I'm head over heels in love with the anime
and I'd heard it was a hugely abbreviated version of the manga, so I bought the latter too. It's true. I loved both, but the anime
throws out huge chunks of the manga, including major characters. Well, it's only a 13-episode anime. Theoretically that's well over a hundred pages per episode, although as it happened the manga hadn't quite finished when it aired.
Before I go into more detail, though, a quick summary.
Seiji Sawamura is a hooligan with a hair-trigger fuse and a right hook that can take down professional boxers. He's also so desperate for a girlfriend that you could put a gorilla in a skirt and he'd be asking it out on a date. Strike rate: zero.
Midori Kasugano has had a crush on Seiji for three years, but has never been able to find the courage even to speak to him. He doesn't know she exists. One day, though, Midori wakes up to find that she's now Seiji's right hand. (Seriously. She's about six inches high and only exists from the waist up.) Seiji is appalled, but Midori is on cloud nine. Fate has compensated for her lack of courage. She can now run his life and only surgery could separate them!
done as a romantic comedy. (Does its premise sound like nightmare fuel to you? If so, you're not alone.) I wouldn't love it so much if it didn't have emotional depth, including the fact that Midori is hiding from reality and hurting the people who love her. (Her real body is asleep and won't wake up.) However, as a comedy, at times it's hysterical. Reading this on the plane and trying not to wake up people who were sleeping nearby, one chapter had me laughing so hard that I was wiping tears from my eyes. Kazurou Inoue's art style is supple, but he'll often slip into a gag cartoon mode that can deliver punchlines like nobody's business.
I also love the themes. The most important one involves communication. People can't bring themselves to talk to each other, e.g. Midori and Seiji to each other, Ayase (oh God, Ayase) to Seiji, etc. The basis of the entire story is Midori being unable to confess to Seiji when she's in her real body. However there are other themes too, including:
(a) fleeing from reality, including but not limited to otaku, both male (Takamizawa) and female (Asano), who prefer fictional characters to people.
(b) relationships and thinking of the future
(d) saying goodbye
Then we have the character development. Midori's big change happened before we met her, although it takes us a while to realise, but the transformation in Seiji is even more profound.
I'll now return to comparing the manga and anime.
In short, the anime
discards filler. The manga spreads itself a bit thinly with peripheral characters (some annoying) and one-off comedy chapters that are fun but dispensable. Even volume 7 still has chapters like 69 (battle baseball) and 70 (karate dojo). The anime has a stronger thematic focus than the manga... until the latter's closing stretch. The last fifteen chapters bring everyone's stories to their right and proper conclusions, all reflecting on each other thematically and some of them emotionally powerful. I was shattered by the last five chapters. In a good way, I hasten to say. The conclusion comes close to being bittersweet, which gives it its force, but I approve of what happens to everyone and we do get a happy, romantic ending.
It's interesting to look at which manga chapters get adapted, I think.
- Ep.1 = chapter 1
- Ep.2 = chapters 2-4
- Ep.3 = chapters 6,14 (big sister)
- Ep.4 = chapters 5,18,35,42 (Takamizawa)
- Ep.5 = chapters 7,9,16
- Ep.6 = chapters 8,19,27 (Shiori)
- Ep.7 = chapters 8,22,42 (Ayase)
- Ep.8 = original (body-swap, including some important conversations)
- Ep.9 = chapters 38,46,57 (Takamizawa)
- Ep.10 = chapters 10,20-21 (Kouta)
- Ep.11 = chapters 11,17 (Kouta)
- Ep.12 = half original, but with material from chapters 11,31
- Ep.13 = original
So that's manga chapters 1-11,14,16-22,27,31,35,38,42,46,57 out of 86. Everything from volume 1 is in there, plus most of volume 2. After that it gets spotty, only partly because the manga-only characters have started showing up. (Maybe one day we'll get a longer, more complete Midori Days anime? Well, I can hope.)
The manga also suffered a little (for me) from its chapters being simpler and thinner than I'd expected. The anime was carefully weaving multiple story strands, so for instance almost everyone appears in ep.1 and Ayase gets at least a few minutes' business in almost every episode. The manga, on the other hand, is mostly made up of disconnected chapters that focus only on that week's characters and ignore everyone else. It's bitty. There are occasional two-parters, but even those are rare.
