Many of us will have experienced the frustration of getting invested in an anime adaptation of some manga or light novel, only for the anime to end while the source material is still ongoing, or perhaps deliberately deciding not to adapt the whole of the story. It sucks not getting a complete experience or having to move to a different medium to finish what you started. In recent times, however, I have noticed a different trend: original stories that have endings so extreme that they change the entire experience the series.
Allow me to elaborate.
Spoilers from here on out, please pay attention to anime titles printed in bold & italic.
A famous example in anime is Bunny Drop, of course. The anime is a highly-acclaimed, emotional story about a man learning what it takes and means to be a father, as he one day finds himself charged with the guardianship of an abandoned relative. The anime ran for 11 episodes and received much praise for the parent-child relationship between protagonists Daikichi and Rin, but it only adapted about half of Bunny Drop‘s 9 volume manga. The manga by Yumi Unita would go through a 10-year timeskip, putting Daikichi in his 40s and Rin in the middle of her teenage years. In volumes 8 & 9, Rin falls in love with Daikichi and the manga concludes on them deliberating about marrying and having children of their own.
Most fans were disgusted with this ending and have either wholly disowned it or lost interest in Bunny Drop completely. Knowing that the relationship between Daikichi and Rin develops from father & adopted child into lovers nearly 3 decades apart in age is unsettling. It changes your perception of these characters and puts many of their earlier interactions, Rin’s entire childhood, in an entirely different light.
The Bunny Drop anime leaves this part of the story untold, but knowing that the author intended it to go this route makes even the “incomplete” anime uncomfortable in retrospect. Some are able to ignore this and enjoy the anime as if its exists in a vacuum, others can not. And I can’t blame them for that.
I was planning to list off a few other series where the manga ending can ruin the anime, but even knowing that a series has a controversial, un-adapted ending can discourage people from trying it, so I’ll restrain myself. Instead, let’s discuss a positive example.
In this week’s review of Sayonara, Zetsubou Sensei I complained at length about the pointlessness of the romantic subplot between the cynical high school teacher Nozomu and the various students vying for his heart. It’s never progressed much and was left inconclusive when the anime ended after 3 seasons, but Koji Kumeta’s manga kept going for a few more years after. This manga ending was as bizarre as one would expect from the franchise and severely changed every female character involved, while also giving Nozomu an age-gap romance not entirely incomparable to that of Bunny Drop.
Strangely, I actually find that knowing about the manga’s ending makes me more positive about the anime in restrospect. It’s nice knowing that the romantic nonsense would’ve gone somewhere if I’d read the source material, and that all the standalone storylines actually did lead up to something. It doesn’t salvage the whole series for me and I certainly don’t feel triggered to seek out the manga, but at least I found some closure for this damn franchise.
The final conclusion is that one should be cautious when probing the source material for a conclusive ending. It may be annoying not knowing for sure what the author wanted to happen and, maybe, they had something amazing in mind that you totally wanted to see as well. But there is no going back if you discover that a story was going to pan out differently from what you expected or wanted. Do you take the risk knowing that it may forever taint an otherwise good adaptation?
Ignorance my bliss, my dear friends.