When I first saw the Bokurano anime last year it quickly became one of my all time favorite series. The character interactions, the reactions that everybody had to an impossible situation, and the ending especially — just plain beautiful. Difficult and painful to watch, but beautiful.
I also heard all about how the original manga author, one Mohiro Kitoh (who started the series years before the anime based off of it was made), threw a hissy fit because the anime director alledgedly wanted to change some of the story elements to give the series a purportedly (and relatively) happy ending... This turned out to be utter bullshit, and the conclusion to the anime ended up being one of its strongest and most heart-wrenching elements. At this point I brushed off the manga author's voice in the matter as that of a crybaby who knew that the anime adaption was going to end better than his still incomplete hand-drawn saga. I planned to never read the manga to find out if this was true or not; I simply wanted to savor the awesomeness that was the anime interpretation in my head as the only TRUE Bokurano story. But then my readers spoke.
Well, "spoke" may not be the best term to use. My readers instead "bugged the ever living shit out of me" to get me to agree to read the (apparently "vastly superior") manga version of the story when it came to its completion (which as of this writing was just a little over a month ago). Remembering my love of the anime, and knowing that most TV series based on books or comics tend to be inferior in most every way to their predecessors, I changed my mind and began getting my hopes up that the Bokurano manga would suck me off and play with my balls in pleasurable ways that I never thought possible, and make its copycat anime pale in comparison, like a fat, emo, goth Twilight-cunt standing next to a hot and perky varsity cheerleader. But alas, that was not the case.
First, let me give you a quick rundown of the plot: 15 middle school kids on a science camp trip to the seashore come across some creepy-looking guy in a cave filled with computers and monitors who claims to have created a fantastic new video game that he needs some beta-testers for. The kids agree to be those testers instead of running to tell the cops (god bless the naivety of the Japanese youth... he didn't even have to offer them free candy or an ice-cream cone), and then shit falls from the sky in the form of two 500-meter tall robots that appear just a few hundred feet off shore. It turns out that what these punks just got themselves involved in isn't really a game, and the tragedy begins almost immidiately as the15 children are all teleported into the cockpit of one of the behemoths and told by the creepy cave guy (who calls himself Kokopelli) that there will be 15 enemy robots attacking the Earth (one at a time), after this one that they're facing now (which Kokopelli goes on to defeat), and that each of the children will have their chance to pilot the skyscraper-sized robot (which they call Zearth) against the upcoming invaders. Yay! The kids think it's all fun and games (despite the fact that thousands of innocent people die during each battle) until they find out that the Zearth is powered by the lifeforce of its pilot. Once faced with their own impending mortality the kids all begin acting and thinking very differently from each other, and this is the primary function of the story: it's a character study in the same vein as the first few seasons of Lost. It's kind of like Lord of the Flies meets Gundam, but with a creepy, sarcastic, evil and floating mouse head called Dung Beetle as their guide through the terror that they're forced to face. There's lots of twists and turns all the waythrough to the end of this thing, but I won't go into them here... Instead I'll talk about the differences between the two incarnations as generally as I can.
The first 2/3rds of the manga are replicated almost perfectly in the anime, only the anime takes its time with the more dramatic elements and moments, and actually makes the countries of the world's reactions bigger and more realistic (in relation to all the bizarre world-ending shit going on in the narrative). The manga focuses mainly on the children's plight, which makes sense when stated like that, but when the author foresakes answering some burning questions — like the workings of real-world politics and reasons behind certain big choices made throughout the saga — it makes this thing feel half-assed and incomplete. You actually WANT to know the why's and hows of how the governments would really treat such a threat such as these giant monsters just appearing and stomping their cities to the ground. In leaving this stuff out the author makes it look like he himself doesn't know the answers and he's just blowing past the problem areas in the hopes that the reader will forget the gaps in his plot too, and it ends up hurting the tale. Yeah, it's good to dive into the children's minds slightly more in print than the TV adaption did, but it's not like the anime series completely ignored the workings of their confuzzled and fucked up minds — on the contrary, I'd even argue that the last 1/3rd of the anime did an even better job at portraying their psychoses than the manga. I was much more emotionally involved with the remaining survivors of the final third of the anime version than the comic. The anime just seemed much bigger in scope and the situation more dire too.
The anime also had a bunch of added elements throughout it that vastly enhanced the breadth of the story. Jesus, this sucks that I can't openly discuss them without totally ruining some key plot points (you really should just go into this story completely naked of any expectations... and then send me pictures), but there's one very emotional scene in the anime where we see all the stars in the heavens blink out. That wasn't in the manga, yet it really added to the pressure that the kids faced, and made their choices that much more unbearable. The weight that they have pressing down on them constantly was clearly visualized in that one small scene. And there are about a dozen scenes added in the first 2/3rds of the anime that pull the same emotional punch.
The manga had a lot more philosophy slung around like a shit-flinging contest too, and it wasn't at all welcome.... Honestly, several 30-page chapters in a row dedicated to some of the characters overly contemplating their place in the universe and the importance of "life" was a bit too much. This may have been interesting if they really dove into it, but they just continue to beat around the same bush, shoving only one or two questions (and no real answers) down the readers' throats. It's just annoying. You simply want to yell at the losers at the center of it, "Man up, ya nancy! Kill them, or your entire world is GONE. You don't even hate your world or yourself all that much, so why can't you defend it?!"
