It’s like with books and films; there’s always that person in the group who will constantly say ‘the book was better’ regardless of whether it’s actually true. In the anime and manga world, there is a constant divide between which medium is the ‘better’ one to enjoy out of the two. This shouldn’t even be an argument…but it is. No-one can say which form of entertainment is better when they’re two completely different things, and yet the debate rages on. Much of the time, people will enjoy an anime more. The rest of the time, people will enjoy a manga more. But regardless of our preferences, there are great manga out there that had totally awful anime adaptations. Sometimes, the shows just don’t do the source material justice.
One of the main complaints is that the anime adaptations are always too short. In times gone by, creators would adapt an entire manga, or at least a good chunk of it. In today’s fast-churning industry, we’ll get 13 episodes if we’re lucky. A casualty of this problem is Fruits Basket. It was the top-selling shoujo manga in North America in its prime, with stunning art, fleshed-out characters and a touching story, a lot of us in the West consider it a noughties classic. Its problem: the adaptation. While the anime was an average length of 26 episodes, much of it was rushed. We got just the tip of the iceberg, as the anime barely covers a third of the manga’s content and not even in a linear order. They did an admirable job trying to tie up the loose ends, but it still leaves manga readers a bit unsatisfied when they compare the two.
There are times however, when it can be done right. Take Inu X Boku SS. The anime is a mere 11 episodes long (plus one OVA) and the manga is incomplete at a dozen volumes. The show covers only the prologue of the manga, the first three volumes which are a self-contained story of love and demons. While the Fruits Basket anime left a lot of holes, the Inu X Boku SS adaptation covered far less material and was able to weave a rich story. It proves that taking on too much (AKA a massive manga with a lot of fans) means you can end up disappointing a lot of people. Saying that, Ouran High School Host Club has an 18 volume fantastic manga but the creators still managed to pull off a well-rounded show.
Of course, the more niche manga-readers have a lot to say too. Yaoi is, essentially, a sexually-orientated romance with two males involved. Boy’s Love is the same, but slightly watered down in terms of eroticism. These two categories have endured dozens of shamefully adapted shows. They’re cheesy, the music is dire, and we get almost no romantic satisfaction. The manga offers the full, no holds barred package. A romance story just like we’d see with the shoujo section but maybe a little racier. In the adaptation of Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi, we do get a couple of great openings and really vivid animation. What we don’t get is half the story. In the beginning, the show would adapt a few of the kissing scenes and people were happy with it, but when the third season was released, fans found the show woefully missing any kind of affection between the main characters. All they got was a tonne of build-up, comedy, and fun, but with none of the loose-ends tied up in any of the episodes.
Arguing once-and-for-all whether manga or anime is better is pretty pointless. What we can do is compare individual shows with their source material. Sometimes it’s better, sometimes it reflects the manga well, and other times the fans end up denying the show’s existence.
Sometimes we all just wish creators could adapt an entire manga so people could enjoy either medium to its fullest. But in this day and age that’s a bit too much of an ask. So instead we have to learn to enjoy what we’re given and choose the adaptations and manga that suit us best.