2016
03.29

Episode 2: Wind and Fire – A Dangerous Seduction!!

Chapters adapted: Volume 1, Chapters 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7

 

Before we begin, you might notice Domon’s face is different in the early chapters of the manga to the anime. This isn’t really a change to note since the anime version is how Domon eventually looks in the manga. Anzai solidified his character design pretty quickly after these early chapters. The anime did not change anything there unlike how they changed Fuko’s hair and eye color here. Also, there are at least forty times more pantie shots in this episode to the single blink-and-you-miss-it one in the manga. Unlike the other changes I’ll be covering, that one is pretty easy to understand why it was made even if it’s totally unnecessary overall.

The second episode begins with something we never saw in the first episode: the main characters’ school life. Recca meets Yanagi in the morning and the whole school gets to hear him babbling about being Yanagi’s personal ninja. It is here we learn that not only does Recca show little fear, he shows little pride, as well. How? Well he decides to walk on people’s heads. Why, I don’t really know. It wasn’t in the manga, but it sure is comical to watch happen.

His embarrassing behavior causes Yanagi to run off and let the rumors really begin to spread around the students at the school. Though unlike in the manga we don’t actually get to see any of these rumors. We don’t even really see any other students outside of this scene:

At lunch Recca is confronted by Domon outside to confirm the rumor that Recca did become her personal ninja. This is a big deal to most people. You see, Recca made a pronouncement that anyone who could beat him would be his master and he would become their personal master in return. So everyone thinks sweet and innocent Yanagi beat Recca in a fight. Domon is less than impressed with this revelation, but there’s something worse to worry about.

It is here that Domon reveals someone named Fuko will not be very happy about this news. This causes Recca to freak out and try to hide Yanagi, which leads them up to the roof. Unfortunately, that is the one place they shouldn’t have run.

And this is the only part of chapter 3 adapted into the anime. The rest of the chapter was entirely excised. Chapter 3 deals almost entirely with character development between Recca and Yanagi, as well as a bit for Domon. It takes place during the entire school day which slowly builds up Fuko before we meet her on the roof on the last page. Unfortunately some of the cut material includes Recca explaining that he is not Yanagi’s ninja because of romantic interest as he states he is more interested in duty than girls, which is something I think the anime version already altered by omission anyway.

Scene cut from the anime

Scene cut from the anime

There is also a scene where Yanagi reveals that she wants to be children’s book author and shows the fruits of her labor . . . to a not so great reaction. The whole chapter is actually quite well done and very welcome to flesh out the characters so early in the series. I could explain more, but then I would be posting the whole chapter.

It’s not an action packed chapter, at all, but a very pleasant one. Material like this gives Flame of Recca a lot of its character early on. The anime cutting the entire chapter from the story except for the scene where Domon tells Recca that Fuko is looking for him which sends the pair up to the roof is a loss no matter how you slice it.

But we have a story to get back to.

Needless to say, the mysterious Fuko is a bit nutty. She’s a tough girl who likes to throw metal picks, and doesn’t even pause to hit Yanagi directly after first meeting her. She’s like Recca without any common sense. But it is easy to see so early on why she becomes one of the most popular characters in the series.

Recca and Yanagi soon fall into a battle of projectiles with the crazy girl. Fuko has apparently battled him before because she easily stops him from throwing explosives and knows his general trickiness. They have apparently been rivals since they were kids, but Recca just outdid her every time she tried to top him. This makes the reveal that Yanagi got Recca’s services quite hard to take since she had worked so hard to beat him.

And here Recca gets launched across the roof with a kick. Because he’s just that weak, apparently. In the manga he simply doubles over– in the anme he is launched across the roof. It looks like she has him cornered. But it turns out it was a trap and Fuko gets caught in a net. This is explained a bit more in the manga how he set it up.

But there’s more to this battle than we originally thought. We get another appearance by a shadowy figure as the battle ends.

That’s right, Kagehoshi is back!

