Why you might need to change the story when adapting it to anime

October 3, 2010

(For some context, see the previous entry, in which this was originally a sidebar before it got too long.)

To put it one way, anime almost always gives you an external view of characters and events, not an internal one (one where the character's internal feelings and motivations are clear to the reader). Manga and games let you give the reader a somewhat more internal view, and written text lets you give them a fully internal view if you want to.

(You don't have to, of course; lots of written works are told from various detached third-person perspectives.)

In a work written with this internal view available, the external events may not make sense or may not be sufficiently convincing by themselves. For example, it might only be clear how and why two characters fall in love from an internal view; if you just have the external events, it seems implausible or stupid. Since anime mostly strips away this internal view, you are left only with the unconvincing external view; in order to make the story make sense again you may need to add or change external events to be more convincing and to better illustrate the internal story.

(The other version of this is when a character is more sympathetic or interesting because you see their internal perspective; if the story is told purely from an outside perspective, they wind up looking unpleasant or nasty or bad.)

There are at least two ways for an anime adaptation to fumble the necessary story changes: it can simply do a bad or unconvincing job of them, or it can do a good job of them that still doesn't fit in well with the other external events and feels out of place, like something awkwardly grafted in.

(The worst case is stories where the internal view is an intrinsic part of how the story works, for example where the story being in first person narration is fundamental and it would be very different in third person. But I suspect that those don't get anime adaptations very often or in fact at all.)

Comments on this page:

From at 2010-10-04 05:23:52:

This issue for adaptation is not unique to anime, unsurprisingly. Hollywood movies and TV shows struggle with the same sort of issues when they adapt material (although some books are written in an manner that is highly adaptable).

If a book is written with only the internal views of one character, it is possible to adapt that to visual media by including voiceover narration of that character. This can come across horribly or cheesy, but it can work. For example, for me it works just fine in Haruhi. In fact I find a strong analogy between Haruhi and Fight Club -- I consider both to be adaptations that transcend their source material (while preserving much that is good from the sources).


Written on 03 October 2010.
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Last modified: Sun Oct 3 17:31:46 2010
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