Written by TheBigN
I try to make a conscious effort not to have any expectations on hand before I watch a series, which depending on how much coverage the show is getting, is more difficult for some shows than others. The effort to do so becomes that much harder when there’s previous or source material involved and I’m involved with it in some way. A recent example for me comes from watching Gunslinger Girl – Il Teatrino-. Notwithstanding the first season (which I’ll sorta focus on later in this post), I worried about whether or not this continuation, with it’s changes in sound and appearance, would at least keep the “feel” and “mood” that we see in the manga and the well done first season from Madhouse. For the most part, I feel that after the first couple of episodes, my worry has been largely assuaged, but I’m ashamed to say that before I even started watching, it had a couple of strikes against it because of how it looks and the change in voices. And to me, that’s a problem right there.
It seems like the vast majority of anime produced and broadcast has come from an already made source. Be it manga, novels, other anime, games, music, food, what have you, there’s already a basis for most of what we see. It’s a solid idea, since there’s a template already in place for the series, and that tends to solve the problem of coming up with the show’s concept in the first place. Some concepts are easier to work with than others; for example, comedy anime usually seems to be a cut and paste job from its original origin to animated form and the problem just seems to be animating the timing and jokes right for the proper impact. Still others are more free form, where expansion form the original concept could work, as shown during Ogiue’s epic fantasy in Genshiken 2. And then you have ones that are harder to work into animated form, the ones that seem like an anime adaptation wouldn’t quite work out well. Damn if any shows instantly come to mind in this case though, since it seems as if anything can become anime nowadays. I’m crossing my fingers for that extreme curling anime even now. And of course a Touhou anime would be fine too. 😛
At the same time, there are limitations with this method, and that’s where it seems problems can emerge with fans. Even when expanding from the original source, like with Hayate the Combat Butler doing anime-only episodes, constraints appear which can keep the resulting adaptation grounded, so to speak. If something’s off, we know it, and we aren’t afraid to comment, constructively or otherwise, on it. Continuing to use Hayate as a whipping boy, you could make the argument that the anime-only episodes were the weakest ones in the series because the humor didn’t feel the same as from the manga. But then again, for people who didn’t like the manga, those episodes could be the enjoyable ones. But those people don’t count here. :3
Unless you start off in an entirely new scenario from the beginning, it’s hard to strongly deviate from the source, and fans who prefer the original are probably less inclined to try something new, something untested, something not properly vetted (Yes they can!). Even in that exception, if there’s too much of a change from the fundamentals, we have to rely on the good judgment of the creators of the anime to make sure that the final, different product works in our eyes.
But if the adaptation is just going by the book (or game, life, etc.), I think that’s where we fans might anticipate what’s going to happen too much. We all have our own preferences as to why we like something, so naturally we have our own preferences on how something should be done as well. It was frustrating for me to see that the Doujin Work seemed to forget what made it special – Hiroyuki’s… interesting brand of humor -, and that coupled with sub-par animation quality killed a lot of the fun involved, though the show was still a decently fun watch. And I’m sure it’s definitely annoying for fans of visual novels/eroge/whatever they are/etc. when the adaptations combine or leave out good parts of the game or change how things are from the original game. As someone who hasn’t played CLANNAD for example, the “end” of the Kyou and Tomoyo arcs didn’t bug me, as they were characters with significant screen time throughout the series and I kinda knew where things would end with that, plus I liked how things were tied up. But I know that fans of the two characters might feel shafted/led on/screwed from what took place.
The situation is much worse for continuations of adaptations (extra seasons, new series and the like), since you also have to contend with both the original source itself, as well as the series that come before it. Expectations (that nasty term) are raised, as we expect the new series to at least keep the same qualities that the previous series had before. Hence my disappointment at the aesthetic qualities of Il Teatrino before I even watched the series, and my worry about how SHAFT can add on to how enjoyable Hidamari Sketch with x365. For every Zoku Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei or ARIA The Origination, “direct” continuations where many claim these seasons to be better than the original series, we have a Nanoha StrikerS, an not-so-direct continuation where many state it doesn’t hold a candle to the original two seasons (but seeing as I liked StrikerS more than the first two, bleh to those people). The reaction to the new series can get amplified because of their ties to the originals, which tends to over shadow the individual merits of a show. This can cause responses such as overpraising (lol neologism) the new series to pretending the show don’t exist if they aren’t up to a subjective par (“what Tsukihime anime?” is a statement that pisses me off, e.g.) to be pretty excessive. But if a fan isn’t excessive, then what’s the point?
I do think that adaptations can give us too much familiarity and too much comfort for us to allow significant change from what we’re used to. I believe that focusing on what we want to see captured from the original foundation(s) limits the scope of what people look for in anime and what they decide to watch, which is a concept that I disagree with. Yet each fan has their own reason to do so, so I can’t criticize them if they’re in it for the entertainment, the relief of stress of all types, healing, analysis, and all that jazz. I guess what I want to say is lighten up a little on that and take things on stride, but that’s too general. So, adaptations are good, but one should always be able to allow some wriggle room if it’s not what you expect. Myself included, as I often forget that important thing. 🙂