Focal Point – Favorable Adaptations
Originally I wasn’t going to write an introduction post; I figured posting the first writing sample Omni requested about anime adaptations strictly following the manga would suffice as an introduction. Obviously, I changed my mind, but I didn’t want to just toss all that great writing that got me this position away (it’s either that or I was too busy with the wife and kids to come up with a new editorial). In any event, you can expect more news-related editorials soon, but for now, indulge me, since it’s my turn to bathe the kids.
One of many fiercely debated topics in anime fandom, the adaptation of manga into anime strikes a particular cord with FANS in general, because it is closely related to the topic of film adaptations of books.
Now, I emphasize FANS (with an explanation at the end of this article), because they’re the only type of people who care about this sort of thing; any “normal” person would simply want to be entertained, regardless of what came before or after it. Never is this more evident than when discussing the Harry Potter books and films with someone who is not a FAN of Harry Potter — and I use Harry Potter, because (due to its popularity and recognition factor) there are quite a lot of people who like Harry Potter but are not FANS of the series.
Harry Potter Fan (HPF) versus Non-Harry Potter Fan (N-HPF) Conversation:
HPF: I can’t believe they cut out <some part of the book> from the movie!
N-HPF: The movie was still pretty good.
HPF: Did you read the book?
HPF: And you didn’t hate how they cut out that part?
HPF: Did you like the book?
HPF: Which do you like better?
N-HPF: I like them the same, but they’re no <other well-renown series>.
HPF: *Gasp* AVADA KEDAVRA!
N-HPF: … Why are you pointing your pen at me?
Don’t get me wrong. I understand why fans of anything would feel violated if their precious entertainment was grotesquely reworked into something hideously unfamiliar. Why, it’s almost as bad as when a creator’s work is altered without their permission …ALMOST…
But let’s not open THAT can of worms and approach this issue practically. If an original work (manga, in the case of what this article should be focusing on) is altered and the result (the anime adaptation) is of low quality, it is very reasonable to decry the travesty and claim that the manga should not have been altered. Everyone thinking of the filler episodes from Rurounin Kenshin after the Kyoto arc or the filler episodes from Naruto before Shippuuden? Good.
What I mainly have a problem with are FANS who hold on to their precious manga so dearly that they refuse to accept ANY change in the anime adaptation. There are mainly two reasons for this:
1) There are some aspects of the manga medium that simply do not translate well into the anime medium
2) Preceding Favoritism
Anime simply cannot do some things that manga can do, and thus, most attempts at that just come across poorly. While Kare Kano was a good series, both as a manga and an anime, there were certainly several scenes that made otaku wonder if Gainax was just trying to conserve on their animation budget. You’d get a faithfully reproduced scene from the manga where melodic music was playing and a single frame of words were laid over a sky-filled background (an all-too common panel in the manga), and while it was beautiful and soothing, it made me fall asleep. In the manga, it’s a single page flip, but in anime, it could be a grueling 10 seconds, which may not seem long here but can feel like an eternity when viewed.
Is this from the anime or the manga? I…I can’t tell…!
Anime can also do some things that manga cannot do at all, and thus, anime SHOULD do such things in order to make a scene that much more dynamic. Shounen fight scenes, as long as they are animated well with a healthy budget, should be elaborated on. In fact, that’s almost a prerequisite; most fight scenes in a manga can be confusing in their depiction, and it becomes difficult to discern what is actually happening. The anime adaptation is forced to (who knew?) ADAPT the fight scene and interpret it in a way that can be more easily understood.
While I was complaining about Kare Kano earlier, one of their more interesting adaptations of the manga was the use of onomatopoeia (sound effect words). However, they didn’t simply copy and paste them from the manga – they vibrantly animated them to fit what was going on (seeing the word “stress” stretched and pulled across the screen as Yukino was stressing over Arima still makes me laugh).
