As an art, adaptation is a lot like translation—you can’t expect an adaptation to be exactly the same as its source material. Novels can be great at showing introspection and getting into the characters’ heads, while animation has to rely on visual shortcuts in order to get the same point across. Just because an adaptation omits something from the novel doesn’t mean it’s worse off for it. I find it incredibly fascinating to examine the choices anime directors make in order to bring a story to life through a visual medium.
With that preamble out of the way, let’s kick off the first issue by looking at a popular light-novel-turned-anime from 2014: No Game No Life! (This article contains light spoilers for the first four episodes, so be warned.)
The Asterisk War was one of the most-watched shows on Crunchyroll in 2015. Now, before anyone goes on about the shit taste of the average Crunchyroll user, consider why viewers would have been drawn to the show beyond the magic high school premise.
Earlier today, I started a new feature series at Crunchyroll called Novel vs Anime. Basically, I compare novels to their anime adaptations, commenting on things like prose, art style, adaptation decisions and so on. My plan is to combine my love of Japanese novels with my appreciation of the animation side of anime. In short, I’m trying not to be that guy whose sole contribution to the discussion is “the source material is so much better!”
My first article was on No Game No Life, a show from 2014 which has become relevant again because of the upcoming movie announcement. Writing this article made me realise how hard Atsuko Ishizuka was carrying this series. If she’s not directing the film, I will boycott it aggressively. If you haven’t seen No Game No Life, you should at least check out the first episode, which Ishizuka directed and storyboarded herself. I’m still ambivalent about the series as a whole (which my blog posts from 2014 may attest to), but I enjoyed revisiting it.
It takes me time to read a novel series and compare it to its corresponding anime adaptation, so I don’t know how regularly I’ll be able to write these articles. (I’m thinking once every two weeks or so?) But it’s still something I really want to do for Crunchyroll. If all goes well, I can do these features alongside my weekly Found in Translation articles.
In the meantime, I’d love to get some feedback for the “Novel vs Anime” feature. What sort of content do you want to see? What sort of series would you like to see covered? If you’d like to request a specific series, please fill in this form.
Also, please note that for articles published on Crunchyroll, I can only cover series that are available on Crunchyroll and which I can access legally in Australia. But I will consider writing about interesting novels for my blog too, so feel free to leave a comment here about what you’re interested in.
In any case, thanks for all your help and support! I’ll be very busy writing things this week, so watch this space for more news and developments. Bye for now!
During my adventures on the Japanese web, I rarely see people say anything good about the recent trend towards isekai (“stuck in another world”) stories, particularly in light novels and web novels. The stories are frequently dismissed as shallow, masturbatory and full of cheap wish fulfillment. It’s overdone, they say. It’s trite and cliche. Stop adapting so many of these stories into anime.
Japanese readers have even come up with memes to make fun of the recent trends. 「俺TUEEEE」(“I’m so stroooooong”) basically means “Overpowered MC”. When a story is filled to the brim with all the various wish fulfillment tropes, it’s referred to as a narou-type work. Narou comes from Shousetsuka ni Narou! (“Let’s become a novelist!”), which is far and away the most popular website for posting amateur web novels. If you check out the top-ranked series, the vast majority are isekai stories where the MC does pretty much nothing to earn his 俺TUEEEE status.
The Japanese fandom is like the English fandom in the sense that the majority of internet commentary about this trend is snarky and negative, but a significant number of people are hooked on these stories nevertheless. There are plenty of netizens who attempt to explain the appeal of the narou genre, but because they’re clearly disdainful of it, their explanations occasionally seem condescending, even pathologising (e.g. “it’s a shallow power fantasy aimed at nerds who will never find a girlfriend!”) Nevertheless, there are bloggers who articulate why they like the narou genre quite thoughtfully, so I thought I’d focus on their perspectives in this post.
Because I cannot accept their points at face value, I’m going to respond to them critically in this post. However, I invite you to come to your own conclusions.
EDIT (18/7/2016): I have heard that Yen Press’s No Game No Life novels were heavily edited and re-released. I have also heard that subsequent volumes are much better received. I have not read these later editions myself, so this post is only a commentary on the first edition of the first light novel volume. Please bear that in mind as you read this post!
2014 was a great year for English light novels. I’d say LN publishing was revitalised last year, thanks to the release of big name titles (and not just SAO and Index). I suppose this is a side effect of the oversaturation of LN adaptations in the anime industry right now. There’s no better time to get into the LNs, and I fully expect 2015 to be a lucrative year as well.
Why You Should Buy Light Novels
First of all, they’re cheap. The translations are a whole lot better than the fan translations, and most importantly, I think the success of these titles will pave the way for more quality translations of Japanese novels. Ideally, I’d like to see more Japanese literature beyond light novels being published over here. There’s a growing potential market.
I’m joking, of course. While I haven’t actually watched enough anime this year to string together a top 10 anime list, I did enjoy the stuff I got around to watching. I also feel that this was a productive year for me as an anime fan and for the aniblogsphere in general.
Time for the highlights!
I have been thinking a lot about feminism lately. Specifically, I have been thinking about how gender politics relate to the anime fandom. It’s widely acknowledged that otaku culture is sexist and that the vast majority of anime marginalise women by objectifying or “Othering” them. But what about the individual people involved? Ordinary people like you and me who don’t necessarily think women are inferior to men but still involve themselves with anime culture anyway?
So I got to thinking… am I sexist for being an otaku? Am I a big, fat hypocrite for calling myself a “feminist” while also calling fictional female characters my waifus and buying merchandise featuring anime girls in sexual poses? This isn’t just a matter of enjoying ecchi anime – this is stuff I actually do, even if I intend it jokingly or ironically. Lately, I have been doing some hard thinking about what it means to be a “feminist” and what it means to be an “otaku” and I wonder if the two are mutually exclusive.
There are many reasons why Steph is the best character in No Game No Life, but the biggest and main reason is that I am a Steph myself.
(Warning: This post contains dirty humour, for what is a Steph without embarrassing sexual incidents?)
What I’m currently watching: Haikyuu!!, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders. (As of June 26 2014)