How Do Original Anime Productions Become Manga?

by Justin Sevakis,

Nick asked:

The process of securing the rights to and then adapting a manga, light novel, etc. into an anime has been described in much detail. That being said, there are certain cases where the opposite happens--an original anime is made that later gets adapted into one or more manga series. One genre where this happens somewhat frequently is the mecha genre (although I am sure there are others). Series such as Gundam Seed, Gundam Wing, and Valvrave the Liberator come to mind. I was wondering if you could shed some light on the licensing process that comes into play in this scenario. How does a manga writer secure rights from the anime studio to adapt the series? Is doing so harder or easier than an anime production studio obtaining the rights to an original manga? Are any manga/light novel adaptations of an original anime commissioned by the studio itself?

Amusingly enough, manga are made out of anime often for the exact same reason anime are made out of manga: promotion! It's easier to sell one when the other is prominent, and the customer is reminded of a particular property often, they're more likely to buy, and when they do, they'll likely buy everything -- anime, manga, toys, games... everybody wins.

The actual business of it varies a lot, but here's the long and short of it: usually the show's producer will reach out to a publishing office to talk about a new original project coming up. Or a publisher will be on a production committee, and as part of that, gets to develop a manga around the show's original concept. The script might be done, it might not be, but if they think the new show would benefit from having a companion manga, maybe the publisher has a new, untested young artist that isn't quite ready to tell their own original story, but can draw decently and won't fight too hard for their own ideas. If it'd be better for the manga to go off in a different direction, that can be worked out by the manga editor. Ideally, the manga runs in the magazines around the same time the DVDs hit stores. Fans would buy both and chat endlessly about the differences between the two. It would be a beautiful thing.

As we all know, sometimes this works out, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes the story REALLY isn't done, and that manga artist is just forced to wing it entirely, and the manga ends up being almost entirely unrelated. Sometimes the show's producer is willing to just let the manga artist go off in different directions and see what they can come up with. (Who knows, if it works, it could be a sequel or spinoff anime!) Sometimes these artists drop the ball or end up being barely able to pull off the job. Anime studios are the gensakusha (original creators) here, and while they technically get to sign off on everything, they're usually are nowhere near as tightly wound about that as the manga artists get.

But the conditions under which these adaptations take place really run the gamut. Gundam manga usually must stand up to very particular scrutiny, both in terms of mecha designs and in terms of story. And of course you have manga like Yoshiyuki Sadamoto's Evangelion manga, which, as one of the original creators, he gets to enjoy a pretty amazing level of autonomy with. But those are the exceptions. Mostly the manga ends up being somewhat disposable pablum at best. Does anyone remember the multiple manga versions of Escaflowne? Didn't think so.

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Anime News Network founder Justin Sevakis wrote Answerman between July 2013 and August 2019, and had over 20 years of experience in the anime business at the time. These days, he's the owner of the video production company MediaOCD, where he produces many anime Blu-rays. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.

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