When the Anime Adaptation Doesn’t Quite Nail It

I was watching Ooku on Netflix, the ten episode anime adaptation of a long running and favorite manga series of mine that I wrote about here after finally finishing reading it. Set In an alternate history of Japan where the male population is nearly decimated, eligible men serve as concubines to the woman shogun inside the walls of the Ooku. The series is centered on the men in this harem and the years of change and power–for only ten episodes it is an adaptation that I did not love completely. The story beats are there, there was obviously care for those who adapted the original story… the animation was just…stiff at times. 

Which is forgivable on my second rewatch, as I’m probably nitpicking in this ongoing famine of Shojo and Josei anime adaptations. I take that one the nose because I love Ooku and admit sometimes as fan I want something as close to perfection for the series and IPs that I adore the most. I went on to think about other anime adaptations that were more or less, less successful in adapting their beloved source material on the big screen. Buckle up to prepare yourself for either some outrage or heart break for this short list of anime adaptations that did not nail it.

Spoilers past here: some minor and some major. Be advised before carrying on reading!

The Promised Neverland Season Two (2021) 

The year 2019 brought us The Promised Neverland, an incredible newer series with an intriguing premise that opened up to a story that centered children and their quest for agency and freedom. When three gifted kids at an isolated idyllic orphanage discover the secret and sinister purpose they were raised for, they look for a way to escape from their caretaker and the nefarious system in place and lead the other children in a risky escape plan. It is a series that focuses on found family, psychological reveals with a very dark narrative that is held together by these children, and their hope for a better tomorrow. When I rewatched the first season in preparation of writing this editorial, I found myself once again blown away by a near perfect adaptation: great pacing, the emotional pull from the characters evident and just a unique story present on screen.

This one wasn’t supposed to hurt me so bad!

So if there are two words that could perhaps best describe season two of The Promised Neverland, they are disjointed and rushed. While the first season adapted the first chunk of chapters very well, the second season went for a different direction of the story and these beloved characters. Other anime adaptations have done this, especially when the manga had not been already finished.  Yet, I was not prepared to see the full story rushed in such a way that eulogizes the series and glosses over so many arcs that carried so much of the overall story. 

What I will add is that as a positive that was done extremely well: the sense of urgency and terror of the children was a good lead in from the very first episode. Yet, there were so many missed opportunities. As someone who finally started reading the manga this year, seeing a whole character erased from the adaptation–the first adult male character that the children meet outside the farm was a shocker. Getting to read the Goldy Pond arc in the manga makes me so incredibly sad that it did not make it to the anime adaptation. It is a thrilling saga that really upped the ante and the overall story of children surviving and adapting to a terrible world and striving to change it.

One-Punch Man Season Two (2019)

In short, One-Punch Man is the story of Saitama, a hero that does it just for fun & can defeat his enemies with a single punch. What I learned watching the first spectacular animated adaptation back in 2015 is that it was an incredible mix of comedy and action. It left me belly laughing and already reaching for the manga again. It’s probably one of my favorite manga that delves into the gag manga genre in recent years. I loved this critique of heroes and good and evil and what one’s motivation can be when saving the world.  As regards to the hero character Superalloy Darkshine…we gotta talk about him and his early manga appearances another day.

Out of the three picks on this short list, One-Punch Man is the series that I had to ponder on the most. So if there is one word that could perhaps best describe season two of One Punch Man, it is a bit lackluster. This second season gets picked a lot in these conversations as it does a fairly decent job in adapting the source material–the manga. Viewers like me were happy to see the introduction of Garou–the martial artist, the villain known as the “Hero Hunter,” the big baddie who goes on to battle many heroes. He’s a very intriguing character who makes every hero he comes up against question themselves and their reasons for their work. In the manga, I was always super fascinated with his ongoing transformation where he becomes more monstrous when he fights. Season two also brought back many beloved heroes from S class to C class that brought back much continuity.

