So after a conversation with another Crunchyroll user last night I was given the idea of the blog post I wanted to write today. I decided I would ramble on about comparing anime to its source material counterpart(s), or vice verse, and how it effects our viewing of either one. Obviously this is all my opinion and some of it could just be things I see rather than what everyone will see as a whole.
Time to get this interesting idea on the road!
Anyone who knows even a little about anime knows that for the most part about 95% of all anime that is made and shown to us is based off some other media source. Whether that source be Light Novels like No Game No Life or Sword Art Online, or Visual Novels like Grisaia no Kajitsu or Shuffle!, or manga like Fairy Tail or Kimi ni Todoke. Of course some series have multiple other media sources even before an anime is made, it is at least in my opinion that all other sources are used when making the new source, but they probably rely heavily on the oldest source they have, as there would probably be more information to use from it.
Now for the most part I think at least this all has no affect on your average anime viewer, especially here in the states. The reason being… well we just don’t see the source material too often before the anime unless we actively pursue it ourselves. Manga is generally fairly a bit behind here in the states, and I can say probably only 1/10th of what is produced in Japan makes it to the states. The numbers just get worse as we talk about Light Novels or Visual Novels which can end up being years behind coming to the states and we get even less, if any at all, of what is made in Japan.
But occasionally there will be a viewer, even stateside, who has read or played the source material before the Anime has released. So what happens in these situations? Well I am sure it is different for everyone, but primarily the first thing we are doing and will be doing until the very end of the show is comparing the two sources. Sometimes we do it involuntarily other times we are there specifically to nitpick ever differing detail. Of course there is plenty to compare.
I would say one of the very first things we compare is the visuals itself. Anime is of course the media source that brings life to that which was not alive before. Now this isn’t saying all the source materials are still and boring but, manga for instance, is drawings in shades of black, white, and grey with possibly a few color pages to give us an idea of what colors the author visioned while writing. It’s hard through manga without those color pages to personally tell what color say one characters hair is, or the color of their clothes, and anime is able to give that to us every scene.
Of course colors are not the only visual differences you can find. For example the first thing I noticed when I started reading the Barakamon manga after falling in love with the anime from the previous season was the differences that anime took from the manga that one could argue changed the characters themselves. In Barakamon’s manga Handa actually has fairly longer hair than what he is shown with in the anime. Now for me in this case it was no big deal honestly, but for some people out there even just a small change such as this can make or break an adaptation.
After visuals I would say the thing that most seem to worry about, and probably worry about more than visuals after thinking about it or getting used to the differences, is easily the story. How does the story flow in the anime compared to its source material? Did the anime cut out what you considered important parts to make it fit in the time frame allowed? Perhaps they mashed things together to make it flow better? Worse? Sadly the biggest problem with this part is… well it is the same as visuals I guess. It all comes down to personal preference.
There are so many examples I could use in this section it is kind of astonishing. Some are good examples some are bad, obviously in my opinion, and while I may think they are good or bad, someone else might think the exact opposite. Just to list off some examples I can think of off the top of my head for instance. Denki-gai no Honya-san has cut out quite a few chapters of Rotty and Camera to put more focus on Sensei and Hio-tan. For some this is probably a good thing, but for others Sensei and Hio are kind of starting to get a little boring and more Rotty and Camera would be a lot better.
An example of one that could be considered a good change would easily be Seitokai Yakuindomo. If you haven’t read it or seen it the show is pretty much full on gag comedy through and through. The manga being a 4Koma type where there is only 4 panels per page and only roughly 10 pages per chapter. There is no flow in the manga, it goes from one joke to the next. But there are a lot of recurring themes. So what the anime team did was gather those recurring themes and put them together to make a story. If you watch say one episode, it flows fairly well as a comedy, and you would be surprised to know that that one episode had material used from all over the manga.
So what is another possible thing to compare? Well one I have seen before is voices. Now this is kind of a tricky one unless we are talking about the anime compared to a visual novel like Shuffle!. That is simply because… well manga and light novels don’t talk to us. Any and all voices we “hear” from it are simply what our mind assigns to the visual look of the character (which is even more work in a light novel as we are also mentally creating the images from the words). So yes I have heard things like: “Her voice doesn’t fir her character.” “He sounds too feminine for his role.” and other such lines before. But to keep it simple I will just go with comparing a visual novel with its anime.
Therefore another thing we can get upset about in comparisons is after playing let’s say Grisaia no Kajitsu you have an idea of the story, the characters personalities, looks, and of course voice, at least the one used in the visual novel. Ignoring for now the changes that the anime had over the story, characters personalities, and looks we will go with the voice. For the most part I “think” that when making an anime they generally get the voice actor from the visual novel to play the same role. But well it is a business so maybe sometimes they can’t get the same voice actor and have to use a different person for the anime. That right there is an easy way to make dedicated fans upset because a different voice will give a different experience for you compared to the visual novel.
Another thing that happens of course, and I think this happens quite more often state side due to the lack of source material that actually makes it to the states BEFORE an anime is made, is reading or playing the source material after you watch the anime. I have done this quite often and sometimes it does throw you off a bit. Example being Fullmetal Alchemist, the original ended up straying off the beaten path and being its own show fairly early on, so when I read the manga I honestly thought I had started reading a completely different series or story from the same universe.
A separate thing that can happen, though I believe this is significantly less likely to happen. Is the source material is the anime. While not occurring often enough to really point it out really, even though I am, it has happened before and is currently happening now. The example here being Angel Beats. From the ashes of a short 4-koma and one light novel Angel Beats was made into an anime. Since then it has had a few ongoing manga adaptations and is now working on a visual novel. So it will be interesting to see how it shapes up compared to its anime counterpart.
Overall the biggest thing we look for when comparing an anime against its source material, or vice verse, is accuracy of its adaptation. Most of us know, despite our best efforts of wanting it to be different, no adaptation is going to be 100% perfect especially not for everyone watching. Even minor changes can ruin an adaptation for some people so when major changes happen it can be honestly devastating to watch. So what do we end up doing when an adaptation is not up to the standards we set for it?
Well everyone is different obviously, which is pretty much the main theme of this topic, and will do different things according to how they want and how it affected them. Some will be so outraged they will stop watching the moment there is a difference and preach that the adaptation is a blasphemy tainting the name of the original source. Others will begrudgingly watch the show to the end often ranting at every small change every episode. Finally there are others who just shrug their shoulders and go along with whatever happens because they are able to hold each media source separate from its other forms.
The fun part? We tend to be in each category, and more, with each series we see adapted. One series we may only have a few feelings for and we will just watch as it goes with no problems. Other series we love and don’t want to see a single strand of hair changed in the adaptation we will fight and complain about to our last breath.