Now there’s a term that’s often used to describe an anime adaptation. A word that demonstrates how closely an anime series follows the narrative or depicts events compared to how the story unfolds or how occurrences are presented in the original source material.
“The anime series was faithful to the manga as seen in how ______________”
We hear this train of thought often enough. We also hear about how some anime series are “unfaithful” to, or stray away from, the original source material. Said statement is usually uttered with disdain, like diverging from the original canon is a sin to be condemned.
Here’s my hot take.
Not strictly following the original material can sometimes be a good thing. And sometimes blindly adhering to what happened in the original material can be a bad thing.
As for the downsides of an anime series following the source material too closely, just take a look at Centaur no Nayami. As Zeria deftly points out in this post, the anime adaptation is lazy. The comedic timing is completely off. The animation is not lively. Basically, everything feels stilted. You might as well just read the manga with the voices in the background since the anime copies the manga, “panel-for-panel,” without utilizing the different medium’s advantages.
What advantages am I speaking of?
The obvious ones are actual voice acting (if you can hear actual voices when reading manga or reading light novels, color me surprised. I, too, wish for such a robust imagination) and animation (panels showing someone walking versus seeing someone actually shown walking on-screen – it’s similar yet different).
However, the benefit that I think is often misrepresented is that the anime adaptation, by default, comes out after the source material. Which means there’s an opportunity for the studio to add additional anime-original scenes, or even episodes, to flesh out the series as a whole. And yet such content is often considered to be less important simply because it’s just “filler.”
TheSubtleDoctor had a poignant editorial about this particular subject matter. You should really check out his post, but in a nutshell he claims that anime-original content shouldn’t be dismissed as only filler. He then points out how episode 16 of Dragon Ball Z, which is completely anime-original, enriches the viewing experience by showing exactly how Gohan stopped being a sniveling child and started becoming a devoted warrior. As such, the anime series is fleshed out compared to the original source material, which merely opted for a timeskip, a before-and-after-comparison.
See? Being “unfaithful” isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When it comes to anime adaptations, at least.
Saki (the first season that aired back in 2009) features some (technically) anime-original content, as well. Even though the series ran for 2 cour, there was just too little content for 25 episodes considering that the anime series was basically caught up to the original source material at the time. As a compromise, the anime featured the Nagano individuals tournament where mahjong players faced off against each other, even if they were forced to play against teammates and friends.
This was a smart move considering that Saki places a greater focus on team battles in mahjong, which theoretically limits the significance of the individuals tournament. Yet the results of this individuals tournament have been recognized as canon in later chapters (and in spin-offs like in Saki Achiga-hen) despite, as stated earlier, not being depicted in the manga. Furthermore, the protagonist realizes an important lesson and comes to her senses during said individuals tournament. For a scene that was “only” anime-original, it sure was executed well and in a way that enhances the story.
As for more modern series, well, UQ Holder! is pulling off this stunt already. The opening scene, where we get to see Negi interact with his middle school students while Evangeline sits off to the side, doesn’t happen until chapter 128 (and continues onto chapter 129). Since the series originally started as a weekly series (UQ Holder! became a monthly series starting from chapter 129 following a 3 month hiatus), the anime series is effectively starting in media res by featuring the aforementioned scene as the opener.
This begs the question why, I’m sure. To answer that, one must know the history of Mahou Sensei Negima!
Said series, written by Akamatsu Ken, followed Love Hina, which was a popular romcom series that basically established the romantic conventions and tropes seen in modern anime. Despite expressing interest in writing a battle series, Ken’s editor(s) pushed for him to go for another harem series after seeing the success of Love Hina. In response, Mahou Sensei Negima! started getting published and it seemed like it’ll be another romcom harem series featuring a young boy and his older love interests. But then Ken revealed his true colors and Mahou Sensei Negima! became a shounen battle series that has yet to be matched in terms of personality and humor (I’ll stand by those words until I die).
Unfortunately, Mahou Sensei Negima! was given a rushed ending. The reason is because he was on the verge of losing his rights to the series as an intellectual property (and that he was having problems with his health). Therefore many loose ends were left untied and everyone was unhappy.
