The Good And The Bad Of Anime Remakes

The Good And The Bad Of Anime Remakes

By: Caroline MacLellan

February 11th, 2023

Most people want more of their favorite piece of media. No matter what it is, they’ll take it. But the anime community experiences the return of their favorite show more often than most fandoms ever will.

So, with the recent surge of animation studios remaking classic anime series like “Fruits Basket”, “Urusei Yatsura” and most recently, “Trigun” and “Rurouni Kenshin“, anime fans are back to discussing the good and the bad of remakes. Some anime remakes are heralded as better than their predecessors, while others, arguably, drag the series’ good name through the mud.

One of the most highly discussed remakes of all time is “Fullmetal Alchemist” and its remake “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”.

The problem with the original “Fullmetal Alchemist” (2003) anime lies in the fact that it does not follow the plotline of the source material, the “Fullmetal Alchemist” manga (Japanese black and white comic series) written by Hiromu Arakawa.

In Fullmetal Alchemist’s case, animators creating the original series had only 5 volumes of the manga to work with when creating the 2003 animation, which caused large plot divergence early on. “Fullmetal Alchemist” (2003) ultimately became its own story, simply borrowing the titular characters from Arakawa’s brainchild.

In comparison, the 2009 remake “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”  follows the manga almost perfectly. For this reason, most fans agree that it’s the better version.

While the original series fleshes out storylines and has a slightly different theme, most who favor Brotherhood argue that the original simply doesn’t tell the manga’s story well enough.

However, the fandom seems to have come to a compromise in recent years, agreeing that both versions have their strengths and weaknesses and can be equally enjoyed by different people. Most suggest that newcomers watch both series, as one fan said, “Both series [found] a place in my anime library on their own merits.”

“Fullmetal Alchemist” isn’t the only story with a remake that generated huge debate. But while the debate between Fullmetal Alchemist adaptations has people on both sides, anime series like “Berserk” (1997) and the notorious 2016 remake of the same name have fans commiserating together.

Written by Kentaro Miura in 1989, the “Berserk” manga has a legacy in the anime and manga world that will never be forgotten. While Miura recently passed away in 2021, a new author has plans to continue the unfinished “Berserk” manga. 

Though “Berserk” (1997) is nostalgic in its own right, many fans expressed their disappointment with its length of only 24 episodes. Rightfully so, since the manga had been serialized for over 8 years already. Furthermore, animation was still evolving in the 90’s, and many series from this time period have dull color palettes and clunky animation sequences.

“Berserk” (1997) certainly adheres to some of these stereotypes, while still being an enjoyable show for its time. The announcement of the 2016 “Berserk” remake/sequel gave fans hope for a modern, well-crafted version of the anime that would top all others. 

Unfortunately, fans were left disappointed by “Berserk” (2016). Fans’ real gripe with this adaptation comes down to the horrifying mixture of 3D and 2D animation styles, as well as its attempt at telling “Berserk”’s story. Not only is it “one of the ugliest anime ever made”, according to one article, a review by a fan on IMDb wrote “Any recurring characters from the original are barely recognizable, having lost the original personality traits that defined them, making [it] hard to care about them.”

For a manga that is revered as one of the greatest of all time, fans have been quite disappointed by how its anime adaptations, but especially the 2016 version, managed to destroy its intricately crafted story and characters.

Perhaps, though, there is still some hope for anime remakes. “Fruits Basket” is the pinnacle of anime remakes, largely hailed as one of the best anime series of all time. Originally airing in 2001, “Fruits Basket” is a romance anime that received a remake by the same name in 2019.

Since its debut, “Fruits Basket” (2019) has received raving reviews. In fact, on popular anime tracking websites MyAnimeList and AniList, the final season of “Fruits Basket” (2019) rolls in at #12 and #3, respectively.

What makes the “Fruits Basket” remake so well-loved and critically acclaimed is that it enhances the original story, rather than takes away from it. The original 2001 anime encountered the same issue that many other old anime series did, including “Berserk” and “Fullmetal Alchemist” – it outpaced the source material it was adapted from.

This means it left out crucial character development and information. However, most fans believe the 2019 “Fruits Basket” remake solves most of these issues. One reviewer commented on the main characters that “Fruits Basket (2019) gives Tohru, Yuki, and Kyo so much more history, nuance, and growth” compared to the 2001 iteration. 

So while the anime world has produced some horrible renditions of anime everyone knows and loves, it has also given some anime series a proper adaptation. With the success of “Fruits Basket” (2019) and other recent remakes and reboots, animation studios are taking the plunge and bringing back some other old favorites, like “Trigun” and “Rurouni Kenshin.”

Most fans hope that studios have learned from the mistakes of series like “Berserk” (2016) and instead will take inspiration from remake success stories like “Fruits Basket” (2019) and “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” (2009). That way, creators will do these beloved stories justice.

Caroline MacLellan is a junior studying Public and Professional Writing, with a minor in Japanese. In her free time, she loves watching Korean dramas, reading manga and creative writing.