FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST & The Art of the Anime Remake: - OTAKU COMING HOME

Topic started by No_name_here on Sept. 29, 2012. Last post by NickTapalansky 2 years, 2 months ago.
Post by No_name_here (856 posts) See mini bio Level 11
Staff

We’re living in a golden age of anime remakes. They’ve been a staple for decades, but for people in my generation (the just about or just over 30 crowd), suddenly shows we grew up with are being made again with reckless abandon. And, despite feeling old because of it, it’s sort of awesome to talk about.

Last week on OTAKU COMING HOME, we defined the different types of anime remakes out there. For review (and this will be on the test) we categorized them as:

  • The “Reimagined” Remake
  • The “Manga” Remake
  • The “We Don’t Know Yet” Remake (as in, not enough information out there yet)
What the... you didn't say anything about a test!
What the... you didn't say anything about a test!

We went on to chat at length about the pros of the “Reimagined” Remake, finding few, if any, faults with them. Actually, if we’re being honest it was a full-on lovefest. It’s pretty obvious that, had I to pick, I’d watch a “Reimagined” remake over any other type. Are they the best kind of remake? I might argue that. But there are plenty of others that might vote for this week’s focus - - the “Manga” Remake.

To define, these are current shows or films based on a manga that have, at least once before, been adapted to animation without following the source (or deviating drastically at a certain point). The current iteration is now being released with the specific purpose of adhering to the manga.

You only THINK you've seen this before.
You only THINK you've seen this before.

There are a ton of these to choose from (HELLSING: ULTIMATE is topical on Anime Vice at the moment, and the new BERSERK films may stick closer to the manga - - just to name a couple), which makes it difficult to decide which to focus on. With a limited word count available to me and the infinite expanse of the comments section, I’ve decided to stick with two shows that I’m a) familiar with in their previous iterations and b) approached the idea of adaptation very differently from one another.

Got an opinion on it? Want to chat about the pros and cons of other “manga” remakes? Let’s keep it going down in the comments. For now, let’s take a look at “Exhibit A.”

Don't worry, you haven't seen this before. Honest. It's more like the manga, now! And look at this shiny new opening! LOOK AT ME.
Don't worry, you haven't seen this before. Honest. It's more like the manga, now! And look at this shiny new opening! LOOK AT ME.

Title: DRAGON BALL KAI (DRAGON BALL Z KAI here in the states)

Mission Statement: Remaster, re-edit, and streamline DRAGON BALL Z to follow the manga as closely as possible with (mostly) existing footage.

Release Type: Broadcast TV (Japan/America) followed by DVD/Blu-ray release

Oh, my beloved DRAGON BALL. As a kid I sat through, eventually, all 508 episodes (from DB through DBGT), every movie, and whatever else I could get my hands on. Actually, I lost something like $300 when I fell for a fansubber/trader scam when trying to collect the entire set of original DB eps. We didn’t have nice things like FUNimation at the time, kids. It was a dark era.

That said, despite my love for the entire series, I will never, ever, sit through the 291 episodes of DRAGON BALL Z again. It was rife with filler, escalating insanity, and what I just saw as wasted time. Even at 14, DRAGON BALL Z was an exercise in affectionate patience. It was probably good practice for parenthood.

Wait, I HAVE seen this before. It's just brighter now. What the eff?
Wait, I HAVE seen this before. It's just brighter now. What the eff?

I was immediately intrigued when I heard about DRAGON BALL KAI. Not because I wanted to watch the series again necessarily, but by how they were planning to execute it. It was meant to follow the manga, yeah, but with minimal bits of new animation. How the hell were they going to pull that off?

Unfortunately, not very well if you ask me.

In its own way, DRAGON BALL KAI is an exercise in patience, too. To my critical eye it smacks of equal parts cash grab and fan project. In celebration of the show’s 20th anniversary we’re going to slightly update a beloved series and recut it to less than half its original length, but look we’re re-recording the audio and adding a few seconds of new animation! Isn’t that worth your money?

Give me your wallet, Goku! I SAID GIVE IT!
Give me your wallet, Goku! I SAID GIVE IT!

Nope, not mine. Short of the beautiful new openings and the handful of new scenes - - stylized to blend with the old ones - - it didn’t do anything special beyond the admittedly great remastering (which could have been applied to the whole series to greater effect). The series, filler aside, had a pretty decent track record for sticking with the manga. Was it scene-for-scene perfect? No. But it was closer than most were at a time when that sort of thing wasn’t important. You know what I could do if I wanted to watch the old series and make it more like the manga? Skip the filler myself and not spend more money.

Maybe it’s a good way for a new audience to get into the show, but arguing that this is the “Toriyama Cut” as a way to entice old fans doesn’t bring out my wallet. It seems lazy, and I don’t reward laziness with my money.

