“The Manga is SOO Much Better than the Anime.” Think so? Read More Here!

People always compare and complain about the differences between manga and anime. But I feel before we look into each individual case, we have to first learn the fundamental differences that manga and anime have in terms of narrative concepts, which affect how we perceive it.

There are two terms we have to learn now. That is "story" and "discourse". Think of story as WHAT and discourse as HOW. One clear-cut example where we can differentiate the two is in Suzumiya Haruhi, where the episode numbers are messed up. You can think of the messed up sequence as the discourse, while the actual chronology of events is the story.

Now we can move onto the actual points.

The pictures were placed randomly, in a bid to provide some relief from the wall of text. I shall attempt to make a funny joke every caption, but fail terribly. Note this is a parody of Impz and his THAT animeblog.

Discourse Time
People whine, "This anime is sooo slow-paced compared to the manga!" even if the story were exactly the same. This is because the discourse time, the time it takes for us to watch/read the medium, is fixed in anime. Unless you watch it in fast forward or slow-motion, then you are a nutcase. Manga is just the opposite naturally, since it is read. The discourse time is free to be set by us, the readers. If we want to read it faster, we can do so. If we want to slowly stew in the suspense and mysteries of Detective Conan, we can. Otherwise, we can skim through and find out who the murderer is.

This fundamental difference is a major factor in why people say "The source material [manga] is better!". You can adjust the pace at which you read manga, but you most likely always spend 23 minutes on an anime episode. A great example is in the use of flashbacks. In manga, flashbacks (note: the type which re-use old scenes), can be skimmed through in half a second and the effect still achieved. Anime, when using flashbacks, tend to show sequences in full and the user has no ability to skim through them if he’s watching it on TV.

Ok I failed. I can’t even think of one funny joke. But ending here would be too short because Impz always has an extremely long caption which detracts from the main article, so as a parody I have to do the same and write a lot about nothing.

All stories comprise of events, it’s like a building block. Manga, sequential juxtaposed images, is drawn such that each frame can be considered an event in its own right. Anime, on the other hand, is continuous and event boundaries are marked by factors such as actions and goals of the characters. Now the difference between the two is, in manga, the reader has to mentally link each event in his mind to form the story while in anime, it gets served on a pan to him.

It’s not normally a big issue except for rare people who cannot perform this link. But it becomes significant when the scene is chaotic, or mangaka lacking skill in marking out each frame. One example is the early battles in the Naruto manga. It is very difficult to comprehend what was going on, because Kishimoto preferred having a chain of really close-up shots which showed only certain body appendages (no not the penis). This was on top of his artstyle of having little tones. Hence, many readers find the anime battle scenes easier to watch.

Event Timing
Some mangaka make use of the frames to strengthen the punchline of the joke. An example is the Hayate no Gotoku manga, where the punchlines generally come on the next page, to prevent viewers from subconsciously skimming ahead and ruining the joke for themselves. Many fellow bloggers have commented that manga versions are generally funnier than anime ones of the same content, such as Keroro Gunsou. This I do not know too much about and hence cannot comment, but I do know that event and comic timing has huge differences in anime and manga. I wish somebody would explain.

Did you know? Mecha musume can be created in real life. That is why sailors in the past have avoided bringing women on board ships, for they know that over the course of a sea voyage, which used to be years, women are able to fuse with the vessel due to their double dose of the X chromosome and high amounts of luteinising hormone. Thankfully, with the improvement in sea transport these days which have shortened journey duration, women can now board ships without fear of fusing.

The way characters are portrayed are different in anime and manga. In manga, there are no voices and what you can learn about the character is decided by the author. He is all-powerful when it comes to deciding how a character is portrayed. In anime, there is an added layer of characterisation, which comes from voice actors (seiyuu). Voice acting is like live-action acting in that the actors do make a difference as to how the audience portrays the character. While a seiyuu has less control compared to a film star, he/she does influence the character. This is made more significant if the seiyuu is a star and viewers have associated her with a certain character type.

