These Manga Need An Anime!by Rebecca Silverman,
Every season, it seems, the amount of new anime series based on a manga or a light novel source grows exponentially. It's sometimes tempting to rant about how there are no original ideas anymore, titles are getting more niche, but perhaps a better, or at least different, way to look at this trend is to see it as a way for some of our favorite manga series from all genres to actually get the anime adaptations that they deserve. After all, for every surefire commercial success based on a popular light novel, rooted in tried-and-true story elements that people love (or at least for every two) there's a little-known seinen manga adapted, or a low-key shoujo series based on something out of LaLa or Hana to Yume, like last season's Snow White with the Red Hair. So there's always a little bit of hope out there for those of us who have a special, slightly-off-the-beaten-path title we'd like to see animated, and I certainly have a few series I think deserve that treatment! I have to admit that the first manga that came to mind when I sat down to think about this was
We've had more stories about yandere and tsundere characters than you could shake a handful of sticks at, but precious few goudere heroines, so on that level, we could certainly see this as filling that particular niche. But more importantly, Minazuki's four-volume manga series about a hapless otaku who summons his dream girl from the pages of her books only to get more than he bargained for is just flat-out funny. A goudere, in case you don't know, is a type of character who will do anything to get her man what she thinks he wants or needs – in other words, his actual wishes don't factor into her thinking. It can be an annoying type, but Minazuki plays it for laughs very well in Sora's case, where she's pretty sure her man needs sex – and lots of it. She basically turns into a procuress, hunting down girls and presenting them for Shouta's delectation. Shouta is in no way okay with this, partially because he keeps getting arrested by the cops for being a pervert. Minazuki handles all of this with a healthy dose of winking and nudging, so we readers understand that this is a parody of magical girlfriend stories, which gives it a lot of potential in animated format. Nothing “dirty” actually happens, so self-aware censorship could be played with, making fun of networks' use of shimmering fog, bright bars of light (or black bars), or even that ridiculous blue sky background used in the Love Stage!! anime. This could be a series that takes the tropes of the fanservice genre and runs with them, creating a parody that reaches beyond the scope of what the author originally did. It certainly wouldn't work for everyone because the manga is very raunchy and not always kind to its hero (or the girls Sora fetches him), but the humor factor could really be enhanced by using the same tricks that are now used to make shows less racy than they really are...while still sticking it to the censors by making fun of them. Minazuki's Heaven's Lost Property has already been animated, so that might also be a help in this receiving an adaptation, to say nothing of the “2D Power” jokes the books use...really, this is ripe for an anime. Not one for everyone, obviously, but we could leave that task of broader appeal to
Cage of Eden is an action/survival manga about a group of middle school students whose plane crashes on a mysterious island on their way back from a school trip to Guam. As is the norm in pop culture depictions of a school trip, the kids far outnumber the adults, meaning that plucky students will have to step up and take leadership positions, which is not only a staple of shounen manga, but also a great way to have an interesting character arc. Cage of Eden mixes things up a bit by having there be plenty of non-teacher adults around, but instead of pulling it together and helping out, they revert to selfish, childish behavior, looking out for number one instead of trying to work with everyone to find a solution. There's an element of hope versus cynicism as the kids, the main group lead by class clown Akira Sengoku, struggle to make life bearable even as they try to figure out what the hell is going on while the adults, who essentially form their own roving bands, devolve into their lowest natural states. If you think about the visual potential for showing that difference, with Higurashi: When They Cry-style distortions or a Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace-like use of color and objects to represent humans who are seen as less than, there is a lot of potential to dress this series up for a medium with movement. Add to that the fact that Yamada isn't shy with the fanservice, that the prehistoric beasts the kids encounter are scientifically correct (for the most part) and utterly terrifying on a still page, and the fast-paced fight scenes, and this could have something for a variety of audiences.
And then there's simply the fact that this is a really exciting story. There would be zero need for filler, because there's little-to-no downtime at all as Akira and the gang fight for their lives. The central mystery of the island is never forgotten, allowing for a slower story reveal underneath the action to keep viewers coming back, and a cast of characters who are all distinctly different from one another. The fact that the series is complete at twenty-one volumes is also a plus – while some condensing would have to be done, an ending wouldn't have to be fabricated, which I can only think would make it easier to write the script. Cage of Eden really has most of the elements that I think a good show needs – including the romantic subplot and emotional story arcs to balance out the action and tension – and I'm honestly a bit baffled it hasn't been adapted yet. Gou-dere Sora Nagihara has the potential, but Cage of Eden is practically begging to jump off the page.