If they had gone another route, maybe reanimated from scratch to follow the manga, that I would’ve been interested in. Maybe something like...

"He&squot;s talking about us again, isn&squot;t he? This is getting awkward."
"He's talking about us again, isn't he? This is getting awkward."

Title: FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST (FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST: BROTHERHOOD in the U.S.)

Mission Statement: Five years after the original animation adaptation ended, recreate the series to follow the manga from (near) beginning to end.

Release Type: Broadcast TV (Japan/America) followed by DVD/Blu-ray release

I don’t need to tell you how I feel about this one, do I? I’m pretty sure I’ve already covered that somewhere... What we can talk about though is why I find this series far more successful than something like DRAGON BALL KAI.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the original FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST anime. I loved it, beginning to end, and thought CONQUEROR OF SHAMBALLA was a great way to wrap that story up. In fact, Hiromu Arakawa, the mangaka behind FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST enjoyed the series, too. She gave the team behind it free reign to tell their version of the story because hers wasn’t entirely mapped out at the time and, more importantly, she actually wanted them to be different. I have to respect that, as a creator myself and as a fan. She had her version, they could have theirs, and both could be awesome.

"But only two out of three have me kicking ass."
"But only two out of three have me kicking ass."

When FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST: BROTHERHOOD came along, I did scratch my head a little. So soon? Really? Why?

Then I watched it.

Beautiful, crisp new animation - - the result, I’d guess, of a larger budget this time around - - complemented by a story that I’d read but hadn’t seen in motion yet. I t’s a world I love in all its forms, and this was no exception. Where a show like DBZ KAI tried to pull a switcheroo and call it the “manga” edition, BROTHERHOOD really did the deed. They put a ton of work into making a 28-volume manga fit into a 64-episode series and they did it in style. Was it scene-for-scene? No, but BONES clearly did their homework when plotting it out, down to recreating panels in some cases.

Case in point: crazy Rose being crazy.
Case in point: crazy Rose being crazy.

That last part is a nice touch, too. Last week we talked about the dangers of adaptations/remakes falling prey to reverence of the source material. In the “Manga” Remake, it’s almost mandatory that some of that slavish adoration be in place, but BONES made it their own while still sticking to the manga every step of the way. Pulling panels directly from the comic was a nod to the source, a wink at the fan, and respect for the creator who did a damn fine job in the first place.

"Son, even when you get it right the first time, sometimes it&squot;s fun to try and do it better. That&squot;s why you have a little brother."
"Son, even when you get it right the first time, sometimes it's fun to try and do it better. That's why you have a little brother."

Now, I not only hear but also support the argument that in many cases the slavish conversion of a story from one medium to another is unnecessary. If you have the source, and you’re not going to do anything differently to it when you present it in its new form, what’s the point? In most cases I’d rather read a book than see a panel-by-panel remake (ala SIN CITY, which I honestly didn’t even like reading). Not every good manga, comic, or old movie needs to be converted and represented perfectly intact in the tele-visual medium. This is especially true if you’re just planning to cut and paste rather than go all in and actually remake it.

However, there are some stories that transcend format and, rather than being held back or even detrimentally handicapped by the source material, are enhanced by it in adaptations. Those are the shows that deserve our attention in all of their available formats. They may not be as unique as my preferred “Reimagined” Remakes, but there’s something special about them that demands my attention. And those are the “Manga” Remakes I can get behind.

What do you guys think about “manga” remakes? Do you prefer adaptations to stick close to the original or would you rather see it reinterpreted, like me? Any favorites? Keep the conversation going until next week’s article!

Next week on OTAKU COMING HOME: Part 3 - The “Mystery” Remake: Should we be excited or skeptical?

Nick Tapalansky is an author of comics and other things, some of them nominated for awards and stuff. Read some comics for free at http://www.NickTapalansky.com/blog and find him on Twitter as @NickTapalansky.

Post by sickVisionz (4,310 posts) See mini bio Level 24
Moderator

I thought Kai was fine, but I'd never purchased DBZ before and was approaching it simply as an HD remaster of a show I never saw, not some "true version" for real fans that must be repurchased. I think they did a fine job with it. I like the music a lot more and when watching DBZ versions of the same parts of arcs, the Kai version doesn't feel rushed or like it's missing content, it just feels like it's a series that moves at a faster pace, which was what they set out to do. Mission accomplished imo. The only thing I disliked is that the new animation sticks out like a sore thumb and is sometimes lazily done.

