We get so defensive. I’m sure it’s not just me. Oh you know what I’m talking about, the second we hear an anime is getting a western adaptation we immediately hate it with the burning passion of a thousand suns! And there may be some good reason behind that… Still, we could stand to be just a smidge more optimistic.
However, have you noticed how little people care about the other way around? Historically, Western and European works have gotten frequent anime treatments and no one seems to mind at all. On a very superficial level, I’ve noticed that Alice in Wonderland seems to be a frequent influence on a huge amount of anime and manga, often quite misrepresented from the original work, yet I’ve never heard a single complaint on the subject. In fact, I’m not complaining about it now either and it’s one of my favourite childhood books.
I personally enjoy seeing very different, sometimes almost nonsense, interpretations of works I’m familiar with. And although I am superficial supportive of anime adaptations I also don’t watch them so you have to take it for what it’s worth. What I mean is that I’m also way more protective of anime getting adapted to another medium than the other way around. That’s a little odd, wouldn’t you say?
Well, I thought it was, so I did a bit of digging. Ok, I collected the bare minimum data I could base a wild assumption on and rolled with it. Basically, I did a very superficial and informal survey that leads me to believe that Japanese fans are a lot more tolerant of anime adaptations than off-island fans. I’m not quite sure how they feel about western media being adapted into anime though for the purposes of this post, I’m just going to say some Japanese fans are slightly more annoyed by it than non-Japanese ones, and here’s why.
One of the main reasons for the derisions of anime adaptations is that they are “bad” or at least “bad representations”. Most live action adaptations will change and trim down complicated story arcs, bend them to local morality and take out anything too specific to the culture or medium to be easily understood by the general public with no previous experience with anime, rather than explain it. This is considered a more or less necessary step to make a niche entertainment accessible to a wide audience. Marvel and DC movies go through the same process and they come from a better known and more relatable source (for western viewers).
Also, most adaptations aren’t animated! There I go with the brilliant insights again. But the medium has a bigger impact than you may think. Putting aside fans like myself who are fascinated by the technical workings of anime and simply prefer pictures to photographs, there’s also the fact that stories presented in animation are told differently. You can show things that would be technically or economically not possible otherwise. There’s a dulling and distancing that naturally occurs when you’re watching something you inherently know cannot, has never and will never be real, that forces the narrative to get the audience’s empathy through different means. It allows for more exaggerated events or ridiculous situations to seem acceptable in a world already made up of impossible proportions and magical colours. It also makes what would otherwise be considered boring, pretty enough to be viable on film.
You lose all of that when you move off the medium. Ok, you trade it off for different things. Lighting being a big one. Acting and tiny idiosyncrasies that would be tedious to animate but an actor can simply incorporate to their performance with little effort. I’m not saying one medium is better than the other (well animation is better but that’s another post) but the two are different in an irreconcilable way. Even if every other element was identical. The script was word for word, sound design and voice acting magically the same, costumes and actors all as close as possible to the look of the anime, the end product would still be considerably different.
And that’s a problem. Not for us, anime fans who now have the possibility to enjoy a beloved story in a different format, but for the *others* out there. One of the reasons we happen to be (over)protective of anime, is because it’s still a niche form of entertainment. Although growing wildly in popularity, you can still easily find people that have never seen “one of those shows” or think it’s just One Piece. Because we love the medium and because we want it to be lucrative enough to continue getting widely produced and distributed, we want to attract more fans. But what type of fans…
As such, if an adaptation is bad we dislike it for putting anime in a bad light but if it’s just a bad representation, then it brings up a whole new problem. New people that come to the medium expecting something completely different may be disappointed. There’s even a small risk that they may start influencing our beloved anime and change it to something we don’t like. It’s a very small risk but we’re worriers.
So it’s easy to see why we would be wary of anime getting adapted into western media, but what about the other way around? I don’t feel particularly defensive of the works I grew up with, especially popular ones. I would love a Harry Potter anime. Even if they made some pretty liberal changes and filled it with tropes. Like they could turn it into a magical girl series complete with transformation sequences and an all-girl cast. I just low key sold myself on this concept. Can someone make it happen?
I also really loved catch-22 maybe we can weave it into a second season of the Saga of Tanya the Evil. I really think it would fit the tome and story perfectly. Ok, now I’m just making a wish list of imaginary anime. What I’m saying is that I have a feeling that I’m less inclined to mind adaptations of these works because they are so mainstream they hardly need any protection. Or rather the adaptation doesn’t really risk overshadowing the original.
But if I was surrounded by anime and rarely got to see western media that could change my point of view. Well not for Harry Potter of course. That’s just ridiculously popular and would make an amazeballs anime. I’m so enamoured by that idea I lost my English, even more than usual. Of course, all of this could simply be my anime bias.
For instance, would any of you be put off if they adapted Star Wars into a Mech anime? Or what about redoing the Marvel movies in a high school setting, would it bother you? What if they were just bad? I picked two popular franchises but you can imagine it with whatever you happen to prefer. Game of Thrones? Actually, I feel like that could work really well as anime. I would love to see a studio like Bones or Trigger handle those white walker battles. How bishie would the Starks be under KyoAni?!? Ok, I’m wishlisting again. Can anyone greenlight the Game of Thrones anime? I think we need it, right now! We might rework the last season a smidge.