This topic is one that’s been on my mind for a while. After my post about Assassins Pride, I felt now was an appropriate time to bring this up (despite entering the Halloween season, which I love immensely). I’ve been a big advocate for following up with an anime by reading the manga or light novel it’s based on, but why? Let’s take a look at why you should read the manga.
This comes up from time to time, with varying levels of alteration. Sometimes it’s altering a part of the plot to fit the window the anime will take place in, such as when Amagi Brilliant Park changed the deadline for reaching the guest goal from two weeks in the light novel to three months in the anime. While a sizeable difference in time, the framing was such that the anime spanned three months, and so it still felt appropriate.
Similarly, I’ve seen characters swapped out for other ones, such as in Spice & Wolf. The character Chloe is an anime-original, but replaces the light novel and manga character, Yarei. This resulted in a more consistent story and another element of drama in the first arc, while still having both characters fill largely the same role in the plot.
In Isekai Cheat Magician, there are entire scenes that don’t take place in the manga. In this scene, shortly after they were transported to that world, the two leads had a heart-to-heart about wanting to protect each other, not just one always being protected. It set up intrigue in their relationship. In the manga, however, this never happens.
This can be taken a step further, such as when there’s entire arcs that are not canon. An example that stands out in my mind is the Bount Arc in Bleach. While it wasn’t atrocious by any means, it was anime-original, and the ended up using elements from that arc for the rest of the series.
Another point is that anime can miss out on a lot of the internal dialogue from characters. This internal dialogue is important for character development, and can change the entire mood or motivation for the series, such as with Kufa in the opening episode of Assassins Pride. This leads me into my next point.
Now, this is different from my previous point as, rather than minor differences, it results in a large enough change that it’s almost incomparable to the original work. This can be either entirely missing the mood of the original series or being unable to show the series in the right light.
One of the most common issues that I’d include under this point is when the anime’s pacing doesn’t match that of the manga or light novel. This results in an anime that feels rushed or makes no sense. One prime example is Tsukihime: Lunar Legend, you know, if it had an anime adaptation… It’d be cool if this visual novel got an anime right? Right?
Jokes aside, Assassins Pride did this too. If you read the post, the awful pacing this series was plagued with is probably what I berated it for the most. With the first episode (you know, the episode that SETS UP THE WHOLE SERIES) being a rushed amalgamation of the first FIVE chapters of the manga. Pair it up with other arcs being rushed messes or arcs in different places chronologically, and you get a poor adaptation.
Let’s end on a positive note. It’s not uncommon for a series to get an anime adaptation before the written work has completed. I actually really like this, as it solves the issue of that hole in your soul when you finish a really good anime and wish there was more.
My first real experience with this was with my all-time favorite series, Fullmetal Alchemist. I had completed the original series and was at a loss. Imagine my excitement when I learned it was based on a manga that was currently ongoing. That, actually, was what first got me to start reading manga in general, and I’ve never looked back since. As an aside, make sure you watch this series properly! You have to watch the original part way, then continue with Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Anything less and you’re doing yourself and the creator a disservice. But I digress…
To use a more recent example, Mushoku Tensei‘s first season is like this. With the manga ongoing, the anime can’t fully encapsulate the series in its entirety. While we sit and wait for future seasons to release, one can sate their appetite on the written work.
In short, it’s important to know that an adaptation doesn’t always do a series justice. I will add as a caveat that it’s not necessarily the manga that you should read. It really boils down to “whatever was the original source material for the series will be the best version”. As an example, Cowboy Bebop, a truly amazing series, was an anime original. The manga adaptation for it, however, was not nearly as good in my opinion. So, it’s not as simple as just always reading the manga.
When a series gets an anime adaptation, it can be really awesome, especially when you love the series already. It pains me, however, when they completely miss the mark, leaving viewers with a unwarranted negative opinion on the series as a whole. I’d say, if you have any strong negative opinions on a series, do a bit of research and see if it was just poorly adapted.
I hope this post helps you remember to not just brush off a series when it feels incomplete or poorly done. Give these creators a chance to show their work is worth the time. And with that, I’ll see you in the next post (should be Halloween related this time).