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I recently picked up the first four volumes of the lovely Flying Witch manga by Chihiro Ishizuka, and that’s given me a bit of a reference point to muse on anime adaptations.

I was really looking forward to the adaptation of A Centaur’s Life only to be disappointed by how… pedestrian it was. With essentially one exception[1] it was a straight up case of next chapter, next half episode. Given how… scattered the manga for A Centaur’s Life can be sometimes this essentially replicated and magnified the faults of the series.

In other words the anime of A Centaur’s Life needed a focus, and some imagination in the adaptation. An OP and ED that came close to being appropriate wouldn’t have hurt either[2].

Then there’s Flying Witch. Now I’ve only read the first four volumes, but a couple of things stood out from the manga. Flying Witch is much more of a Pragmatic Adaptation than A Centaur’s Life was, and is better for it.

The order of the chapters was fiddled with, at least slightly, in the adaptation so as to tell a better story.

Details were added to a number of scenes to make better use of the anime medium.

Some scenes, and one kind of important long term character[3], were dropped to make better use of the characters already in play. Chinatsu’s role/screen time was I think significantly expanded and the Flying Witch anime was much better for it[4].

Overall the changes made to Flying Witch don’t seem like much, but they brought a consistency to the story that underpinned the writing.

The Flying Witch changes speak to a production team willingness to look for the core of the source material and to work out how best to bring it to the screen. A willingness that carried through to an OP that is utterly on point for the mood/intent of the show.

To be blunt, neither of these was in evidence for A Centaur’s Life, and I think that’s the biggest reason I’m calling it a failure.

So, to borrow from Artemis over at Otaku Lounge:

Question of the Post: Which manga adaptations have failed by being too close to the source, and which ones have been improved by some clever alterations[5]?

[1] Shifting chapter 0 to around episode 4 or so. Which made sense in that the extent to which Chapter 0 works (highly debateable) depends on the viewer believing in the core friendship of the three main characters. But that was it. The only change they made.

[2] The ones we got were not good (in context at least). The OP might have worked for Urusei Yatsura back in the day, and the ED would have been fine for a more serious series.

[3] At least I think she’s important. But I’m not spoiling who she is.

[4] Because Chinatsu is adorable. Not best little sister, that’s Nagi in Say “I Love You”, but adorable.

[5] A common opinion is that adaptations should be as close as possible to the original, so that’s why I’m asking for examples of the reverse.