Believe it or not, this was one of the toughest lists for me to put together. First of all, I rarely read manga on an anime I’ve already seen and vice versa. I’m just too curious and impatient, so I have a tendency to want to discover new stories instead of adaptations.

Also, I just have a very strong bias in favour of anime. In general, I like anime more. I’m currently reading through Noragami and I am delighted to continue the adventure. However, I did enjoy the anime more and I would watch another season anytime. Same for BSD.

Anyways, after good long consideration, these are 5 mangas that I have read and seen the adaptations of and still think the manga was way better for some reason or another!

5. Battle Angel Alita

I have a feeling that space will be a recurring theme.

Battle Angel Alita was one of my favourite Mangas as a kid. I wasn’t quite as charmed when I reread it but it’s still a classic for a reason. And the 2 part OVA never had a chance to capture that magic.

You see, at its core Battle Angel Alita, the manga is an intensely personal, slow-burn coming-of-age story of a very peculiar young woman. It follows Alita as she grows up from an innocent newborn to a feisty but lovable child, a rebellious teenager and finally a realized young woman with her own strengths and weaknesses. And I really enjoyed reading this story with a female lead.

But the two-part OVA each no longer than a single episode, never stood a chance of getting that across. Well maybe it had a small chance but it didn’t.

4. Akira

Akira was one of the first anime I saw. And I really liked the movie. I don’t think I completely understood it but I liked it nonetheless. And then I found the manga, translated in french, in my local library.

And oh boy, that manga was a revelation! Akira is just a really good manga. So we can start there. If you haven’t read it, you should give it a try. So already, any adaptation would have had some big shoes to fill. For what it’s worth, I think streamlining the story and distilling it into one movie was actually a good idea and as far as adaptations go, the Akira movie did a great job.

But there is just no comparing it with the expansive universe and twisted intrigue of the manga.

3. BLAME

Blame is not so much a manga as an experience. I still can’t believe that a largely dialogue and text-free manga could work so well. It’s a daring and imaginative use of the medium and it deserves props for it. That deeply intricate line work art is also quite impressive.

And although I do enjoy silent sequences in anime, it just didn’t translate the same way. Page after page of pictures without dialogue went by in a flash when animated and the art style could not be preserved. It would have been next to impossible to put that style in action.

2. Death Note

This one is a cheat. I have not watched past the two first episodes of Death Note so I can’t really make a fair comparison. But I still know I liked the manga more. One big reason for this one is simple nostalgia. I read the manga first and I really really liked it, then I probably idealized a bit in my head. So when I saw something in the anime that didn’t match up to the version in my memories, I was outta there!

But there’s also an issue of pacing. Death Note is essentially a big cat and mouse story with a lot of tension and grand moments. Being able to choose exactly where to stop reading in any given session, adds a lot to the atmosphere and enjoyment of these types of stories for me. The anime comes pre-sectioned in episodes and the story is adapted to more or less fit the format. Yes, I suppose I could stop watching in the middle of an episode but it’s not the same and stopping on a particular page.

Am I being nuts?

1. xxxHOLiC

I watched the anime before reading the manga and I liked it so much, that I bought the manga while I was still watching. And let me tell you, these are two different pieces of art. First of all, the xxHOLiC is a great adaptation. They have moved stories around, created new ones changed the order of revelation, all of that to make it work as a 24 episode anime. and it worked. It’s great.

The manga is just something else. Aside from a few stories in common and of course the characters, a lot of the manga was simply never adapted and it a much crueller and darker story than the anime. On top of that, the xxxHOLiC manga is a very big part of the Card Captor Sakura universe. The relation is tangential so that you don’t need to read both series to appreciate them but it’s there and very important. That’s something that was almost entirely cut out of the anime. When you are a CLAMP fan like I am, seeing the universes come together is very epic.

I noticed that often, in these types of complicated narratives lose steam in the end. But with xxxHOLiC, it goes from good to amazing in the last arc. The end is haunting and evolved in both style and themes from the beginning and the anime just never got around to that.

Finally, the art is stunning. I love CLAMP’s designs in general but being able to appreciate them and just stare at a deeply decorated page for a minute or so is a great experience. I love this manga.

So that’s it for me. I want to ask if there are an manga you prefer to the anime but most people tend to prefer manga in general when given the choice so I’m pretty sure the answer is already yes. Still I would love to know which manga you think was much better than the adaptation it got and why.

21 thoughts

  1. I LOVE Alita. And you are right, there’s no way a short adaptation to screen would make it justice. It’s one of those cases where you have to experience all of it, to. understand and feel the story.

    Never read Akira, unfortunately, but maybe someday

    1. Agreed. Oddly, I think the Land of the Lustrous adaptation translated that better even though the Land of the Lustrous manga doesn’t insist on that element.

  2. Even I had to resort to the manga for Alita. For me, who avoids manga intentionally, that means a lot.

    Some peoples heads are gonna explode over you Death Note preference!

  3. I was going to say, normally these lists are the other way around. After all, everyone knows that the anime is just automatically inferior to the manga at least 99% of the time, right?

    All kidding aside, Rurouni Kenshin is the obvious answer for me. I mean, if you can still divorce yourself from the author’s skeeviness, the manga is a time-tested classic for a reason, and it’s still the longest manga series I’ve read all the way from start to finish. With the anime I was pretty much checked out on it after only a couple of the filler episodes; I didn’t even make it to the infamous all-filler third season that got the series canceled.

  4. Yeah, same experience with the Akira movie. It was awesome, but quite confusing and seemed like a lot was left unexplored. Should give the manga a shot when I have some time.

  5. I watched Akira a couple years ago but never read the manga. I thought the movie was good, but very confusing. I’d check out the manga soon, but honestly I don’t know if I have the stomach for that scene where the dog gets killed at the beginning again :\

    I’d love make a list of my own like this, but I’m pretty sure it would just say The Promised Neverland 5 times in a row haha

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