Think Kugimiya Rie. She is famous for her roles of a little bratty tsundere girl and when she does play one who does not have such traits, viewers may still associate them with that character. Some fans of a manga may take offence when a seiyuu they feel is unsuited for the role gets it, and proceeds to add her own style.

In manga, the mangaka is the author. He may get feedback from his editors and assistants, but he does most of the story himself. In an anime, this is not the case most of the time as there are a lot more staff working on the project, including director, screen play writer, actresses, sponsors and many more. All of those mentioned have the ability to apply change to the anime, sometimes not always for the betterment of the show.

You could say the implied author of a manga, and the implied author of an anime made from the same manga, are vastly different. A recent example is Bokurano. The director of the Bokurano anime is a happy cheerful guy who likes kids while the original mangaka likes to kill kids. Hence a conflict occurs and Bokurano anime will not follow the manga, which will piss off lots of fans.

You know men always take short cuts across grass, and not just keep to the pavement like women? Why is this so? Because women wear high heels and the small surface area of the shoes causes great pressure on the ground (no, it’s not their weight). Hence women walking on grass would sink into the ground and we can all laugh at them. That is why they avoid grassy areas and stick to asphalt.

Imagination Fill-in
Most manga are black and white. Almost all anime are coloured. This just illustrates how anime leaves less to the imagination than manga. Anime brings across what the author had in mind a lot more clearly, specifying the voice, colour etc of the characters and story. This is not always good, as it increases the restrictions and constraints of viewer imagination.

The scale of imaginative constraints are as follows: written text (novels etc), comics, animation, film. If I’ve been reading some Kenichi manga and imaged that Kenichi would have a deep gruff voice, and then finding out the anime Kenichi was voiced by a glass-breaking Tomokazu Seki, I may be sorely disappointed.

Translation and Subs
This is not related to manga and anime inherently, but to the translated forms. Most of us read manga translated, be it in English or Mandarin. The translation process involves deleting the original text, so we cannot know what the raw text was. This sometimes undermines some series which rely on linguistic jokes, such as Gintama. I didn’t like the Gintama manga, I read it in Chinese and didn’t find any of the jokes funny. Later I watched the anime and found it hilarious. I attribute this to my hearing the jokes in their original language and still understanding because of the subs.

Right, so we’ve seen some differences between anime and manga. But despite knowing all these, we will never stop complaining about XXX manga being better than XXX anime. Perhaps because it is true.

20 Responses to ““The Manga is SOO Much Better than the Anime.” Think so? Read More Here!”

  • Very true.

    Another very important factor in consideration is Illustration Quality.

    As shown in action anime, movement and choreography of the character plays a very important role in the course of the action. While manga does so with movement lines and impact illustrations, it often cannot portray movement and action as well as anime, simply because anime is moving while manga are still drawings. Any shounen manga can be fine example.

    However, still drawings can be an asset as well. When drawing still images, fine details can be added and more time can be used to produce drawings as perfect as the mangaka can. Background, clothings, facial, hair details are most obvious amongst all. Most anime (with exception of high-production animes) have time and financial restraints which forces the animation studio from producing quality work which rival it’s manga counterparts. Such examples are like Airgear and any Takeshi Obata works.

    However, as i said, it all depends on the production cost, type of anime, manpower and time available for making an anime. Series like Air, Byousoku 5cm have proven that point very clearly.

  • Sometimes it’s true, sometimes it isn’t. Technicalities aside, there’s always room for improvement or changes that may or may not be improvement over the original but are at least interesting. I myself don’t like it when an anime adaptation follows the manga verbatim – it’s just not interesting, not just because I already know what’s going to happen but also because I like looking at things from different points of view, I like to see different interpretations that writers, voice actors, etc. give the characters and the story. Maybe most anime adaptations are not as good as the original, but in many cases the anime is not really bad, only fans of the manga are having problems accepting different interpretations and approaches.

    IMO the Ouran Host Club anime pwns the manga so hard it’s not even funny. Same with Berserk (I never had any problems with the last episode, considering that the real “last” ep is the first one). I rest my case.

