November 30, 2014

MANGA MONDAYS | The Manga Was Better!

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By MICHAEL MAUER

We’ve all heard it before. Many of us have probably said it before. “The manga was better.” Or the visual novel. Or the light novel. It’s the same problem we have with books and movies. Today, I want to take a look at the causes and implications of these disparities in the context of a few notable series.

First, Soul Eater. Both the anime and the manga are extremely popular, but the anime ending is a bit…notorious for its absurdly sudden resolution. The reason for this is likely the complete absence of several key story arcs from the manga. Not just shortened arcs, mind you – they were completely removed. Thanks to the removal of some key exposition and characterization, the anime had to almost completely change the storyline after the halfway point (which was only about one third of the manga).

The reason for this is almost certainly a lack of funding. As is, Soul Eater is a fairly long anime, and adding the missing arcs could easily add another season to its length. An entire season of anime is not cheap to produce, especially with an audience that frequently pirates new releases. That said, Soul Eater did fairly well for what it had. Kare Kano, for instance, also follows the manga quite closely at first, but culminates in abstract narrations panels pulled straight from the manga.

Of course, not all strange adaptations are the result of poor funding. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzimiya seems to be an example of having too much money. What else would possess Kyoto Animation to animate the same episode eight times? The Endless Eight is a topic of endless debate (pun intended), but one must admit that form a production stand point it’s completely ludicrous. They didn’t merely rebroadcast the same episode. They reanimated it, giving characters new clothes and changing events ever so slightly. Furthermore, I’ve heard that The Endless Eight is actually a relatively small part of the light novels.

Speaking of light novels: Sword Art Online. The first light novel starts around episode eight of the anime. Everything before that comes from the second book, which is a collection of short stories. I found that this made the novels flow much more naturally than the anime. However, that organization would be extremely strange for an anime, because the closest it could approximate a short story would be via an OVA, and a series of six or seven OVAs in the middle of a season would be extremely awkward.

Not all adaptations have negative consequences, though. The Clannad anime is a superb example of how to adapt a visual novel. I’m curious what adaptions my readers like and dislike. Any favorites? Bitter disappointments? Let me know!

Michael Mauer is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. He may be reached at mmauer@cornellsun.com. Manga Mondays appears Mondays this semester.