Bad things happen when a manga author doesn’t like the adaption of their work. Kare Kano, GAINAX’s promising shoujo romcom adaption, was hamstrung when Tsuda Masami complained that it focused too much on comedy instead of romance and refused to allow another season, which lead to Anno Hideaki‘s departure from the studio. The project was left in shambles, culminating in one of anime’s most disappointing endings. Toriyama Akira said of Dragonball Evolution that he wasn’t sure what it had to do with his original manga at all. These disapprovals by original authors can range from hazardous to depressing, which is why it’s refreshing to see a manga author give their thumbs up to an anime adaption.
Apart from outright declaring it, the clearest way for an author to show their approval of an adaption is to appear in it themselves, even moreso if they voice their own avatar. Especially if an anime adaption takes significant liberties with the source material, it’s nice to know that the original author is okay with it.
Perhaps the most famous example of an author avatar in anime is Rikudou Koushi in the first episode of Excel Saga, wherein he’s horribly murdered by Excel as the anime’s own way of announcing that it’d do whatever the hell it wanted. Another hilarious example is Sorachi Hideaki, who plays himself (as a gorilla) in two episodes of Gintama, one of which is about Gintoki teaching him how to make a successful shounen manga.
The studio most known for involving manga authors in their anime is SHAFT, which is good, since they tend to go crazy with their adaptions. Aoki Ume plays herself as a caterpillar that appears at the beginning of each Hidamari Sketch episode. Kumeta Kouji appears and is made fun of several times throughout Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, and more famously, the face of his assistant, MAEDAX, is used constantly as a censor bar, clock face, or random cutaway.
My favorite author avatar, though, is Nozomu Tamaki from Dance in the Vampire Bund. He plays himself (surprisingly well) in the first and eighth episodes as the author of a popular vampire manga which is being adapted to film, and is asked about the supposed ‘vampire sightings’ that’ve been going on. He interestingly states that vampires couldn’t be real, which is why it’s fun to write about them, and jokes with a historian about how vampires become popular during economic depressions while Frankenstein is popular in times of economic growth.
At the end of episode 8, during the “Dance With the Vampire Maid” omake, one of the maids introduces Nozomu as the original creator and asks why the maids haven’t been getting more screentime. He tells them “don’t ask me; you don’t think the original author writes the anime, do you?” When the maid asks “You don’t?!” Nozomu replies “My grandma does it.” I thought this was a nice touch, because indeed, the Vampire Bund anime is very different from the manga, which had worried me until that point, and then I realized that Nozomu was saying the anime and manga are two different things and should be appreciated as such. (Oh, how I wish Tsuda Masami could’ve thought the same way about Kare Kano.)
There’re other author avatars from anime that I haven’t seen (Kannagi, Kodocha, Negima, Gash Bell, Tokyo Tribes 2, and the original FullMetal Alchemist) and surely others that I’m unaware of. I think they’re a pretty fun and cool addition to a series, and make it easier for me to appreciate the adaption as something the creator endorsed. [F]
(For another time: there’re also cases where the author has a supervisory role over the anime adaption, but that was the case with Aida Yu on Il Teatrino, so I don’t know how much good it really does lol).