Reading Manga before Watching Its Adaptation

This post is an reply of sorts to Nuuance’s Rant Equals: Is Reading Manga before an Adaptation Foolish? For those who won’t spare the time to read it, Nuu is of the opinion that it really is foolish. He likens the situation to reading the book before watching the movie. In either case you won’t be watching the adaptation with fresh eyes – you will already have your idea of how it should play out,  you will compare the two and both, following the source work panel by panel (word for word) and taking liberties with it, are likely to backfire.

This season's Miyakawa-ke no Kuufuku is following the source yon-koma panel by panel.

This season’s Miyakawa-ke no Kuufuku is following the source yon-koma panel by panel.

Whether you have read some of my First Impressions or just used common sense, you surely understand why I’m writing this post. I happen to be one of those people who tend to research their anime beforehand, which includes reading the source material (if available). The same goes for films adapted from books, e.g. Lord of the Rings. Nuuance also mentions this tends to afflict “serious fans or critics,” which in the case of otaku often means those, who care to blog about it. He saw straight through me!

What are the pro (et contra) of this foolish behavior?

I sneak around at the beginning of each season following my congress with neregate’s quarterly chart, looking for more facts than the short paragraph in the chart. While Zana does a great job and I am eternally indebted for the charts, only the most important information makes its way into the small rectangle. For example with above-mentioned Miyakawa-ke no Kuufuku I only realized that it was a web-series of shorts after researching it more. Oftentimes I decide whether to watch a series or not based on the original material I find or promotional videos. (Note: Zana takes the time to mention if the series is an original or adapted and when that is the case, lists the form of the source.)

On the other hand I was glad I read it as the anime made a bit more sense to me that way. Which is where I get to the second reason. Sometimes the adaptation just doesn’t give you some crucial facts or, in better case, something is omitted due to time constraints, thus robbing the viewers of character development et cetera. In effect a character decides something on the basis of experience gained in an omitted arc and you are confused until by chance you stumble upon the explanation in a discussion thread.

My last reason is very much related to the fact that I write about these series. When I decide to write a First Impressions post, I first collect all available data (and lament my nonexistent knowledge of Japanese) and read some source materials. This is generally why those posts are longer than episodicals. Comparing and contrasting, snipping panels from the manga here and taking screenshot from the anime there,… Aniblogging is hard work!

patchouli

The downside is just as Nuuance mentioned, I spoil the anime for myself. Take RDG: Red Data Girl – having read some of the manga, I was bored to death by the first episode. Another is that if I decide based on the original material and the studio adapts it in a very original way, I’ll be missing out (or enraged/let down.) An example from this season is easy to pick out, Aku no Hana. The liberties taken with the visuals are really something there…

Feel free to (dis)agree in the comments or even write a post on the subject yourself~

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2 comments on “Reading Manga before Watching Its Adaptation

  1. finallyanime says:

    Very nicely done btw I just want to begin w/in this comment :) but I guess to clarify, I wasn’t directly saying watching/reading source material before checking out the opposite medium is foolish, but rather saying its a large gamble many loose. Research is something I definitely can get behind, but think about it like this: is this research supplementary or complementary? In many cases people get the two mixed up. Now, complimentary is information anyone can appreciate that adds to an already complete story & supplementary has vital information the adaption decides to omit or involuntarily messes up. Anyways, what I’m trying to say is, should it be necessary (or is it “morally right”) to have to read/watch something originally separate to understand the desired source material? I suppose that is another debate entirely, but I sincerely think an adapted show or manga needs the ability to stand on its own two feet completely. Sword Art Online was supposedly a victim of this & I soon stopped watching because I lost interest. The first season essentially failed to explain how people maintained their health while under influence of the VR-device & apparently was in the manga w/a bunch of other pieces of info that really would have helped when the series started needlessly jumping around…such as…well actually idk if you’ve seen it or not so I won’t spoil it. But all that’s to say we should have to “do research” period. Trust me, I felt the same way & I’m SOOOOOO tempted to look at source material so I can have the full knowledge of the series, but I’ve found (for me) it just ends up hurting ultimately. For some popular shows like Soul Eater for instance, everything is self-contained. Although more information is alllllways appreciated, the story explains everything and doesn’t really leave you guessing. I’m sure the manga has more background which I’d personally love to know, but the anime took care of it. It’s like doing a report or essay on a book the teacher hasn’t read…and requiring her to read the book before checking out your report rather than citing appropriate text or summarizing it. It leaves out the important parts before getting on to even more important set-pieces.

    So after all my rambling, to simplify, reading manga before anime isn’t inherently wrong, but at the same time it can potentially ruin the “purity” of a show & how the producers intended you to see it. Many wouldn’t play a video game requiring knowledge of a convoluted novel beforehand when it can so easily find a number of ways to portray this “lost information” that doesn’t need to be lost. It is not foolish to check out stuff in research, but it might taint the experience at the same time.

    • Dorry-kun says:

      You’re 100% correct saying the anime should not require you to research the original material. A well-made anime wouldn’t. It might just be my negativism, but I tend to assume the adaptation will mess-up ^^; Unfortunately it happens way too often for me to give this up.
      I also agree it can spoil the anime for me, but I can live with that.
      Though I haven’t seen Sword Art Online, I’ve been told about some seemingly illogical or confusing things. For example there is a reason behind Asuna’s leveling up to mastery in cooking, a useless skill in the game world.

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