Where season two falters is that it is missing the spark of the visual treat that was the animation in the first season, especially that was seen in some of the spectacular fight scenes. Was there too big of an gap in the years that separated the first season and the second? Perhaps. Was the hype train, ultimately, too much for this series when it returned? Perhaps. Do we, as fans, expect too much as I noted in the intro with this piece? Perhaps. This second season of One-Punch Man is fine. This second season is okay, but it did not dazzle me like the first. With season three confirmed back in August of 2022, we can only wait to see if another season eventually manifests and–if it delivers for the fandom that is left waiting for more.

Fruits Basket (2001) in Comparison to Fruits Basket (2019)

Perhaps the most controversial pick on this short list, I ask that you sit for me for a moment before you come for me with pitchforks and fire. The Fruits Basket anime way back in the earlier 2000s was special to me. I was in high school, and it was the anime adaptation of one of my favorite Shojo series that was still ongoing and wasn’t complete. It was silly, unserious as all hell and just for nostalgia’s sake, a great look at what Shojo was back in the day. Featuring one lovable Tohru Honda who after her mother’s death, finds herself living with the Sohma family consisting of three cousins: Yuki, Kyo, and Shigure. She stumbles upon the Sohma family secret: when a member is hugged by the opposite gender or they are tired out, they turn into the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. 

Fruits Baskets is a well-loved series of the Shojo genre that is as much as a classic at this point in the game and one that was lovingly chosen once again to be animated to completion. The later reboot was given three whole seasons versus one. The legacy of Fruits Basket is an endearing one. It is a series that when one of my friends, with a now teenager, told me that she was currently reading it I ran to Twitter to announce my happiness and awe. So the main comparison other than length between the two adaptations is the tone, of course. While the earlier adaptation is much sillier and light-hearted, the newer and complete adaptation is darker and goes on to bring all the other characters and subplots to the manga missed in the original. The older version of animated Fruits Basket looks a bit dated, and the newer Fruits Basket’s animation is sleek and fresh on the screen. 

One thing that the rebooted adaptation got right was sharing and animating implied and explicit trauma and abuse of the characters. Think how Rin’s sad family life and the abandonment of her parents is masterfully represented as a play with a broken doll representing the girl. This was done sooooo well! On the other hand, there’s a lot to say about Shigure who comes across as even more manipulative and self-serving in the newer adaptation. Put it on the record: I want to fight him in every adaptation of FB and in every universe that I may or may not exist–the me there would also give him hands. 

Fruits Basket may be one of my fave Shojo series yet seeing the age gap romances and some character “quirks” like Kagura’s obsessive & violent love towards Kyo  (written for jokes that did not age well) still make me critique the series as a whole. We gotta critique what we love, y’all. Having all of Fruit Basket finally animated is a Shojo rarity which I am still thankful for. An animated prequel movie expanding on how Tohru’s parents met was released and added to the animated Fruits Basket cannon. While it is a beautiful story on characters I always wanted to know more about–it is serving up another anime gap romance that makes me sit on the fence when I think about the negative stereotype of Shojo (anime gap romances, out of pocket behavior like harassment for those romancing others, etc)–a genre I adore with all my heart.

A fuller, fleshed out version of animated Fruits Basket makes my heart soar. These are beloved characters that have been with me for a long time. (I was nicknamed the “Tohru” in my friends circles who read the manga back in high school.) And yet, I can also see everything that did not age well from the original series and the manga that I don’t mind confronting and elaborating on. Fruits Basket, the often joked about series about people transforming into animals, carries so much weight as a series I’ve often described as a series of young people tackling a (literal) generational curse. I love that this newer adaptation of Fruits Basket exist, flaws and all, because it is a blessed reminder that coming-of-age stories are messy, beautiful, and worth having courage to be the person you need to be and protect the people you love.

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  • Carrie McClain is writer, editor and media scholar. Other times she's known as a Starfleet Communications Officer, Comics Auntie, and Golden Saucer Frequenter. Nowadays you can usually find her avoiding Truck-kun and forgetting her magical girl transformation device. She/Her

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