There is a commonly held belief among many manga readers of the intrinsic superiority of the illustrated format over its animated adaptations. That may not be entirely true, as the addition of animation, music and voice acting can often improve an already great story. There are, however, many anime that fail, in spectacular fashion, to do justice to their source material.
Some fall to the deadly plague of filler arcs, while others fall to the grisly death of bad CG. Great adaptations are not easy, while butchering a great manga is unfortunately too easy. It’s a great injustice that many of these works are known primarily through their disgraced anime counterparts. Here are five such great manga that are way better than their anime equivalents.
The Berserk manga series, despite its indefinite hiatuses, may arguably be one of the greatest manga of all time. Its gorgeous, hyper-detailed art by the acclaimed manga-ka Kentaro Miuro has few, if any, peers. Its worldbuilding is created with a scope unmatched in any other manga, with the exception of One Piece. Berserk‘s gripping story has kept fans anticipating new chapters for over 30 years, with the wait always being worth it.
However much greatness the manga can claim, its anime adaptations cannot even hold a candle to it. The 2016 Berserk anime adaptation was equal parts horrendous as it was heartbreaking. The grotesque CG animation, coupled with terrible direction, doomed the adaptation without any room for redemption. While the 1997 adaptation is the more agreeable of the two anime series, even it, with its better art and animation, does not come close to the brilliance that only exists within the pages of Miura’s unfinished magnum opus.
The collective works of Junji Ito for years have terrified the minds of those who dared turn their pages, instilling nightmarish images into the consciousness of readers for years to come. The 2018 Junji Ito Collection made viewers cringe with disappointment. Scenes that seemed scary and uncanny on the black and white panels of Ito’s various manga looked laughably bad in this adaptation.
Studio Deen, the same studio that also butchered the adaption of the Fate/stay night visual novel, took up the Herculean task of adapting Ito’s challenging work, and failed to do it justice. The stilted animation made the terrible art even worse, while the cinematography and direction lacked any semblance of atmosphere or unease. The next anticipated anime adaptation of any Junji Ito work, Uzumaki, is expected to be released in 2020, this time being animated by Production I.G (the studio behind such shows as Haikyu!! and Psycho-Pass). Perhaps this new anime will do Ito justice.
The Tokyo Ghoul anime roared into 2014 on an enormous hype train. Little did anyone know that train was heading straight over a cliff. While Season 1 was merely mediocre, Season 2 was beyond saving grace. It adapted barely any of the plot from the manga, instead going with a completely anime-original spin. It didn’t make sense, and was hard to watch. Despite the letdown of the first two seasons of this anime, fans returned once again for the new Tokyo Ghoul:re anime. This time, it was even worse.
The Tokyo Ghoul manga did not deserve such lousy treatment Studio Pierrot. Although the last quarter of the Tokyo Ghoul:re manga doesn’t quite meet the expectations set by its preceding arcs, the manga as a whole deserves far better.
The One Piece anime isn’t bad. Ir’s acceptable, even good in some parts. This isn’t on the list because of how bad the anime is, but because of how amazing the manga is. Even if the anime didn’t face pacing issues, which is a direct effect of studios trying not to catch up to its source material, it still wouldn’t reach the manga’s heights. The One Piece manga isn’t called the King of Shonen for nothing; it’s still chugging away with new chapters without even the slightest of dip in quality.
Even if the One Piece anime was devoid of problems, it would still lag behind the manga. Eiichiro Oda, the author of One Piece, is a master of conveying story in a way only a manga can. The anime’s problems worsen after the timeskip in episode 516, so even if you liked the anime up until that point, it’s best to switch over to the manga for the post-timeskip story (pick up at chapter 597).
Blame! the manga is a subtle work of art, implementing environmental storytelling and sparse dialogue, much like Dark Souls, to convey its story. The gloomy cyberpunk aesthetics and the ambiguous plot lends itself immeasurably to the strengths of author Tsutomu Nihei. In contrast, the Blame! anime is an incoherent work of mess that comes up short in storytelling, only scratching the surface of what the manga has to offer.
While the manga requires its readers to read between the lines and decipher the plot for themselves, the anime leaves viewers scratching their heads in confusion and disappointment. It’s anyone’s guess if this classic ’90s manga will ever find resurgence in the form of a new anime. Perhaps it’s best if it doesn’t; some stories just can’t translate well into the animated medium. Whether or not that statement is true for Blame!, it is undeniable that the manga is worth checking out, especially for fans of science fiction.
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Not all manga get the anime adaptation that fans expect, but some have it worse than others. Here are five great manga with subpar anime counterparts.