I’m actually a pretty big fan of the manga Mysterious Girlfriend X, so I naturally had to check the anime out. While it followed the manga very closely, I still came away with a somewhat different experience (though not necessarily a bad one), and it has something to do with some of the choices they made in adaptation, as well as the very act of adaptation itself.
Mysterious Girlfriend X is definitely a weird concept that just isn’t for everybody. The story centers around a high school couple, Tsubaki Akira and his girlfriend Urabe Mikoto, and their connection through saliva, specifically the fact that Urabe’s drool seems to have paranormal properties related to empathy. As boyfriend and girlfriend, rather than kissing, they exchange saliva by finger. I’ve seen it argued that the series is solely for people who have a saliva fetish, but I think this is really shortchanging the series and its viewers, because the reasons for following it aren’t as overly specific and narrow as “liking drool.” The appeal is more basic than that, as you have this thrilling and bizarre romance between an established couple who share a bond that seems to go deeper than anyone else’s.
That said, I found the experience of watching the whole saliva exchange to be different between the anime and manga in a way I’m not entirely for. In the manga, the drool is kind of a visual motif, drawn very simply, something that while ever-present is almost just like a rendered symbol. In the anime, however, they go out of their way to make the drool glisten and glow, to give it depth and dimension. The real killer is the sound, because in addition to all the effort they put into it visually, they also tried to make it sound as loud and slimy as possible. Again, drool is definitely a part of the series, but I think a little too much attention is given there.
Another thing that makes the anime quite different is the lack of manga-style paneling. This is kind of unavoidable, as anime is a different medium that works along different rules (unless it went out of its way to mimic the panel-based structure of manga), but Mysterious Girlfriend X has really fantastic page composition and paneling, especially in its smart usage of the contrast between black and white. I even used it in my article about decompression in comics. Take a look at the page above, and you’ll see that even if you took every one of those panels and animated them together, it would simply lack the overall structure of the “columns” created by the characters. When you then add color to the film-like style of the anime, it just makes for a different impression.
There are also a couple of more minor things to note. The first is that the elaborate dream backgrounds, which are fully drawn in the manga, are rendered in CG in the anime. A practical change of course, but one which kind of takes away that impressive bit where you realize someone drew all of that. The second is that the voice actor for Urabe doesn’t sound like I imagined she would, though that’s more on my end than anything else. Her voice actor also seems to be quite new at this, showing something of a similar effect to Omigawa Chiaki in her days as Maka from Soul Eater.
I’m still going to keep watching Mysterious Girlfriend X, of course, and I’m probably going to enjoy it. I just wanted to say something about the subtle changes that are present, and perhaps how this speaks to the things that can occur in adaptation from one medium to another.