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Bokurano: Latest Manga Adaptation Train Wreck
28 June 2009

I've mentioned the adaptation problem with Bokurano before, but now that the manga has finished serialisation (a spectacular ending), I wanted to take a step back and examine just how far the carnage on this particular series went.

Differences between adaptations are pretty standard, but in the case of Bokurano, they maybe should have just changed the title and been done with it. After all, the anime never had that scene from which the manga earned its name after all, in which Machi pays out Ushiro for referring to himself as �boku� instead of �ore�, and then the whole �bokura� (we) and �bokurano� (ours) thing came into play.

So I thought I�d put down a little guide of differences between the manga and anime, for anyone who�d seen/read one but not the other (though if you�ve only seen the anime, really, read the manga before spoiling yourself here.) Also to rant. I like ranting! Very cathartic.

Here's a list! I numbered it. There is just that much butchering.

1. Let�s start with one of the earliest differences � Kako and Chizuru�s battle. Kako tried to force himself on Chizuru in both versions, but as opposed to Chizuru running away and pushing him down the stairs in the anime, in the manga she threatened him with a knife. And as opposed to Kako being crushed by debris while lying unconscious at the bottom of a stairwell, Chizuru slits his throat, because he�s too chicken to fight. So it's a pro-active murder instead of passive. We all know which is more interesting.

2. Chizuru�s back-story is so much worse in the manga. It wasn�t just her teacher Hatagai two-timing her and taking pictures as he did in the anime � he blackmailed her and set her up to be �gang-raped. And so when she goes on her rampage in the manga, rather than heading straight for the school, she first takes out each of the men who�d raped her. Early on, this change made sense, as the other scenario was a bit dark for television. It was one of the few that could be justified, however.

3. Komoda�s battle in the anime is rather standard, but in the manga, is resolved with the piano recital being staged to draw out the enemy pilot, and actually goes right up against the 48 hour time limit. The time limit doesn�t even come close to being touched in the anime. Also, the rule about �any person from that world killing the enemy pilot� hardly matters, as none of the enemy pilots ever run from the cockpit.

4. Military in the anime are useless and don�t act in a way you�d expect the military to. They seem content to let the kids do whatever they want most of the time, with only Tanaka having much of anything to do with them. Manga military actually show some brains and don�t just let the kids do whatever.

5. In the anime, there�s no kid that pretends to be a Zearth pilot and gets killed for it.

6. Kirie�s story was also incredibly different. This was one I actually liked better in the anime. In the manga, he stabbed Chizuru�s teacher Hatagai for what he�d done afer Chizuru's death, and his wonder at the value of life is compromised by his bulimic, cutter, hikkokomori cousin. He fought only when the enemy pilot revealed the scars on her arms from cutting.

In the anime, however, it�s his mother�s attempted suicide that makes him think the world is maybe not worth saving � and in fact, he refuses to fight when the enemy robot turns up. He survives the battle because of it, as the enemy robot then commits suicide. Things had improved by the time the second battle rolled around, and he turned out to be a pretty kick-ass pilot.

7. Anko�s story in the manga was way better. In the anime, her father is still a journalist who was planning to use his influence to get the story of Zearth out despite the military keeping a lid on it, but then messed it all up due to an affair, and Anko had to suffer the fallout of the scandal. In the manga, however, the military is much more intelligent about the whole thing, and he was working with them to cast the news in a favourable light (until it got messed up by the aforementioned fake pilot). He then broadcasts Anko�s fight from inside the cockpit, and she delivers a message on TV to the world right before crushing the enemy cockpit and dying. It was one of the more evocative battles of the manga, and it would have been wonderful to see it animated instead of the other mess they came up with.

8. Seki! In the anime, he�s the guy who gets teleported when he tries to shoot at Dung Beetle, and loses an arm for it. He gets a prosthetic with spying equipment in it. Yeah, this is where things start really going off the rails. He�s about a million times more likeable in the manga, where he�s revealed to be an anime fan, a bad singer, and sacrifices himself to act as a homing beacon for Kanji�s battle. You were actually sad that he died! In the anime he lived, but in that scenario, I wish he didn�t.

