So the question for today is pretty simple. When it comes to watching anime, how much does knowing the story affect how you perceive the show? Most specifically, I want to look at first impressions of a show. For example, you’ve read the manga or played the visual novel and you’re finally seeing your favorite manga/visual novel in anime form. The general consensus I seem to see is “the manga was better.” But let’s take a look into why that is the case and what we can conclude from that.
The simplest explanation is disappointment when it comes to personal expectations regarding the anime. I’ve read some blog posts about Medaka Box and I often see people who have read the manga saying something to the effect of “the characters didn’t sound the way I expected.” Stuff like that. While I don’t often have the opportunity to watch an anime after already completing the manga, I feel like I don’t run into this sort of idea when it does happen (like with Bakuman). Is my perception just different? Maybe I’m not thinking hard enough when I’m reading the manga. I wonder if I just accept the anime as the true adaptation, regardless of my own perception of the story.
While this explanation works pretty well with manga, how well does it hold up with games or visual novels? They have the benefit of voicing (and the characters even have color). Video games even have moving characters. I guess it’s just that the animation isn’t as good for when the anime comes out? I don’t usually notice those things, so how could I really comment on it? I thought that Persona 4’s anime adaptation was great. Even if you take out the RPG in the story, it was still fun to watch. However, game adaptations usually run into problems when they become anime. Taking out the battles or the level-up system seems to lower the effect of the show. But it seems weird to me if an RPG’s main selling point is the story.
In fact, I might argue that this perception of original into anime happens in reverse. Take Code Geass as an example. It’s no secret that I loved that show. But reading the manga was just a disappointment. Possibly because of all the things they changed or skipped. Is that just how things are? Is it that we will always be disappointed by what we see second? Or is it just that any adaptation that a company makes for a franchise will never be able to live up to what was originally created?
So maybe the problem just boils down to the difference between creating a story and already having the story. I guess just having the content already there and being forced to work with it is so restrictive that it naturally decreases quality. Maybe adaptations are just doomed to failure from the beginning and some truly talented people will be able to manage a good adaptation.
The question that comes from all of this is what does this all say about how we approach anime? Should we constantly avoid the manga until we finish the anime so that we have a “pleasant surprise” after we watch the anime? Or should we cut anime altogether and just read manga all the time if there is one available? My personal approach is that I avoid manga while a show is airing (that’s why I haven’t continued reading Tasogare or Sankarea now that I’m following them). When the show finishes, I will start reading (like I’m about to do with Mirai Nikki).