The Transformation of Time from Manga to Anime

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How much does time pass when the mighty Star Platinum punches an enemy Stand in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure? There are many factors to consider, such as how much time has passed in the show itself, as well as how time is being manipulated within the series’ universe itself. Another important element is the fact that the anime is an adaptation of a manga, where the flow of time is abstracted by manga’s existence as a 2-D paper medium.

As far back as Tetsuwan Atom, adaptations of manga have been a common mode of anime production. Manga act as a spring of new stories to present, and the jump from the comic book format to animation opens up many opportunities. An anime can try to forget its own path through interpretation or divergence from the manga (such as both the Ghost in the Shell films and Stand Alone Complex), or they can faithfully attempt to recreate what exists in the original. However, while the latter cases might often appear to be “direct transplants” of the manga to the screen, the act of having to take a physical and spatial image such as a panel and assign to it a finite amount of time can greatly change the impact of a given scene in spite of the desire for faithfulness to the source material.

In a general sense, having to time dramatic beats for an anime often requires playing around with the contents of the manga. For example, in an episode of Dragon Ball Z, filler sequences (such as the infamous minutes-long powering up spots) not only save budget, but can also be a way to make sure the episode ends on a cliffhanger. On a broader multi-episode scale, Initial D: Fourth Stage does something similar by reversing the order of the final two opponents. Originally, the manga has protagonist Takumi race against a man known as “God Hand,” while his teammate Keisuke races against “God Foot” afterward. In order to make sure the series ends with a climactic battle for its hero, the show has God Foot go first instead.

One consequence of this is that there can be moments when a series feels as if it’s dragging. Sometimes it’s successfully padded out or rearranged so that nothing feels particularly off, but in other instances it is possible to sense an uneven rhythm or pacing.

This notion also extends to the transform of panels into time. Consider that there is generally no specific amount of time that is said to pass in a given panel in manga, or indeed comics in general. What makes a panel feel “fast” or “slow” is partially about how long one’s eyes linger on a panel, and it’s dependent on the amount of content there and the flow of the page. But because time exists differently in manga, things that seemingly pass quickly on the page take much longer on the screen.

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A common example of this would be the frantic explanations of special moves in an action or sports series. Because we tend to read more quickly than we speak, it is possible to believe that an elaborate speech or thought is being made within the span of a ball being passed from one player to the next. However, commit that to concrete time in an anime, and suddenly you begin to wonder why no one is doing anything as they talk for 30 seconds. To appreciate those moments, it requires a viewer to understand that time portrayed is not literal. This is the case even with series not adapted from anime. It does not “really” take Voltes V two or three minutes to combine together, or for Erika to become Cure Marine.

So when what is a single, snappy panel in manga gets stretched out into an extended scene in an anime, it can dramatically effect how a person can feel about a particular title. I find this to especially be the case with comedy series. Take Azumanga Daioh, a four-panel series. In the manga, there will be a comedic moment that lasts for only one or two panels, such as Sakaki rolling on the floor while holding a wild Iriomote cat. In the anime, this becomes a full-on extended display of non-stop rolling with musical accompaniment. A small moment becomes a big one thanks to time. A more recent title would be Nichijou, where the staccato presentation of the manga’s gags are the equivalent of sharp, quick jabs. In anime form, however, the characters’ movements are exquisitely animated and exaggerated, and the result is a series that is in a way much more physical and almost “luscious” in a sense. While the Nichijou anime pretty much takes things directly from the manga, the two turn out to be pretty different experiences.

My belief is that the unusual handling of the (broadly speaking) space-to-time transition of manga to anime is a likely culprit of why someone might love a manga but hate its anime (or vice versa!) even if the adaptation process is largely faithful. It’s kind of like when an actor is cast in a movie based on a book; what was once a nebulous image reliant upon visual/mental interpretation becomes a little more solid and finite.

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First Train Home: Pat Metheny’s Been with Me All Along

For most of my life, I’ve had a theme stuck in my head. It’s a haunting, yet relaxing tune that I only knew as the “Community Calendar theme for Channel 9 in New York City.”

Eventually, YouTube became a thing. I decided to search for it, but at the time nothing came up. Being a song without words, I couldn’t exactly search for it by lyrics. Years later, around 2012 I looked again, and finally found it:

Have a listen, it’s really good. Much better than any “Community Calendar” music has any right to be.

I looked up the song’s name and artists, listened to the original a few times, and then promptly forgot it (and the name+band) again for a few years.

Recently, the song popped back into my head one morning, and I went back to YouTube. Again, I looked to the comments to find the names of both the song and the band, but this time around I knew I could never forget them.

The tune is called “It’s for You.” The musicians responsible are Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays.

