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How Faithful Should Anime Be To Manga?

It’s uncommon to see a successful manga be refused an anime adaptation. All manner of stories, from the endlessly quirky JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure to the humorous superhero flaunting One Punch Man, have been gifted with wildly successful anime interpretations of their source material. A common question however, is just how faithful should an anime adaptation be to its manga counterpart? Should it follow a pattern of perfect panel-for-panel replication, with the intent of creating a near exact copy of the manga’s story, or should it instead delve into uncharted territory, adapting the pace of the manga into a means that (hopefully) lends itself more effectively to an animated twenty-five-minute episodic format?

The true answer is that it purely depends on a multitude of variables. There have been instances of anime deviating slightly from its manga source material to achieve wonderfully satisfying results. Alternatively, there has naturally been the opposite, where by deviating from a story that fans the world over adore, the result is nothing short of a depressing disappointment. For example, Full Metal Alchemist‘s original anime adaptation, whilst still enjoyed by many, is often criticised for its decision to stray into non-manga territory via its addition of original story content. As a result, its follow up anime adaptation (titled Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood) is considered by many to be the superior means of experiencing the plight of the Elric brothers due to its beautifully authentic replication of the alchemy-packed source material: the Full Metal Alchemist manga.

On the other side of the coin however, many series follow their manga counterpart closely, but unfortunately suffer mediocre results for doing so. The medieval-esque monster-infested Attack On Titan has often stayed tremendously true to its source material, with only subtle variations. Whilst this has frequently yielded strong results, there have been certain minor missteps along the way. Said missteps are most notable throughout episode nine of Attack On Titan‘s second season, titled Opening, which sees the series screech to an abrupt halt in its pacing. Viewers bear witness to four characters exchanging dialogue whilst residing within the branches of trees for the twenty-five-minute entirety of the episode. Whilst dialogue-heavy episodes can ordinarily be executed tremendously by all manner of series, Attack On Titan drastically missed the mark on this occasion. By setting the entire episode within a singular isolated location and having the nature of the dialogue in question be heavily focused on the raising of questions (and speculation about the answers to said questions), as opposed to firm character and plot development, it sadly shifted a fantasy-driven, action-packed tale of survival into a monotonous, sleep inducing bore. The content of this episode in question, of course, followed the content of Attack On Titan‘s manga closely, and sadly suffered greatly as a result.

This aforementioned episode’s flaunting of lacklustre content is in part due to differences in which we digest the mediums of manga/books and anime/media. Often a slow-paced chapter of a manga/book can be leisurely enjoyed as an intentionally gradual indulgence in story, evoking some form of pleasantly sleepy relaxation in the reader. Anime/media, on the other hand, is often a medium that we are accustomed to receiving relatively prompt gratification from, which is exactly why this is a steep subject to tackle. However, the fact remains that our enjoyment of both anime and manga inevitably differs somewhat between each medium. Due to this, each and every anime must make the difficult decision of how closely it should follow its source material, taking into account the following factors:

  • Overall, how strong is the quality of the manga? An already stellar story with flawless execution may need little to no alterations in its anime adaptation due to its already stupendous quality.
  • How attached is the franchise’s established fanbase to the manga’s story in question? If the answer is “a hell of a lot,” then making any type of drastic alteration may come at the cost of a swarm of ferocious manga fanatics (which is albeit not the scariest of swarms) posting venomous comments about how much better the manga is, and how [insert production company here] has ruined what was once a magnificent story.
  • Finally, how appropriate is certain content for an anime adaptation? As previously mentioned, what may have functioned appropriately within text form may reek with poor results when adapted to screen. Some manga content simply shouldn’t exist outside of its default incarnation.

This is of course a broad conversation piece, overflowing with countless contrasting opinions, and virtually every anime adaptation bears examples supporting every type of stance on the topic. With hordes of both marvelously-executed and unbearably-dire anime adaptations of beloved manga stories, what are your favourites and least favourites? Finally, how do they shape your opinion on the question of exactly how faithful anime should be to manga?

Written By

I invest my time in playing all manner of video games, and as of 2017, writing about all manner of video games.

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