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Live-Action Korean & Taiwanese Adaptations of Manga You Might Not Know About

posted on by Ederlyn Peralta

Over the years, Japanese manga and anime have gained popularity in countries like South Korea and Taiwan, resulting in a bevy of live-action drama and film adaptations. For fans interested in broadening their tastes in entertainment, we've compiled a short list of adaptations based on well-known manga series that you might not know about.

In South Korea:

Antique Bakery

[Digital Manga]

Antique Bakery (1999-2002) is a four-volume manga series written and illustrated by Fumi Yoshinaga. The manga revolves around the lives of four men—Yūsuke Ono, Keiichirō Tachibana, Eiji Kanda, and Chikage Kobayakawa—who work at a small dessert shop called Antique Bakery. The manga was a hit among readers and even won the Kodansha Manga Award for shojo manga in 2002.


Before the series even ended, the manga was adapted into a live-action Japanese series in 2001 called Antique, which starred:

  • Hideaki Takizawa as Eiji Kanda
  • Kippei Shiina as Keichiro Tachibana
  • Naohito Fujiki as Yusuke Ono
  • Hiroshi Abe as Chikage Kobayakawa

A twelve-episode anime was eventually released in 2008, but the same year, Antique Bakery was adapted into a South Korean film, also titled Antique, directed by Kyu-dong Min and featuring:

  • Ji Hoon Joo as Jin Hyeok Kim (Tachibana)
  • Jae Wook Kim as Seon Woo Min (Ono)
  • Ah In Yoo as Ki Beom Yang (Eiji)
  • Ji Ho Choi as Soo Yeon Nam (Chikage)

It was seen by over one million viewers within the first two weeks of its release, making it one of the most successful films ever made in South Korea.

Kimi wa Petto (Tramps Like Us)

Another Kodansha Manga Award winner, Yayoi Ogawa's Kimi wa Petto (2000-2005) follows a young career woman, Sumire Iwaya, who takes a young man into her home as a pet dog.


Kimi wa Petto was turned into a ten-episode Japanese drama in 2003 featuring Koyuki as Sumire Iwaya and Arashi band member and Hana Yori Dango actor Jun Matsumoto as Momo.

[Amazon and AsianWiki]

Eight years later, South Korean director Byeong-kon Kim transformed the manga into a romantic comedy film, You're My Pet, starring Ha-neul Kim as Eun-yi Ji (Sumire) and Keun-suk Jang as In-ho Kang (Momo).

Dragon Zakura

Lauded for its inspirational message and encouragement to students studying for entrance exams, Dragon Zakura (2003-2007) is a 21-volume manga series created by Mita Norifusa. This series sold over six million copies nationwide and received numerous awards, including the 2005 Kodansha Manga Award for general manga and the Excellence Prize at the 2005 Japan Media Arts Festival.


The story focuses on the life of a third-rate lawyer, Kenji Sakuragi, who becomes a homeroom teacher at Ryuuzan High School, a bankrupt school with a bad reputation. At the school, Kenji Sakuragi teaches a special advanced class that prepares five students for the University of Tokyo entrance exam.


The manga was eventually adapted into an eleven-episode J-drama in 2005 starring Hiroshi Abe as Kenji Sakuragi.


A South Korean adaptation came five years later in 2010 with a 16-episode drama called Master of Study starring Soo-ro Kim as Suk-ho Kang (Kenji Sakuragi). While the story is similar, the students are studying for the Cheonha University entrance exam. It's been praised by Dragon Zakura creator Mita Norifusa, who said, "It is energetic and entertaining. The characters have depth. I am satisfied."

City Hunter

For those who prefer crime series, City Hunter (1985-1991) is an action-packed 31-volume series by Tsukasa Hojo. The manga follows the adventures of a private detective, Ryo Saeba, who fights and solves crimes in Tokyo with his partner, Kaori.

The manga was developed into various anime series and films, which include the 1993 Hong Kong action film of the same name starring Jackie Chan.

In 2011, the manga series was adapted into a 20-episode South Korean action drama that starred Boys Over Flowers' main actor Min Ho Lee as Yoon-sung Lee/Poochai and Min-yong Park as Na-na Kim. In this version, City Hunter takes place in Seoul, where a recent MIT graduate Yoon-sung Lee is working as a member of the international communication team in the Blue House and is secretly plotting his revenge against five politicians who killed his father.

In Taiwan:

Skip Beat!


Yoshiki Nakamura's popular, on-going shojo manga, Skip Beat! (2002) centers around Kyoko Mogami, a sixteen-year-old girl who desires to become the top star in the entertainment industry in order to get revenge against her childhood friend, Shotaro Fuwa, for betraying her. While on her journey to stardom, Kyoko meets the famous actor, Ren Tsuruga, who helps cultivate her acting skills.