Does that first name sound familiar? That’s the same Pat Metheny responsible for “Last Train Home,” which I know as the second ending theme for JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders. If it wasn’t for JoJo, I would have never committed this tune to memory, and it would have just been “that song on TV from when I was a kid.”

Thanks, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Thanks, Pat Metheny. Also, I found out that there’s this vocal version by Japanese musician Yano Akiko:

By the way, did you know that Pat Metheny has his own official Q&A board? I keep hoping to see it filled with JoJo fans.

 

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Gone with the Wind, and Translation

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A few months ago on Twitter, a number of manga translators and readers threw their hats into the ring to discuss the persistent issue of “authenticity” vs. “localization.” The central point of argument was whether the fact that the English translation of the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure manga kept antagonist Dio Brando’s signature catch phrase untranslated (MUDA MUDA MUDA MUDA / USELESS USELESS USELESS USELESS) is a sign of faithfulness, Japanophilia, or something else entirely.

There’s no real right side to all of this. As the Reverse Thieves explained well, there are many facets to consider, and translation is more an art than a science. For example, people who argue that translations should be as localized as possible so as to remove the sense that it comes from another language would assume that the primary audience is a broad, general readership. What if it isn’t, however? Academic translations for instance tend to be filled with footnotes and marks and other things because you’re supposed to be fully explaining the nuance of meaning through translation.

What’s even more fascinating, however, is seeing the problem of translation from the English to Japanese side, and the challenge that is posed to English translators in Japan. For example, let’s look at one of the on-going controversies within this greater Japanese to English translation debate: whether or not to include Japanese honorifics in English translations. After all, while “-san” might be already known to fans of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and other similar works, for the most part it’s the realm of the manga fan, so to speak. When the decision is made to remove them, a translation either has to compensate for the loss of immediate information pertaining to how two characters relate to each other through a more liberal translation, or ignore that aspect entirely.

What about English to Japanese? From that perspective, the problem is completely flipped around. Suddenly you go from a language with no honorifics to one where they’re a part of everyday life. Let’s take a movie like Gone with the Wind. How would you translate Rhett Butler’s speech? The official translation has him use “Ore,” possibly to show that he’s both masculine and skirts standards of politeness and pomp. Is that the right decision?

If you were in charge of translating Gone with the Wind to Japanese, what honorifics would Rhett have to use when talking to other characters, if any? Would they change over the course of the movie? The change or removal of honorific usage to determine the progression of a relationship between two characters is a classic trope of manga and anime, and something English translators have to be constantly wary of (as is switching from last name to first name), but here with Gone with the Wind it’s potentially something that the translator has to build into the story where it once did not exist. The decision could be made to ignore honorifics specifically, but then a lot still has to be done to adapt characteristics and speech patterns to particular personalities. Rather than having to subtract, the English to Japanese translator has to consider additional components if they want to go for a “natural”-sounding language. Or do you just get rid of them all because it takes place in the US, or to show again that Rhett doesn’t have much use for politeness?

Of course, that’s not to say that Japanese to English translators also don’t have to create what ostensibly isn’t there to get the meaning of a line across. In both cases, there are things to be gained and lost in the decision to interpret lines in certain specific ways.

There are even multiple different translations of Gone with the Wind, each of them taking different liberties. Rhett’s famous “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn,” has been variously translated as 「俺には関係ない」(Ore ni wa kankei nai, “This has no relation to me”) and 「俺の知った事か」(Ore no shitta koto ka, “I have nothing to do with that”). Notably, both do not bother to preserve the cultural meaning of “damn,” nor the “Frankly my dear” part. The frankness is in the lack of formality and the general implied rudeness of the sentence construction.

Suffice it to say, translation isn’t easy, and the decision to keep or remove cultural elements is a unique challenge that perhaps few other fields have to contend with. Whether you’re a translator or just a reader, it might be helpful to express how you feel about the work that goes into translating.

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Avoiding the Shounen Power Creep

Shounen fighting is quite possibly the world’s most popular anime and manga sub-genre. Whether it’s Saint Seiya in South America, Naruto in the US, One Piece in Japan, or Dragon Ball around the world, the idea of heroes fighting villains and getting stronger along the way is an idea just about any boy in any country can understand and get behind. But one of the common problems with shounen is the idea of the “power creep,” where newer and more powerful villains keep appearing to challenge the hero to the point that the earlier villains who once appeared legitimately threatening begin to look pathetic by comparison. Tao Pai Pai in Dragon Ball may have been one of the few capable of defeating Goku early on, but by the time Goku turns Super Saiyan 3 the assassin is little more than a distant memory.

I think all shounen fighting series creators are well aware of this danger, but only some try to circumvent it, at least temporarily. As such I’ve included a few examples of attempts to quell the Power Level beast.

