Japan is often considered the animation capital of the world, yet many of the country's most famous works originated in the 2D literary format known as manga. Every year, hundreds of fantastic manga series are optioned as new TV series and movies by Japanese animation studios. Some become popular multimedia franchises, whereas others become dust in the wind. While it's more common to see a famous manga inspire an anime adaptation, the reverse also occurs more than you might expect, and there are plenty of great manga that started as anime.
Manga is more than just a stepping stone for the next big anime hit. Many manga based on anime are used to expand upon the story established by the original series, creating additional content for fans to enjoy. If you only watched the anime, then you're not getting the full picture.
Multiple decades have passed since Cowboy Bebop graced the Japanese airwaves with its too-cool-for-school presence, yet fans of the psychedelic sci-fi series are still struggling to "carry the weight" of its bittersweet finale. For anyone yearning for more bounty hunting adventures with the Bebop crew, there are two original manga series worth checking out. The first is Cowboy Bebop: Shooting Star, which actually predates the premiere of the series by several months. Shooting Star tells several stories about the Bebop crew that never made it to the anime, and the whole run is contained in two volumes.
The second series, simply titled Cowboy Bebop, came out just after the anime and is three volumes long. Tonally, it's more similar to the TV show than Shooting Star is, but it also contains a bunch of new, self-contained stories.
Kill la Kill wouldn't be Kill la Kill without its outrageous animation, but the manga adaptation comes incredibly close to matching the intensity of the show. Illustrated by Ryou Akizuki, the Kill la Kill manga follows the same story beats as the anime, but features some noticeable differences in certain scenes and character designs. The manga was serialized in December of 2013, and ended on February 4, 2015; there are 17 chapters in total.
The manga version of the 2009 film Summer Wars is a perfect example of how a written adaptation can shed new light on a beloved anime. Summer Wars is a breathtaking animated movie that explores the role technology has on people's public and private lives. While the love story between Kenji Koiso and Natsuki Shinohara drives the animated movie, the digital world of OZ takes up most of the screen time.
In contrast to this, the two-volume manga adaptation succeeds by strengthening the romantic core of the film. The manga version of Summer Wars expands on the characters' relationships by offering a prologue and epilogue to their lives, and by adding inner monologues for the characters, so the reader has a better grasp on Kenji's and Natsuki's feeling for one another. It's a wonderful alternative look at the feature film.
The manga adaptation of Wolf Children elaborates on the family drama about a single human mother raising two magical wolf children on her own. Despite the supernatural premise, Wolf Children: Ame & Yuki succeeds in presenting a relatable tale about the ups and downs of parenting. Spanning three volumes, the manga emboldens many of the movie's emotional beats, without betraying the plot of the film. It's a recommended companion piece for anyone who fell in love with the movie.