Skip Beat! was made into a Taiwanese romantic comedy drama entitled, Extravagant Challenge (2011-2012), which featured Ivy Chen as Gong Xi (Kyoko Mogami) and Super Junior members Siwon Choi as Dun Helian (Ren Tsuruga) and Donghae as Bu Po Shang (Shotaro Fuwa).

Hayate the Combat Butler


An ongoing manga series by Kenjiro Hata, Hayate the Combat Butler (2004) tells the adventures of Hayate Ayasaki, a butler and "bodyguard" for rich heiress Nagi Sanzenin.

[Hayate the Combat Butler]

While the manga spawned a multi-season anime adaptation, in 2011, Hayate the Combat Butler became a 13-episode Taiwanese live-action series starring American-born Taiwanese actor, George Hu as Xiao Sa (Hayate Ayasaki) and South Korean actress, Shin-hye Park as Xiao Zhi (Nagi Sanzenin).

Absolute Boyfriend


In Absolute Boyfriend, the 2005 manga by Fushigi Yuugi author Yuu Watase, 16 year-old, Riiko Izawa, creates her ideal boyfriend on an online site that was recommended by a strange businessman she met on the street. The next day, a package arrives containing the boyfriend she made on the website. The story mainly focuses on the love-triangle with Riiko, Night, and Riiko's childhood friend, Soushi.


The eleven episode Japanese series, Zettai Kareshi, (2008) features Saki Aibu as Riiko Izawa, Mokomichi Hayami as Night Tenjo, and well-known Hana Kimi and Black Butler actor Hiro Mizushima as Soushi Asamoto.


In 2012, the manga series was adapted into a Taiwanese version entitled Absolute Darling. The Taiwanese cast consisted of Fahrenheit boy band member Jiro Wang as Night (Night Tenjo), South Korean actress Hye-sun Ku as Guan Xiao Fei (Riiko Izawa), and Kun Da as Yan Zong Shi (Soushi Asamoto).

There's also a Korean version with Kim Ha Neul as the lead.

While the properties are similar, there are many differences between the manga and all three live adaptations. For example rather than depicting the life of a high school student, the Japanese live-action version characterizes Riiko as a young career woman who dreams of becoming a pâtissière; in the Taiwanese version, Xiao Fei (Riiko) is an office worker at a company's general affairs department; and in the Korean version, the main character is a 30-year-old woman who works at a beauty salon.

In South Korea and Taiwan:

Hana Yori Dango


Perhaps the most widely adapted is Hana Yori Dango (1992-2003), a popular and successful manga series by Yoko Kamio that was adapted into many live-action dramas and films. The manga series was awarded the 41st Shogakukan Manga Award for shojo manga.

Hana Yori Dango is a love story between Tsukushi Makino and Tsukasa Doumyouji. Tsukushi Makino is a low-income student at Eitoku Academy, a school for rich, high class families. Tsukasa Doumyouji is the leader of the "Flower Four" or F4, a group consisting of the most popular, handsome, and rich men at Eitoku Academy.


The first adaptation was a 1995 live-action film that starred Yuki Uchida as Tsukushi Makino and Shosuke Tanihara as Tsukasa Doumyouji, with an anime series to follow in 1996.

In 2005, the series was rebooted into a nine-episode Japanese live-action drama. This series also had a second season, Hana Yori Dango Returns in 2007, and a movie, Hana Yori Dango Final (2008). The live-action drama and film featured an all-star cast:

  • Mao Inoue as Tsukushi Makino
  • Jun Matsumoto as Tsukasa Doumyouji
  • Shun Oguri as Rui Hanazawa
  • Shota Matsuda as Soujiro Nishikado
  • Tsuyoshi Abe as Akira Mimasaka

In 2009, Hana Yori Dango was adapted into a 25-episode South Korean drama entitled Boys Over Flowers. It received high ratings among viewers and launched the careers of several actors:

  • Hye Sun Ku as Jan Di Geum (Tsukushi Makino)
  • Min Ho Lee as Joon Pyo Goo (Tsukasa Doumyouji)
  • Hyun Joong Kim as Ji Hoo Yoon (Rui Hanazawa )
  • Bum Kim as Yi Jung So (Soujiro Nishikado)
  • Joon Kim as Woo Bin Song (Akira Mimasaka)

[ABS-CBN News]

Meanwhile in Taiwan, the first live-action drama adaptation debuted in 2001, with a series called Meteor Garden. It was a 27-episode series that first aired from April 2001 to August 2001. A sequel (2002) was made called Meteor Garden II and the show also aired a three episode special, Meteor Rain. The live-action cast featured:

  • Barbie Hsu as Shan Cai (Makino Tsukushi)
  • Jerry Yan as Dao Ming Si (Tsukasa Doumyouji)
  • Vic Chou as Hua Ze Lei (Rui Hanazawa)
  • Ken Chu as Xi Men (Soujiro Nishikado)
  • Vanness Wu as Mei Zuo (Akira Mimasaka)

Incidentally, the actors who played the F4 launched their own boy band—aptly named F4 (which has since been renamed JVKV)—and have since starred in mutliple Taiwanese drama series and released three albums.