The first two series of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure had some degree of power creep, but starting with the third and most popular series starring Kujou Joutarou the series became about outwitting the opponent instead of outpowering them. Here, characters were given their own power sets which changed little to none over the course of the entire series, and all advancements came from figuring out new ways to use abilities already known to the readers, instead of acquiring entirely new powers.

Hokuto no Ken saw fit to make its main hero Kenshiro already absurdly powerful. Kenshiro is not a youth who needs to learn the ways of fighting and to live up to his potential, but a man who already has received the title of master of the world’s deadliest martial art. As such, Kenshiro’s victories are generally won through willpower and using the right moves in his encyclopedic collection of head-exploding strikes. The other move Hokuto no Ken makes is to establish its main villain Raoh relatively early and make him a proper end boss, and also establishing the fact that as far as fighting ability goes, both Kenshiro and Raoh are at similar levels. Even when the series goes crazy with Kaioh and such, this is never quite a problem.

Digimon Adventure 02 saw a problem when it realized that, if left the way things were, the already powerful Angemon could just go Ultimate and leave an unfortunate stain where the evil Digimon Kaiser (Digimon Emperor in the English dub) was once standing. To get around having to make the villain more absurdly powerful than the final opponents in the first series, the concept of the “black rings,” devices which prevent digital monsters from evolving, was created. The solution was that the heroes had to find an alternate means to “power up” which, while incapable of reaching their old heights, gave them a fighting chance. Eventually they overcame the Digimon Kaiser and new villains appeared, but at least for a time the shounen power creep was stayed.

Those are three examples. Can you think of any others?

Examples of Anime’s Cel to Digital Conversion

Though much less frequent these days as the anime industry has all but completely converted to using digital means to animate shows (Sazae-san I believe is an exception which still uses cels), it wasn’t so long ago that debates about the merits of cel animation vs digital animation were a common sight among certain groups of otaku. Those on the side of cels would accuse digital animation of lacking life and energy, those on the side of digital would ask the cel supporters why they liked having dust on their animation frames so much. These days, I think it’s fair to say that much like 2d vs 3d animation, or drawing with paper vs drawing with a tablet, each has its own merits.

It can be difficult to compare digital to cel in the sense that usually entire shows have been done one way or the other, but there are a few which were made during that transitional period between cel and digital, and so they too are transitional. A brief list follows, if you want to take a closer look.

1) The Big O

Season 1 was done with cel animation, the Cartoon Network-sponsored Season 2 was done entirely digitally. Some will say that the second season lacked something the first had in terms of visuals, possibly that everything feels too “clean.” Judge for yourself.

2) Galaxy Angel

Again, Season 1 was all cel while for Season 2 Broccoli decided to go digital. They also decided to cover up Forte Stollen’s cleavage but that’s a discussion for another time.

3) JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (Stardust Crusaders)

In an odd twist, the later parts of the manga were animated in the 90s while the earlier parts were animated in the 2000s. Watching this show in chronological order can be very unusual.

4) Gaogaigar Final

Now this was really meant to be a big budget OVA and it shows. Gaogaigar Final began production in 1999 (with the first episode out in 2000), and ended in 2003. Being an OVA, there was a long period between each episode, so the jump to digital is rather sudden when watched side to side. This is probably the one that best exemplifies the power of both cel and digital animation.

Dio Brando is an English Vampire Who Grafted His Head on his Arch Enemy’s Body

He is not Muslim or representative of Islam, as some would claim, and it’s not something that’s difficult to figure out if only people would do research into Dio’s character.

For those who don’t know Dio’s backstory, and are only familiar with him through his famous catch phrases “WRYYYYY” and “THE WORLD” and don’t even know that Dio even sometimes says “WRYAAAAA,” here’s a brief synopsis. Dio was a young boy adopted by the wealthy Joestar family, and began a love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with the son of the household, Jonathan Joestar. In their adult lives, with Dio pretending his hardest to be on good terms with Jonathan, Dio discovers an ancient power which turns him into a powerful vampire. After suffering defeat at the hands of Jonathan and what appears to be his demise, Dio reappears many years later to antagonize Jonathan’s great-grandson Kujo Jotaro, now armed with the body of Jonathan Joestar himself and a powerful time-stopping “Stand” or spiritual apparition called “The World.”

Dio believes himself to be the greatest thing since sliced people, and is incredibly arrogant and full of himself. He in no way represents anything having to do with Islam, and in fact based on Dio’s character the only reason he’d be reading the Qu’ran would be to mock religions. He would say something along the lines of, “These fools worship a God they cannot see, when I already walk the Earth!”

…Which is a whole different problem, but it has nothing to do with Islam being a religion for super villains.