Of course, survival stories in general make for a tense, exciting experience: just look at episodes ten, eleven, and twelve in 2014's The Fruit of Grisaia – they were easily my favorites as they chronicled Amane's and her classmates' attempts at survival after a bus crash. The survival story gives writers an excuse to explore the characters' psyches under extreme duress, and for the audience, we get to see beneath the glossy surface in a way other genres don't offer. That's why another vote of mine for manga to get an anime adaptation is
Not many authors, Japanese or otherwise, can capture the horrors of adolescence like Keiko Suenobu. Limit is a departure for her in that it takes her characters out of the microcosm of the classroom and strands them on a mountain after a horrific bus crash, apparently a go-to plot device in manga survival stories. Most of the students are killed, with the only survivors being Konno and four other girls. As the group struggles to stay alive and hopefully make it out of the mountains where they are stranded, the ugly consequences of their high school social lives rear their heads to make that more difficult. Konno, you see, had hitched her wagon to mean girl Sakura's star in an attempt to remain “safe” throughout school, but now that Sakura is dead and some of her victims are among the survivors, Konno has to come to terms with her actions and maybe even overcome them in order to get all of the girls out alive. The psychological action is what really makes this story, and that's what could be used so well in adapting this to anime form – not only are there plenty of horrific scenes of both high school life and the actual crash and victims, but the terrors of what plays out in the girls' minds (especially bullied Morishige) keeps the tension high. Think of the interesting camera angles that could be employed to show each girl's twisted reality, the way sound could enhance the fear of the crash and the mountain they're stuck on – with the right studio handling it, this could be a very powerful show. Using the tropes of the supernatural horror genre, Limit's already compelling story could be made to appeal not just to adventure story fans, but also those who enjoy series like Another, and its small cast really heats things up. It also works on a different level than Cage of Eden in that we see the efforts at home to figure out what's going on, which creates a very different tension. As a deceptively low-key thriller, Limit the potential anime would be amazing, combining the manga's small volume count with the very real emotional traumas of adolescence. It's a long shot, but I hold out hope.
Of course, school stories don't have to be excessively traumatic to be good, and in the under-served yuri market, there are some gems that could be brought to the small screen. Yufuko Suzuki's Candy would be one of my top two choices, but since it's not available in English (you can read it in French), let's talk about
Citrus is one of the harsher yuri manga I've encountered, sharing more with yaoi titles than the gentle Sweet Blue Flowers or the goofy Yuruyuri. It follows Yuzu, a spirited high school student who has just started a new school thanks to her mother's recent remarriage. She's aghast at the strict rules espoused by her new high school, and instantly runs afoul of the strict student council president Mei...who turns out to be her new stepsister. Mei is a deeply wounded soul, scarred by a cold childhood and unable to understand Yuzu's outlook on life, even as she's drawn to it. Yuzu thinks Mei's kind of a bitch, but she's thrown into turmoil when Mei kisses her, setting off a strange attraction between the two girls. Yuzu falls hard and fast while Mei is more reluctant, and the slow growth of their emotional relationship, along with their faster physical one, makes for an interesting mix both in school and out of it. It's vaguely reminiscent of Kimberly McCreight's novel Reconstructing Amelia, and if it isn't always as consensual as I'd like, well, my tastes are not the only ones out there.
Yuri anime seems to thrive on the slow-burn, and Citrus fits that bill while still moving things at a pace more akin to BL titles, with a more immediate physical component that tempers the building relationship. The underlying story of Mei's past makes for good hints of flashbacks, which could add to the mystery surrounding her and serve to tantalize the viewers as the romance unfolds, and visually the two girls make a good contrast to each other than could only be improved by the use of voices and color. I have to think that the sexual action would also make this a good anime – it's not hugely explicit, but done tastefully and without insane censorship, this could make for some very sensual scenes, moving yuri out of the sweet realm and into a more serious relationship between two women who love each other. Not that they'd actually do such a thing in a mainstream anime title, but there are always exceptions...which would probably have to be made in full for my next dream suggestion,
Übel Blatt is serious dark fantasy. It follows Koinzell, who in a previous life was wronged by the warriors who went on to become the world's greatest heroes...almost literally over his dead body. Now reincarnated as a young elfin boy, he's out for revenge, and he'll maim, kill, and screw his way to success no matter what, while of course making time to help out those lost souls who need it. Because he's a real hero. It's bloody, violent, explicitly sexual and sexualized, and if Berserk could make it to animated form, this ought to be a shoe-in. (Legal realities aside, naturally.) Apart from the fact that it has pretty much all the markers of a successful Hollywood fantasy action film, or at least a cult classic one, Übel Blatt is a good story on its own, with layers of deceit and deception revealed at every turn and action scenes that leap out at you. Admittedly, those would be more difficult to animate well, but it would be worth the effort to achieve the sort of gory glory Shiono's artwork portrays. But even with sub-par animation, the Übel Blatt story sells itself. Koinzell's past is senselessly tragic enough to make his present quest both believable and easy for us to get behind, and his back up cast members all have complicated pasts themselves, allowing for themes of racial inequality, political corruption, and different combat styles. (It might also make a pretty good fighting game, but that's another editorial.) There are some violent sexual aspects that might make some potential viewers uncomfortable, to say nothing of the fact that Koinzell appears way too young to be sexually active, but precious few of those scenes are actually important to the story and could be excised without any major impact. The pacing and complex plotting of the revenge story is enough to make this the kind of traffic accident show you can't look away from, serious obsessive viewing material. Übel Blatt could be the anime Berserk fans have been waiting for.