  • Primeparadigm

    Hmm.. Many of the points you raised are similar to those found in the book “Understanding Comics” by Scott Mccloud. If you haven’t read it, I highly reccomend it for it is a very good read on the advantages and disadvantages of the medium of Sequential Arts in comparison to other mediums. I think it is rather easily found in the comic sections of most National Library branches.

  • Wow Prime, I read it 4 years ago. I realised that’s how I got my definition of comics. But most of the content here came from my narrative modules.

  • “The manga is SOO much better than the anime” is a pretty valid statement in cases where the material actually changes between the manga and the anime. As long as the reasoning behind it properly quantified then that’s fine. For those shows where the anime is practically a frame-for-frame remake of the manga, pretty much the only reasons I’ll except are bad direction (in terms of timing), bad animation or music (it can be incredibly distracting) or awful voice acting. In terms of titles where there are actual changes in story or content has been added or removed, though, it’s entirely subjective – I mean, I think the opening episodes of Shana are way too slow compared to both the manga and the novels, and I can quantify it in terms of feeling the additional material they added was simply rehashing itself, but I know a lot of people like the additional explanation that gave.

    As the comic timing thing, it’s a little hard to put my finger on. It has a whole lot to do with impact, or lack of in anime titles. Splitting events over page-turns is one thing, but the other is that events in manga can happen immediately without coming across as being distractingly bad animation. A single panel of a character freaking out in a manga will be 30 seconds of a character waving their arms around in anime, therefore resulting in something which was a throwaway gag in the manga feeling dragged out.

    Actually, Dragged out is a good term here, because it’s what most comedy anime feels like. Remember the Super Deluxe episode of Keroro? That was funny because they were trying to cram so much into one episode – that single episode had, like, as much content as four or five other episodes of the series. As a result, it was setup-joke-setup-joke as opposed to seeeeetttttuuuuppppp-jooooookkkkkeeee-seeeeetttttuuuuppppp-jooooookkkkkeeee.

    Yeah, a lot of this comes down to the fact that, in manga, you can read things at your own pace, but those comedy anime shows which succeed are those which manage to replicate the pace of a manga.

    Coincidently, the translation and subtitling thing has a huge effect on comic timing. You mentally acknowledge whole lines of dialogue a lot quicker than characters actually say things unless they are being really hyperactive. It effects the whole flow of the dialogue, rendering what might have been an amusing discussion for a native speaker tedious for someone relying on subtitles for understanding. Heck, it may even be better for someone who doesn’t understand Japanese to watch gag anime dubbed, as it’ll be more faithful to the sense of timing intended by the director than reading the subtitles.

  • Events:
    Ya..it depends on the genre..for eg: action mangas(Sports, fighting) as compared to their anime counterparts, mangas might fail a little. The artists has to be clear of each action that the characters are doing. Fail to do so, you lose ur readers…but when animated, it will be clear to the viewer so no worries ^^

    Event Timing:
    Gives you the shockness that the reader needs. I’ve never read hayate manga before, but based on what you written here, I would say it’s planned out..*thinks everyone knows that..

    “but I do know that event and comic timing has huge differences in anime and manga. I wish somebody would explain.”

    Think anime as a tube where water flows..nothing can happen..nothing can come out in the middle and block the water from flowing.You know wats gonna happen…but manga has the ability to do so and give a surprise/shock/joke to the reader. Everytime, after you read finish a right page, when you are about to flip, it creates a blockage. It might be a small one, but it might also be a big one. depends on the authors. then when you read the left, you get owned!!

    “Right, so we’ve seen some differences between anime and manga. But despite knowing all these, we will never stop complaining about XXX manga being better than XXX anime. Perhaps because it is true.”

    Of cos! We can freeze frame and look at some Very important scenes again and again. And been still images, it creates that imagination you mentioned. “OMG she’s in this pose..oo..*stares at major impt areas…*nosebleeds… *continue staring for the next X minutes “But some aspects of xxx anime still rocks. the movement/motion. and sounds~~

  • Why bother about technicalities of a hobby when whatever decides the outcome is still your own personal perspective?

