The Transformation of Time from Manga to Anime

jotarovssheerheartattack

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.

shoujofight-hit-small

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.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Advertisements

I Don’t Not Not Know About This Not-Ending

I recently finished the Imagawa-directed 2004 anime adaptation of Tetsujin 28, and knowing that Imagawa played around with a lot of the existing material the source manga by Yokoyama had to offer, I began to wonder just how the original manga ended. I could not find any information on how Tetsujin 28‘s manga ended. So I thought, hey, I’ll start researching on Japanese sites, but then I stopped myself for a second and had to ask, why is it that there is so little information on how Tetsujin 28 ends? Or for that matter, something like Tetsuwan Atom?

I do know that Tezuka tried to end Atom a number of times and was forced to bring his most famous character back every time, and that Tetsujin‘s original manga isn’t exactly the most serious and serial of stories. And it’s one thing if something said, “This story never ended,” or “This story just kind of tapers off,” or even, “This story has a non-ending.” But there isn’t even that little. And I’m not condemning anime fans or anime researchers for ignoring this. It’s just that I find it incredibly odd that, despite Tezuka and Yokoyama being such big deals, somehow this information is not common knowledge, especially in this age where it’s difficult to go down two websites without tripping over ending spoilers.

Anyway, once I’ve found out this information, I’ll be glad to share it.

What Do Nancy and Kira Yamato Have in Common?

No, the title is not a lead-in to a bad humor post.

Like many anime fans out there, I have issues with Gundam SEED Destiny and how it effectively sabotaged the SEED plot with nonsense and a complete and utter lack of direction. Think Code Geass R2 and Gundam 00 Second Season ruined their respective prequels? While I might disagree with you there, I can see easily how you can hold that opinion with the big thematic shifts that happened between seasons. Even then, they’re nothing compared to what Destiny “achieved.”

I have a whole laundry list of complaints about Destiny, but there’s one in particular I want to focus on, and that’s the show’s treatment of Shinn Asuka. Shinn from the start of Destiny was meant to be the main character, with returning character Athrun Zala in the role of older and wiser mentor of sorts. However, as the series progressed Shinn slowly slipped out of the spotlight, replaced gradually by Athrun himself and then eventually Kira Yamato, the hero of the original SEED. Now Shinn is a very abrasive character. I know I’ve used that word a number of times before, but Shinn is the real deal. He’s pig-headed, ignorant, fueled by equal parts petty vindictiveness, trauma, and some sense of justice, and is overall the kind of guy who, if you told him the war he was fighting was wrong, would yell back at you, “OH YEAH?! WELL MY FAMILY’S DEAD.” It’s easy to see why people would prefer Kira or Athrun over him, but at the same time I can’t help but feel that it was a crime to shift main character focus to that extent. It felt disappointing because they could have done so much more with him. It felt wrong.

As much as I dislike the idea of switching up main characters mid-series though, I realize that it is not all that uncommon in animation and comics, let alone anime and manga. Before Tezuka created Tetsuwan Atom, he created Captain (Ambassador) Atom, a story where Atom was more of a side character than anything else. Similarly, the newspaper comic Nancy was originally known as Fritzi Ritz before the introduction of Fritzi’s niece, who would eventually take over the entire comic (as well as the title) and relegate Fritzi to that of a side-character-as-parental-figure.

Both Tezuka and Nancy creator Ernie Bushmiller saw the writing on the wall and realized just how much better and more popular their works would be when they pushed aside the old protagonist, and while I can accept that, I can’t quite accept what happened to Shinn. The fact that it used a character who was already a main character in a previous series made it seem like they were taking two steps backwards, and just trying to turn SEED Destiny into a retread of the original, instead of actually making a sequel.

In the end, it really all just comes down to doing whatever might get you a better or more successful work, but changing up your heroes has just as much, if not more of a chance of making a story worse than it does of making it better. One outcome as we saw with Destiny was that the constant shift in focus detracted to the story as a whole,  which resulted in both the plot and the characters sputtering about. On top of that, it happened within a TV series that had a set amount of episodes and probably a decent amount of story written beforehand, and while 52 episodes seems like a lot, it doesn’t compare to the long, long serial run of something like Nancy, and it doesn’t make a sharp division between stories like that of Captain Atom and Tetsuwan Atom. In better hands or in  a looser storytelling environment, the Shinn->Athrun->Kira shift may have been enjoyable, but sadly that was not to be.

Oh, and don’t get me started on what they did to Cagalli.

So I Don’t Know About You, But My Questions to Tomino are Pretty Awesome

‘s all I’m sayin’.

Idea: A Comprehensive Guide to Essential Episodes

Mazinger Z. Galaxy Express 999. Ranma 1/2. Astro Boy. There are a lot of anime out there that are considered classics (and rightfully so), but the problem with getting into them is that they can be very, very long with anywhere from forty to two-hundred episodes and beyond. Because of this, trying to experience what made these shows great becomes a daunting task, especially when not all of them are “serial,” and instead have large chunks which are simply episodic and, while perhaps decent episodes, are not the ones that can really grab people by the heart and the lungs.

What I am proposing then is that a guide to these long shows be made, pointing out the episodes which are considered, while perhaps not “necessary” to the viewing experience, to be the apex of the show. That way, anybody who just wants to sample the show but in a meaningful way (not just watch the first episode or two and be done with it) can do so and fully understand the reasons that show is called a classic.

But I can’t do it alone.

When the main focus is to be absurdly long shows, no one person can watch everything to make sure that all bases are covered. I would need help. Possibly, I would have to get one or two people watching any given show and have them report back to me what they consider to be the “big” episodes, and then check it out myself to see just how good they are. Something like that.

Maybe this can apply to manga too.

I don’t have any episode lists to recommend at the moment, but I-

Wait, maybe I do.

LEGEND OF THE GALACTIC HEROES
RECOMMENDED EPISODES: 1-110

(Seriously, watch the entire show)