Fine, I’ll admit it — I’m nitpicking. Most people only care about how an anime adaptation changes a manga’s PLOT, accomplished by 1) extending it with poorly written fillers; 2) removing scenes, details, and subplots; or 3) altering the ending all together. I would like to point out, however, that while there are the horrible fillers of Rurouni Kenshin and Naruto, there are also anime that surpassed their predecessor manga in terms of plot (Angelic Layer immediately comes to mind), as well anime that greatly deviated from their manga origins but still held their own ground as entertainment equally good to the manga (such as Full Metal Alchemist). Ghost in the Shell is also an interesting one, because while the first movie followed the manga’s plot fairly closely, there were definitely a lot of story details that were cut to tighten the film up. Additionally, when you look at Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (the TV series), the plot there is VERY different, even though it retains more story elements from the manga than the films.
I’d like for you to engage in this mental exercise, if you know Ghost in the Shell. Pretend that the movies never came out; pretend that after the manga, just the TV series came out. Can’t you imagine how some FANS would complain how the TV series was not holding true to the original manga, in spite of how well the TV series was put together? “Where is the Puppeteer?” I can hear them cry (and, yes, in the manga, it’s Puppeteer – in the movie, it’s Puppet Master). Sure, the TV series focuses on a different part of the overall setting of Ghost in the Shell, but some FANS would demand to see the story from the manga they loved animated. The reason why FANS don’t have a problem with the TV series (and, in fact, adore it) is because a movie that followed the manga’s storyline was released FIRST. If that event never happened, I would wager there would be a lot more complaints about the TV series adaptation not following the manga. This is what I call Preceding Favoritism.
How many of you would have wanted to see this animated? (no, it’s not doujinshi – this was original manga work cut from the manga releases outside of Japan) – And yes, I photoshopped other panels from the same page in order to cover the naughty bits…(Here’s the original for those who are curious)
Preceding Favoritism refers to how EVERYONE is subject to the “well, I like what came first” mentality. It’s difficult to compartmentalize one’s emotions (evaluating an anime without letting one’s feelings of the manga interfere — again, you could replace anime with movie and manga with book), but I cannot tolerate FANS who do not even acknowledge this as a possible factor for why they prefer the manga over the anime (with obvious exceptions to those who saw the anime first and then started reading the manga second). I don’t want to get into a whole debate about “you can’t be fair when you compare” versus “comparison is necessary when evaluating” — I just want acknowledgement that previous exposure alters one’s ability to critique a piece of creative work. If you had to marathon 20 SERIES (not episodes) of Giant-Robot-Sci-Fi-Mecha shows and were forced to watch <what you currently think is the greatest Giant-Robot-Sci-Fi-Mecha show ever> afterwards without ever seeing it before, you probably would not think it was the greatest Giant-Robot-Sci-Fi-Mecha show ever.
Let’s just look at this logically from a “life-lesson” point of view. While anime adaptations that deviate from the manga could very well be bad (not even in comparison to the original – just flat out bad), they also have the potential to be better than the manga, if not great on their own accords. Isn’t the risk worth it? The industry (anime and movie) fueled by the drive for profit already becomes an assembly line churning out the same product because it sells well. There is really little room for innovation as is. Would you rather eat your most favorite food day in and day out until you grow absolutely bored of it that the sight of it makes you dry-heave? Or would you like to eat several different things all the time, knowing FOR A FACT that you will eat something vomit-inducing every now and then but also realizing you could potentially eat something that blows your tastebuds away (in a good way)?
There was a Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei episode about how the girls saw a really bad movie, and they criticized the movie director for it, but he ran away with the excuse of “I was only following the original.” They questioned him on why he didn’t do his job as a director and come up with new things to make the movie more interesting, even if that meant deviating from the boring original. He responded that he was worried if what he came up with was not well received, then he would have no excuse and people could directly blame him; by following the original, he could always run away with the excuse of “I was only following the original.” Is that what we really want the anime industry to turn into?
who doesn’t think all fans are bad…just the FANS (you know exactly who I am talking about)…