And what about the anime title Yona of the Dawn fans have been waiting for? Besides season two, I mean. If the industry is willing to go back a little further, I think one answer could be
Shinohara's 1995 – 2002 shoujo epic is one of the most unusual time travel stories I've read, if only in terms of when and where the heroine goes: the Hittite Empire. Yuri is a perfectly normal fifteen-year-old girl, the middle of three sisters, who is one day pulled into a puddle and thereby into the past by the evil queen of the Hittites, Nakia, who wants her own son Jude to be the heir to the empire. A wicked sorceress, she plans to sacrifice Yuri, who instead escapes and runs into Kail Mursili, the third prince. Kail immediately falls for Yuri, thus beginning a semi-tortured shoujo romance, but more importantly, a battle both physical and political for the throne.
Not only does the unusual setting make for an interesting set up, but Shinohara's characters are very appealing: Yuri goes from being a modern teen to an amazing badass in a way that should appeal to fans of Yona and other similar heroines, while Kail is both strong and supportive, worrying about her but also understanding how much she can help. Nakia is probably one of the most despicable villains I've come across, but her motivations come from a decidedly non-evil place in her unhappy past and love for her son. There's a wonderful mix of action and machinations that really fits with the style of fantasy shoujo anime we've been getting of late, and the historic setting, complete with interactions with Canaanites, Egyptians, and other regional peoples, should entice viewers who might not watch a straight fantasy. The possibilities for an interesting soundtrack and backgrounds are amazing and could help to make our journey to the distant past feel even more immersive than Shinohara's original. The major drawback here would have to be the length, which is twenty-eight volumes, so some storylines would have to be removed or combined. But then again, length doesn't seem to stop shounen series from getting made, so...
As long as I'm dreaming here, and as long as we're pretending that things like length and the breadth of a franchise aren't obstacles, there's really one more title I think is ripe for an anime adaptation. It already got a movie in 2011, but the Alice in the Country of [whatever] franchise might do better with a TV adaptation, preferably for the subseries
Now, each separate country Alice ends up in has its own complete storyline, and with the manga, at least, each new country brings Alice closer to the truth of why she's been brought to Wonderland in the first place. Circus and Liar's Game is one of the best for giving us these answers, and it also builds on the film's use of absurdity and nonsensical transitions and situations. In this seven volume manga, Alice meets the two-faced Joker, who shows her the prison underneath the circus, which is its own great use of the kind of carnivalism anime has used in series like Karneval and Deadman Wonderland. Alice sees her sister Loreena trapped in there, but she does not understand why or what it has to do with her being in Wonderland at all. Peter White tries to steer her towards the answers while Blood Dupre favors his own wants over hers, leading Alice astray and resulting in a vaguely unsettling sense of Alice having trapped herself by the series' end. All of these plot points could be very nicely enhanced with swift scene changes and changing colors, but I think where this series could really succeed in animated form is in the fact that the idea of Alice wandering away could be very well depicted in a movement-based medium. The central theme of the series is that Alice is lost, and Circus and Liar's Game makes that clear in a way the other longer subseries don't. A soundtrack of wandering, wishful music combined with the twisted sounds of the circus would help to drive that home. Yes, you can experience similar things in the game, but anime would provide a smoother way for the story to be shown. This franchise is clearly popular enough to merit roughly nine hundred manga versions; an anime of the strongest arc might just push it out of the fujoshi niche.
So there you have it: seven titles a certified mad reader think deserve an animated adaptation. Of course there are plenty more; I'd love to see Seishi Kishimoto's crazed Red Riding Hood story Crimson Wolf as an anime, or Gō Ikeyamada's cross-dressing soccer story Uwasa no Midori-kun!!, but I only have so much space. We'd love to hear your thoughts on what manga ought to be animated in the coming seasons, so please let us know in the forums! And remember – even if these don't get animated, all of them are available in English...so at least you can experience the stories on the page.
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