I’m a guy who likes adaptations. I think observing the change of a work from media into another can bring out its greatest strengths and/or failures. That’s part of why I love anime, a culture full of hardly anything but adaptations. Unfortunately there is one type of anime-to-manga adaptation that I cannot stand, ones which use stills strait from the movie, and just organize them into panels with speech bubbles thrown in. Today on The Anime Harvest, we look at one of the better examples of these with the manga adaptation of Kiki’s Delivery Service.
Let’s start with the best part, this is still Kiki’s Delivery Service, meaning it still has the same wonderful story. This isn’t a review, so I won’t go into detail, but I think a brief synopsis is warranted. Kiki is a 13-year-old witch who, like all young witches, must leave home to train for one month. She leaves earlier than planned so she can enjoy the full moon on a clear night, as she travels to the city of Koriko. There she uses her ability to fly to start a delivery service, and then she struggle, but she learns some kind of lesson from it all, supposedly. The point is, it’s a really charming story, and the manga doesn’t kill that, but it does diminish it.
There’s a certain pace to animation that only works with the benefits of animation; movement and fluidity. And this is the ultimate flaw of this manga style. All the frames are intended of a moving pace, and must instead be read in static pacing.
Near the beginning of the manga, there is a scene where Kiki tells her mother that she wants to leave for her training that night. Most of the problems in the entire manga are visible in this scene. Speech bubbles belong to characters off screen, because they’re supposed to be identifiable by voices. The amount of time in between panels is inconsistent, because they’re selected for differentiation. And at the end of the scene there’s supposed to be a joke where Kiki’s mother has a potion bust into smoke, but in the manga there’s no burst; it goes from her mother holding a beaker, to her mother coated in smoke. It takes a minute to figure out there was even supposed to be a joke there, and that ruins the humor.
In the film there were long sequences of Kiki flying. These scenes provided a sense of magic, appropriate for a family movie about a young witch, but that magic relies on the feeling of weight, speed, and wind. Manga can convey this, but in very different ways; that is the art of adaptation.
Despite the style of manga this is though, it is actually done well, or as well as it can be done. Comedy, speech bubbles, and done lend themselves to it, but the art is still beautiful, and carefully selected frames can get the message across in most scenes. For example, when Kiki is looking around outside a window; because the background is constant location and movement isn’t a problem, there are few if any speech bubbles to worry about, and two frames can easily convey the whole event by just showing her looking in two different directions. For there, the quality of the original films art can take over and make it look beautiful. And the manga also has the benefit of being in full colour.
These types of scenes don’t better by being in the manga format, but they lose hardly anything by it. While I still think what we got is inferior to a uniquely drawn, original manga based on the same story as the film (like the wonderful Nuasicaa manga), the Kiki manga is very good for what it is. It’s a breed of manga I’d rather not see at all, but if we’re not going to get a real one, it’s worth having for fans.
Don’t Lose Your Way