burns and pillars of tortured souls arise from the ash as they fight, leading to Devilman being slaughtered and Satan crying over his body.
Nuts doesn't even begin to do it justice.
7 The Anime Fight - Speed Racer
The Wachowskis never really managed to capture the lightning in a bottle they conjured up with the original Matrix film, and following The Matrix Trilogy, they went on to produce a number of ambitious but costly failures. Speed Racer is their most purely enjoyable outing, and it stands as a colorful, trippy remake of the famous anime.
The movie is bursting with color and energy, and while it gets a tad exhausting, it’s never anything less than a good time. It proudly wears its anime influences too, which is best evidenced by the brief scene where Speed Racer’s brother Spritle and his pet chimpanzee are watching a stereotypical anime on television.
They then imagine themselves in the show, having a fight. It’s very random and oddball stuff, and it totally fits the movie’s approach. Speed Racer may not have been a success, but it’s become a major cult movie in recent years due to its willingness to go crazy, and the anime fight is the purest example of this.
6 The First Kill - Crying Freeman
Crying Freeman tells the story of an artist who is kidnapped by an evil cult and cursed to become their master assassin, The Freeman. He’s a skilled killer but he hates his job, so every time he carries out a hit, he starts crying.
The movie was adapted into a modestly budgeted action movie in 1995, where Mark Dacascos played the assassin in question. The film has some beautiful slo-mo gunfights and fights, but the ropey acting and meandering pace let it down.
Around the midway point, the viewer learns Freeman’s origin, where he’s kidnapped and forced to kill a mob boss. The scene starts out poetic before descending into chaos, where he stabs the man with a knife hidden in flowers, before casually tossing a bottle of brandy into a fire and lighting his bodyguards on fire. He then grabs a giant knife and starts hacking the poor guys to death in slow motion, which just feels like overkill.
5 The Goku/Grandpa Rope Fight - Dragonball Evolution
By now, Dragonball Evolution needs no introduction. It’s the utterly atrocious American adaptation of the popular anime, which features any number of great characters and storylines. Much of this was lost in translation with this tone-deaf live-action remake, where Goku become a whiny teen with too much hair gel, and much of what made the series work is jettisoned for cheap CGI fights.
Actor Justin Chatwin was epically miscast as Goku, which is highlighted by how awkward and stiff he appears in the fights. This actually works for the humor of one sequence, where his grandfather trains him whilst balancing on some ropes, challenging Goku to a duel to see if he can knock him off.
If it was a fight between two real-life martial artists, it might have been an impressive piece of physical comedy...instead of two miscast actors awkwardly sparring on wires. But the sheer silliness of the scene makes it hard to resist, especially when Goku tries a slo-mo kick and lands in some watermelons instead.
4 The Hedge Clipper Scene - Devilman
Devilman makes another appearance on our list, this time with a scene that looks like a teen soap on steroids. The first act finds the lead Akira as a regular kid in high school, who hangs out with his ultra broody best friend Ryo. After Akira is attacked and beaten up by bullies in an early scene, another student confronts them about what Ryo will do if he finds out.
He recalls a story of Ryo confronting another kid who had beaten up his friend years before, leading to him walking into a classroom with hedge clippers and hacking off the kid’s fingers in front of everyone. The student then reveals he was that bully, showing them the scars on his since-reattached fingers.
This brief scene is completely nuts and sets up the whiplash tone of Devilman itself. It also begs the question of why Ryo wasn’t expelled for such a brutal attack, but that’s hardly the biggest plot hole in the movie.
3 The Warden Gets Blended - Riki-Oh: The Story Of Ricky
The Story Of Ricky once again, which seems to feel the need to top itself with outrageous gore in nearly every scene. It saved the best for last, where the evil warden transforms into some bizarre, snot nosed muscle man, and he and Ricky have a duel to the death.
Ricky makes a decisive victory by stuffing the cruel warden into a giant blender, and soon, a shower of blood sprays the entire scene. In a movie defined by insane levels of bloodshed, this scene takes home the gold prize, and the poor leading man was reportedly caked with so much fake blood that he had to shower for three straight days to wash it all off.
His pain was clearly worth it, because the scene has since become a YouTube favorite, and one of the reasons the film is considered one of the best live-action animes to date. Not a hard mountain to climb maybe, but it’s easily one of the most entertaining.
2 The Street Fighter II Hallucination - City Hunter
City Hunter is based off the manga of the same name, following the various misadventures of a private detective. Jackie Chan took on the lead role in the 1993 film, though it’s apparently not one of his personal favorites due to clashes he had with the director while making it.
Despite the title, the bulk of the action takes place on a cruise ship, where it becomes Die Hard on a boat. The film has a reliance on irritating “wacky” comedy and pratfalls, and it’s not one of Chan’s better efforts. It does contain a surprise treat for game fans, however, when Jackie’s detective is electrocuted during a fight in an arcade and hallucinates that he’s inside Street Fighter II.
His enemy – played by Fist Of The North Star’s Gary Daniels – is Ken, while Jackie plays various characters like Guile and E. Honda, before becoming Chun-Li and winning. The sequence has to be seen to be believed, basically, and it's one of the few reasons people still talk about City Hunter.
1 Sex With A Living Pinball Machine - Wicked City
So far on this list, we’ve had people strangled by intestines, Mark Hamill turning into a cockroach, and a fight scene so epic that it literally ends the world. It’s not easy to top all that, but the live-action version of Wicked City just about manages.
Wicked City was a popular novel that was turned into a stylish anime in 1987, featuring ghoulish monsters and graphic sex. It quickly became a cult item despite some distasteful moments, and producers in Hong Kong bought the rights to adapt it. While they kept certain scenes like the Spider Lady, the plot bears little resemblance to the original and is instead a buddy cop movie between a human and a monster.
It toned the sex way, way back, save for one downright bizarre sequence. The main villain has a shape-shifting female creature working for him, who can morph into anything from a giant clock to a motorbike. During one scene, she morphs into a pinball machine that the villain then has sex with, and while the scene isn’t exactly graphic, it is utterly insane.
There’s plenty of weird touches throughout Wicked City, but this is the scene people are likely to remember.
What other live-action anime scenes left you in a dazed state of WTF-ness? Let us know in the comments.