Anime movies often tend to be standalones for a reason. In general, not a lot of anime movies are sourced from manga at all. Unless we are talking about movie adaptations for certain series like One Piece, where the movie counterparts tend to be regarded as non-canon. But if you look at quintessential anime movies such as those by Studio Ghibli or even Makoto Shinkai, those are completely unique pieces that are meant to be standalone projects. Maybe a book could be the inspiration, but not likely.
Anime movies themselves don’t have a manga released alongside their premieres. Though, there are plenty of anime movies out there that are based on manga. Like I said, a lot of anime series usually release movies as additional content, oftentimes using them to cover big arc conclusions in the manga itself, or just as an accessory piece. Fist Of The North Star is a popular example of an anime movie based on a manga, whereas Cardcaptor Sakura had multiple movie releases while the anime was still airing.
But why is there so much variation in how anime movies are created? Sometimes, there are entire movie series that sourced from popular manga and end up replacing traditional anime series, as was the case with the Ghost In The Shell franchise. To put it simply, inspiration strikes from everywhere, and there’s no real reason to limit yourself to following the traditional manga-to-anime-TV-series pipeline. Some stories genuinely do feel like they are better portrayed in long form movies rather than through an episodic nature.
Ultimately, it’s all kind of a mixed bag. Some anime movies do have manga you can pick up to get more content, some don’t. Some are loosely based on the manga they are sourcing the plot form, some are straight up non-canon. But how does it all work? And why do some animation studios choose a movie format over a series format to adapt a manga? Let’s dive into how anime movies are made and how manga factors into it, in yet another segment of F.Y.I.!
Non-Manga Based Anime Movies: How Do They Work?
So, say you want to make an anime movie, but none of the manga are picking your fancy. Plus, you have this totally cool plot in your head for a standalone movie that is completely your own. Could an anime movie be created through an idea alone, instead of an entire manga? Well, of course. That is what 95% of the highest rated anime movies are.
Think about it. Stuff like Spirited Away and Kimi No Nawa don’t have a manga or anime background. They are completely contained stories with no additional lore to them. And they were created by screenwriters and animators rather than mangaka. Sure, there is a rough draft that is created and a basic plotline drawn out using cells, like a manga would be, but it’s mostly done by the writers and animators. And then, the directors help weave everything together for a final product that is new and original, but still an anime movie. Often, this also means a specific style is created that is unique to the animation studio.
Again, Studio Ghibli is a great example of a signature aesthetic of an animation studio. Some of its stories are completely original. And some are loosely adapted from books, such as Howl’s Moving Castle being based on the series by Diana Wynne Jones. But they all have a style that is focused on traditionally painted backgrounds, soft and idyllic.That’s what defines them, makes them stand out.
So, yes, anime movies that aren’t based on manga absolutely exist and they are pretty successful, going on to be known as animation masterpieces.
Anime Movies With Manga Are Expansions Of Lore:
But what about anime movies that do have manga roots? Well, that depends. See, these movies are usually continuations or additional content of an anime or manga series that already exists. Which means that they aren’t exactly unique works, but adaptations that are usually made under the guidance of the original mangaka.
So, the style is ubiquitous to the manga they are adapting, with very little differences. Animation studios use the manga as a reference guide and build the lore on top of it. Often, it isn’t even about adapting the content straight from the manga, but creating original takes that may or may not be considered canonical to the actual source material. Case in point is One Piece, as stated before, because it does have a lot of movie adaptations. But as proven by One Piece: Red’s recent release, none of the events happen in the manga and therefore, they aren’t canon to the storyline.
However, that doesn’t mean that a lot of anime movies aren’t canon to the manga and anime that they adapted from. For example, some anime movies based on the manga are canon to it too, despite the plot of the movie being independent from the manga series itself. An example of this is the movies in the Naruto Shippuden franchise, which are not based on anything in the manga, but are canonical to the timeline being followed in it. Then there are anime movies that serve as a sequel to a shorter anime series, covering chapters the series couldn’t, like in the movie for Given.
And then of course, there are anime movies that are the anime adaptations of beloved manga series. This is what happened with Ghost In The Shell, but you could also count Berserk in this because the anime series came after the movie adaptations of the manga. In fact, one of the most famous anime movies of all time, Akira, was a direct adaptation of the manga with the same name, with no anime series predating it.
In the end, anime movies can’t be narrowed down into a general description. There is no deciding factor for what makes an anime movie, an anime movie. Even if said anime movie doesn’t have a manga as it’s source material, it is still an anime movie. Lest we forget that the word anime itself is merely indicative of any animated work in Japan. By that logic, even Disney’s Frozen is an anime movie.
But hey, what’s the use of semantics when we’re all here to simply enjoy some creative masterpieces that don’t need to be binged like a traditional anime series? Anime movies are usually feats of beautiful art and stellar stories, so it doesn’t really matter.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go watch Ponyo, an anime movie, for the nth time. After all, it’s probably the cutest version of the Little Mermaid out there. Manga doesn’t make an anime movie every time, after all!