Jack Scheibelein

There are a number of debates in the anime community that seemingly go on forever despite there being no actual resolutions, like which studio is the best, sub vs dub and even ... anime adaptations versus the original manga. The latter has always been the most perplexing to me.

Comparing art or genres to objectively find which one is better has always felt a little pointless. This is because, while there are many metrics through which one can compare different series, the ratio of importance to which those metrics are assigned is always going to be completely subjective.

These arguments get even stickier when trying to compare different mediums which often have little in common to begin with. One of the arguments from the manga side tends to be that anime often deviates heavily from the original source material, with the implication that deviation makes an adaptation inherently worse. However, this is simply not the case.

There is a very similar debate that often happens with novels and movies. Many people tore apart the Percy Jackson movies for being horrible adaptations when they came out. While I cannot personally weigh in on this one way or another since it has been years since I have seen any of those films, it felt as though a lot of the criticisms were levied not based on the merit of the movie itself but rather based on the interpretations from critics of the book.

The idea that adaptations of novels or manga must strictly adhere to their source material generally comes from the notion that preserving an author’s original intent is the most essential element, which is not always the case.

Aside from generally making more money, the reason studios make adaptations of the manga is to reach a new audience and bring them into the existing one. Changes, in this case, give the audience a chance to experience the story in a way that gives them the incentive to revisit the source material as well, benefitting everyone more in the process.

There are also some changes that are simply required because of the change in medium. Whereas manga relies solely on paneling, art, text and plot, anime does all of those things and more — adding a color element, sound design, movement and acting. This means that certain things have to differ from the source material due to the nature of these different moving parts.

There is also the problem of how manga is published. Unlike American novels or even Japanese light novels, manga is usually published in a weekly, biweekly or sometimes even monthly serialization, with the chapters collected into a volume after the fact. This means that many anime productions can end up running ahead of the manga, in which case oftentimes an anime-only ending might be needed.

This was famously the case with the original adaptation of “Fullmetal Alchemist” in 2003, where the final 10 episodes deviated heavily from the manga. Now admittedly in that case, the ending did turn out pretty bad, to the point where they remade the series six years later in the form of “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.” However, this does not mean that all anime-only endings are bad.

The reality is that both mediums have their flaws and benefits, and that there are many people who will enjoy one or the other, or both. The most important thing to remember when interacting with others in the anime community is to be respectful of others’ tastes

Jack Scheibelein is a Junior majoring in English. He can be reached atsgx199@vols.utk.edu.

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