The crazed woman who wants to see Recca’s flame for some reason returns. She watches the battle, but doesn’t go after him or Yanagi. This time she approaches Fuko instead, and offers her a gift. Given that she’s been pestering Recca for some inexplicable reason, and outright trying to murder him in the anime, it’s obvious that this isn’t a good thing for our hero.

It’s some sort of an artifact, a bracelet the crazed woman calls “Fujin” and it can fire out bursts of wind. She accepts the trinket when she learns she can use it to finally beat Recca, though she doesn’t seem all too concerned at how it literally split a tree in two in the anime. In the manga she initially refuses, not wanting to kill Recca, but her obsession with beating him takes a hold of her and accepts it.

This next scene is a pretty major diversion from the manga, but to go too far into it would be pure spoiler territory for future installments so I’ll just mark it here. Next is a filler scene that was added like the one from episode 1 in that same office of a man named Koran who now hears rumors of a girl who can heal. He tells his men to search for the girl.

The reason this was not in the manga was because Koran did not learn of Yanagi until much later. This changes an upcoming encounter by a fair amount.

But that is for later.

Back to the story, Recca awakens later that night and receives a call from Fuko who sounds like she has taken one too many happy pills. Recca hears Kagehoshi’s voice and rushes to the scene to see what is up. Yanagi spots him and follows. A confrontation is brewing!

The big difference in this from the manga is that in the original, Fuko doesn’t just get Fujin and go crazy. She takes the artifact and disappears for three days. This causes Domon and Recca quite a bit of worry about her, even causing Recca to visit her house and learn she’s been coming home late. Her parents even think she’s at school when she’s not. There’s some good character fleshing her that the anime completely ditches to get straight to the fight.

In the manga, Recca receives a call that night from Fuko meaning that he has reason to go straight to the school without needing a reason. Kagehoshi still hasn’t reappeared yet. Also, Yanagi goes to the school because she calls Recca, who isn’t home, and hears from his father that he went to the school. It feels like less of a coincidence of her meeting him at the school this way.

This episode’s biggest weakness is everything it cuts. Literally everything to do with the fight is all that is kept.

Recca confronts Fuko and is quite easily blown away in a single attack. Kagehoshi shows up to gloat and explains that the reason Fuko is so messed up is because the trinket she gave her is like a drug to those not used to it and makes them battle crazy. Only those with strong mental control can bear it. Considering Fuko was already a bit battle crazy, this puts her right out there as certifiable.

Yanagi arrives in time to see Recca get the crap kicked out of him (again) and  runs off to find help. Kagehoshi, of course, follows her and knocks her out viciously leaving her unconscious in an alley. Anime Kagehoshi really hates anime Yanagi. In the manga she just casts some sort of spell to put her to sleep, and Yanagi tries to bite her tongue to keep conscious. It feels a bit more in character for when an important reveal comes later.

In both versions she is then found by a friendly stranger who helps her up. It’s fairly obvious who this is, but since we’re not supposed to know, I’ll wait for the reveal shortly to mention it.

Meanwhile, Recca continues being beaten by Fuko. Again he is thrown around and completely out of his element, not being effective at all. The wind is blowing away all his attacks and he really doesn’t want to hurt her.

Domon shows up to save him from being torn to shreds. He tells Recca that Yanagi is okay and left her lying against a nearby tree. As we figured before, he was the one who found her and brought her back. He initially appears confused until he learns that Fuko is being controlled and jumps in to help Recca in the fight. He turns out to be just what Recca needs to turn the tide.

Unlike Recca, Domon can take the hits, as he is quite the tank, and manages to shake up Fuko despite her trying to tear him apart with her wind. He tries to convince her to stop this madness and he almost manages to get through.

Kagehoshi enhances the trance and Fuko not only goes back to insane, she’s at over 110% crazy. She taunts Recca for his failure to save Fuko and the fact that both Domon and Yanagi are laid out and half-dead.

