“Read the Manga” Endings and the Failure of Adaptations
I remember the first time I sat down to watch the show Btooom! It had peaked my interest after reading the plot description, so I opened up my laptop and began watching. By the last episode, I was hyped. The show up until that point had a great story, solid pacing, and looked as if it were going to come to a decent conclusion. Except, it didn’t. My hopes were dashed as soon as the credits rolled and the two main characters were left still stranded on the island with a helicopter floating above their head.
This failure, now more commonly referred to as “read the manga” endings, have not only ruined what were otherwise great shows but have now become commonplace in an industry that is known for its unpredictability of sequels. Why provide a concrete ending to a show we could potentially make more money off of?
This isn’t just a problem in anime either, although it is widespread throughout the industry. In fact, this same problem exists within American movies as well. Movies that are otherwise finished and don’t necessarily need more worldbuilding get sequels, whereas ones that desperately need more detail are left unfinished. This is of course because it is a much safer bet to produce a sequel to an already popular franchise then it is to take a risk on a new title.
But this is where the capitalist elements of both industries fail. The need to maintain a profit promotes the ability to expand on an already existing property, and because of that writers leave space open to continue a story even if it does not need to be continued.
This is the failure of the modern anime adaptation as we know it today. Instead of trusting in the audience to be satisfied with a self-contained story, the industry manipulates the source material and writes a story that they know they will not finish in the hopes of making a bit more money.
Another good example of this is No Game No Life. While the movie did adapt an important segment of the story, as of today we have no confirmation of a direct sequel series to the original. The team at Studio Madhouse decided it was more important to leave open room for a sequel they have zero plans to make and instead decided that it would be better to leave fans in the dark.
It is one thing to have a “read the manga” ending and have plans to make a concluding sequel that get announced shortly after the season airs, like the case with My Hero Academia season three, but most studios do not do that. It seems as of recently that is starting to change, but it still currently an industry standard.
It is a shame that material that is otherwise superb gets treated as unimportant when studios fail to conclude the series in one go or give even a hint at a sequel.