Though what I was most interested in in my comparison between the two was how differently the anime wrapped things up compared to the manga. The manga was only like 2/3rds complete when the anime aired, and typically this is NEVER a good thing for the televized production (COUGH) Fullmetal Alchemist (COUGH) GANTZ (COUGH) — meaning that people who didn't come up with the original idea and characters and plotline of the story had to end it for their alternate version... These anime endings typically have NOTHING in common with how the manga author planned to finish things from the very beginning, and typically anime people tend to be on a whole lot more drugs than the original creators. Honestly, because of just how far (and shittily) FMA veered from its original mission statement in the anime, I find myself skeptical for life over non-complete manga-turned anime projects. Well, guess what happened with Bokurano... And if you can't, give me a little bit more time; I'll get to it. But before I do I'll explain the lead up to and how both iterations handled their finales.
In its last third, the anime just kept building up steam, and had the remaining characters fall under different threats other than just enemy robots. There was life outside of their mission to save the world. The manga is much smaller comparitively. In fact it's so small that it really feels like the world doesn't give much of a shit about all the giant robot attacks and the possibility that these kids (and the universe) may die any day now. Then, the manga pretty much stops dead in its tracks as the last two kids go around telling the remaining family members of their fellow Zearth pilots what happened to them and how they died. This was a fairly emotional subplot, and it led to one of the most chilling points of the whole story (with that Chinese midget spy dressing like a child... No, that's not a joke), but it just STOPPED the entire narrative in its tracks. The reader hit a brick wall and I personally found it hard to get back into things for the final few battles (which were incredibly rushed too, adding even more annoyance to my already aggravated mindset).
The anime's ending felt complete. It was just as sad as the manga... Fuck, it was MORE sad, yet still more fulfilling. The anime people gave everybody a fantastic final bow, and their reason for why these battles take place was much less retarded than the manga. In the manga we're led to believe that these super-science, hyper powerful, universe ending robots and their missions are a "natural part of the universe." What?! Did the manga author seriously try to pull a Gunbuster there? It just felt... dumb. The anime had an alternate reason for all this shit going down, and while still a little goofy, it made a shit-ton more sense, and I accepted it (mostly 'cause of what it allowed the final pilot to do in his last battle). The manga's ending simply felt like we were missing a huge chunk of the full story. The anime felt like we'd seen everything we needed to. If you want to see what's so great about Bokurano, just watch the anime.
Those Japanezey people come up with some weird shit sometimes. This Bokurano stuff takes the damn cake though. Mothafuckas...
Yeah, I done saw the anime first, and I pretty much agree with the Rossman on his take of things, so I won't get into all that shit again and make you read the same shit twice in a row. I will talk about some strange fuck that I noticed in the manga though that just made me wonder.
First of all, despite the manga author bitchin' and whinin' about how lame the anime version was when that shit first came out, the anime folks had more of a complete understanding of what real tension is in their work. You could FEEL the mothafuckin' tension in the anime; that shit was palpable. I'm guessin' that's why that manga-ka guy was so pissed off about things: he knew he was being outshone on his own intellectual property, and he was pissed, yet too impotent to do anything about it other than try to slam the copy which was going to be superior to his own mothafuckin' shit.
What probably surprised this mothafucka the most about the manga was how much was the same though -- especially in regards to character relationships. Really, I would have sworn to Christ that Misumi Tanaka's anime connection to the main plot was completely made up for that version alone... Nope. Misumi really is that "in deep" with everything from the start in the manga too. And that demonic Dung Beetle's relationship with one of the pilots was the same too... Obviously the manga-ka had to have told the anime people his plans for these characters ahead of his own manga storyline for them to get them in the series so long before he covered the same events in his text -- meaning that he was still on good terms with the anime director and writers long into production (completely shooting down the story that he was angry that they were changing things without his knowledge). Personally, holmes, I believe that Mr. Dickless Manga Guy worked with the anime people, and when he saw what they planned to do with his characters and plot points he decided to rip them off himself. That's why his ending just seems so tacked on: it wasn't his original idea, but it was better than what he had first planned to do (but still didn't float along with his outline, though he didn't seem to care much). Fuck that mothafucka!
Okay, yeah, that original Bakaranew was pretty depressing, but this comic version was even worse. I've been told that the dude who made this series also drew something called Narutaru, and everybody says that the manga version of that one is even more depressing than Bakunamu, and that... well holy fucking shit, that's gotta be something on par with Grave of the Fireflies. And if that's the case, then noooooo thank you. I could only watch 5 minutes of Grave at a time or else I'd try to break a mirror and slice my wrists up with the glass.
Oh, and one thing that I just didn't understand in the Bokurano comic was when Dung Beetle had his sister appear in front of Ushiro like that in the end... He gave a speech about there being doubles on some planets, but if she was a double, then where the fuck was she up till this point? Seriously, that made no fucking sense whatsoever. I think that this comic writer just HATES kids is all. Anything he can do to them physically (like MELTING THEIR LEGS OFF WITH ACID) and mentally (like KILLING THEIR LITTLE SISTERS AND BIOLOGICAL MOTHERS RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM) seems like fair game. Really, old Mr. Crenshaw on Mitchell Bridge Rd hates kids less, and he's got one of the neighborhood punks' heads on a stake in his front yard as a ward against the rest of them.