9. Speaking of Kanji�s battle! This just went off the rails completely. As opposed to his mother being dead in the manga, in the anime she�s actually a scientist attempting to figure out the science behind Zearth and a way to break the contract. She�s quite a bitch, in fact! She doesn�t even find out that her own son is in the contract until it�s way too late. Manga-verse has him fighting in front of Chuutenro Tower, because his parents are its architects, and the battle is a long-distance sortie, where the time limit once more becomes the enemy. So not only is his personal history messed up, his battle is with an entirely different kind of robot.

10. Let�s spend a point on the science! Manga military tried to figure out Zearth, and only arrived at the conclusion that it was beyond their comprehension and impossible to analyse. Anime scientists figured out some program that very nearly spelled the planet�s doom. Have you noticed a trend of incompetent adults in the anime yet? It gets worse.

11. There�s a much stronger focus on corruption and greed and irrationality in the anime � especially during Machi�s battle, where they�re happy to destroy Zearth and the enemy robot at the same time. Manga adults are human beings, anime adults are Disney villains. I was waiting for someone to have a wicked stepmother after a while.

12. SPEAKING OF MACHI, HOLY SHIT. I actually really, really liked her back-story and battle in the anime � it tugged at the heart-strings, and that bit where she shot Dung Beetle was fantastic. But she doesn�t even fight in the manga! SHE GETS SHOT. IN THE HEAD! And is then in a coma, and Dung Beetle has to kill her so that they won�t lose the next fight. Soap opera writers would be green with envy at that sort of melodrama.

13. Anime-verse, the pilot is actually chosen by Dung Beetle, and later, through the collective will of the remaining pilots. Manga-verse, it�s totally random, though the order is almost the same in both versions.

Reusing a picture, I know, but how often do I get the chance to be this lazy?
Think of it as Russian Roulette, only its the chairs that are the bullets.

14. KANA. In the manga, she�s in the contract, and it�s Ushiro who isn�t. Machi isn�t in either, but that�s only because she�d still belonged to Kokopelli�s contract in the manga (Anime, how do you explain that bit where she had her hand pushed onto the contract pad now? Plot hole!). Anyhow, this twist was �mind-blowing, because the manga artist had the guts to kill the little kid. Anime-verse, Kana is the only child to survive, since there�s some completely bogus deal about the last pilot surviving.

15. There you go. In the anime, there�s a bogus deal about the last pilot who has to run the �tutorial� on the next Earth surviving as a reward. In the manga, everyone dies, so there�s no Kokopelli out there living it up still.

16. Kokopelli has some extra back-story in the anime, but it basically makes him out to being a bit of a selfish coward, and has pretty much zero impact on the story.

17. The anime had this thing where the next pilot got a tattoo somewhere on their body when they were chosen. A cosmetic difference, and an understandable one, even though Ushiro looked like some kind of weird alien when his turned up.

18. Ushiro. He gets about a dozen points all on his own. Let�s start with the anime�s completely made up back story for Tanaka and Ushiro � Tanaka�s lover was a yakuza heir. There was a whole episode dedicated to this back story, even though it didn�t have any point save to perhaps glorify and justify Tanaka's actions after her death. Manga back story just had Tanaka as a rebel teenager who fooled around, and then when she did finally sort herself out, settled down with a new family. It was the more believable scenario.

19. Tomotsu, a member of the aforementioned mafia, didn�t even exist in the manga.

20. The family Tanaka gets herself later in the manga is actually really important, yet doesn�t exist in the anime. It was a sucker-punch, Ushiro seeing evidence of his mother having another life that didn�t involve him, but more importantly, when he sees her daughter � who resembles Kana - and discovers he has a blood sister to protect, he finally joins the contract.

