The next time you see someone dismiss an anime by saying “the manga was better,” you may want to correct them by saying “no, the Manga was different.”
As many fans know, the vast majority of anime series are based off of preexisting manga with established fanbases. After all, with a single episode of an anime costing as much as $145,000 to make, studios want to establish a show’s viewership as early as possible to make a return on their investment. However, whether it’s due to budget constraints or a shift in marketing, some anime wind up making dramatic changes to their respective manga’s established story. Are these changes good or bad? That’s up to you! But knowing the changes are there to begin with is half the battle.
Below are four anime that are notably different than their manga counterparts. Though we’re only scratching the surface of this oftentimes complicated subject, make sure to keep the conversation going in our Anime and Manga club!
Yu-Gi-Oh wasn’t always the multi-million dollar franchise that we know and love today. In fact, when looking at the changes between the manga and the anime, it’s easy to see how hard its creators worked to capitalize on Yu-Gi-Oh‘s budding success at the time.
Though the overall plot remains similar, the Yu-Gi-Oh manga is specifically darker than the anime. When Kazuki Takahashi began work on Yu-Gi-Oh, his target audience skewed towards teenage readers, and he didn’t even intend for the Duel Monsters card game to be a major part of the plot! By the time Studio Gallop’s well known anime adaptation of Yu-Gi-Oh entered the scene in 2000, this obviously had all changed. The anime was made to be significantly lighter in tone to not only appeal to a younger, broader audience, but also to help promote the massively successful Yu-Gi-Oh trading card game.
The differences in tone will be even more noticeable to those who watched the English dubbed version, as the 4Kids localization actually censored the already-toned-down anime to take out references to death and violence, among numerous other things.
3: Elfen Lied
The Elfen Lied anime is perhaps best known for the traumatizing, gore-filled opening act of its first episode, but that’s not the only reason fans find it controversial. On the contrary, those who’ve read the manga would find the corresponding anime to be… well, unfinished.
Yes, compared to the manga, the Elfen Lied anime tells only about half of the story. Because the manga had yet to be finished by the time the anime aired, Arms studio apparently decided to end the series early while trying to tie together as many loose ends as they possibly could. Characters die who aren’t supposed to die, important details in the plot are revealed early, and some characters are wholesale omitted from the story altogether! Though Elfen Lied could have theoretically continued into a second season to cover the rest of the plot, it would have been a difficult task to move forward from the anime’s ending while staying true to the Manga.
2: Tokyo Ghoul
Since we’re past that disturbing Elfen Lied anime, let’s take a look at Tokyo Ghoul, a good ol’ fashioned story about entities known as ghouls who have to eat humans to survive.
The Tokyo Ghoul anime has drawn ire from fans of the manga for its deviations, and it’s easy to see why. While the show’s first season stayed relatively true to the original, numerous plot elements were truncated to fit over 60 chapters of the manga into 12 thirty-minute episodes. For the show’s second season, Tokyo Ghoul Root A, Studio Pierrot decided to completely diverge from the source and opted to cover an original story written by series creator Sui Ishida. Needless to say, this caught fans off-guard due to certain events in the new anime completely contradicting things that happened in the manga. Though Tokyo Ghoul Root A is under no pretense of being anything but its own canon, it’s still rare for an anime series to go this far off the rails in order to be its own transformative story.
1: Full Metal Alchemist
If there was ever a poster child for anime that changed drastically from the manga, it would be Full Metal Alchemist.
Similar to what we’re currently seeing with the TV version of Game of Thrones, the Full Metal Alchemist anime began production before the manga had been concluded. However, rather than cut the story short like Elfen Lied did, Full Metal Alchemist instead opted to divert from the manga after 34 episodes and tell its own story instead. It was a bold choice born out of necessity, but fortunately Full Metal Alchemist was so internationally successful that the deviated story was not considered as controversial as Tokyo Ghoul‘s. Still, the differences between the manga and anime were prevalent enough for studio BONES to actually reboot its own anime by creating Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Airing a full 6 years after the original Full Metal Alchemist series, BONES was finally able to promise a faithful recreation of the manga that they were unable to produce during their first time with the story.
Full Metal Alchemist continues to be a fan favorite to this day, and we’re sure no one was complaining about Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood since it meant another opportunity to go on a journey with the Elric brothers. However, when we’re talking about the same studio doing a complete remake of its own series within the same decade to stay truer to the manga, you know there were a ton of details they omitted from the story. Whether you prefer anime or manga, there’s no denying that this series strayed far, far away from its source material before bringing it all together in the end.