Sticking to the Source: Is the source material really so important?

In the medium of Anime, and it’s fandom, the term “source material” is a fairly big deal, and rightfully so. The vast majority of Anime series are adaptations from another source, such as Manga, Light Novels, video games and even 4 panel comic strips.

And every time a new Anime adaptation gets announced, the fans of the source material often get excited. They can’t wait to see their beloved series or franchise on the big screen, fully adapted and witness the story they’re familiar with all over again in all its animated glory.

I was hype for World Trigger

Only, that doesn’t happen all that often, because much of the reason Anime adaptations exist in the first place is to promote serialised material that has yet to end, and drum up consumer interest in purchasing the original story. As a result, nine out of ten times, an Anime adaptation of an external source either remains unfinished, or diverges from the original storyline, often wrapping things up with an original ending that would never be anywhere near close to something you’d see from the source material.

I’m not going to defend incomplete adaptations that don’t get any kind of continuation. They’re annoying, frustrating and in the end I often feel like I’ve wasted my time because I just watched 12-24 episodes of something only for it to have no resolution to any of the plot points or character arcs. I could wait for a second season, but that may never happen. I could read the source material, but I shouldn’t have to.

tanaka-kun-01

That being said, I am going to defend adaptations that end up creating a new storyline that diverges from the source material and races towards an original ending, because I feel that these are  often subjected to a large amount of undeserved hate.

It seems that nowadays everyone is obsessed with this idea of canonicity. If something doesn’t follow the source material and the original creator has no say in the direction of the original story, then that somehow makes it a “lesser version” of the story because “it’s not canon”.

This is something I’ve always found a little weird.

As usual, this is probably just another one of my weird opinions, but I don’t give a damn whether something is canon or not. I simply want to witness a good story, and if I get a good story that manages to connect with me, regardless if it follows the source material or not, I couldn’t care less if it’s considered official.

The “definitive experience” created by the original author isn’t necessarily the “best” version of a story, and there are plenty of shows with original endings or a ton of Anime original content that I’ve found myself having an absolutely amazing time with.

The 2003 Anime adaptation of Fullmetal Alchemist  is always my go to example of an original storyline being more enjoyable for me. Yes, Brotherhood is much more epic in its scope. Yes, the ending of the original series is a convoluted mess that makes no sense. But the villains of the show, the Homonculi, were infinitely more interesting in the original series than in Brotherhood, and actually served as an evil parallel to Edward and Alphonse. Just like our two protagonists, all they wanted to do was find a means to become human, but unlike the Elric bothers, they went about doing so at the cost of many innocent lives. That is infinitely more interesting than some morally black evil doer wanting to achieve god-like status.

Infinitely more interesting than any of Brotherhood’s Homonculi

And that’s just one example off the top of my head. I have dozens more I could refer to.

Whenever an Anime adaptation is announced, I always try to think of it as it’s own thing. I approach it with the mindset of it being a separate piece of work from the original source. Because it no longer is the source. It’s no longer Yoshihiro Togashi’s Yu Yu Hakusho, it’s Noriyuki Abe’s adaptation of Yu Yu Hakusho animated by Studio Pierrot, and they can take the series in whatever direction they damn well please, for better or worse.

Heck, a ton of my favourite Manga have been adapted into Anime that deviated from the source material, and while at times I’ve expressed my disappointment at how I wished they’d stuck to the original story, there have been plenty of times I’ve wound up being really satisfied with how it turned out. “That’s different” or “that was an interesting direction” are things I find myself saying more often than not, because I’m always interested in seeing where this unique story route will go. And if it fails? Well, I’ve always got the source material that I’ve already read to give me the “better” story.

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I’m not saying that no Anime should adapt it’s original source material faithfully. Several of my favourite series do precisely that, and they likely wouldn’t be among my favourites if they diverged from the original storyline. What I am saying is that if an Anime adaptation deviates from the source material, don’t outright dismiss it as something lesser because it’s not the story you’re familiar with or used to.

