How “Over-Animating” Manga Can Change an Anime

Adapting comics into animation involves taking images which, at most, hint at or represent motion, and filling in more of the gaps that or imagination would have otherwise. While how faithfully an animated work tries to adhere to its comic can vary, I’ve noticed that even those that try to follow the source material can at times “over-animate,” providing what is perhaps too much flair and thus changing the overall fee of a given title.

Over-animating isn’t an established terms by any means, but they’re convenient for my purpose. The way I’m defining it is the degree to which added material not found in the original can make a given scene feel noticeably different. This is often done by taking the source material and then exaggerating what’s there, either through the sense of motion or by adding additional elements. Think of it as the opposite of those times when a show fails to capture the splendor of a good fight scene from a manga—when it comes to over-animating, the spectacle can potentially wind up either being a distraction or changing how we even think of particular characters or moments.

Three examples come to mind in this respect: Mysterious GIrlfriend X, Dagashi Kashi, and Laid-Back Camp.

Mysterious Girlfriend X, about a boyfriend and girlfriend who literally swap spit. Whereas the manga portrays saliva as a simple white, the anime drool glistens and drips like honey, giving it an extra dimension that makes it feel less ethereal compared to the original. When I read the manga, the saliva seems like a means to an end. In contrast, the anime seems hyper-focused on that particular fetish.Dagashi Kashi is similar. While both comic and cartoon feature attractive female characters and a degree of titillation, the first season takes it one step further every time. Suggestive moments like eating tube-shaped snacks called fugashi while blindfolded are exaggerated by the addition of a massive, super-sized version. A flashback featuring kids playing doctor as a way for the character Saya to get closer to the boy she likes has an accidental chest-touching scene thrown in. The manga is fairly racy, but the anime is hyper-horny.

Unlike the other two, my use of Laid-Back Camp (aka Yurucamp) has nothing to do with perversion. Instead, it has to do with how the character Nadeshiko is made to be extra ditzy compared to the manga. At one point, Nadeshiko notices her new friend Rin, only to run into a window like a bird not knowing how glass works. This isn’t especially different from how Nadeshiko is portrayed in the manga, but it’s almost not quite the same either. She’s not especially bright and she’s ruled to a large degree by her instincts, but Nadeshiko is never quite so dumb as to literally run into glass.

While I have my own preferences, it’s not as if I’m saying that sticking faithfully to the manga should be the way to go all the time. The drool of Mysterious Girlfriend X might resonates more with fans if it’s thick and viscuous. The girls of Dagashi Kashi might make a greater impact when the suggestiveness is turned up a couple (dozen) notches. And perhaps Nadeshiko being a little dimmer makes her a more endearing and humorous character. Even so, I want to emphasize how these changes can transform how we view a title and its characters, despite having so many similarities between versions. It’s the little things that can make all the difference.

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Sakuga and “Action”

When it comes to the animation itself in anime, I believe myself to be a person who can appreciate not only the well-executed but also the bold and daring, but compared to all of the sakuga fans out there who can name names and pride themselves on spotting particular animators I am but a rank amateur. Especially because ending credits of anime are in Japanese (and Japanese names can be a pain to read), it’s traditionally been difficult to find out these things, but thanks to YouTube videos, presentations, and websites such as Anipages, it’s become easier and easier to find this information out.

So now we have an accessible history of Japanese animators, with names ranging from the ultra-famous (Tezuka, Miyazaki) to ones well-regarded but not so much in the public eye (Kanada, Itano). When it comes to the way that “great animators” and “great animation” are discussed, however, there appears to be a bias—perhaps an unintentional one—towards action scenes. By action, I don’t mean just “movement,” but  displays of violence, explosions, mecha, and so on. Itano is known for his “Itano Circus,” that detailed missile barrage most associated with the Macross franchise, but if Gundam Sousei is any indication, Itano’s talents also extended to something as simple as the way a key falls. And yet, much of what I hear and read about sakuga emphasizes “action.”

The appeal of a good fight scene, be it between two humans or two robots or even two planes, is fairly obvious, I would think. It catches the eye immediately, and there’s a lot of movement to work with. What I’m wondering, though, is to what extent this focus on action has shaped the discourse of “great animation in anime,” and whether or not that may have changed over the past decade or so.

Anime looks different now than it did two or three decades ago, and in that time the amount of mecha in anime has also risen and fallen, while the detailed animation of cute girls has increased. Though I say this without any real evidence to back me up (so please prove me wrong if you can), I get the feeling that the fans who grew up to be animators in the anime industry took to heart that which they saw on TV, so a generation of animators who fell in love with Yamato and Gundam wound up in the anime of the 80s and 90s, pushing “mecha” and “action” forward. But at some point, the new generation became the old, and the one that has started to take its place has its interests elsewhere, be that cute girls or something else entirely.

I can only assume that there have always been animators in love with the girls they animate (so to speak), so this isn’t strictly a new vs. old, but perhaps that the ratio has changed to the extent that values about animating have changed as well. That, and maybe changes to the toy industry connected to all of this may play a role as well.

This is not my condemnation of animators who work for the sake of giving motion to cute girls (or boys), as when you think about it that’s no better or worse than animating for the sake of mecha violence, and as I stated, this is not my expertise. If this is merely a mistaken hunch, then I’ll be glad to learn more.

Anipages Talks Kanada (Moreso than Usual)

Animator Kanada Yoshinori died about a month ago, and as one might expect from the blog anipages, they have numerous articles dedicated to the man’s long and influential career, as well as prior articles from long before his death. The articles are all fascinating, as anipages articles tend to be, and they’re very accessible to even people who may like anime but aren’t very familiar with the people who make them beyond knowing the names of voice actors. I really recommend that you read them.

Of particular note to me personally is that Kanada worked on Zambot 3 and the movie version of Galaxy Express 999, two of my favorite anime ever. The Zambot 3 article on anipages talks about how the show was plagued by poor animation overall (and he’s right; often times the show looked worse than Mazinger Z which came out years earlier), but how you could still see Kanada’s hand in the episodes he worked on adding a level of quality to the production.

Kanada’s style is noted by a wondrous and playful approach to animation, which can be seen in this compilation video someone made of his best work.