With Fuuka pretty much wrapping up its anime run this week, I felt it was time to express some of my thoughts on where I’ve felt the show has gone so wrong in translating the thrill of the manga original to the TV screen.
I started reading the manga when the anime version was first announced, quickly powering through the hundred or so chapters available as part of my Crunchyroll subscription. I quickly got caught up in the series’ neat blend of an old school love-triangle and band dynamics – in many ways, this felt like a fresh, up-to-date take on classics like Beck and Nana. When the anime was announced – my immediate thoughts were ones of joy; at the exposure others would get to a story I felt was definitively solid, and would wholly benefit from the key factors an anime version would bring – name ‘animation’ itself, as well as that essentially ingredient for a band series – music.
But when the anime started airing, by the fourth episode I felt pretty much resigned that this was going to be a lacklustre adaption. Something only confirmed when the series opted for anime-original material; swerving the infamous ‘death’ scene which transforms the manga’s plot trajectory – and instead playing it safe.
So, I’ve honed in on three specific areas I feel the anime version has faltered in:
1 – Anime original material – altering a key plot element.
Spoilers ahoy – in the original manga, around 40 chapters in, female lead Fuuka dies horribly; run over by a truck. It’s a massive, brave move for the story at this point – ripping away a central character and throwing the male lead into despondency, from which he must then rise up again. But in this shocking act (which some have criticised for being overly melodramatic and ‘cheap’) the manga finds its real heart – adding much-needed depth to a story that was arguably idling along until this point.
In many ways – the anime faltered because it only exposed viewers to the blander ‘pre-death’ material; before any of the series ‘band’ material had even got underway. Thus, what we were left with arguably skewed heavily toward the romantic elements, without presenting any of the deeper, music-centric content.
2 – Bad pacing
This is a point I struggled with for a long time. It’s not so much that Fuuka’s pacing is bad – it adapts somewhere between 2 and 4 chapters of the manga per episode; somewhat the norm for most anime series. The trouble is that the chapters of the manga are so short and brisk that they can be powered through in minutes. My reading experience usually focused around 10-chapter chunks that presented whole narrative arcs in concise portions; in contrast, those watching the anime were forced to leisurely wind their way through the same material at the pace dictated by reading the subtitles on a 20 minute TV episode. The result was drudgingly slow.
This issue might have been solved with an adaptation that took more liberty with the source material, cutting back to the core concepts to craft a more ‘cinematic’ experience (more on that in the next point). Equally – a two-cour run of 24/26 episodes may also have benefitted the show – allowing the anime to cover up to around 100 chapters’ worth of material and really getting into the meat of the core story. Of course – it remains to be seen whether Fuuka will get a second cour later this year, but in many ways, with the first season garnering lacklustre popularity and user ratings, the damage has already been done.
3 – Lacklustre, cheap-feeling translation to anime
Many of the problems with Fuuka’s anime version are visual. Most noticeably, the noticeable lack of ‘animation’ itself. The episodes are staid, flat and un-dynamic. Apart from a handful of performance scenes (and even these are far from the majesty they could at been – again, look at Beck for example of these done right), the animation is usually severely limited, practically never breaking out into standout Sakuga moments. This adds to the slow feel of the series, and presents a distinctly 2D world; lacking the sense of 3D dynamism the likes of KyoAni can afford a series. I also took issue with the character designs – which while perfectly perfunctory, lacked some of the sharpness author Kouji Seo invests his designs with in the original manga. There, there’s an edgy, sensual coolness – but in the anime, everyone feels like they’ve walked out of the apotheosis of anime aesthetic norm, and is swiftly forgotten.