When it comes to the anime Sabagebu! Survival Game Club!, a show about girls in a high school airsoft club, one of the more surprising aspects of the show is that it is in fact a shoujo manga. The anime even acknowledges this, pointing out how it runs in Nakayoshi, the same magazine that has featured series such as Cardcaptor Sakura.
As true as this may be, it is still easy to get the impression that the show still doesn’t quite look or feel particularly shoujo even when putting aside the whole survival game aspect of its premise. As it turns out, this is because while the show is indeed adapted from a girls’ comic, there are actually a number of differences between the manga and anime that result in a fairly different product in certain ways. This is not an argument for which is better or worse, merely a laying out of just how these two iterations are set apart from each other.
I find that there are three elements in particular, at least when looking at the early chapters and episodes, where the Survival Game Club! anime and manga differ significantly.
1) The Anime and Manga Simply Look Different
Both versions of Sabagebu! depict cute girls using fake guns, but they each take unique approaches. With the characters, the anime designs appear closer to something from a more male otaku-oriented work. The manga, on the other hand, utilizes character designs that appear flatter and more in line with the flowery aesthetic of a typical shoujo manga.
This contrast is also evident in how the anime portrays the girls that are meant to be more attractive, giving them a kind of round, three-dimensional curvaceousness that is not present in the manga. In the comparison image above, the anime version of the character Maya has a gravure idol-like quality to her, whereas Maya in the manga has a look more akin to a fashion model, or perhaps even a fashion drawing.
To be fair, most shoujo manga adapted into anime try to go for a more “neutral” look compared to the particular and well-known stylizations of shoujo manga. One need only look at the original Sailor Moon anime and compare it to its manga (or the designs of the recent Sailor Moon Crystal anime). Sabagebu! is no exception in this respect.
2) The Anime Pads Out Scenes from the Manga
In their review of the first episode, the Reverse Thieves mention that the anime feels like it’s adapted from a 4-koma (panel) manga even though the original Survival Game Club! comic does not utilize that format at all. While one could argue that this is just a matter of having so many 4-koma manga adapted into anime, I find that the real culprit is the fact that many of the scenes in the manga are extended in the anime. The result is that the connective tissue that carries one moment into the next in the manga is obscured by the added animation.
So far, this is often done by creating elaborate gun fight scenes where the manga ends up either showing less (or nothing at all), but this padding also comes from increasing the amount of mean-spirited behavior or by adding more cultural references. For example, here is a scene where the character Urara is acting upon her jealousy over the club president’s fondness for the protagonist Momoka by using a stretching exercise as an excuse to place Momoka in some painful wrestling holds. The manga and anime, however, approach things somewhat differently.
While in the manga the joke is supported through the characters’ dialogue (Urara falsely claims that she “doesn’t know anything about armlocks!”), the anime just piles on further wrestling techniques. The two gags are similar, of course, but the expansion seen in the anime is more akin to how shows like Azumanga Daioh have been adapted in the past.
The venomous behavior of the characters in the anime also ties in nicely to the next point.
3) The Protagonist’s Personality is Nastier in the Anime
In the anime, after Urara fails to separate Momoka from the club president, she goes off to cry by herself. Momoka follows her and offers her hand, only to do this:
This causes Urara to fall in love with Momoka instead, becoming a masochist for Momka’s sharp jabs, both literal and metaphorical. While in the manga Urara also ends up with a strange crush on her, Momoka does not engage in any sort of physical retaliation at all. In fact, whereas Momoka in the anime has a general philosophy of “payback” that heavily defines her character, in the chapters of the manga I’ve read this is not prevalent at all. Perhaps it’s a change that came over time, and was retroactively added back to earlier portrayals of Momoka when it came time to adapt the manga into anime.
This is not to say that Momoka is entirely a fair and meek shoujo heroine, but her personality in the manga is somewhat closer to what one might expect out of a girls’ romance comic… only without any real romance and with lots of guns.
Whether animated or on paper, the basic appeal of Survival Game Club! is how it brings a type of crass humor that is rare in the demographic/genre of shoujo, and does so through subject matter that is rather unusual. The key difference between the two is that whereas the manga juxtaposes its shoujo visual style with the content and its characters’ behavior, the anime takes the roughness of the cast to the extreme and changes the designs to be more in tune with other cute-girls-doing-things shows. Personally speaking, I think I prefer the manga’s approach more because of how bizarre it looks within that shoujo aesthetic, but I do have to say that there is some appeal in Momoka’s vindictive behavior in the anime.
After reading the available chapters of the manga I have to say I much prefer the anime. The thing that hooked me from the first episode was Momoka’s mean, nasty and vindictive personality. The manga just feels a little flat and lifeless and the anime is sublimely funny. But if I had started with the manga I might feel differently. Funny how that works.
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