It’s exceedingly rare for any anime to completely surpass its source material in the minds of the majority, but these five shows manage to break through that barrier. Whether they rearrange a disjointed narrative into a cohesive whole, update an older work for a new generation, breathe life into the manga’s visuals in a spectacular fashion, or bring something else masterful to the table, it’s clear that these five anime are better than their manga originals. Let’s take a look at them now!
5. Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: April 2013 – September 2013
Attack on Titan is a phenomenal manga in its own right but suffers from pacing problems (especially early on) that drag the story down when it should be building up its mystery elements. Luckily, Isayama has worked closely with the WIT Studio staff to fix these issues in the anime adaptation and introduce foreshadowing for future manga events while he’s at it. Shifting Ymir’s childhood flashback in Marley to season 2, before anything about the outside world had been revealed, was just the kind of intrigue anime fans needed to whet their appetite for what comes next. If you’re looking for the definitive Attack on Titan experience, the anime is absolutely it.
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 1998 – September 1998
Trigun’s manga and anime have a unique relationship—the anime debuted during the manga’s initial run, but came to its own conclusion after 26 episodes while the manga was on a year-long hiatus. Yasuhiro Nightow loved the anime’s ending for its expert distillation of the story’s core themes, so he took heavy inspiration from it when he wrote the manga’s ending later on. He was such a fan of the anime that he even drew filler characters into his backgrounds at every opportunity!
3. Houseki no Kuni (Land of the Lustrous)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2017 – December 2017
Almost nothing about the story itself changes between manga and anime for this series, but Studio Orange’s jaw-droppingly gorgeous 3D animation makes their adaptation a must-watch. The soft lighting highlights every facet of the gem people’s unique anatomy, while the smooth movement emphasizes their graceful posture and allows for stunning long takes during action sequences. Even the voice acting and sound design are pitch-perfect! The manga is fine for storytelling purposes, but Land of the Lustrous is best experienced in anime form.
2. Devilman: Crybaby
- Episodes: 10
- Aired: January 2018
Go Nagai’s 1972 manga Devilman was outstanding for its time, creating memorable characters and delivering poignant commentary on the xenophobia and warmongering of the era. But when it came time to modernize Devilman for a new audience, director Masaaki Yuasa actually improved the story by weaving in social media and the anonymity of the internet with the story’s hate-fueled demon panic. Not to mention the surreal animation and that slapper of a soundtrack!
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: January 2019 – June 2019
Osamu Tezuka is well-known as the father of modern manga, but his attempt at a serious samurai epic with Dororo was bogged down by the irreverent comedic style of the late ‘60s. Then along comes Dororo 2019, which takes the basic characters and plot structure of the manga and tells a proper dramatic samurai story without the distracting slapstick and fourth wall breaks of Tezuka’s version. This anime is what Dororo has always longed to be, and we’re so glad that it finally exists.
What did you think of our list? Do you disagree with our choices? Which anime do you think are better than their manga originals? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!