I'm iffy on Brotherhood. I just didn't like the manga after a certain point because to me it turns into a pretty generic shonen series. Brotherhood is certainly a better looking series with more action and better action, but I thought the original FMA was the rare action shonen series that would still be a good show even if you took all the action. If you reduce the action from Brotherhood you've got something that isn't worth watching at all imo. The only improvement that isn't related to animation is King Bradley. I love bad guys and they made every bad guy other than Bradley and Envy significantly worse and all I got in exchange was some lame moe sidekick, further aiding it's fall into generic shonen. On top that, the ending was just... it's the Matrix Revolution where an awesome action series ends is something so laced in rainbows, lollipops, and sunshine that it made me want to vomit. I prefer the old series ending that was, "hey, life ain't easy and you don't always get what you want, but you have to keep on keepin on."

I don't mind a manga remake and hey, worst comes to worst, I can just not watch something and it's no harm, no foul. What I do hate is the automatic assumption that because something follows the manga, it must be good/better. Especially shonen manga. Most of these folk are at a talent level that makes R.L. Stine look like a literary God. The idea that these folk are the most talented and only valid writers alive and that anything they create must be better than anything someone else creates is laughable to me. Certainly not impossible for them to be better than someone else, but the logic that they must be better by default? Nah, I'm not buying it.

Post by sotyfan16 (1,341 posts) See mini bio Level 20

I didn't watch all of Kai. I liked it and all but I love the original DBZ (filler and all). I'm even almost done with DB and I'm loving it, too.

I enjoyed the original FMA as well. I haven't read the manga but when Brotherhood came along I wasn't skeptical. I didn't get around to watching it until after it was all done but I ended up really liking it and buying it.

Personally I like it when anime stick to their sources. Bakuman is doing a great job at doing so and I'm loving just as much as the manga. If more series will be like that but have to wait for more of the manga to be done then so be it. Even despite the ending of the Claymore anime, a sequel is not out of the question and there should be enough material to do so (it would be even more exciting with action plus the plot really thickens).

I will also agree that some manga just don't need animated. Not because they are bad but because they just wouldn't quite work as well. But the manga that come to mind for me deal with some rather unique things.

I'll also say there are some manga that got a couple OVAs but that's it. Kimi no Iru Machi has a second OVA coming and it's dumb because it throws the viewer like 80 chapters into the manga and uses flashbacks to bring things up to speed. With a series like that (which now has 200 chapters out) they should just go ahead and do a regular anime.

Another manga that had a few OVAs is Dogs: Bullets & Carnage. The OVAs only covered VOl. 0 and introduced the characters. They followed the material very well but I would like to see an anime as the story is interesting as well as the characters. Maybe there will be one as I think there is just about enough of the manga to make one.

Might have gone on a tangent there. Oops.

Post by NickTapalansky (63 posts) See mini bio Level 9
Staff

Holy crap. You guys have awesome, thorough comments - I'm gonna have to reply separately to keep this reply from getting longer than the actual article!

@sickVisionz said:

I thought Kai was fine, but I'd never purchased DBZ before and was approaching it simply as an HD remaster of a show I never saw, not some "true version" for real fans that must be repurchased. I think they did a fine job with it. I like the music a lot more and when watching DBZ versions of the same parts of arcs, the Kai version doesn't feel rushed or like it's missing content, it just feels like it's a series that moves at a faster pace, which was what they set out to do. Mission accomplished imo. The only thing I disliked is that the new animation sticks out like a sore thumb and is sometimes lazily done.

I agree with you here. I don't think there was anything wrong with it for new viewers - in fact, I'd probably recommend it to those unfamiliar with the series. Thing is, it was also being touted as a somewhat "definitive" version of the show which, to me, isn't true. It's a cash grab that allowed them to use existing assets (animation) and toss in some trimmings (remastering, updated voice acting, etc.). The remaster was no small deal, but the new animation inserted into the show was... Odd. Why not just use what you have or, flipside, reanimate the series?

I think the original series was fine enough and probably would've been happy to pick up HD remasters of my favorite arcs, had they done the whole thing. Doing it this way just didn't work for me as an existing viewer/fan.

(incidentally, that new music you liked? It only existed through episode 52 in North America. After that the series switched back to the original DBZ music due to some serious copyright infringement allegations. Yikes!)

@sickVisionz said:

I'm iffy on Brotherhood. I just didn't like the manga after a certain point because to me it turns into a pretty generic shonen series. Brotherhood is certainly a better looking series with more action and better action, but I thought the original FMA was the rare action shonen series that would still be a good show even if you took all the action. If you reduce the action from Brotherhood you've got something that isn't worth watching at all imo. The only improvement that isn't related to animation is King Bradley. I love bad guys and they made every bad guy other than Bradley and Envy significantly worse and all I got in exchange was some lame moe sidekick, further aiding it's fall into generic shonen. On top that, the ending was just... it's the Matrix Revolution where an awesome action series ends is something so laced in rainbows, lollipops, and sunshine that it made me want to vomit. I prefer the old series ending that was, "hey, life ain't easy and you don't always get what you want, but you have to keep on keepin on."

