Faithful adaptations: the good and bad

This picture has nothing to do with the article, but people seem to expect random eroge CGs when reading editorials.

For a while now, there have been several editorial titles sitting on my computer, but the effort needed to actually write such pieces has always seemed to be just beyond my grasp. In an attempt to clear out the backlog of ideas so that I can feel less guilty about not blogging quite as much, however, I have decided to forge ahead and just write the damn things.

First up, in case you couldn’t guess from the title, is the study of faithful adaptations- that is, anime series which follow the original manga almost word for word. Do we experience a sense of satisfaction in seeing something we love so accurately transcribed to the screen, or is it dull and boring to have to experience the exact same events all over again, only this time at a pace set by the demands of television rather than at our own reading pace? The answer is usually dependent on the series in question, and so we must look at some specific examples to see just how and why some faithful adaptations work, whilst others do not.

The Good and the Bad
There are times when anime producers must feel that they just can’t get it right. If they adhere too faithfully to the original manga, they risk alienating the existing fanbase by producing content they have already read at their own pace, and aren’t particularly interested in creating a carbon copy of. Change too much, however, and you run the risk of stepping into the realms of filler and Gonzo-esque rewrites that destroy much of what made the series worthy in the first place.

The series which seem to fare best in this sort of adaptation often prove to be those with no real overall plot, such as Aria, Mushishi, early School Rumble and Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei. Each of these is episodic in nature, with a single chapter usually being turned into a complete episode or ten minute segment. Not only are these series very good to begin with, but they are free of an overall feeling of “I’m bored with this arc, when are they going to get to the next one?”. Instead, each episode can be taken on its own merits, and in the case of these series, everything that makes them enjoyable is properly brought to the screen- the beautiful artwork and well written content is still very much in evidence, with an added helping of colour, music and quality voice acting that was not available in the original.

With animation and music being the main things the animated version can add to the existing material, however, it becomes clear that skimping on them can only lead to trouble. Take xxxHOLiC for example; like the series mentioned above, it is episodic and many stories are taken from the manga, but with its slow pacing and lacklustre animation, it takes away the unique style that made the original so compelling.

What about series with a plot, then- are they doomed to always being inferior in carbon copy adaptation? Unsurprisingly, it depends on the quality of the original- if the story is good enough, then you won’t mind experiencing it twice in whatever form, but sometimes the act of going through it all again is just one time too many. Take Death Note, for example- the visuals and music were well done, but with each episode there was a sense of “well, this part was dull, but the next arc will be better”. Was such an exposition heavy series really a suitable candidate for animation in the first place?

Final Thoughts
For completists or devoted fans of a series, watching and reading the same content over and over will be little problem, but getting everyone to invest in the same content twice will require either an exceptional series or top notch animation and sound. Much as we may complain about anime-original content, maybe it is the differences that keep us watching.

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3 Responses to Faithful adaptations: the good and bad

  1. maglor says:

    I agree with what you said here

  2. setesh says:

    you mentioned the adaptation from manga to anime, but what about light novel to anime? I know the (in my opinion) excelent anime of Kino’s Journey was adapted from the ongoing light novel series, as was Haruhi Suzumiya. Do you think a light novel’s heavier focus on text (vs. manga) helps or hinders a story’s translation to anime?

  3. Karura says:

    That is something I would like to talk about at some point, but right now I simply haven’t read enough light novels to write an informed article about adaptations. That’s something I’ll be rectifying in the future (I do love the Kino’s anime, though).

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