[Hunan TV]

Hana Yori Dango was also adapted into a Chinese drama in 2009, which also used the name Meteor Shower. While the series is not officially authorized by Shueisha, it is likewise inspired by the manga. It stars:

  • Zheng Shuang as Chu Yuxun
  • Hans Zhang as Murong Yunhai
  • Yu Haoming as Duanmu Lei
  • Wei Chen as Ye Shuo
  • Zhu Zixiao as Shangguan Ruigian


Those wanting a little English-language cheese, though, should take a gander at Boys Before Friends, a US adaptation starring Dawn Morrow as Zoey Taylor, a dancer from a middle-class family who receives a full scholarship to attend the elite Ellison University, where she meets Liam Montgomery (Joseph Almani) and his entourage of wealthy friends.

Itazura na Kiss

Itazura na Kiss (1990-1999) by Kaoru Tada is a love story between Kotoko Aihara and Naoki Irie. Unfortunately, the 23-volume manga series was never completed due to the accidental death of Kaoru Tada on March 11, 1999. However, the manga remains popular amongst readers, and several adaptations were made based on the series, including an anime series in 2008.

In 1996, the manga series was turned into a nine episode live-action drama starring Sato Aiko as Kotoko Aihara and Kashiwabara Takashi as Naoki Irie.

The live-action series was rebooted in 2013. The 16-episode romantic comedy drama, Itzaura na Kiss: Love in Tokyo, features Miki Honoka as Kotoko Aihara and Yuki Furukawa as Naoki Irie. It is scheduled to have a second season.

In 2010, Itazura na Kiss was adapted into a 16-episode South Korean romantic comedy entitled Playful Kiss. The drama starred So-min Jung as Ha-ni Oh (Kotoko Aihara) and Boys Over Flowers' actor, Hyun-joong Kim as Seung-jo Baek (Naoki Irie). In addition to the 16 episodes, the show produced seven ten minute special webisodes that are available on Youtube.


There is also a Taiwanese version of the manga series, It Started with a Kiss (2005), as well as a sequel, They Kiss Again (2007). The Taiwanese drama stars Ariel Lin as Yuan Xiang Qin (Kotoko Aihara) and Joe Cheng as Jiang Zhi Shu (Naoki Irie).

Hana Kimi or Hanazakari no Kimitachi e


Hana Kimi (1996-2003) is a 23-volume manga by Hisaya Nakajo. Mizuki Ashiya admires the high jumper, Izumi Sano, and decides to transfer into the all-boy Japanese high school that Izumi Sano attends by disguising herself as a boy.


In 2007, the manga series was formed into a twelve-episode Japanese drama of the same name. The drama starred Maki Horikita as Mizuki Ashiya, Hana Yori Dango actor Shun Oguri as Izumi Sano, and Toma Ikuta as Nakatsu Shuichi. The live-action drama was rebooted in 2011 as Hanazakari no Kimitachi e—Ikemen Paradise 2011, featuring an entirely new cast, with Atsuko Maeda as Mizuki Ashiya, Aoi Nakamura as Izumi Sano, and Shohei Miura as Shuichi Nakatsu.

The most recent adaptation of Hana Kimi is South Korea's To The Beautiful You (2012), which stars South Korean idols Sulli Choi (from f(x)) as Jae Hee Goo (Mizuki Ashiya), Min Ho Choi (from SHINee) as Tae Joon Kang (Izumi Sano), and actor Hyun Woo Lee as Eun Kyul Cha (Shuichi Nakatsu).


Yet the very first adaptation of the manga series is from Taiwan. Hanazakarino Kimitachihe (2006-2007) is a 15-episode drama starring S.H.E. singer Ella Chen as Lu Rui Xi (Mizuki Ashiya), former Fahrenheit boy band member Wu Chun as Zuo Yi Quan (Izumi Sano), and Absolute Darling's Jiro Wang as Jin Xiu Yi (Shuichi Nakatsu).

How many of these have you seen? Are there favorite series of yours that we missed? Let us know in the forums! And be sure to check out some of the links in the article for places to watch the series legally.

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