Now, about chapter 128 of UQ Holder! – it’s memorable, yes, because the opening scene gives us another glimpse into the daily lives of Negi and his students after many years (the manga series ended in 2012, UQ Holder started being published in 2013, and it took the series almost 2 and a half years to reach chapter 128). But it’s also important because the following chapter, 129, features a brand new title – UQ Holder!: Mahou Sensei Negima! 2 (which happens to be the name of the anime adaptation). In other words, this was when UQ Holder! officially became the sequel to Mahou Sensei Negima! since Ken seems to have kept his editors in the dark once again.
What does this mean for the series?
Well, it’s essentially a way for UQ Holder! to emphasize its relationship to Mahou Sensei Negima!. Remember: the opening scene in the anime adaptation didn’t show in the original source material until ~2.5 years (in real time) had passed. By making said scene the opener, the series is reminding the viewers that this is the sequel and is allowing Evangeline to discuss the drawbacks to immortality with even more impact compared to the original source material where she goes on a rant without the short, happy instance of Negi and his students to accentuate that the times spent with her classmates and teacher were happy ones.
The fact that Touta is seeing phantom images of Negi, who tells Touta that he’s waiting for him at the top of the tower, further proves my little pet theory. Said scenes were definitely absent in the original source material and only seems to provide the smallest sense of urgency to Touta’s quest – at first glance. While such instances are anime-original, I can see how they tie into the current crisis in the series and are most definitely urgent. But I’ve already blabbed enough about UQ Holder! and Mahou Sensei Negima! so I’m sure you’re all sick of my rose-tinted lenses.
In short, I’m saying that the anime adaptation of UQ Holder! added some anime-original scenes, which in turn have already established a slightly different tone compared to the original source material by emphasizing the show’s status as a sequel. Whether this is a good or bad thing remains to be determined. But that’s the case with all simulcast series, isn’t it? And that’s what makes following said shows so exciting.
11 thoughts on “The Misunderstood Advantage to Anime Adaptations (as Seen in UQ Holder!)”
i have a brand new anime or manga featuring a 44 year old normal teacher named Adam lee he lives in Tokyo japan he meets a new student named Dakota she is a half human half extraterrestrial girl.
I know that when I was young, I used to agonise over every change from the source material when I saw books I enjoy being adapted for the screen. I’ve definitely come over time to realise that accuracy doesn’t necessarily create an enjoyable viewing experience.
I almost feel like the word ‘faithful’ would be better used to describe things which capture the spirit of the original, over those which have identical plot points. It’s perhaps really dorky to admit, but I really love the BBC mini-series adaptations of the Narnia books (owing to the late 80s TV-grade special effects, these have… not aged well). I saw them as a child, but I still have a fondness for them even now in spite of far better-looking shows in general, including newer Narnia films. What I did think that they captured though was the magical feeling of the world of Narnia. There was a real warmth and a spirit of adventure reflected from the books.
When it comes to anime, I tend to generally not be familiar with the source material of what I’m watching (I’ve never been a huge manga reader, though now I can sort of read Japanese, it’s becoming a more appealing proposition), but I definitely hear people talking about ‘filler’ or ‘anime-original’ episodes with I guess what would be called principled dislike (they dislike them merely because they do not reflect the source). I have to agree with you that it depends! Sometimes it’s possible to go back and tighten up on certain plot details, or expand on particular characters who didn’t get as much attention in the original source in ways which feel true to the story being told. The anime-original episode of My Hero Academia in the second season felt so authentic to the characters that I wouldn’t have known it was original content except that people mentioned it! I actually enjoyed Fullmetal Alchemist’s 2003 TV version over Brotherhood (FMA being one of the very few manga series I have read to completion). Aside from the actual final episodes of 2003 which were a little baffling, the way that the story unfolded both felt true to the characters and the world of Amestris, and I also think that it was paced a bit better. The story of Brotherhood was also excellent, but I preferred the overall package of 2003!
