Mysterious Girlfriend X is Somewhat Different in Anime Form

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.

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6 thoughts on “Mysterious Girlfriend X is Somewhat Different in Anime Form

  1. I agree for the most part, especially about the drooling. The anime really, really jumps on it (Ending sequence!! argh) where as in the manga it was kind of just there. However I think that might more because in manga the viewer has a more active role in controlling the pacing of his or her reading, which panel to pay more attention to, etc. The anime hams it up for you so you really have no choice in this matter.

    Of course, I think it’s also a narrative decision. The protagonist is interested in drool to a degree and it might be to just show that.

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    • But there should be animation techniques that can work in sync with the manga’s pacing, such as frame cutting in order to simulate manga panels, right? I mean, if we are to take our example manga page, and make a fluid animation of it, then we should be able to simulate panels on the last three panels (Urabe looking, closing her locker door, then leaving) by frame cutting, right?

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      • The actual act of closing the locker for example isn’t the “problem” here. That can be achieved in animation 100%. The issue is that on the page the three Urabes create a sort of vertical “column” which then contrasts with the “column” created by Tsubaki on the opposite side of the page. While there is such a thing as scene composition, it’s not quite the same thing as laying out panels on a page.

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  2. There’s something about this anime that makes me like it a lot. The visual style certainly plays a part, though I can’t exactly point out how right now. The concept of a deeper connection is appealing, and I think they put a lot of effort to make the saliva look “icky” so they can disgust me in the first episode, then make me accept it as something, well, sensual. It hasn’t turned me into a saliva junkie though. I find myself liking the voice actress for Urabe, probably because she isn’t a high-pitched, loud speaking template we find in a lot of animes. She has a more posed voice and well, she sounds like a grown woman to me.

    I should add that I didn’t read the manga.

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  3. Pingback: Three of My Favorite Manga are Ending Soon | OGIUE MANIAX

  4. Pingback: How “Over-Animating” Manga Can Change an Anime | OGIUE MANIAX

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