A Form of Evolution, Perhaps

A couple days ago I talked about how I like the idea of broad interpretations of  video games for film and TV adapations, citing examples such as Tekken, Super Mario Bros, and Pole Position. But soon after making that post, I realized that I forgot probably the best example of taking necessary liberties with a video game property in order to adapt it into some kind of narrative media. That game is Pokemon.

Although the series stays true to the basic premise of Pokemon, a young kid goes out to capture and battle with monsters of which there are at least 150, it also plays around with and introduces a lot of ideas. As it would be difficult to write a long show without giving our hero Ash (Satoshi) some traveling companions, the writers took the first two bosses of the game, the “Gym Leaders” Misty (Kasumi) and Brock (Takeshi), and made them into supporting characters. They even went as far as to revise their outfits to be more suitable for travel. In case you forgot or just never knew, Misty originally wore a two-piece swimsuit and Brock was shirtless.

The Team Rocket in the show consisting of Jessie (Musashi), James (Kojirou), and Nyarth (Meowth) are entirely the product of the anime. Instead of having recurring antagonists in the form of faceless foot soldiers, the show saw it fit to give their primary representation of Team Rocket distinct looks and personalities. And just like Harley Quinn from Batman: The Animated Series, they were popular enough to be introduced into the original source material after the fact.

Then there’s the Pokemon themselves. In the video games, they made digitized sounds meant to be perceived as cries and roars, but that sort of thing can’t really fly in a TV show, so they introduced the concept of Pokemon talking by saying their names over and over again. And now it’s the way we think Pokemon talk. The show, especially early on, also modified the idea of the “Pokemon Battle,” converting the turn-based battles of the game into something more dynamic. They often played fast and loose with the rules, with ideas like a Bellsprout that knows kung fu, Whirlwind as an offensive technique, even outright ignoring the game’s type weakness chart by having it be possible to “super charge” Pikachu to the point where it could overcome the Ground type’s immunity to electric attacks.

Speaking of Pikachu, it might very well be the greatest liberty taken of all by being Ash’s starter Pokemon. The starting Pokemon in the original games were Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle, but in order to keep kids from thinking that their own personal pick for their first Pokemon was somehow “wrong,” they picked a neutral Pokemon. Actually, at first they planned to use Clefairy, but found Pikachu to be more popular.

So think about how much of Pokemon comes from outside of the games, and once again consider the possibilities of adaptation.

Well My Parents Don’t Drive Awesome Flying Cars

For the most part, video games have advanced in a positive direction in terms of artistic progression. Though I don’t agree entirely on how our newfangled advanced realistic graphics are being used or certain trends in storytelling or interaction, I can say that we’re doing okay. At the same time though, I’ve come to realize that when video games look this good and have fully elaborated stories and such, it often leaves less room for creative, off-the-wall adaptations in fiction.

At this point with games looking and feeling closer to the realm of film and animation and other storytelling mediums with characters having concrete personalities, there  are fewer opportunities to make great leaps in interpretation. Yes, I understand that products like the Super Mario Bros. movie are exactly the kinds of disaster that comes from being too “loose” an interpretations, but I believe there is a definite charm.

This applies not just to storytelling but also visuals as well. Although the Tekken OVA of the 90s was awful, could you imagine a Tekken anime today, given the fact that it would be 2-D interpretations of such detailed 3-D characters? Good looking or not, you could see the move from blocky polygons anime designs to make some sort of sense.

Basically, I’d like to still be in a world where a racing game with a normal setting could be interpreted as a futuristic setting with talking computers inside my motor vehicles.

Is that too much to ask, I wonder?

Capturing the “Spirit” of a Work

When I first saw the trailers for the new Star Trek movie, a movie designed to be a continuity reboot of sorts with a young Kirk and young Spock, I was worried. On the movie theater’s screen was a whole lot of action and explosions and intense moments all while the trailer implies what a big coming-of-age story the whole thing will be. I felt that while it could still be a sgood movie, there was a risk that it would not be faithful to the spirit of Star Trek. Having seen the movie, I can say that I was thankfully wrong about it. It’s still full of action and is basically a coming-of-age story, but the core of Star Trek felt intact.

Now, this might be hard to believe based on everything I said in the above paragraph, but I am really not that much of a Star Trek fan. I may have caught a few episodes on tv here or there, particularly The Next Generation, sat through parts of the Star Trek original series marathons that would crop up on tv now and then, watched Duane Johnson Rock Bottom Seven of Nine, and know what the hell a Jem’Hadar is, but it’s not something that has consumed my attention like say, Gundam has. I am not speaking from the perspective of a diehard Star Trek fanatic. That said, the core of Star Trek, I feel, lies in its “How far could we go, if only we got along?” message. To extend it further, I feel that Star Trek is an “intelligent” series, not in the sense that you need to be smart to watch it, but that the focus is mainly on the exchange of ideas, be it between friends of the same race or enemies from different planets, and it’s something I think the new Star Trek film accomplished successfully.

I said something similar about Dragonball Evolution about the need for an adapatation to really capture the “spirit” of its source material, something that, for example, I felt the recent Iron Man film also was able to do. However, what I found in speaking about my concerns regarding Star Trek and any other movie where I feel that an adaptation of an existing work may not be adapting “properly,” is that I had a hard time describing what I consider the “spirit” of a work to be, what an adaptation must successfully bring over from the source material to make it truly an adaptation. After some thinking, the answer I’ve arrived at is something like this.

I believe that the necessary ingredient for an an adaptation is respect for the source material. Incidentally, it’s also something which I consider to be essential to the study of anime as well. It’s not about liking or disliking a work, or perhaps even the production quality, but the people doing adaptations must be able to see what at the core of these works made them special, what made them successful, what is it that gives these works their uniqueness, and using that as a foundation to build upon. It’s okay if you want to make it look less “cheesy” or update some outmoded concepts, but don’t completely throw out what made this idea good or effective in the first place.

What happens when a popular manga becomes a late night anime?

“If it’s late at night then it’s geared towards otaku” is an argument that gets tossed around fairly often, even by myself.

But then there are examples of anime adapted from popular manga that end up showing at midnight or later. Nana, the most popular shoujo manga around, had an anime adaptation with an 11:30pm time slot. Glass Mask, one of the most popular shoujo manga of all time, aired at 2:00am with its 2005 remake. In the case of Glass Mask, the fact that it is not hip and modern (though the manga is still running!) may have contributed to this late-night airing but I still do find it unusual.

Assuming that late-night really DOES equal otaku, is it possible for a manga with general popularity to be turned into an otaku-targeted anime?
However, if we were to assume that late-night DOES NOT necessarily mean the show is meant for otaku, just how difficult is it to get a decent time slot on the Japanese air waves?

Finally, are there any examples of otaku-oriented manga becoming popular anime?