The Art of Adaptations in Anime Pt. 1: Director’s Focus

Most of the anime in the past 20 years has been an adaptation of some other piece of media. Whether the source material was a manga, light novel, or video game, adaptations have become a staple of the medium. This isn’t a bad thing as there are some very good writers who just express themselves using a different medium. However, many times with adaptations, the writers may not always do a good job of transferring text and images to the small screen. I would even go as far as to say that making an effective adaptation is an art form. So what makes a good adaptation you may ask? In a nutshell, I believe a good adaptation should tell the same story while adding a personal touch to it. To illustrate this point, I will take popular anime from the past few years and explain why I think they’re a good or bad adaptation. I will be using manga exclusively as I have read a lot more manga than I have light novels.

Bakuman: Bad Adaptation

Over a year ago, I wrote a review on the Bakuman manga, and after reading it on a weekly basis, I have to say its one of the better series running in Weekly Jump. However, I can not say the same about the anime. My problem with the anime is that it’s an uninspired adaptation. For the most part it copies the manga frame for frame, down to the infuriatingly slow pacing that defined the earlier part of the series. In the past 6 episodes, they have only covered 8 chapters, which at that pace, will not be enough to get to their first published manga by the time they hit their limit of 25 episodes. I was hoping that they would at least animate the manga scenes, but unfortunately, the director decided to go with dialogue dubbing over static images. The director could have experimented with a lot of different animation styles to match the different series and genres encountered, but as someone who is more experienced with directing romance like Honey and Clover, decided to focus more on the unbearably wishy-washy relationship between Mashiro and Azuki than the dream of making manga. So while the voice acting and illustrations are solid, I feel no reason to watch the anime when I’ve already read the manga.

Highschool of the Dead: Good Adaptation

The main problem with HOTD is that it doesn’t stray from the source material in the least. However, it more than makes up for it with shear visual splendor. Every headshot and boob bounce was animated with incredible detail. Those who complain about the excessive fanservice are completely missing the point of this series. The only way to one up an already fanservice heavy manga was to add even more fan service with moments such as the infamous “Matrix Boobs.” In an interview with the director, he says that in making HOTD, he wanted “something I would have bought myself in middle school,” and he accomplished that in the most beautifully juvenile way possible.

Based on these 2 examples, part of what makes an adaptation good or bad is the director’s interpretation. In Bakuman, the director chose to focus more on romance than making manga, and in HOTD chose to focus more on tits than zombies. While I can understand the decision both directors decided to make, I feel the former overlooked the bigger picture of his project, and for that, the adaptation is suffering.

In lieu of writing one huge block of text, I will be try something new by splitting this into 3 posts over 3 days. Hope you enjoy this one, and look forward to tomorrow’s!

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