We’ve all been disappointed in the past by anime adaptations that didn’t seem to care about their source material, butchering important plot points and reducing gorgeous art to a pale imitation of what it once was. But sometimes, a studio takes on a project that its employees truly care about and it utilizes all of its resources to make the anime version just as good as or even better than the original. Here are 5 anime adaptations that really did their homework and did justice to their source material!
5. Jujutsu Kaisen
Studio MAPPA spared no expense when it came time to adapt Gege Akutami’s supernatural shounen saga Jujutsu Kaisen. The animation is outstanding, of course, but we’d also like to point out how much effort went into the backgrounds for both the anime itself and its OPs. You can pinpoint exact locations in Tokyo where certain scenes take place, even when they’re non-touristy areas like random coin lockers or street art hidden underneath bridges. The manga frequently uses real-world locations for its volume covers and other artwork, so it’s heartwarming to know that the anime preserves this aspect with so much love and care. It really helps situate the story in a specific time and place!
4. Vinland Saga
It took almost 15 years for legendary manga Vinland Saga to finally make the jump to anime, and we’re infinitely grateful that it ended up in the hands of Wit Studio. Along with reproducing Makoto Yukimura’s laboriously detailed Viking epic with the level of historical accuracy usually reserved for high-budget documentaries, they took a leap of faith by rearranging the story so that it plays out in chronological order. Sure, the manga die-hards would be a guaranteed audience, but anime fans can be fickle and might drop the series if the pace doesn’t pick up quickly enough. Still, instead of starting out with Thorfinn as an angry teenager and flashing back to how it all happened like the manga had to do, the Vinland Saga anime shows Thorfinn grow organically from a starry-eyed boy to the vengeance-obsessed warrior we see in the OP, one expertly paced episode at a time.
3. Godzilla S.P (Godzilla Singular Point)
Kaiju lore isn’t something that the average anime fan knows much about, but Studios Bones and Orange aren’t letting that stop them from making the biggest anime-shaped love letter to the Godzilla franchise that they can possibly get away with. Godzilla Singular Point weaves together many different kaiju—Rodan, Anguirus, Manda, and more—into a combined narrative where they all spawn from red dust that may or may not come from the hidden remains of the big man himself. It also implies that the original Godzilla movie from the 1950s did actually happen in this universe, but that some sort of time distortion caused everyone to lose their memories of the incident. We’re amazed by how well this anime balances delivering new material with paying homage to its roots. We can’t wait to see more!
Osamu Tezuka’s 1967 manga Dororo was a bit ahead of its time when it came out; the Disney-esque art style and unrealistic humor that defined ‘60s anime just didn’t suit such a serious historical drama, and the end product suffered for it. But in 2019, Studio MAPPA decided to give Dororo a makeover that would transform it into the melancholy pre-Edo-era epic that it was always destined to be. Hyakkimaru is now a tragic figure who must gradually regain his humanity piece by agonizing piece instead of a charismatic superhero, his brother Tahoumaru is no longer a one-off opponent but a true adversary with his own understandable motivations, and Dororo plays more of an active role in the story than just being a kid sidekick with a sad backstory. It just goes to show that changing the source material for the better can be just as respectful as adapting it faithfully!
1. JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken Part 5: Ougon no Kaze (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind)
Say what you will about the 1990s Stardust Crusaders OVAs, but they just don’t feel as authentically “JoJo” as the adaptations made by David Production. Everything from the color palette to the enthusiastic voice acting to the fanart made by studio artists in their spare time gives off the impression that the people working on the DavidPro versions of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure are true fans of Hirohiko Araki’s one-of-a-kind manga. Special note goes to Golden Wind, which adds quite a bit of anime-original content—it gives more depth to La Squadra Esecuzioni and Cioccolata, expands the torture dance into a psychedelic music video, and brings the famous “7-page Muda” to life with 30 full seconds of gloriously animated (and voiced) violence. And now, with noted Jolyne fanatic Fairouz Ai tapped to play her for Stone Ocean, we’re even more excited to see what comes next!
We also can’t forget the amazing adaptations of Attack on Titan (with Yuki Kaji, in particular, devoting so much of his time to mastering Eren’s character), Devilman Crybaby, Made in Abyss, and ARIA. But are there any other anime that we forgot? Which shows did their homework and best represented their source material? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!