Whether it’s a new take on an established story, or just updating a classic for a different audience, we can all accept that there are going to be differences between an original work and an adaptation.
But here are ten anime that so distorts the original, and so completely misses the point, that it barely resembles the original, if at all. Oh, and also:
10. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
There are actually two anime based on Huck’s adventure’s: Huckleberry no Bouken and Huckleberry Finn Monogatari.
The second one can be translated (loosely) to “Huckleberry Finn’s Story” or “The Epic of Huckleberry Finn.” That sounds like it would stick pretty close to the original, right? Sure, if by “original” we mean “be about Tom Sawyer,” then totally. While the first one tried to be faithful, Monogatari focused more on Tom Sawyer’s adventures than Huck Finn’s. Even then, things were dumbed down; Huck’s river travels were drastically shorted, and a lot less dangerous. That completely devalued the important comments on racism and industrialization that Twain made in his novel.
Wolvie’s anime decided to merge several comic arcs to make a “new” story. Wolverine finds out his Japanese girlfriend is alive and goes after her. His main antagonists are the girl’s father, Shingen, and her betrothed, Hideki, both of whom are human. Despite the presence of Omega Red, and some superpowered original characters, the final battle was between Wolverine and a fat human samurai who, for whatever reason, spent most of the time kicking Wolverine’s ass.
And that was the inherent problem; Wolverine was not Wolverine. Instead of a gritty, gruff, angry adult, we got a 20-year-old with a mullet. A mullet (which is somehow better than the anime’s original character design for him: a muscle-less guy with long hair.) Rather than deviate from their usual pretty-boy protagonist, the anime changed Wolvie from short and stocky, to tall and lean.
And that’s just his appearance. The character himself was emotional and whiny, the anime itself dragged on and on and, despite everyone talking about what a badass Logan was, nobody was even remotely scared or intimidated by him. Sadly, this made tons of sense, since he lost to wimps several times. Only watch it if you want to hear Wolverine shout “Mariko!” nine hundred times over the space of twelve episodes.
8. Little Women
How do you make a well-known, established story more serious? Well, the original Little Women began with the four March girls sitting in their living room, bemoaning their new poverty and discussing Christmas presents. Their father is a chaplain for the Union in the Civil War, and is away for much of the story. The March girls have various adventures, and each of their characters develop in the ensuing years, growing from girls into women.
Ai no Wakakusa Monogatari opens with a Confederate attack on the March family’s hometown. Mr. March is a Union officer and leaves to rejoin the Army, while his family suffers Confederate occupancy. Adventures include fighting the Army, helping an escaped slave, having their home destroyed, and moving in with hateful new characters that don’t want them there.
That’s how you make it more serious.
7. Starship Troopers
This one is a little tricky, because the infamously so-bad-it’s-good movie was vastly different from the book. The novel was serious and focused on themes of politics and the military in general. The movie was about shooting bugs, seeing boobs, and having the audience inadvertently cheer for Nazis.
The anime, entitled Uchu no Senshi took a different direction than either. It saw very little action, focused on a major romance subplot and, instead of alien “bugs,” we got squids who shot laser beams from their mouths.
6. Peter Pan
Quick: how do you twist a children’s story enough to make it really creepy? It’s easy; you make it completely adult themed.
Rather than having Peter Pan see Wendy in a motherly role, the anime added a romantic subplot between them. There were ridiculous fight scenes, and Captain Hook was changed from a silly villain to a guy who tries so hard to actively murder the Lost Boys, that he borders on criminally insane rather than just paranoid-crazy. Thus we are beginning to understand Peter Pan no Bouken.
What, that doesn’t sound so bad? What if we told you Neverland was turned into a wasteland halfway through the series, because an old woman was bent on destroying it? Compound that with forcing Wendy to choose between killing a little girl, or being lost to darkness forever. Okay, it’s a little darker than other Peter Pan media, but it’s not like the anime kept things dark, right?
Well, the original had Peter promising to visit Wendy every spring. The anime ends with Wendy and her brothers returning to London and waiting for Peter, who never shows. Years later he meets her daughter, Jane, and steals her away to Neverland. There were probably a thousand ways to change the ending to be more positive than the original’s, and none of them were that one.