Finally! I was beginning to think FMA: BROTHERHOOD was some grail of anime that everyone loved. I can't tell you how cool it is to find someone who didn't think it was awesome. I mean, I disagree with you here but I'm glad to find someone to disagree with!

I agree with you about the first FMA series - it really didn't need the action, just benefited from having it. Without it the series could have still been pretty great. For me, FMA: BROTHERHOOD is just another way to look at the same story. If we're going to discuss it by way of comparisons, I sort of see the first FMA as a "REBUILD" style telling of the same story, just like the new EVANGELION flicks. Same basic premise and even a familiar springboard for the plot, but wildly deviating down the road.

I'll go ahead and let you off for comparing the series to the MATRIX (and saying the MATRIX was an awesome series) because I like you, but I couldn't disagree more. If the manga and FMA: B did anything, it conveyed a sense that this is a real world and there are consequences for your actions.

Sure, they unearthed a conspiracy in the works for generations and put a stop to it, but the country was in disarray and the status quo changed. Yes an "evil" (and that's certainly subjective here) regime crumbled, but the last time there was civil unrest and an upheaval we had Father showing up and that set off the chain of events leading to Ed and Al's journey. I dunno, I guess I just didn't get the impression that ewoks were celebrating at the end. Just that this current cycle was winding down and that something would eventually take its place. The series, in any of its forms, preaches equivalent exchange, even in its plotting. I didn't see the ending as anything but that put into practice.

(I also have to ask who you considered the moe sidekick, because I'm honestly drawing a blank)

@sickVisionz said:

I don't mind a manga remake and hey, worst comes to worst, I can just not watch something and it's no harm, no foul. What I do hate is the automatic assumption that because something follows the manga, it must be good/better. Especially shonen manga. Most of these folk are at a talent level that makes R.L. Stine look like a literary God. The idea that these folk are the most talented and only valid writers alive and that anything they create must be better than anything someone else creates is laughable to me. Certainly not impossible for them to be better than someone else, but the logic that they must be better by default? Nah, I'm not buying it.

YES. Often times we're told something is automatically better because it "follows the source," but not everything does well when moved from one medium to another. The idea that stories are universal may be true, but the belief that they can be transposed from one format to another and still maintain the same qualities that made it so successful or engrossing originally is a fallacy. A brilliant comic doesn't become a dazzling anime instantly.

It ain't easy to take a static set of images (comics) and translate what makes them work into motion (animation). An illustrator (in this case, mangaka) can, and the good ones do, spend days pouring over a single page layout to get the right subtext in the imagery, draw the eye across the page accordingly, try to suggest feelings to the reader via carefully considered panel layouts, gutter usage (more for American comics), and other tricks most readers don't even notice.

Now take those panels and turn them into animation; sure, the story it conveys is the same but the effect, and implication of the scene, could be entirely deconstructed, altered, or even lost as a result. You have to have strong creators on the animation side (writers, directors, animators, actors, etc.) to make sure that doesn't happen, and those creators have to make the tough calls to deviate where necessary to make the anime work within the confines of the medium. Having a team behind the animation that understands and can interpret this is the key, not just sticking to the material.

Post by NickTapalansky (63 posts) See mini bio Level 9
Staff

@sotyfan16 said:

I didn't watch all of Kai. I liked it and all but I love the original DBZ (filler and all). I'm even almost done with DB and I'm loving it, too.

Given my pick, I'll watch the original DB any day. It's my fave of the DRAGON BALL bunch. Like I said above, and it sounds like you agree, DRAGON BALL KAI was better for folks who'd never seen the show before than for fans of the original.

@sotyfan16 said:

Personally I like it when anime stick to their sources. Bakuman is doing a great job at doing so and I'm loving just as much as the manga. If more series will be like that but have to wait for more of the manga to be done then so be it.

Even despite the ending of the Claymore anime, a sequel is not out of the question and there should be enough material to do so (it would be even more exciting with action plus the plot really thickens).

I will also agree that some manga just don't need animated. Not because they are bad but because they just wouldn't quite work as well. But the manga that come to mind for me deal with some rather unique things.

I like it only if it's the best way to convey the story in another medium. I don't think following the manga is automatic indicator of quality by any stretch, but when it's done right/well, I definitely appreciate it. I still prefer deliberate reimaginings, though.

Ultimately, I like to see a series adapted as much as the next guy but I'd also rather see more original series built around the plan for it to be animated rather than based on pre-existing material. Original animation seems harder to come by, or at least less publicized, these days, which is a shame.

@sotyfan16 said:

Might have gone on a tangent there. Oops.

My good man, tangents are what we live for. Embrace them. For me, just writing for Anime Vice is a tangent (rant? soap box? something I do rather than focusing on book deadlines?) in and of itself! Haha!

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