I had intended to write a detailed comparison of the print and anime versions of Moribito, but I doubt that I will get around to it any time soon, and I’ve loaned the book to friends. Here are some highlights from the post I’m not writing:
• When you make a movie from a novel, the challenge is to see how much you can jettison and still have a story that makes sense. Making a teevee series from a novel presents the opposite problem: how do you fill thirteen or twenty-six episodes with perhaps 250 pages’ worth of material? Kyoto Animation solved the problem in Suzumiya Haruhi by interpolating chapters from later books into the anime. Production I.G. may have done that with Moribito: several episodes in the middle of the series have no counterpart in the novel but are not jarringly out of harmony with the rest of the show. However, P.I.G.’s primary strategies were elaboration and invention. Characters who appear only briefly in the book become regulars in the anime. Scenes are developed in greater detail than in the book. Many incidents are invented, such as all the flashbacks to Chagum’s past. Overall, the writers did a good job; although several episodes in the middle could have been cut without damaging the story, only one really didn’t belong.
• The anime is nicer than the book. Everyone in the series means well. ((There are a couple of exceptions, but one doesn’t belong in the story and the other is confined to flashbacks.)) Chagum, a decent kid in the book, is almost nauseatingly sweet in the anime’s flashbacks. In the anime, Chagum’s father is profoundly mistaken but not unsympathetic; in the book, his motivation, while understandable, makes him much less attractive.
• One of the premises of the book is that there is a parallel universe that occasionally impinges significantly on the human world. All the paranormal phenomena in the novel are developed from this notion. The anime introduces a more conventional, less interesting kind of magic when Balsa’s spear blade turns out to have a special property.
Both the book and the anime are worth your time. Both tell the same story. The novel is more focused and fast-moving; most readers will probably finish it in one or two sittings. The anime is more detailed, and the art and animation are lush.
Incidentally, the second book in Nahoko Uehashi’s Moribito series will be available soon in English.
Here are some other topics on my mind that I probably won’t write about any time soon:
• Christian elements constantly turn up in anime — apparently, nuns are as exotic to the Japanese as mikos are to Americans — but rarely does their use make much sense. It might be amusing to compile a catalogue of anime heresies.
• Is there any anime that every educated person should see — not just the animation enthusiast, but anyone who considers himself to be well-rounded culturally?
• What is it about Sailor Moon? There are innumerable mahou shoujo/sentai shows out there, from Tokyo Mew Mew to Wedding Peach to the multitudinous Pretty Cures, and every single one is superior to the chronicles of the Sailor Senshi. However, aside from the parody Magical Project S, I’ve never gotten more than a few episodes into any of them. Yet I did watch the entire first season of Sailor Moon (not to mention two of the movies and several of the musicals as well), and not just because of sheer stubborness. What did Takeuchi and Toei get right that everyone else missed? ((Over a decade after the last episode of Sailor Stars was broadcast, Sailor Moon is still a popular cosplay. I put a recent example on my puzzle site.))
• Is every man, woman and child in Japan a pervert?
Here’s further evidence.)
I expected that Evangelion would be an easy winner in the current poll, but at this moment Naruto is only one point behind.
Update: Naruto takes the lead.
Addendum: Cute makes right.