Most cartoons in the industry are based on manga, a base text to work from to help create that story in a new medium: animation. But what happens when there is no source manga or other medium to draw from? Viewers are getting original anime, and it’s more common than you might think.
One particular genre that has excelled in this area is psychological anime such as death parade, Haibane Renmei and Wonder Egg Priority. These dark shows actually benefit from having little to no source material, as it gives creators the freedom to experiment both visually and story-wise.
A great example is death parade, a psychological thriller anime. Instead of relying on written sources, death parade came from another original anime short with the same basic concept called billiards of death. The notion of death parade is that when people die they are sent to bars in the afterlife which are run by bartenders who act as arbiters of their final fate. To decide this fate, recently deceased people must participate in death games to show their true selves so that the arbiter can decide whether they go to heaven (reincarnate) or hell (the void).
An important factor in being an anime original is that the series can do whatever it wants visually and experiment with technique and style, especially with new technologies that have become more widely available. Although death parade in particular has the style of the short film to draw inspiration from, that doesn’t mean he can’t experiment too. The series uses computer-generated assets alongside the more traditional flat style of animation, especially in death games.
A good example of this is in Episode 3, “Rolling Ballad”, where the game is a ten pin bowling match. However, instead of normal balls, the balls have the other’s heart inside, so when the person holds the ball, they can feel what the other is feeling. The balls are animated to be colorful, fluid and dynamic, catching viewers’ attention as they walk down the aisle as if it were a real game. Most of the main bar is dark, the theme The main color being purple, but the games still have nice splashes of color with a stained glass-like visual theme.
Now on Haibane Renmeior as it is also called, Charcoal Feather Russian. To like death parade, this psychological anime has no source manga; instead, the series was inspired by a short doujinshi of the same name by Yoshitoshi Abe. The plot is dense and the world-building complex, making it difficult to summarize quickly. In fact, that’s the positive side of not having a direct manga to adapt: there’s no content bottleneck. Since there is no manga to follow, it also means that there is no problem with the anime overshooting the pace of the manga and suddenly having to represent the original content without the guidance of the manga.
It also means that there are no filler episodes in the series, so everything put into the season is there for a reason. That kind of freedom to create and not follow an established series is what gives Haibane Renmei its rich history and its world. Haibane Renmei follows the main character Rakka as she enters this new world in a cocoon – an ash-winged angel. She needs to understand a lot about life and herself, as well as her world, acceptance, identity, and purpose, among other important topics. Although only 13 episodes, the series covers a lot of ground.
The last show, and perhaps the strangest of the three in some ways, is Wonder Egg Priority. It is the only title of those listed here that is completely original, and it is therefore the one with the most freedom. The final reason the original anime can shine is that it can basically do whatever it wants. The show’s creators can adapt the show to the animation medium, using any tricks they can think of, rather than sticking to a style of just any 2D source material.
It means the story of Wonder Egg Priority becomes quite fantastic. The story follows protagonist Ai Oto after the suicide of her best friend. In desperation, she is called to the machine “Wonder Egg”, which will give her what she desires most: a friend. Humans hatch from eggs and it’s Ai’s job to protect them from their deepest traumas. Along with this odd concept comes a lot of interesting and sometimes gory and dark imagery, with great fight scenes and monsters best captured in the middle of animation. The show goes wacky and colorful as well as dark and reserved – everything the showrunners need – with the ability to literally make anything happen.
Although the three shows above are all darker and more psychological than many other anime, these reasons why the shows flourish can apply to any original anime. Whether it’s the visual impact of death paradethe complexity and intrigue jam-packed with Haibane Renmei or the total freedom of Wonder Egg Priority, these are all great original works. While it’s often a treat for fans to see their favorite manga series adapted for the screen, it can be equally wonderful to see an original work come to fruition and test the limits of the medium of animation.
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