Anime adaptations of manga are nothing new. Checking upcoming anime every season, there’s always an interest in discussing what manga is deserving of an adaptation. That said, while interests in different subgenres continue to crop up among modern anime, episode counts are continuing to drop. Long gone are the days when 50-100+ episode anime was the norm. Now more than ever, anime episode count is dwindling, and it’s been affecting manga-ka in an unexpected way, having them take different approaches when it comes to writing their stories in hopes of nabbing that sought-after anime adaptation.
Comparing modern anime with their manga counterparts, it’s clear that the source material is adjusting to comfortably fit the 13-26 episode count. Take “Your Lie in April”—an 11-volume manga adapted into a 22-episode anime. Even in “Onepunch-Man,” the first 7 manga volumes were adapted into a mere 12 episodes. And while the latter example was due to the removal of side-stories, the fact remains that both anime series still feel complete on their own; instead of cramming in the story for the sake of a shorter episode count, the source material seems to slip right in when making the jump from print to TV.
But why is this? What defines modern manga-ka writing and how does it present itself in a way that makes adaptation so seamless? In the case of “Onepunch-Man,” the manga has become well-known for its drawn-out, atmospheric scenes. Scenes depicting space only to slowly zoom in on a busy cityscape on Earth are expressed in such a manner that while long, never feel unsatisfactory because authors One and Murata relish in the fact.
A similar approach is taken with Hiroya Oku’s “Inuyashiki,” with its extended moments drawn over the course of multiple pages. Fight scenes last for chapters at a time, when in-world only a few seconds passed. It is as if the authors themselves are making a conscious decision to create scenes that are both visually appealing and can only translate to a few minutes (if that) of screen time to better fit into a short-episode run.
Taking a less literal approach, plenty modern manga are also focusing more on characters’ internal strife—having the majority of character development via internal monologues and lengthy dialogue exchanges. This makes the source material that much more malleable, allowing wiggle-room for the anime adaptation to take liberties without sacrificing anything imperative to the plot. This isn’t to say that all dialogue translates to extraneous dribble. Rather, why say when you can show? Yes, anime is still infamous for lengthy internal monologues for melodrama, but animated adaptations also allow for more visuals and color to aid and even replace bouts of expositional dialogue.
With “Your Lie in April,” Arima Kousei is a pianist struggling to find joy in music. And while his sulky narration says as much, it is better embellished upon through the anime’s capabilities. Muted colors accompanying his dreariness, and filtered piano keys playing during his performances build upon what the manga can only hint at in its limited medium of static pictures and words. It is in this difference between the two mediums that anime is able to take from its source material the essence behind character-centric stories, and portray their strife at an efficient, faithful pacing. No longer are filler arcs used as crutches because the flow of the story and dialogue allows for the pacing to be squashed and stretched as the anime sees fit while still maintaining overall quality.
A final aspect to consider is the consumers themselves. We’ve left the era where VHS releases stagnate our media consumption. With streaming services, manga-ka have to consider binge-watchers’ mindsets. Yes, anime are still limited to airing one episode per week, but there do exist fans that will wait for all episodes to come out for better marathoning—short series that do more than tread water between episodes being the most worthwhile for these viewers. The dawn of the internet has also made the turnover rate for seeing the success of a show much more immediate. Rather than focusing on building a long-term franchise, series that burn brightly during the short time they have aired are considered just as successful. It’s in this sense of immediacy that the creative teams behind manga and in turn their anime adaptations are affected, approaching their creative ventures with these factors in mind.
The world is constantly changing, and the media you consume are no exception. With more means of entertainment vying for our attention than ever, it makes sense for authors to respond accordingly, taking new approaches in writing their manga in hopes of receiving that coveted anime adaptation. Or perhaps the two act in a more symbiotic relationship, with one influencing the other in this giant cycle of cause and effect.