One change from the manga is that the fight is more vicious in the original version. The hits are more vicious, Fuko even uses her metal picks instead of only her wind. Despite this, Recca and Domon are more resilient here than in the anime. Domon does not get laid out here and Recca isn’t thrown around like a rag-doll.

The episode reaches its climax as Recca vows to stop Kagehoshi for playing with all of their lives like this and he charges into battle against Fuko to put a stop to her.

He unleashes his flame in battle for the first time (second in the anime) which might be their only hope of saving Fuko. In the manga he apologizes to Yanagi for having to break their promise in order to save a friend’s life, which is more than understandable given the situation. Then he surprises everyone (except Kagehoshi) by showing them the flame of Recca.

And that is where the episode ends.

Manga version

Anime version

This episode condensed a lot of material into one episode, but I still think it is at fault because it doesn’t actually end the conflict they were condensing to get to. It is one thing to want to get to the meat of a conflict faster, but it’s another to trim excessively and STILL run over time. Everything cut from this episode should have been left in since they already made it into a two-parter anyway. They crammed five manga chapters into one episode and still couldn’t resolve the overall conflict. So we get a rushed episode that misses all the finer points of the manga instead of adapting properly to get to the same point (like adapting chapters 3, 4, and 5, to episode 2, and chapters 6, 7, and 8, to episode 3) instead. The question after all that is then, what was the point of doing it this way?

It would have been a smarter idea to leave in the character interactions, development, and humor from the manga, and have it build up to the confrontation with Fuko at episodes end and saving the fight for the next episode. That would have been good pacing for condensing. As it currently is, the episode cuts a lot of good stuff out to get straight to a fight and misses out on everything else in the process. I know this is an adaptation of a battle manga, but cutting out character interactions and build up does not improve a story and it is why the genre gets such a bum deal.

It also continues the streak of making the characters get beaten to the ground and moaning in pain without dealing any damage to the enemy themselves. It loses a lot of the hotblooded shonen appeal when the characters not only can’t do any damage to the enemies, but can’t even take a punch. Like in episode 1, it is an artificial way to create more drama.

Trivia time: Did you know that every hit someone took in this episode was changed to them being knocked down or getting knocked back twenty feet? Even Yanagi getting slapped by Fuko led to her falling over in the anime. This was what I meant when I said the anime staff tries to ratchet up the drama where the manga didn’t have to.

Suffice to say, this episode comparison goes to the manga once more. Condensing is one thing, but it wasn’t even done well in this case. As it is, this episode guts out the charm of the manga and leaves us with a battle that doesn’t even get finished in this incredibly rushed episode.

Unlike episode 1, I’m not as willing to give this episode a pass. It’s simply a lesser version than the original chapters in every aspect. Had I seen this back when it came out I would have been utterly disappointed.

So, that’s the end of this comparison. There just isn’t much to talk this time about because the anime version cut about everything except the bare plot thread and the fight. But don’t worry, there will be more to talk about next time.

Stay tuned next week to see if Recca and Domon can save Fuko from herself and from Kagehoshi or if they’ll just get their heads kicked in some more without landing any decent hits and then lucking out at the end by winning with a single hit.

The anime sure loves doing that.

2016
03.22

Episode 1: The Princess & the Ninja

Chapters adapted: Volume 1, Chapters 1 and 2

 

As we start our comparison of Flame of Recca you must keep in mind that this is an action show adapted from an action manga. Your mileage might vary with some of these changes, but since quite a bit is changed from the original (sometimes for seemingly no reason) I feel it is important to note the differences even when miniscule. If you can’t stand the little things, this series of articles might not be for you. But little things can add up to a lot, and since there are a lot of little things, part of the point of this series is to record them here.

Now let us get to episode one. Suffice to say, there will be spoilers.

As the show opens we get a glimpse of an event 400 years ago. A woman with a baby is being chased for dear life through a forest warzone. She opens a portal and sends the baby through it. Though she leaves the baby to drift off for reasons unknown, we soon learn the baby’s name. He/she is named “Recca” and that is all we learn in this mysterious prologue before the show begins. Only the baby is seen to go through the portal and no one and nothing else.

