When manga is translated into anime: are they better or worse? | campus.sg

by Isabelle Chua

The two mediums of manga and anime are inextricably intertwined, and any creator who attempted to do a conversion from one to the other with no regard for the strengths and weaknesses of each medium has ended in failure.

We have had many examples of successful and failed conversions in the past few years, from the revival of the classic manga Banana Fish to the botched adaptation of the cult hit Happy Sugar Life.

A good adaptation of a manga is not one that simply replicates the experience on the screen – it plays to the strengths of the medium it is in. Here are three examples of manga-to-anime adaptations to illustrate the differences.

Music as Catharsis: “Your Lie in April”

Those who have watched and read both versions of Your Lie in April will agree that the anime did so much that the manga could not. The story traces the transient relationship a pianist has with his soon-to-die violinist friend/lover, and depends on the emotional quality of music to carry its message. 

In the anime, any given song will have multiple renditions to reflect the musician’s feeling during the moment – an aggressive staccato punctuates an inner monologue of resolve, a few keys played out of tune or time highlights nervousness. The messages that accompanied the melodies were subtle, yet glaringly obvious.

Your Lie in April, a story that was created as manga, and reached its fullest potential through anime because it was heavily reliant on music and sound.

Same Same but Different: “Flowers of Evil”

Flowers of Evil is a psychological manga, themed around a rather obscure book of poetry, Fleurs du Mal, which deals mainly with themes of decadence and eroticism – how they flourish, corrupt, and drive people mad with desire. The story focuses on a core cast of three classmates, drawn to look pure and aesthetically pleasing, but side characters look disgusting and displeasing to the eye.

The successful anime adaptation did something completely different to the usual anime art style and used rotoscoping instead; they filmed the show in live-action first, then traced over it, creating the feeling of the uncanny valley.

Rotoscoping: tracing over live-action

This is especially evident in the faces of the characters which were tweaked to make some facial expressions uncomfortable to watch. The ending song was also a large factor in immersion, playing a dissonant, staccato electronic melody over a discombobulated rhythm.

What they lost in their move from manga to anime, they managed to successfully capture by using an entirely different art style that emphasised realism, but not quite. It is the same story, told completely differently, to achieve the same effects.

Static Dynamism: “Oyasumi Punpun”

Oyasumi Punpun has been described as a story that cannot be translated into anime without losing a lot of what makes it special. It begins from the standpoint of a child coming of age in a very dark place, represented by a small bird that never speaks, a metaphor for how he is passively brought through the significant moments of his life.

The manga uses many surreal, vertigo-inducing scenes to illustrate this. It also portrays people and humanity extremely harshly; there is a grotesqueness on many faces, one that can only be represented seriously through still, black-and-white panels. 

The story itself is intrinsically reliant upon manga as a medium, because its psychological narrative delves far deeper into human darkness than Flowers of Evil does.

Form Fits Function

When it comes to anime, manga, and the interplay between them, the medium should always be fit for the story. Stories relating to or heavily reliant on music and action may work better with an animated medium. Stories that are deeply psychological and rely on great amounts of imagination are probably better represented through manga.

If you like stories like this, check out our Design Issue (Aug 2019) of our magazine, which you can read here or pick up from your school.