5. Moby Dick
Moby Dick is pretty famous. An extended allegory on the whaling industry, the story follows Ishmael and his adventures on board the Pequot, commanded by Captain Ahab.
Hakugei: Legend of the Moby Dick was made in the 90’s, and was more like a weird nightmare. Instead of the ocean, it was in space, and instead of whales, we had abandoned space ships. There’s no Ishmael, just a 14-year-old girl named Lucky. Even the Pequot was revamped, being dubbed the Lady Whisker.
The original featured a captain hell-bent on revenge, even at the cost of his own sanity and the lives of his crew. The anime had a robot and preteens. Rather than take place in the 1800’s, it’s the year 4699 and Ahab is trying to save an entire planet, instead of obsessively hunting a white whale. But the abandoned space ships they’re hunting are called whales and the captain’s name is Ahab, so that’s practically the same thing…right?
4. The Count of Monte Cristo
Set in the 1800’s, Edmond is unjustly imprisoned for being a supporter of Napoleon, all because another man wants to marry Edmond’s fiancé, and a work rival is jealous of Edmond’s sudden promotion. Stuck in a prison tower, Edmond befriends a fellow inmate, a priest trying to tunnel his way out. The priest educates Edmond, and reveals the location of a massive treasure before dying; Edmond uses the priest’s burial sack to escape. He makes allies, recovers the treasure, and returns to France to get his revenge. Using his new found wealth and education, he destroys the men responsible for his imprisonment, one by one, before marrying the daughter of an ally.
Got all that? Well, in the anime, it is the year 5053. Instead of a priest helping Edmond escape, it’s an evil demon. Who possesses him, and then makes him a space vampire. The city where everything took place is no longer in France, but on another planet. The entire anime is from the perspective of a different character rather than Edmond. At the end, rather than leaving to marry the daughter (who’s an alien now,) Edmund just straight-up dies.
Oh, and there are mecha. This isn’t sci-fi; it’s more like some weird fan fiction an eleven-year-old would write.
During the 70’s, Marvel had a comic series about vampire hunters who fought Dracula. In 1980, Japan redid it, and not very well. How devoted to the original was it? Well, both the anime and the comic have a character named “Dracula.” That’s about it, really.
The anime begins with some hooded figures about to sacrifice a virgin to Satan, but Dracula intervenes. Not because he’s a good guy, but because he really likes her. That’s right, the Lord of Vampires is in love. They even have a child.
But Satan is pissed, man. Dracula stole his sacrifice! So Satan takes away Dracula’s vampire-ness, which he can suddenly do because the writer of a random 80’s anime knows more about the Devil than the guys who wrote the damn Bible. What followed is a rather infamous scene of Dracula, in full vampire lord regalia, pigging out on burgers since he suddenly needs to eat for survival.
Later ob, Dracula’s son is accidentally killed and God brings him back to life as a full-fledged man who fires lasers from his eyes. God never gave you laser eyes, did he? Probably because you didn’t pray hard enough.
2. Powerpuff Girls
Instead of three adorable eight-year-olds, Powerpuff Girls Z transformed them into vapid preteens.
The girls get their powers when Professor Utonium’s son uses a Chemical Z to destroy a city-threatening glacier (because Japan,) and the ensuing blast transforms many residents into supervillains, and three girls into heroes.
What else is new? Well, the girls have actual street names (in addition to their Powerpuffy names,) they aren’t sisters, they’re obsessed with boys and shopping, and they believe things like yo-yo’s work perfectly as weapons.
1. Romeo and Juliet
How do you take a classic story of two lovers from warring families and make it contemporary? If your answer was “floating island,” then you were correct. Romeo x Juliet was set on a floating island, where people traveled using dragon horses. Juliet is a superhero at night, and a master swordsman.
The plot is more than a little different. Instead of two warring families, the Capulets are all but dead, and the evil Montagues are ruling “Neo Verona.” There’s also a magical tree that is sick and, if it dies, the island will fall.
The lovers still die at the end, so that’s the same. That, and their names are unchanged. Shakespeare himself probably wouldn’t notice the difference.