Top 10 Faithful Anime Adaptations of Manga

Script Written by Garrett Alden These anime stuck close to their roots. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Faithful Anime Adaptations of Manga. For this list, we’ll be taking into account how well the following anime captured their manga’s plot, story, themes, art style and tone. We are also going to be pretty harsh on series that, while staying true to the manga, end up doing that most frustrating aspect of manga adaptations: filler. Yes, we're looking at you Naruto. Special thanks to our user Ashjbow for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool: WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script Written by Garrett Alden

Top 10 Faithful Anime Adaptations of Manga


These anime stuck close to their roots. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 most faithful anime adaptations of manga.

For this list, we’ll be taking into account how well the following anime captured their manga’s plot, story, themes, art style and tone. We are also going to be pretty harsh on series that, while staying true to the manga, end up doing that most frustrating aspect of manga adaptations: filler. Yes, we're looking at you Nauto.

#10: “Dragon Ball Z Kai” (2009-15)

Anyone at all familiar with the original “Dragon Ball Z” anime is probably also aware of its greatest criticism – it moves at aw snail’s pace. Thankfully, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” managed to correct this flaw. Since it came out over ten years after the manga stopped publication, there was no need to prolong the series, so “Kai” is a much more authentic depiction of Akira Toriyama’s “Dragon Ball.” Unfortunately, the animation was not markedly improved in the twenty years since the first anime aired, aside from the intros, nor were many of the roles re-voiced (though the original cast was excellent); otherwise this entry might have been higher on our list.

#9: “Hunter x Hunter” (2011-14)

This series’ first adaptation aired in 1999, a mere year after its manga began publication. Rather than pad itself out the way Dragon Ball Z did, Hunter x Hunter’s first anime merely stopped, resuming a few years later with some OVAs. However, the 2011 adaptation, instead of continuing the established continuity of that first series, chose to restart it completely with a better animation budget. This gave the manga a chance to catch up and creator Yoshihiro Togashi, who is prone to illness-induced hiatuses, time to wrap up the plot threads introduced in the anime’s long-running penultimate arc. The manga is still running, albeit haltingly, so who knows if, and when, another adaptation will be on the horizon.

#8: “Hellsing Ultimate” (2006-12)

In another case of premature adaptation, the manga “Hellsing” received an anime the same year it was created, forcing it to close out with a non-canon ending. In an uncommon move, the next adaptation “Hellsing Ultimate” was a series of ten OVAs, averaging about an hour long, with each roughly corresponding to the manga’s ten compiled volumes. Because they were not aired on television, this allowed the series’ characteristic violence and gore to remain unchanged by executive meddling; meaning that not only was the plot more accurate, but the details of the plot’s events were too. This format also allows for a better animation budget, when compared to a weekly show.

#7: “Bakuman” (2010-13)

Appropriately enough, our next entry is an anime about a pair of rookie manga creators, a writer and an artist, whose ultimate goal is to create a manga successful enough to become an anime. Unlike the previous entries, “Bakuman” aired in three distinct seasons, which, while a common format in the West, is relatively uncommon in Japan, due to fierce competition for timeslots. The animation is true to the art of the manga, which, given that the story follows the lives of manga writers and artists, can vary wildly between scenes, especially when portraying the fictional manga within the series. The characters are also quite well cast, with most of the selected voices matching their roles to a tee.

#6: “Parasyte -the maxim-“ (2014-15)

As we’ve already demonstrated, it helps to wait a while before animating a manga. Still, nearly twenty years, which is how long it took “Parasyte” to reach the screen, is one of the longer waits on our list. Apart from toning down the blood and gore, which is a pretty standard course when airing anything on TV, as well as an updated setting with present-day technology, “Parasyte - the maxim-“ retains a lot from its source material; recreating several standout moments, such as the infamous face-splitter decapitation scene, with great accuracy.

#5: “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” (2009-10)

Like several earlier entries, this series is the second version of its manga to be adapted to anime form. Although the first anime was well-received and fantastic in it’s own right, it had to close out it’s story before the manga got that far. It wasn’t until “Brotherhood” that fans were treated to the manga’s intended conclusion, along with improved animation. That’s not to say it’s a perfect adaptation though, as parts of early series are glossed over or accelerated, likely to reach the point where the plot diverges from the first anime more quickly. Even so, “Brotherhood” is as great an adaptation as you could hope for… with a few exceptions.

#4: “Kuroko no Basket” a.k.a. “Kuroko’s Basketball” (2012-)

This battle-style basketball series, like “Bakuman,” was aired in seasons due to its manga still being in progress during part of its broadcast; ending its publication run in 2014. The anime follows the manga well for the most part, translating the series’ exaggerated, “special move”-based depiction of the sport faithfully, using some truly impressive animation. Though it does do away with some of the slower chapters present in the manga. Regardless, all the main plot points were hit and the overall themes and tone of the manga are brought to live in this fantastic adaptation.

#3: “Mushishi” (2005-06, 2014)

A supernatural detective series of sorts set in a fictionalized version of 19th century Japan, “Mushishi” has one distinct advantage that made it ideal for translating it to another medium. Namely, its episodic nature. Because the main character, Ginko, is something of a wanderer, his adventures are usually self-contained; allowing the people behind the anime to change the order in which he has them, without affecting the overall story unduly. While that may seem like a large alteration, the anime makes up for it by recreating scenes with great accuracy, as well as capturing, and in some cases improving on, the enchanting atmosphere established in the manga.


#2: “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure” series (2012-)

While there have been a few adaptations of this long-running anthology manga over its thirty years of publication, it’s only since 2012 that animators have really captured the essence of “JJBA.” Beginning with the animated version of its first subseries “Phantom Blood,” the “JoJo’s” anime have been incredibly stylized, using interesting, contrasting color schemes. More importantly, the animation has kept so close to creator Hirohiko Araki’s art style that during moments of importance, usually when someone performs some kind of attack, written sound effects are shown onscreen; truly giving the impression that you’re watching a manga in motion. Ora ora ora ora ora ora ora!

Before we reveal our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

“Cross Game” (2009-10)

“Space Brothers” (2012-14)

“One-Punch Man” (2015-)

#1: “Monster” (2004-05)

It was a tough choice between this and our number two, but we had to give the edge to this psychological thriller series. Right off the bat, the fact that the anime began several years after the manga ended puts it at an advantage over most other adaptations. Usually that’s a little dangerous, as the anime creator’s often feel the need to take liberties with the source material. However, what really seals the deal is the shot for shot recreation of a majority of the manga’s panels onscreen. While it doesn’t go as far as to include visual sound effects like “JoJo’s,” “Monster”’s more realistic style lends itself better to jump between mediums.


Do you agree with our list? Which anime do you think stuck closest to the manga? For more “true to source” Top 10s posted daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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