I can imagine for many people outside of the anime and manga community, it would be easy to assume that when adapting manga, a format that tells it’s story mainly through images, that there is little room for manipulating the content in an anime adaptation. In this article, I want to use the example of two mainstream anime that have been adapted from highly successful manga in very different ways. I’m not aiming to particularly share my views on how successful these adaptations are generally, though I will inevitably touch upon my personal opinions of the quality of each adaptation.
So what are these two ways of adapting manga into anime? And which examples will I be using. The first is the one I alluded to at the start of this article – that is that the story is taken aspect for aspect from manga into the anime. The second is where key points of the plot, including ending, character defining moments and essential events, are maintained, while other parts of the story are altered to be more effective in the anime medium.
For the first method, I’ll be looking at chapter 42/episode 31 of Attack on Titan. If you don’t mind though, I’m going to start with my second example first: Tokyo Ghoul chapter 120/episode 19.
Touka is one of those rare characters that, as the anime progresses, gets less and less screen time, but remains essential to the outcome of the story. If I was writing about Tokyo Ghoul in any great depth, I might argue that she shares the helpless, desperate perspective of the viewer as someone who is desperate to help Kaneki, but in truth doesn’t know enough of the situation to be able to do anything.
Chapter 120, for those of you who haven’t read the manga, covers the scene in the anime where Touka and Ken are reunited a bridge, not far from Anteiku. Touka is initially lost for words, getting angry with Ken, before going in for a full frontal assault, eventually pinning him to the ground and telling him to never return to Anteiku. Now, in the anime, these most fundamental moments from the manga, but many of the subtleties are quite different. While Touka accepts that Kaneki’s reason for getting stronger is to protect his friends, in the anime Kaneki is a lonely figure within Aogiri Tree, as opposed to within the manga where he is leader of a group of close ghouls who support him – albeit to achieve the same goals.
What stuck me most though was that despite being shocked by Touka’s words in the anime, Ken seems to show no remorse after Touka had finished, while in the manga, his friend’s harsh words seemed to genuinely change his though processes.
I’m yet to finish the manga (sticking to the official release!), but suffice to say, the subtle difference here and in moments leading up to this encounter have profound consequences to the lead up to the final moments of the series. In the manga, Ken proposes to disband his group and rejoin Anteiku, while in the anime, he elects to stay with Aogiri and ignore his friend.
Now to go to my other example: Attack on Titan. If you’re reading this, you probably know that I’m a big fan of Attack on Titan, but was mildly underwhelmed by season two of the anime.
If you’re still watching the second season or have yet to watch it, there will be spoilers below.
The chapter and episode I want to talk about is the somewhat infamous reveal of the identities of the Armoured and Colossal Titan. In the manga, Reiner reveals to Eren his true identity from the corner of a wide shot of the top of the wall. The speech is so small and non-centred that you would be forgiven for accidentally passing over it first time around. What is key here then, is that frame for frame, exactly the same thing may as well be done in the anime, with Reiner removed from the focus of the shot, only to then give us the biggest reveal of the season.
In the manga it made a lot of sense to me to present this reveal in the way Isayama did. How else are you meant to show that he was trying to be nonchalant and calm when trying to convince Eren to give himself up for the sake of the rest of humanity? Anime is a different medium though, and you have a little more freedom with how you present scenes – most notably in this instance: sound. I have no idea what I would have preferred, but I’m sure something else would have been more effective. Instead though, we got a frame by frame transfer from manga to anime, which, I have to say was done well, but really left something to be desired.
To move away from this particular moment, I should mention that this copying of the scenes from the manga is run of the mill for season two. There cannot have been very much work for the story boarders this time around.
What then do these two examples tell us about the way manga is adapted into anime? Before I try and summarise my thoughts, it should be pointed out that these two adaptations are not only both very popular, but they’re also quite extreme in the way they use each of the methods I’ve described. It should also be pointed out that there are plenty of anime that change the plot more than the animators of Tokyo Ghoul did, but very few that have gained as many fans post release.
Essentially, I believe the best way to adapt an manga into anime is relatively simple. Make use of the tools animation gives you that you don’t have with just pen and paper while still sticking to the story presented in the source material. Adapt manga panels so that they are visually spectacular in a way that capture what the manga-ka presented while allowing for other perspectives that can only be gained from 2.5-3d.
Let me know what you think of the way manga is adapted into anime? What are some of the better adaptations you’ve seen? And what are the worst? Can you think of any anime adaptations that change the story that then become better than the manga? Let me know down in the comments!
Thanks for reading! 😀