When we review Anime, one of the common factors is how well a studio adapts the source material. This can range from Manga, Light Novels, Visual Novels, and Video Games since the whole industry rides on it to sell related merchandise. Since production committees have different approaches to achieve this, expectations will never be the same since printed media doesn’t have any voice actors to begin with. This is why I wanted to share my thoughts about adaptations since it has always been a hot topic. (Image Source)
Throughout the past few years, there were some great and bad adaptations. In an ideal world, adaptations should cover the source material page by page. Sadly, reality wouldn’t allow that due to constraints. Unless the show is One Piece, Naruto, or Pokémon, the chances of any series getting 52 or more episodes are slim since it takes a lot of money to produce one show. To use the funds efficiently, most adaptions only have 12 to 26 episodes to tell most of the story. While some people can say that having these limits pushes the committee to use its resources efficiently, it’s a lot harder than it looks. The source material has to get changed around with some things getting cut. This is where things get fishy when the show is virtually complete and starts airing. Fans will start complaining about things getting left out or changed around. From my experience, I’m going to explain some of these complaints that are commonly voiced: unfaithful adaptations, missing details/pacing issues and animation.
The first complaint that you might have experience some time in the life is unfaithful adaptations. The problem is that studios like Kyoto Animation and Ufotable can’t animate every adaptation on the planet. As a result, we have studios like Toei Animation, Studio Deen and sometimes JC Staff literally throwing most of the source material out the window and do it their own way. While fans familiarity with the source material can be a contributing factor, the problem is that studios focus mostly on producing shows, not getting familiar with the source material. Unless people who are working on the project are fans of it and/or working with the creator, they will just do their job without any thought. In a perfect example with the first Idolmaster Anime, Sunrise changed all the character designs, literally threw the original voice actors from the game under a bus and made it into a very clichéd mecha anime that has zero relation to the actual game. As you would expect, most of the fan base clinched their fists in rage after watching a few episodes. Obviously, this doesn’t hold true anymore since A1 Pictures created a more faithful adaptation of that show. Even so, it’s a good example showing why being faithful as much as possible is important. If more people enjoy it, they are more likely to support the series and buy merchandise.
The second concern when it comes to adaptations is length and pacing problems. Most adaptations are usually given 12 or 13 episodes to work with (24 to 26 episodes is uncommon). Therefore, it’s not possible to adapt everything. Besides changing some stuff around, the scriptwriter can leave stuff out. Depending on how important it is, it can lead to pacing issues where the show is either going too slow or fast. To make the problem worse, if they decide to leave important details out, it has an adverse affect to the story. This is why I think RPG and Visual Novel adaptations needs at least 24 episodes or two seasons since the actual story is long. Just recently, I was disappointed with the Shining Hearts anime, except for the character designs and the animation as it focused way too much on bread rather than the actual plot from the game. When I started playing the game several weeks ago and dived into the Japanese text, I soon realized that a lot of important stuff was missing in the Anime such as keys that unlocked Kaguya’s feelings, Mistral’s appearance who wanted the pendent and exploration of other islands in that world. Obviously the original game is long like most Japanese RPGs and it’s more than just baking/delivering bread. While there were successful adaptations like Air that can fit most of the important points in 12 episodes, depending on the medium and amount of material available to adapt, I think some series needs more episodes or a second season to feel complete rather than stuffing as much plot within the 12 episodes.
Lastly, Animation is the last issue that causes viewers to go nuts. Although this doesn’t necessarily apply to adaptations, this is usually important since most people want to see great looking art on the screen. As a result, this is usually the number one reason people drop at the first episode because some can’t stand the art direction. The animation quality will always vary from studio to studio as there are always ones that give gorgeous animation like Kyoto Animation, PA Works, Production IG, Shaft, etc. However, not everyone can be a winner and there are studios like Studio Deen that gives the worst possible animation to their show. Studio Deen usually the studio I hear a lot of complaints from as they make an okay adaptation story wise, but the animation is terrible. I don’t really need to mention any examples as you can compare Fate/stay night with Fate/zero and see a big difference already. While animation depends on the eye of the beholder, if the plot is good, it can overcome this weakness even though it might leave a slightly bad taste in the viewer’s mouth.
At the end of the day, Sturgeon’s Law will always kick in, thus not every adaptation will be successful. Withholding any exceptions, a person’s view on a successful adaption is subjective for the fact that everyone will have different views. In some cases, the anime can actually expand upon the source material, especially for 4koma since the plot is very simple. Regardless, the success will depend on how the studio addresses these issues and execute it.
So, I’ll leave this question to discuss: Which shows do you think has the best or worst adaptation?