    Unless this is an assignment paper, that would be a different issue.

  • There used to be a huge issue where manga serials had too much plot to fit in 26 episodes, but because they would be adapting the story roughly directly, the endings would be very abrupt / weird / incredibly unresolved (i.e. Hellsing, Kare Kano, TenTen). So people are like ANIME SUX. I dunno, I just got used to that happening I guess and got desensitized.

    Fortunately lately this isn’t happening as much, and they’ve been willing to take breaks and then finish the stories (i.e. Honey & Clover, Genshiken). This is sort of good, but I think I would rather there be more break-away from trying to stay so loyal to the source material. If they would actually rewrite things to begin with, fitting into a shorter format would be less of an issue.

    Actually, I wish they would stop adapting anime from manga. It’s incredibly lazy. Despite the differences you mention above (pretty good breakdown), it is still pretty straightforward to do the adaptation compared to, like, adapting from novels (light or otherwise). I think this is probably why there is a higher percentage of good anime from novel / light novel adaptations: they have to actually rewrite stuff, since you can’t just stick a block of text on the screen and add in-between frames. Actually writing a story for the format being used lets one take better advantage of its idiosyncrasies. So then obviously I think original anime are even better.

    Just off the top of my head, here are some novel / light novel adaptations I thought were really good: Haruhi, FMP, 12 Kingdoms, Crest of the Stars, Scrapped Princess.

    The first two original anime that come to mind are obviously Eva and Cowboy Bebop.

  • Though I guess 12 Kingdoms is a really bad example since it’s on infinite hiatus due to lack of additional source material.

  • About the detective conan, I read somewhere that Gosho Aoyama has always been quite supportive of the anime version, and he is really impressed with what the people in charge of the animation do with the story. Also, I like watching the anime more than reading the manga.

    The BGM for detective conan is also really well done,I must say. It really gets the viewers into “mystery mode”

  • I’ve long gone past the stage where I take people who compare anime and manga in a direct sense, seriously. It isn’t that they don’t know what they’re talking about (although it is the case sometimes), but rather I realize they are saying something else entirely, that it is a subjective perception of enjoyment.

  • No matter ur reading speed or viewing speed, chrs in manga dun spend 5 mins staring at each other in those long winded trash anime such as OP, Naruto, Bleach and so on.

  • I watch more anime than I read manga although that might be changing as I travel and want to spend less time in front of the computer or television. When I do read manga, my pace is determined by my mind “narrating” the story. I know that may sound strange but it’s how I normally read any literary work, be it a novel, paper, or manga. That means imagining the voices of the characters speaking, which usually is affected by any character voicing because the brain links the audio to the visuals and it sticks in my mind. That is why I prefer to read the manga version before I watch any adaptations, even though I know the voices I created for my own purposes will likely be replaced by the tones of the respective seiyuu/voice actors. Personal examples include FMA, Genshiken, and most recently Hayate.

  • I see you like writing even though you’re in food science.

  • Calaggie: That’s normal. In fact, that’s how most people read. When speed reading is done, trainers generally try to remove this self narration step because it limits your reading speed to how fast you can talk.

    Mitsuki: I NO ENGLISH!

    LianYL: Why bother about nutrition when you can eat all you want and get heart attack?

  • I think the flexibility of manga in terms of content is better than that of anime. Sometimes mangaka have extra long volumes, like volume 3 of negima, to accommodate for a long story arc…..in comparison to anime episodes which typically have to stick to 20 minutes of anime. Of course you could also say that the anime director can spread the same story arc over lesser or more episodes, or basically have a 26 episode timeline instead of a 13 episode, but those decisions are much more restrained but things like TV schedules and capital limits.

    The explanation of the word “discourse”….exactly what was that for?

  • One of your better recent articles, tj_han.

    … and I’m pretty sure I use XXX anime for only one purpose.

  • Hey… er… I’m a stoner and from my point of view the manga is always better because like, it doesn’t ramble on like the anime… Er… I need some more beer.

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