21. Tanaka�s death was a bit different too. She sacrificed herself in Kana�s battle, piloting an aircraft, and then after getting captured by the enemy robot, killed herself so that Kana would fight. In the anime, she was taken out in a very pedestrian fashion by the assassins after Komoda�s father.

22. There! I knew I forgot something else about Komoda. Her father is assassinated! He lives in the manga, after having pulled the trigger on the enemy pilot himself, even knowing that it will end his daughter�s life.

23. Manga-Ushiro inherits his friend Kanji�s jacket, instead of wearing the clothes Tanaka bought for him in some sort of motherly gesture in the anime.

24. Kana and Ushiro are cousins in the anime, but Ushiro is just a foster kid in the manga. Actually, Ushiro�s motivations for running away from home are far sketchier in the anime � you really get the impression that the director just didn�t get him, didn�t like him, and had no idea what to do with him. His relationship with his adopted father is quite different � in the series, his uncle was held up as some sort of pinnacle of altruism, and Ushiro really struck you as the standard stupid selfish teenager. In the manga, it goes both ways � Ushiro is still the unforgiving teenager, but it�s not baseless � he�s been unloved his whole life, treated by his adopted father as a student instead of a son, when in the end, they were really just hurting and deluding themselves.

25. In the anime, there�s also no pilgrimage at the end where Machi and Ushiro go on to tell the full story to the parents of the other pilots. Instead, you get the bit where Kana tells Daichi�s siblings (one of the few stories that didn�t really change in the transition) about it. The former made for better closure.

26. In the manga, Dung Beetle isn�t evil! Although this is maybe actually a point in the anime's favour, as Dung Beetle made a fantastic villain, but his manga version was likable too. You even get to see what he looked like as a human - and it turns out he was some sort of cross between Squall Leonhart and Touya Akira (there's a sentence I never expected to write). He�d also only been Dung Beetle for a short time � his world was the previous one, Kokopelli�s world. In the anime, he dies when Machi shoots him. In the manga, he�s the final pilot, and also dies. Stories with consequences! Aren't they amazing?

27. Ushiro�s battle. In the manga he had an audience in the cockpit instead of going solo � the reporter, the politician, and Dung Beetle. And instead of a 30-hour epic battle on his own Earth, it was an �away� battle. Oh, and because he was tricked into opening the enemy cockpit, the enemy ran away, and so Ushiro then had to kill EVERYONE on the enemy planet himself. And that was just incredible, because for the first time, the true horror of the battle set in - they've been killing six billion people every time, but in the final bout, you were forced to acknowledge it. That's when you realise that the moral event horizon has not only been smashed, but had its very existence denied.

Maybe that would be a bit tough for most timeslots.

28. Masterminds. Anime-verse hinted at some group of divine beings who masterminded the contest, primarily driven by a vision Kanji experiences when he holds the dying Anko in his arms. The manga addresses this question outright, and the matter of an overseer or 'god' is dismissed - instead, the battles are presented as a natural phenomenon.

29. There's also the matter of Zearth's fate. Ushiro destroys the robot as his final act in the anime. In the manga, it goes on to the next Earth, and we've come full circle.

30. Ushiro's final fate in the manga? After completing his battle, he becomes the next Dung Beetle.

So, as you can see, THE MANGA IS A MILLION TIMES BETTER. As opposed to the usual 100 times. Did I miss anything? The anime was still pretty great, what with a stellar cast of voice actors and one of my favourite opening sequences of all time and just generally cool animation (what I wouldn�t have given to see Ushiro�s manga battle animated!), but there�s really no contest. There just weren�t any twists on nearly the same level in the anime.

There's good news, however! Viz has just licensed the manga! I was sure it was going languish unlicensed forever and we were going to have to content ourselves with scans, but we�re in luck! Hopefully they�ll do a proper job of the translation, instead of that travesty we got with the Prince of Tennis manga.

Though now that the story is finished, there�s a great big empty hole� we need another morally grey epic to fill it.