Whenever I pick up a really good manga series, I immediately try to see if their is an anime to go with it. Almost all the series I’ve read were lucky enough to have been made into one like Sailor Moon, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Fushigi Yugi, Ceres: Celestial Legend, Cardcaptor Sakura, and the list goes on.
I think a lot of the animes made around the 90’s like the ones I have mentioned above have been good adaptations of their original source material. It is to be expected that an anime that’s based off of the manga will be somewhat faithful to the series, but then veer off and become a slightly different version of its original. Most of these changes are not bad at all. It just makes the anime kind of like its own story separate from the manga. The same happens when books are made into films. They are just going to be completely different from the other despite every intention of being faithful to the original. Things have to get cut out or they add things to the film based on what looks better on the screen. Some things translate better in a book than in film and vice versa.
One example of an anime veering off the original is the Doom Tree arc from the Sailor Moon anime. The Doom Tree arc tells the story of Anne and Allen who are aliens from another planet in search of energy to give to their Doom Tree. They land on earth and disguise themselves as a brother and sister who enroll in Usagi’s/Serena’s school. This entire Doom Tree arc is considered part of the Sailor Moon R season of the anime. The Doom Tree arc does not exist anywhere in the manga nor does it have the characters of Anne and Allen.
The Doom Tree arc is one of my favorites of the anime series. While it wasn’t part of the manga series, it made watching the anime much more enjoyable. Other noticeable differences between the manga and anime that happen during the Sailor Moon R season comes after the Doom Tree Arc. Mamoru/Darien starts having nightmares about Usagi/Serena being in danger if they stay together. Plagued by the nightmares, Mamoru/Darien comes to the conclusion that he has to break up with his girlfriend to keep her safe. He does everything in his power to make Usagi/Serena believe he doesn’t love her anymore.
Sailor Moon R is by far the angsty of the seasons I think. My memory of the manga might be fuzzy, but I think Mamoru does get nightmares or warnings of Usagi being in danger if they stay together too. The only difference is––Mamoru does not break up with Usagi. I think he eventually tells her about his nightmares. There were some arguments I read on the web a long time ago about how anime Mamoru is more of a jerk compared to manga Mamoru. I definitely agree with those arguments, but I still didn’t have much of a complaint with the anime.
I also feel as if these older, dare I say, classic animes felt like time was taken into making these animes really great. A lot of the animes that have come after don’t have the same feel. Fushigi Yugi was an anime done on an epic scale. The anime was almost exactly like the manga series. I could not get enough of watching the anime after the first episode. Seeing Yuu Watase’s black and white artwork come to life was exciting. Learning about Miaka and her Celestial Warriors was just as engaging as the manga. This anime is another well-written one.
Fushigi Yugi is a long anime series. I think the actual series is 50+ episodes not including the OVAs. This anime along with the ones I listed in my opening paragraph are long series, but with satisfying endings. I will admit, I never got to watch the end of the Sailor Moon or Revolutionary Girl Utena series, either because they weren’t all translated in English or they ended up no longer making the DVDs for the U.S. Based on the screen captures for the episodes I read on those two, the anime ended at a good place.
There are anime series like Naruto and Bleach that never have an end because the manga series is still going on in Japan. I do think being faithful to the manga is great and taking the time to produce a great anime as a companion piece to the manga is how it should be done, but I do think there can be length fatigue after a while. I never watched Naruto and I have seen a little of Bleach, but some of my friends who have watched either series said they get tired of following the series after a while. One guy friend of mine said he was losing faith in the Bleach series after the plot left some things undesirable for him and detracted from his overall enjoyment of the series.
Animes based on mangas that are still in the process of being written need to find a balance between fleshing out the story the manga gives the studio, but also finding a good place to end it without feeling left wanting of something more (if continuing the series in anime form is not within the budget or agreement for whatever reason).
Fruits Basket was one of those mangas that was still being written in Japan and finally ended its run sometime in the 2000s. There was an anime for it, which I never got around to watching yet, but I remember reading on the web where Fruits Basket fans voiced their dissatisfaction with how the anime was made after their beloved series. The anime was short, it only covers the first few volumes of the manga, and it changes up too much of what never happened in the manga series. The feelings seem to be that they were cheated. The anime wasn’t given the proper treatment it deserved. Maybe that’s why I’m not in a hurry to watch this one.
My opinion is the Japanese studios doing the animes these days don’t seem to make enough high quality series to be worthy of their manga counterparts. I feel less excited about most anime series compared to the older ones done. The studios should look to the older anime series and emulate what past studios have done.
Does this mean I’ll stop watching anime if it’s based off a manga series I absolutely adore? No, but I doubt I would have the same level of exhilaration as I felt after watching the ones that came out in the 90’s.
For another perspective on anime/manga, I would recommend reading Shojo Corner’s, “Why haven’t these been animated?” The writer of this blog makes a good case for other great manga series getting passed over for anime treatment.