「モノクロームの長い夜」 (Monokuroumu no Nagaiyo)
“A Long, Monochromatic Night”
We could talk about some other paedophile rearing his ugly head this episode, but that’s fairly par for the Happy Sugar Life course. Let’s instead divert to, again, a regular topic that comes up regarding anime: adaptations. When I wrote the preview the preview for Happy Sugar Life a read a fair bit of the manga in the name of research and so I naturally compare the anime with its source. With so much of anime being adaptations this exercise is one we inevitably do every season, and the question to be asked is what value an adaptation can add to a story. At least one thing that anime has over manga is voice work. And our protagonist Satou has not just one voice, she has two. Hanazawa Kana, Satou’s seiyuu, brings two distinct performances for Satou, one sweet and one bitter. This is, of course, very easy to distinguish in the anime and the different between the two is stark, but it’s not a contrast that one can appreciate in the manga. Of course, when reading manga every character has only one voice, the formless one in your head (unless you read it out loud as a form of performance theatre, but that’s probably not the intended mode of consumption).
The fact that Satou uses a different voice in her inner monologues makes her a markedly different character from her portrayal in the manga. Her actions and her lines are, from memory, largely the same; she still obssesses over ‘bitterness’, and she still struggles through her first experience with jealousy. But simply the performance is enough to shape her character (which is, perhaps, a credit to the performance). In the manga, without the vocal fluctuations she has in the anime, Satou felt relatively (relatively) more stable, more a creature of calculus, who stares into the abyss and does not blink because she knows what must be done. The anime puts more of an emphasis on an inner darkness, and questions whether Satou might be swallowed by it. A subtle distinction, perhaps, and subjective at best, but the point is that it’s only made possible by the extra dimension given to the character in the anime. It’s an inevitable part of adaptation; even a character in a script becomes a different creature when interpreted by an actor, and there’s no reason the transition from manga to anime would be exempt from issues translation.
None of this is a criticism, mostly just an observation. Even after all this time, I still see people say that making adaptations is a lesser craft, that it’s simply transliteration and how hard can it be? But when even just characterisation can be changed so easily with so simple a thing as voice-work — for better or worse — I would say that adaptation requires just as much care as any other anime. Consider how differently we might see Satou and her actions if she didn’t have the Evil!HaruKana voice, or if she didn’t make the crazy eyes. Would she be more sympathetic? Perhaps less interesting? The director can choose to show us these things or not, and even if Satou says and does exactly the same things our perspective will be different. Overall I do feel that the anime is aiming to do things slightly differently, to remix the source a tad, so to speak, and I find that effort interesting in itself. This makes Happy Sugar Life a contender to be blogged for the entire season on RandomC; tell me what you think.
Hmm, I really wanted to talk more about Shio, but I guess I got distracted. More on that next week, perhaps.