There’s plenty of examples of really dull, no-stakes filler arcs in long-running shounen series, or problems with padding or pacing when something goes from paper to the screen. At the same time, a factually faithful adaptation of an enjoyable source can also end up being phenomenally uninteresting (the Phoenix Wright anime definitely comes to mind here). Some things are necessary to make a series work as an anime, and it’s definitely worth viewing them on a case-by-case basis! I don’t really know anything about Negima or UQ holder, but you’re certainly making a strong case for the advantage of the changes made in the new adaptation!
…I really need to stop writing blog-post length comments when I reply to people’s blogs.
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Mmm I definitely felt the same way when I was younger.
Oh, that’s an interesting point about the usage of the term, “faithful.” If a series features anime-original content that is filler yet stays true to the tone of the series and improves upon possible shortcomings, then what’s the problem with it? Such content should be cherished! The anime-original episode in My Hero Academia was surely “filler” done right. FMA (2003) was also, for the most part, executed well, too. I’m not as confident as you to say one series was better than the other, however.
Mmm it really depends on how it’s pulled off. As you said, there are examples that demonstrate the downsides of adding meaningless padding. There are also examples that showcase how strictly adhering to the original source material doesn’t mean the result will automatically become good. I know I end up saying this all the time, but I have to agree with you over how this has to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis!
Ah, I’m still unsure if the changes in UQ Holder improves the series, but it’s an interesting start!
Well, I for one appreciate it. Thank you! Eagerly looking forward to your next blog post!
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My favorite episode of Cardcaptor Sakura is actually a filler (episode 22), but I found it the most moving and emotionally satisfying episode in the entire series (and I really like that series, so that’s not a flippant remark).
More recently (since you’re a fan of visual novels) I really liked the changes they made adapting Aokana for anime. Too many VN adaptations either try to pack every key moment from every route into 13 episodes and turn into a disjointed mess, or go the other way and focus entirely on just one route at the expense of important plot points elsewhere. Aokana had the guts to do something I’ve never really seen before, though: it turned the bland player-insert into a supporting character, dropped his romances with the girls entirely, and made the much more interesting two main heroines the focus of the story instead. Purists howled about it, of course, and fans of the VN who wanted or expected romance were disappointed, but from a writer’s perspective it was a good decision. It gave us a much tighter/more focused story than VN adaptations usually are, one that was tonally and thematically consistent throughout, and it allowed probably the two strongest characters to be the ones to carry the show instead of Boring-kun. I still wouldn’t call it a great series, but it was a pretty good one, and probably much better than if it had just slavishly followed the VN point for point.
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Ah, Cardcaptor Sakura did include an entirely filler character, too, didn’t it? Nevertheless, I loved the series and I can see why you liked episode 22. It was a good one!
I remember hearing about that for Ao Kana, too. Purists and shippers might have been disappointed, but I think the end result turned out well due to this unique decision. Diverging from the VN was a smart move and I probably would have enjoyed the series less if it hadn’t. Great point about Ao Kana!
Being my first anime, I’m always interested to learn more about Negima! There’s just something so magically surprising and appealing at every turn in every adaptation, like with UQ Holder! here. Thanks for the informative lecture, professor!
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It really is interesting, isn’t it?
Oh, your words are too much, but thank you. Glad you seemed to have enjoyed the post!
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For me, whether something needs to be faithful or not friend on two things: my attachment to the source material and the quality of the unfaithful stuff. For example, I’m not a fan of the Bleach filler arcs. On the other hand, I really enjoyed the original Fullmetal Alchemist.
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Great examples. The original Fullmetal Alchmeist anime series was great even though it was unfaithful. The Bleach filler arcs, on the other hand, were underwhelming.
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Ooh nicely written. Almost the same thing could be said with Shokugeki no Souma: San no Sara!
Though I’d actually need time to dig into the details as to why J.C. Staff skipped quite a bit of the manga…
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Mmm the first episode of the 3rd season did take some liberties. Still surprised they left the 92nd generation’s first encounter with the Elite 10 to an OVA, to be honest.
I’m looking forward to your post!
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