Give it a chance, approach it with an open mind and, most importantly, view it as it’s own thing. Because it is it’s own thing, and sometimes it can wind up being a great thing that’s actually really entertaining and enjoyable.

When it comes to Anime adaptations, the source material means nothing. A good story that is entertaining means everything.

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17 thoughts on “Sticking to the Source: Is the source material really so important?

  1. You are so right! I’m one of those people as well. I always have an open mind when it comes to adaptations. It’s okay if it heads into a different direction than the original source material (as long as it keeps the spirit of whatever it has adapted). I do think that when an adaptation diverges too much (like changing things that make it into something completely different than what you originally liked it for), that is pretty much where I draw the line. Otherwise though, I really don’t mind it at all. It only makes for things to become a bit of suprise as well 😀 Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s nice to see someone agree with my perspective!

      I do agree with you in that if an adaptation changes the story so much that it creates a completely different tone and message that it often feels “wrong”, but luckily those examples are few and far between.

      The element of surprise is precisely why I love these kinds of adaptations so much: I don’t know what I’m going to get, and neither does anyone else!

      Thanks for reading. Glad you enjoyed the post!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice post. Given I don’t tend to read manga and I’ve only just taken to light novels, I normally don’t know or care what happens in the source material, I just want a good story from my anime (or anything really). So, the anime can change what it likes and go where it likes as long as it works as far as I’m concerned.
    I do disagree with you about Full Metal Alchemist though. Not that the first was bad because it had an original end, or even that the homonculi were more interesting or not… It is just that the ending of FMA was so incredibly terrible it kind of undid any enjoyment I took from the series. Brotherhood works for me because the ending is far more satisfying (again, not because it followed the source but just because it worked better as an ending). Of course, that is just my opinion and I’ve had a real issue with the first FMA anime for a very long time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As someone who’s only recently gotten into reading Manga, and as someone who mostly reads Manga that hasn’t and never will get adapted anyway, I share that mindset. As long as the story is enjoyable, that’s all that matters to me, although there are a few exceptions (ELDLIVE! *shakes fist*)

      I had a feeling someone would disagree with me about FMA, and that’s fine. I understand why people don’t like it as much as the canonical version, especially considering that muddled mess of an ending that should be considered a prime example of how NOT to do an Anime original ending.

      I suppose I just preferred some of the central themes a little more, but I don’t deny that Brotherhood is, most likely, the “better” story overall due to how it wraps itself up and ties everything together in a more coherent way.

      Anyhow, thanks a lot for reading and sharing your thoughts. It’s much appreciated as always!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Welcome back!

    Too often I find people missing out on great “what if” scenarios that adaptations can pose, simply because they’ve closed their mind off to a script, a schedule that “has” to be followed. Who cares whether it’s original or not—if it’s better or more entertaining, then it should be enjoyed, not shot down.

    I like to refer to the many different adaptations of Ghost in the Shell, a franchise that almost now relies on the many different interpretations it has to solidify an identity within the medium. They may not follow the original manga, but they are, in more ways than not, far superior to it. Same goes for Negima!?, a “sequel” that follows the manga’s story for about 3-6 episodes or so then evolves into its own neat little show that I honestly enjoy more than the manga.

    You’ve got some great points here—if only people not like us who already respect new-route adaptations read this. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to BE back after such a lengthy absence! (Two weeks is a loooong time for me to go without posting anything!) I hope to stick around this time and now that I’ve got a new laptop that I can actually blog with, that’s likely to be the case!

      Anyhow, I feel the same as you do. Too many people go into an adaptation hoping for what they’re already familiar with and are afraid to embrace change, no matter how good or bad the changes themselves actually may be.

      Ghost in the Shell is actually one of the most perfect examples you could give. The original Manga is far more goofy and silly in its tone and characterisation of the protagonist, whereas the feature film and subsequent Anime TV series feature a much darker and moodier story with a more serious protagonist. The same applies to Negima!? which became more a gag comedy than a Harem Shounen series like the Manga.

