Medium Matters: Mardock Scramble

When you’re looking at the structural elements of an anime or manga, sometimes it gets really complex and you can get deep into insights. In The Ancient Magus’ Bride, Chise and Elias are a complementary couple along six separate dimensions. The metaplots of Black Lagoon and Cowboy Bebop are so well disguised you have to dig deep to see them. Neon Genesis Evangelion isn’t just about love, it’s about all five kinds of love all at once.

And so on.

And sometimes it’s just too simple.

Rune Balot is a prostitute murdered by her lover and revived by WEIRD SCIENCE so she can help the police can search for her killer, a goon with supernatural powerz.

Yeah, me and supernatural powerz. I just about stopped watching when I figured that one out.

But, as it happened, it was easy to lay my hands on both the anime (three feature-length films) and manga (it was on sale at A Certain Retailer), and I picked them up because the anime was cheap and the manga was by the same woman who went on to do A Silent Voice, which is just fabulous.

The stories are largely the same between anime and manga, including the almost interminable casino sequence. I’m not sure what’s up with that, but it’s about half the plot of both, and it’s really not THAT central to either. Yes, there’s a reason they have to go to the casino; no, they don’t have to invest half the story in it.

But that’s one sign of a close adaptation: whichever medium comes second reproduces the flaws of the first.

But like I said there are a couple major differences between the two. As with a lot of manga/anime pairings, the manga’s story is deeper and more thoughtful. This is particularly true in terms of Rune’s treatment of her partner/weapon Oeufcoque. In both at one point she goes crazy using him as a weapon despite the fact that he can be damaged by that. Blood lust overcomes her, and that’s consistent across media.


Rune (left). Ouefcoque is manifesting as a weapon.

In the anime it’s “What? Oh, sorry,” and off to the next adventure. It’s ANIME. The action has to keep MOVING. (Moving pictures, right?) But in the manga Rune is repulsed by her own behavior, torn internally by what she has done to her friend, and there is a lengthy sequence where she has to reconcile her feelings with her actions. Manga is deeper and more thoughtful. There’s time to explore feelings and morality and such.

And like I said, sometimes it’s easy.

The anime was directed by a man, and in it Rune is frequently nude.

The manga was drawn by a woman, and in it Rune is never nude.

Now, we’ve got two dimensions of difference going on here and I’m not sure we can tease them apart. We certainly can’t with only one adaptation. (Mathematically speaking, we have too few Degrees of Freedom in our data to do that.) (Bet you didn’t know I spoke math, did you?)

But we’ve got:


				Male		Female
		Manga				Not nude
		Anime		Nude


Now you see the problem, right? Before we can break it down by creator and medium we need a male mangaka and a female director to tell this story, too.

How many female anime directors are there? Can’t be a lot…

ANYWAY: We know that anime is an action medium and manga is a concept medium…No, not entirely, but that’s what they do best.

What’s the key to action? Eyes on screen. Get attention, keep attention.

What’s the key to concept? Engage brain. Pile idea on idea.

So, if you assume the audience is teenaged males, what’s a way to get them to keep their eyes on the screen? Yep, Rune’s goodies.

But the manga doesn’t need that. Look, this is key: When you’re making a TV show, eyes on screen is critical. That’s what advertisers pay for, baby.

When you buy a manga, though, you’ve already paid for it! No one cares whether you actually read the damned thing because they already have your money!!

That doesn’t mean the manga can’t or shouldn’t deploy nudity, particularly if it’s plot-driven; it’s just that the nature of the medium is that it has less impact. Let’s be honest, if you pick up Playboy to look at the pictures, you’re not reading the articles.

Now, I happen to think the male/female creator distinction is more important than the medium distinction, but that’s just my opinion. It’s an opinion that is probably empirically testable, and if I’m wrong I’m wrong. That’s okay. On this one I’m willing to be wrong. Heck, I’m willing to be wrong on most of them.

Medium or gender? Could be either. But medium matters anyway.

I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.

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