It doesn’t happen often but Fruits Basket and Fullmetal Alchemist are two Manga that would each get not one but two different Anime adaptations. In both cases, both Anime ended up having huge fan followings. Both anime employ the same characters (and same voice actors) but the difference is the storytelling.
In the case of Fullmetal Alchemist, the first Anime doesn’t follow the Manga. The second anime released over 10 years later–titled Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood–is a complete adaptation of the Manga. I was able to confirm it myself when I got the entire Manga series over the course of 3 years. The second one was more well received because it followed the story from the Manga which the first one doesn’t. I am not familiar with the Manga version of Fruits Basket though I have seen both Anime. The first one leans more into RomCom but the second one leans more into Drama and is clearly more serious. The second version was promoted as “reimagining the original story” and most agree the slower pacing–and the greater emphasis on developing the new supporting characters added–helps tell a better and expanded story. The focus is shifted from the Soma Curse itself to the relationships and interactions between various people.
The number of Anime that deviate from the source material over the years is just way too long to list all of them. Here’s a few notable examples of Anime that deviate from the source material:
Contrary to popular belief, the Manga preceeded everything else. Those who are familiar with the imfamous English Dub for the original series already knows how much 4Kids, which did the English dub changed from the Japanese version. Upper Deck, which localized the trading cards in the U.S. and Konami, which localized the video games followed their lead. Did you know Dark Magician was really Black Magician in Japan? Likewise, Summoned Skull was Summoned Demon. Black Skull Dragon was–you guessed it–Black Demon Dragon. The names were changed due to concerns of blowback from Conservative parents in the U.S.–it was marketed to kids as a reminder–and more so since even with the changes, there was no avoiding the occult themes. That alone, most can understand.
What made no sense was several characters being renamed. Teala became Tea, Junnoichi became Joey and Honda became Tristan. The only change to Yugi was the spelling for his last name (Motou became Moto). THAT pissed off a lot of people who were familiar with the source material and speaking of. What was the first season in the U.S. was actually the second season in Japan. The first season that only Japan got prominently featured Yami Yugi using pranks and curses to deal with troublemakers he encountered, often in gruesome ways. Naturally, they wouldn’t have been able to get away with it in the U.S. since as a reminder, kids were the target audience for marketing purposes.
One other thing that was a major pet peeve for me as someone who played the Trading Card game–and I was pretty good back in the day–was duels in the Anime followed their own rules separate from the TCG. This created a lot of confusion especially for those who watched the anime thinking the rules were the same.
The Anime is now the longest running ever with no signs of slowing down anytime soon 23 years later. Pokemon fans have had a love/hate relationship with Ash since the beginning but mostly hate. The hate comes from the fact in each region, Ash doesn’t evolve most of his Pokemon and doesn’t catch a lot of Pokemon either. Ash leaving all of his Pokemon but Pikachu behind before going to the next region is also viewed by most as needlessly handicapping himself. Ash has racked up quite a few powerhouse Pokemon that if he used them, he would’ve dominated in some of the regions he would later visit. It certainly wouldn’t have taken him 21 years to become a League Champion to say the least.
It goes without saying the anime follows its own story separate from the games each saga is based on. At the time what’s now officially known as the Indigo League Saga first aired, Pokemon Red and Blue came to the U.S. Those games would be joined by Pokemon Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition about 18 months later. Pokemon Yellow adapted some of the story elements from the Anime such as Jessie and James replacing four Team Rocket battles from Red/Blue and Giovanni having a Persian on his team each time you battle against him. Unlike Red/Blue in which you’re forced to choose from Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle you will be able to get all three of them in Yellow by the time you finish your business in Lavender Town. Why? Because Ash gets all three of them by that point in the Anime. You can find a Pidgeotto in Viridian Forest and can’t use a Thunder Stone on the Pikachu you start with in Yellow for the same reasons.
Pokemon Yellow also made some balancing changes with most of the Gym Leaders. The Pokemon the first 6 Gym Leaders were known to us by the time Pokemon Yellow dropped on that note. To help offset not having a Water or Grass Pokemon at the beginning of the game, the wild Mankey and Nidoran (Male and Female) you catch in Yellow do learn Double Kick early on so you can get past Brock’s Rock Pokemon without having to trade. Both of Brock’s Pokemon also had their levels reduced by two each. Misty’s Pokemon and levels are unchanged but unlike Red/Blue, she will not Full Heal status ailments you inflict on her Pokemon. Lt. Surge uses a single Pokemon when you face him: A level 28 Raichu with Mega Punch and Mega Kick just like in the Anime. Erika uses the same team she used against Ash in the anime (Tangela, Gloom and Weepinbell). Koga adds a Venomoth to his lineup while Sabrina uses Abra and its evolutions. Blaine’s team is unchanged while Giovanni has a Persian replacing a Pokemon in Viridian Gym (same for your other two Giovanni battles).
As folks who followed the Anime for years know, Ash is joined by Brock and Misty for the Indigo and Johto Sagas. Misty leaves after the Johto Saga and Brock leaves after the Sinnoh Saga. From the Hoenn Saga to the Kalos Saga, Ash would be joined by the Female protagonist from the game (May, Dawn, Serena) or Gym Leaders (Iris, Cilan, Clemont). It actually wasn’t until the mobile game Pokemon Masters EX that we found out the official names of Gen 5’s Protagonists (the in-game avatars you play as): Hilbert (Male), Rosa (Female), Nate (Male) and Hilda (Female). In addition, Gen 7’s Protagonists are named Elio (Male) and Selene (Female). None of them appear or are mentioned in the anime.
It goes without saying the anime follows its own plot separate from the games. There is also a reason we have not seen another game like Pokemon Yellow that incorporated elements from the Anime. Ash-Greninja (Distributed via Sun/Moon’s Demo) does not count on that note since the unique abilities Ash’s Greninja displays was for cross-promotion purposes. This special Greninja can’t be bred on that note and its special ability is nothing to call home about. The reason we have not seen another game like Pokemon Yellow either main series or otherwise incorporate elements from the Anime is simply because they are two different worlds. Pokemon Yellow proved they were meant to stay on separate tracks.
The second half of Attack on Titan’s final season begins next month and fans of the franchise have been following it from the very beginning over 5 years ago. The pacing of the release of the anime has been held back to ensure it does not outpace the Manga and that’s because the anime has no filler episodes or filler arcs. On that note. In times past, studios would develop filler episodes or filler seasons that have nothing to do with the source material due to network obligations. Not anymore. This is one of the benefits that come with a series being on a platform like Crunchyroll or Funimation.
Everyone remembers the original Dragonball Z anime from the 90s that not only had filler episodes but drastically slowed down storytelling and pacing. When the reboot Dragonball Z Kai was released first on Nickelodeon and then Adult Swim, they cut out all the filler and the difference is like night and day. By the time Dragonball Z Kai was beginning to wind down the Buu Saga, the then new Dragonball Super was well into development.
I think it’s become obvious by now there is a new appreciation by the industry to just stick as close to the source material as possible when making anime. Fans are willing to wait and with streaming services, they can work at their own pace. These days, more Anime is adapted from Light Novels or Web Comics than Manga and it’s just as well.
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