Light Novel Adaptions vs. Anime Originals (vs. Manga Adaptions)

Generally, I think—and public opinion supports—that Original Anime (that is, ones that were first conceived as anime and not based on any other work) tend to be of higher quality than anime based on other works. This isn’t always true, but I’d say it’s about 80% true.

Original Anime tend to be the best because they put the most consideration into animation as a medium. The poster child for that idea is Cowboy Bebop, which wouldn’t work in any other medium. It takes every element of being an anime into consideration and perfects it.

My favorite Original Anime

Manga Adaptions can do this—that poster child being FullMetal Alchemist Brotherhood, which completely adapts the story of the manga while using the medium of animation to its fullest—but probably less than 20% of Manga Adaptions do it with any degree of success, as opposed to 80% of Original Anime doing it.

Reason being that the author of a manga wasn’t thinking about it as an anime while they wrote it. They optimized on the manga format, so it only makes sense that their stories work in manga form. If anime tries to copy manga form, then it falls apart.

There is, however, a level of disconnect depending on the individual. Even if a Manga Adaption doesn’t optimize on the medium, I’ll probably still enjoy it more than the manga itself because I prefer the medium of anime to manga that much. The question isn’t of how the adaption compares to the source material, but of how the adaption stands up against other anime.

As usual, I’m gonna break out my favorites list as an example:

Unsurprisingly, with my being a person who loves anime for the qualities that make it anime, the best part of my favorites list is made up of Original Anime. However, while it makes sense that Manga Adaptions are trumped, the presence of seven Light Novel Adaptions throws the stats for a loop. The reason it makes such a big difference is that there are way fewer Light Novel Adaptions than there are Original Anime and Manga Adaptions in existence.

What this means is that there’s a high chance I’ll enjoy a Light Novel Adaption, being as I like a far greater percentage of all Light Novel Adaptions than I do other anime types. We could deduce that if there were enough Light Novel Adaptions, they would eventually overrun my favorites list.

My favorite Light Novel Adaption

It’s not as though those seven are the only light novel adaptions I love, either—a good deal of the anime I love outside this top 32 are Light Novel Adaptions. (For instance, if this list went farther, Index, Haruhi, Angel Beats, Kyouran Kazoku Nikki, and NHK ni Youkoso would be met very soon.)

The reason behind this is fairly obvious: light novels aren’t a medium, but a genre. While they uniquely are made up of images and text together, ultimately light novels are just a genre of literature. There’s way more in common between any two given Light Novel Adaptions than there are between any two Original Anime or any two Manga Adaptions, because those are accounting for entire mediums as opposed to genres.

It just so happens that the light novel genre is directly tied into anime culture, so that genre has way more adaptions than the rest of its medium. It’s not fair to play percentages between a whole medium and a single genre—it would be illogical to claim that the reason I like so many more Light Novel Adaptions than I do regular Novel Adaptions has anything to do with the way they translate to animation, because they’re the same medium and translate the same way. The truth is simply that light novels are my favorite genre of literature.

My favorite Manga Adaption

The same disconnect exists as with Manga Adaptions. I claimed that in being based on manga, they don’t take consideration of being anime—that’s logically true for Light Novel Adaptions as well. Both mediums would be optimal in their original form as opposed to less-than-perfect in their adapted form. However, because I naturally enjoy anime more than manga or light novels, I would still prefer the anime adaptions over the originals, regardless of their not standing up to other anime.

Just as with their adaptions, I like a higher percentage of light novels than I do anime or manga, but I don’t prefer the medium itself. When translated to anime, though, the equation remains the same. It’s no longer true that optimizing on being animation is what will earn my favor the most—now it becomes apparent that being a Light Novel Adaption is more likely to put a show in my favor.

The only question remaining is “why?” Why does that particular genre of anime appeal to me so much in spite of not optimizing on the medium the way Original Anime does? That will be reserved for another post. (Or just read this one which says a lot of it.)

9 thoughts on “Light Novel Adaptions vs. Anime Originals (vs. Manga Adaptions)

  1. Pingback: Japanese Anime Stories » Blog Archive » Light Novel Adaptions vs. Anime Originals (vs. Manga Adaptions …

  2. Looking at my own list, most are anime originals (Macross, Gundam, Eva, Cowboy Bebop), though there are exceptions like Utena, Honey & Clover, Aria, etc.

    Novel adaptations are there too: Banner of the Stars, and Legend of the Galactic Heroes being great examples (along with Haruhi).

    I think LN adaptations have a great chance in the same way that short stories seem to have a lot of merit as sources for feature films. The logic goes:

    An adaptation of The Lord of the Rings will inevitably remove so much detail that endeared readers to the material in the first place, while the adaptation of Brokeback Mountain added so much detail that was never really needed for a short fiction to carry, but worked wonderfully in film.

    In an adaptation of a shorter work, and especially something that doesn’t have a lot of visual detail (and/or a lot of narrative detail) allows the adapters to run free with creating new things that can really make the resulting work outstanding. K-On!! is a great example, as a 4-koma it won’t have the same amount of detail as would a full, epic manga.

    • I have a hard time thinking of Utena as a manga adaption since the manga has so little to do with the anime ultimately, hence marking it as original in my list.

      Anyway your idea falls apart a little bit because most light novel adaptions still leave a lot out because they cover a lot of the novels. Light novel series are usually extremely long, so they get ultra-condensed into anime. For instance, Toradora was a 26-episode anime covering a ten-volume light novel series, being a pretty extreme case. Most ln adaptions do three books a cour. Bakemonogatari covered two books, Baccano covered three and parts of a fourth, and Durarara interestingly used 26 eps for 3 volumes and added in anime-original content.

      Not to say I disagree with your main point, because anime adding in so much is exactly why I love it.

      • I dunno about that statement. I can think of plenty of shows that were, at least for me, made less enjoyable through the inclusion of original content. Off the top of my head, there’s Oreimo and Da Capo. So I’d contend that the rule “More OC = Better anime” isn’t true.

          • I’m sure that was the message in this blog entry. But what about…

            “Most ln adaptions do three books a cour. Bakemonogatari covered two books, Baccano covered three and parts of a fourth, and Durarara interestingly used 26 eps for 3 volumes and [added in anime-original content.]

            Not to say I disagree with your main point, [because anime adding in so much is exactly why I love it.]”

  3. Utena is technically a manga adaptation, although the anime is not something I would call very faithful to the source material. I recall reading a couple chapters way back in the day about how Utena came to attend Ohtori Academy (something about a puzzle on the back of a postcard) but that’s as well as my memory will serve me.

    • Yeah as I said to GL I don’t like considering it an adaption because the similarities really go no farther than character designs/names and the general theme. I’m pretty sure the manga is like 2 volumes long and really terrible anyway.

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