Welcome back to Saturday Special!
Today we are going to delving into a topic that always draws a lot of conversations: what makes a good adaptation?
More specifically we are going to be talking about what makes a good manga to anime adaptation.
Now this is all going to be based off of my opinion, and I am not an expert on what it takes to adapt one medium to another.
Let’s get started!
Now obviously this is different from person to person, but generally someone could read a volume of a manga faster than they can watch an episode or two of an anime.
I can read pretty quickly, so if I speed read a manga I can probably get through it in about half an hour to forty five minutes.
Keep in mind, a volume of a manga usually composes between 5 to 15 chapters of a manga, depending on the series and genre.
Now an episode of an anime runs between 22 to 24 minutes long, with ads in between making it half an hour. If you adapted one volume of a manga into one episode of an anime, then that would be the most rushed episode of an anime ever.
You see, pacing works differently from manga to anime. You read dialogue faster than you can hear and understand dialogue. Sometimes a dramatic story needs slower dialogue, sometimes silence to address a point of emotion.
Time is the main factor. If you speed up dialogue, then that usually means something funny or stressful is happening.
All of that happens naturally when you read (for all those with aphantasia, I do apologize in advance), but it needs to be managed carefully when adapting something.
Cutting Room Floor
This goes in line with pacing, but it deserves its own section.
Sometimes there are parts of a manga that do not adapt well when it becomes animated.
It could be an unnecessary comedic sequence, a scene that didn’t matter in the manga, or a character that disappears halfway through the story even though they appeared in the beginning of the story.
Now it’s entirely possible that the character that disappeared in the story comes back or the plot point becomes relevant, but unless a manga is finished you will never know. This brings in a separate issue where you should not adapt a manga that is halfway through or never finished, but that is for another Saturday Special.
The point is that an animation studio needs to figure out what is important to keep and what can go. Now you could do that by communicating with the creator of the series, or you can just wing it.
Stretch It Out
Now there have been plenty of anime that have episodes or parts that were not part of the original manga.
These are called “filler” or “filler episodes” depending on the length.
Some of the most famous examples of this comes from older shonen series like Dragonball Z, Naruto, Bleach, etc.
Since they were adapting the series close to concurrent with the manga in some cases, and they wanted to keep the show going to make more money, sometimes a few episodes were made to fill in the gaps.
It becomes especially egregious when whole arcs are adapted from thin air.
Anime Original vs Filler
Now this is a tricky bridge to cross, as there is one very major case of this occurring where I prefer the anime original part of a series vs its source.
What is the difference between “anime original” and “filler”?
You see, in my mind, filler is done in order to stretch out the material in a way to make more money while anime original is done in order to bring a story to a plot point or conclusion that is satisfying while being different from the source.
Case in point, the Fullmetal Alchemist series.
The original Fullmetal Alchemist anime had to deviate to a different plot halfway through because the author of the manga, Arakawa Hiromu, did not want the anime and the manga to go through the same story.
The studio obliged and Fullmetal Alchemist goes in a different direction, especially when compared to the more manga faithful Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood.
And this is a case where I prefer the original Fullmetal Alchemist over Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. Don’t get me wrong, I do like FMAB, but I much prefer the main villain and the ending of the original FMA.
I don’t want to spoil it, and I can talk about it another day (once I rewatch both series because it has been a few years since I’ve seen either), but needless to say I do think that there is a time and a place for anime original content.
Of course this is the biggest part of adapting a manga into an anime, the actual animation aspect of it.
When adaption something that is still into something that is moving, there are a lot of little things that can go wrong.
We have all seen the inbetween frames of anime and how goofy they can look, but when you watch them as they are moving, usually it isn’t a problem (usually).
Now of course there are other aspects to consider, such as maintaining the original art style but doing so in a way that doesn’t take too much time to animate.
Casting becomes important because a bad voice can really detract from how someone imagined how someone sounded in their head when they were reading the manga.
Music needs to not be overbearing but also subtle when the moment calls for it.
There are so many moving parts to adapting a series, that it’s practically impossible to get it perfect, unless you had the best of the best working on the adaptation and had unlimited money to do so.
There is no perfect way adapt something, but there are some way to make a good adaptation.
Understand the pacing of the series, cut what can be cut and add when you can, don’t add something for the sake of it, and do what you can during the actual production process.
Something will go wrong during the adaptation process, it’s inevitable, but there are ways to mitigate those mistakes into minor quirks and not full blown mistakes.
On Wednesday, we will be taking a look at a group of people who make mistakes, but more so when dealing with their academic (and maybe romantic?) pursuits.
We will be looking at the first volume of We Never Learn!
So until then,
Heiwa to sayonara!