When I first wrote this idea down on my little text file I have saved with all of my editorial ideas on it, I kind of glossed over the fact that I surely must have talked about this in the past. Like, at least one time, right? Ah, whatever, just jotting down ideas is never a bad idea. Next few days go by, I get into a conversation with some friends about the games Miwashiba has made and start looking up songs on YouTube since they’re all so memorable to me, and the comment section is riddled with the same crap that always rubs me the wrong way. Wait, I must have talked about this already. Right? Well, whatever, I’m talking to people, I can look more into this later. Now, here I am, writing in my living room while listening to the LiEat soundtrack, hours away from midnight, and I’m still not entirely sure if I’ve talked about this or not.
I love RPG Maker games. The kinds of creative and memorable experiences people can come up with all on their own honestly blows my mind every time a new one with a lot of effort put behind it is released to the public. From popular games like To the Moon to unknown hidden gems like Mogeko Castle, I have an endless amount of memories with these games, and each one has its own story to tell. Some are generic, some are silly, some are offensive to some people, some are dark and disturbing, but each one that has time and effort put behind it is unique. Sadly, another characteristic that a majority of the worth-while titles in this pile of endlessly growing video games share is that they all look anime like.
This is partially due to the fact that nearly every single popular RPG Maker title is from Japan and translated by the amazing and talented vgperson, and most of these popular independent developers have picked up an art style that slightly looks like anime to varying degrees. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that until hordes of people start shouting to the sky, asking for their patron saints in Japan to make an anime based off of these freeware video games. After seeing about as many YouTube comments asking how cool it would be if their favourite RPG Maker game got turned into an anime as I’ve seen “the 90’s was so much better” comments, I’ve grown a very deep hatred for these types of comments. But I don’t want this to just be blind hatred, allow me to explain why I personally get bothered by the mentality of animating everything.
First thing’s first, let’s address the obvious. Adaptations (any kind, really) of video games are extremely difficult to pull off. As much as I extremely love literature, an adaptation of something linear (like a book) is infinitely easier than something with multiple branching paths and experiences depending on the person in charge of the adventure. When anime is adapted from visual novels or manga (or in the rare cases novels, like with Another) it’s pretty straight forward. Hit all the same main points the source material did in a way that your target audience will enjoy. With a video game there is so much to offer and so many different ways to do everything it’s insane. Hell, even with visual novels people get fussy when the anime is criticised for something the source material covered and VNs don’t even begin to approach the number of branching paths and levels of detail that some video games can pull off.
This desire to make an anime out of video games isn’t present with only RPG Maker games, but this is my main form of seeing it. Video games are a special type of media that can connect with their audience in more ways than a linear, blocked off form of storytelling. Not even books written in the 2nd person can connect to people the same way video games have the potential of doing. Even if we’re playing as a character who has a name and back story, video games can make us feel responsible for every action we make. If a character we’ve grown attached to dies, we witness it first hand and in some cases feel responsible, wondering if we could have stopped it. If we save the day and everyone comes together happily in the end, we’re there and see it through the eyes of the main character. Whatever happens, we experience it to a great effect than if we were just to watch it, because we have our hands on the controls and we are, at least in some part, responsible for what goes on.
One of the reasons I love RPG Maker games is because the experiences are so unique and the stories are told with you being a part of them.In general, that’s what I love about so many video games I consider my favourites. When you remove the audience interaction from the equation, you’re left with a more hollow feeling experience, especially to avid fans of the original material. There’s no way you can recapture the same feeling of exploring a haunted art museum that Ib was presented itself as. The narrative of an interactive experience is only a part of what makes the experience so great.
If all of that is true, when why do fans of video games, especially these niche unknown ones, want an anime adaptation of their favourite games so much so that people are asking for it everywhere? I honestly cannot think of any reason other than ignorance. I don’t necessarily mean that as calling them out or trying to offend someone, but that’s really the only way I can see people wanting adaptations of very niche stories that work so well in part because of the kind of project they are. I don’t think anyone could take a step back, outside of all of the hype and love for what they experienced, and think that an adaptation would do the experience they had justice. Not to them, and not to the people who would have their first experiences with this game through the anime.
Like it or not, anime can’t be good at the same thing that video games are good at doing. I feel like we should have less of a “I would watch an anime of this!” mood about everything we enjoy. I know I’m talking about a very specific subset of people, and not everyone thinks this way (they remind me a lot of the “Oh, I’ve seen the anime so I’ve basically experienced the source material” people who I’ll probably nag at in a future editorial), but we should put an emphasis on what animation can do that the original mediums couldn’t do when adapting, and what new things animation can bring to the table. I think the mindset of adapting whatever is popular and whatever people mindlessly ask for isn’t something that would ever come close to yielding the best experience for the most number of people. Luckily we have a prime example of a show that did that.
As much as I praised this show and ranted about how I loved planetarian as a whole when it ended mid last season, I know very well that my opinions of the show were because of a very strong personal bias I had when watching it. Without a doubt, planetarian was adapted because of the popularity of Key’s visual novels. It’s very clear that’s the case because the anime didn’t add anything meaningful to the original experience (mainly just banked off of lines and scenes fans of the source know by heart) and in a lot of ways it was lacking. If it didn’t hit all of the right keys for me personally, I probably would have ended up disappointed, even knowing there was zero way the anime could live up to the novel.
I can’t imagine something like that is fun to adapt. It doesn’t add anything, it doesn’t seem enjoyable from an artistic point of view, in a way it’s really just wasting everyone’s time and in a way ruining the reputation of the source when it’s done poorly to any degree. Popular demand shouldn’t really ever be a deciding factor for whether or not you adapt something into a new medium.I doubt planetarian is the only example of a situation where the source didn’t only not need an adaptation but had a very lack lustre one done when it was adapted. The medium of anime should be filled with things that showcase animation, whether it be in a way that doesn’t really explore the possibilities of animation or in a way that turns what we even consider to be a standard for anime on it’s head in an addictingly beautiful way. All of this basically was a really long way to say that anime isn’t for everything, but anime is still amazing in it’s own way.
Thanks for reading today’s editorial! Every single person who reads these means the world to me, even if you accidentally stumbled upon this post in a random Google search and managed to stick around to the end. If you’d like to follow me outside of this blog and see me complain about things out of context, you can always follow me on Twitter! Also on Twitter, you can ask me questions for my Q&A in two weeks! I should be able to get around to everyone, just mention me with the hashtag #AskTsuyuki so I can find it when it’s time to write up the post. As always, see you guys next week!
The featured image for this post was drawn by pixiv artist YULT.