      I’m glad you saw some of your own perspective in here and that you enjoyed the post. Thanks for contributing to the discussion, Takuto! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m the type of viewer who doesn’t care about the source material, to be honest. I read the summary, try to watch the first 3 episodes, and from there decide whether or not I should continue watching. I do think it’s natural for fans of the source material to react negatively to adaptations which do not follow the storyline of what they come to love. I can’t blame them for that.

    But you’re right! Adaptations are their own thing! Let’s all just enjoy what it offers! And if they fail, they fail. That’s it. Nice post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s nice to see more people share my mindset when it comes to the source material.

      The 3 episode rule is a good way to do things if you’re going into a new series.

      However, you are correct. I don’t blame fans for feeling that way, especially if it winds up being a lesser version of the original.

      Thanks for the comment and for reading. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. There is only two anime adaptation that are bothering me and it Fruits Basket and Gunslinger Girls.

    If the changes made into FMA story still give a nice series with an original ending that I enjoyed. The changes made in Fruit Baskets and Gunslinger Girls story are annoying cause they removed something important to the original idea.

    Mind you I get why Fruit Basket change happen. The manga ended after the end of the series and the writer probably didn’t knew what the mangaka had in head (I hope it’s the reason), as for Gunslinger Girls I still don’t get why they made the changes they made. Some character doesn’t die for not reason, their death mean something it was the case with Gunslinger and I still don’t get why they made the character live.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I usually prefer anime to try to stick to manga canon (hey, I’m a manga fan first after all), but I know that not all anime can. There are also some series that follow the manga mostly faithfully but include or slightly change something and make it even better to make the anime feel like it’s the real canon.

    However, I hate series that suddenly decide to make up its own ending two episodes from the end and just pull something out of the rears. Either plan for its own ending from the start or leave it open for a potential season two.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I agree, it’s called an /adaptation/ for a reason after all. It’s not supposed to be a carbon copy of the source. That being said, sometimes changes can be made for the worse, and when people point that out I can totally get that. However, people also complain just as vocally about minor changes or things that are just straight up better, which I think is kind of silly. Personally, I think one should respect the source material but allow room for alterations that enhance the transition to the visual medium. Enjoyed the article as always 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. “Whenever an Anime adaptation is announced, I always try to think of it as it’s own thing.”
    This is exactly my thought as well. I am an occasional manga reader, and I don’t really mind if one of my fave manga gets an anime adaptation. I always TRY to think of it as something “new” regardless of how it ends up whether a total disaster or something that is fairly satisfying. After all, the most important thing is the enjoyment or dissatisfaction you get from it. When you like the manga, it doesn’t always mean you will like the anime, vice versa. What I am trying to say is that, there’s no need to compare “this and “that”. Manga has its own thing. Anime has its own thing. When I review an anime, I don’t really make a deep comparison from its original source, and I don’t think readers will care if I do it because it is more important to get hyped of what an anime (and other sources) could best offer in a unique way.

    This case also happens when a manga or an anime gets a live action adaptation. I will also take FMA as a good example. I must admit, I got a little worried when they finally announced its live adaptation film. I guess, it was just my initial response because it’s my fave anime. At the end, I realized that it is something that should be viewed in different perspective. The live action has its own thing. We only have to sit and relax. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s great that I’m not alone in my mindset when it comes to Anime adaptations.

      I agree that comparing things can often be the worst choice, and that we should be trying to view everything on its own merits. Sometimes the uniqueness of an adaptations original story route can be very interesting!

      Live action adaptations are a whole other story, and I often find myself disliking them, but I recently saw the Tokyo Ghoul live action movie and to my surprise, it was BETTER than the Anime in my opinion. Unbelievable, right? If I approached it with the mindset of “this isn’t the Anime” I’d have never found myself enjoying it like I did.

      Thanks for the lengthy comment and for reading. It’s much appreciated!

      Like

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