Oh, and the manga can verge on harem territory. Ayase and Midori both being in love with Seiji doesn't count, because they're almost in different universes. However things can temporarily get harem-like when a third rival shows up in the manga (e.g. Lucy).
That said, until their conclusions we're basically talking about the same story. The anime's more streamlined, but only at the end do they diverge significantly. The crucial difference is in Midori's reasons for returning to her body. Anime-Midori decides that it's not enough just being Seiji's right hand and that she's essentially living a lie, whereas Manga-Midori understands that she wants to stay this way for ever and is being forced to confront more profound reasons for returning. She's been with Seiji for far longer than her anime equivalent, after all, at least in terms of storytelling water under the bridge.
Meanwhile Anime-Seiji hasn't resolved his feelings for Midori and is closer to still being the thug he was before she turned up. He suddenly has more to confront inside himself, whereas Manga-Seiji had had more to confront previously.
Going through the supporting cast...
Takako Ayase... well, there's no comparison. The anime does pretty well, considering, but it can't match the manga for sheer weight of storytelling. Might a quarter of the manga be hers? Let me check. Yes, I count eighteen Ayase chapters, plus another dozen with significant cameos. At first she's sympathetic and trying so hard that your heart bleeds for her, but that gradually gets worn down by her endless failures through her own stupid fault. Her main obstacle is herself. Yet still she keeps trying and trying, until she breaks through the Idiot Comedy Character wall and becomes a character who's saying something important through her sheer persistence. The conclusion of her story destroyed me.
The most tragic irony? If she'd been able to confess at the start of the story rather than the end, she'd have won "anything in a skirt" Seiji in a heartbeat. Thank goodness no one ever told her that, though. If they had, I think she'd have broken.
Kouta Shingyoji - barely developed in the anime
, but in the manga he's quite a complicated little weirdo. He's a childhood friend of Midori's and basically useless except as a moral compass. He develops a gay crush on Seiji (often played for comedy), but that's secondary to his genuine concern for Midori, his hero-worship of Seiji, his unhappiness about his own limitations and (to his horror) his harem. No, seriously. A gang of female thugs decide that he's the cutest thing in the world and become his unwanted stalkers, regularly kidnapping him to dress him in drag. (Note that, thematically, this is a reflection of Takamizawa making clothes for his dolls.) How all this comes together in chapters 78-79 is, I think, brilliant.
Rin (Seiji's demonic big sister), Miyahara (semi-hooligan who hero-worships Seiji), Takamizawa (otaku with misplaced personal boundaries), Shiori (ten-year-old girl with VERY misplaced personal boundaries), Midori's mother Haruka - all the same, except that in the manga their stories are given endings.
We've now reached the manga-only characters.
Lucy Winladd is a dumb American, whose self-styled boyfriend Daniel McBain is dumb, American and racist. (Thankfully he only appears once.) My gratitude is boundless for the anime
ignoring these characters, because American characters in anime make you want to shoot your television. Lucy's nearly a waste of space, but her departure in volume 7 makes up for everything. (I mean that in a good way. Those chapters are powerful.)
(In fairness, though, the manga isn't only being rude about Americans. There's also that Native American shaman, who's the only person with a clue about Midori.)
Shiro Makinoha nearly killed the manga for me. He's a scientist whose idea of furthering science is to chase Seiji and Midori with a chainsaw. What's annoying is that I was quite interested in him doing a proper scientific investigation of Midori, with that X-ray being particularly suggestive. Gyaaah. I couldn't stand him.
Nao Makinoha (his daughter) is nearly as cartoonish, albeit in different ways. She's more tolerable, though, and in time I came almost to like her. Still a drag factor, though.
Yukina Asano (Seiji's first love) - fantastic.
Miku Nekobe (leader of Kouta's fan club) - also great.
Hisashi Sakisaka (Rin's boyfriend), Rina Kamaki (school president or something) - meah.
Which is better, the anime
or the manga? Both, I think, in different ways. The manga has problems and it's capable of flailing all over the place, but it comes together in the later volumes with strong emotional and thematic work. Volume 3 is weak. Volume 8 is a masterpiece. It has fuller character development, obviously. It's also very funny. This is important! Seiji and Midori are endlessly entertaining, given Seiji's blue touchpaper fuse and Midori's endless potential for "up and at 'em" genki-ness. (She's also cleverer than Seiji, although that's not hard.)
Love it. Delighted to have bought it.