Why Does Unfinished Manga Get Adapted To Anime?

by Justin Sevakis,

Jessica asks:

Hi, I don't know if someone asked this question before but I will ask anyway. I just finished watching Ao Haru Ride and its been bothering me. Why does the anime industry adapt from manga series that are already running, showing no signs of ending soon, and end them abruptly? I feel like Fruits Basket started this trend. Is it funds, ratings or both?

Many anime -- possibly even most anime that was adapted from a manga often happens well before the manga is finished being written. This causes many problems, and is one of the reasons why so few shows have coherent endings. I can assure you that this is not a trend, and it certainly didn't start with Fruits Basket. Indeed, this has been going on since at least the 80s.

To understand why this occurs, we need to know why the anime was made in the first place. Of course, being produced by a committee of corporations, the object is to make money, but most anime don't even turn a profit by themselves. However, every company that's on the production committee has something to gain by that anime being made, and prominent on those committees are the publishers of the original manga -- companies like Shueisha, Shogakukan, Kadokawa, Kodansha and others. Of course it makes sense that they're involved in an anime adaptation of one of the manga they publish, but why are they often producing the shows, throwing huge amounts of money into anime production?

The reason is that having an anime around is a HUGE boost to the sales of the original work. Even if the anime bombs, just the news that it's in production usually results in a ton of press coverage and increased awareness of the manga or light novel series. Book stores stack it on prominent displays. Magazines run features about it. In creating the buzz that makes for a bestseller, an anime adaptation is some of the best marketing there is.

Of course the manga publisher would love the anime to be successful in its own right. As a producer, they would get a share of the profits, after all. But as those companies are predominantly publishing companies, their main priority is to boost sales of the original work. When a new manga series comes along that they think could be a major hit, they'll want to get the ball rolling and start an anime production going, to build as much heat for it as they can. The fact that anime is a storytelling medium and the people that make the show will be stuck having to fudge an ending for an ongoing series is, frankly, not part of the equation.

If they wait until the manga is nearing its conclusion to adapt it into an anime, there's a chance the anime will be better and feel more complete. But by that time the bloom will be off the rose: the manga will be in its final stages, the excitement about it has died down, and it's a lot harder to get people excited about it -- particularly if it's been running for years. The anticipated sales boost is not as strong.

It's much harder for an older manga series to get the funding behind it for an anime adaptation. It does happen, of course, but when it does it's often not being done to promote the manga, but for other reasons. Perhaps the artist has a new work coming out, or is starting a spin-off series. Perhaps it's a classic that's being reissued. Or perhaps the manga publisher isn't really even pushing for the production at all, and another company on the committee is looking for something to adapt.

The fundamental problems with adapting a manga series that's nowhere near far enough along to be adapted into a complete anime series are obvious from the consumer point of view. But for the people that are pulling the trigger on making these shows, waiting until a series is over is far more problematic.

Got questions for me? Send them in! The e-mail address, as always, is answerman (at!)

Justin Sevakis is the founder of Anime News Network, and owner of the video production company MediaOCD. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.

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