And this is where our first deviation from the manga takes place.

This bit about the past was not in the original work until later, specifically in volume 4. There is a very obvious reason as to why though it may not be clear right away. This reveal literally spoils a major secret about our main character before we even meet him. For the first three volumes all we know about Recca is that he has a ninja obsession and an affinity for fire. No other hint is given that he is anything other than a normal teenage boy. In the process of having this reveal so early we lose the slow growth in knowledge of who this mysterious woman is. It also helps us to relate to the main character early on before a major reveal is given that changes everything about said character.

But this isn’t the only difference in just the first episode.

The story then skips back to the modern day where we see two rowdy teenagers fighting. It is a fight between a boy named Recca and a lumbering brute named Domon. Recca is clearly agile and Domon is clearly strong as their differences in approach show. This is where the manga begins.

The very first fight scene in the manga is replicated here, where Domon falls into a trap showing us that Recca is clever and Domon is simple-minded. Recca uses fireworks to scare Domon half to death. It’s a three page fight that goes on a bit too long in the anime, but that’s barely worth bringing up.

There is a one change that I have to point out right now for later.

See this?

These explode!

Remember it.

Anyway, just like in the manga, Domon falls into a trap and loses the fight. He swears revenge and yada yada yada. Recca returns home for lunch to meet his dad who gets mad at him for wasting gunpowder in his schoolyard fights. His dad makes fireworks for a living, which Recca loves to use to frighten his opponents and just for fun cuz explosives are cool.

A subtle difference with Recca’s dad in the manga and anime is that Recca’s dad is a bit goofier though still a tough man in the manga. In the anime, he’s just really gruff all the time. That’s pretty much the only difference between them in the two versions. One is more eccentric and the other is more forceful. In the grand scheme of the anime adaption, it doesn’t change a whole lot. Recca’s mother is only seen in a photo and has apparently died long ago.

Going back slightly, on the way back home Recca is being spied on, though we probably have an idea why in the anime since a huge aspect of his past has already been revealed to the audience.

Recca is a bit of a ninja freak as we see how overly decorated his room is with ninja gear, pictures, books, and artifacts. Even if everyone else thinks ninjas are relics of the past, Recca still believes in and admires them.

For a main character, Recca is rather active, never shirking away from a challenge. The reason he wants to be a ninja is because of his sense of duty. They don’t get the glory or the spotlight; they only do the right thing because that’s what they are called to do. It is their calling to protect from the shadows. That is pretty much Recca Hanabishi. A kid who does the right thing because he has made it his life to do the right thing. Right off the bat, this is the right main character for this story.

Next the anime adds a filler scene of someone being burned to death with mysterious flames while someone named Koran watches over it. This is foreshadowing for later. But the manga jumps right to introducing the next main character.

Up next is another divergence from the original manga. It is how the next main character is not only introduced, but is also portrayed differently in the anime.

Recca meets Yanagi Sakoshita who, in the manga, is being accosted by a bunch of jerks who are trying to take her by force. He fights them off, but is overwhelmed by their numbers and falls unconscious during the brawl. In the anime, she is escorting some kindergarteners somewhere when a crane breaks loose some pipes and Recca throws her out of the way to take the hit himself. The end result of both is that Recca is knocked out.

The big change is that Recca is clearly taken with her at first sight in the anime. Even if the events surrounding their first meeting is entirely different, the big change is undoubtedly this.

In the manga their relationship starts out much more natural with Recca wanting to protect such a sweet, naïve, girl from the scum of the world that he chooses to become her personal ninja so she can be herself and not have to worry about bad guys. It’s a sweet little bit that is changed somewhat in the anime because he is romantically interested in her from moment one. Not to mention that anime Yanagi doesn’t have a naïve side like she does in the manga which loses a bit of her appeal in the process. Yanagi’s sweetness and innocence is muted as a whole. She just seems like an otherwise nice girl that Recca wants to get closer to, which is fine but was not the original intent and the character loses appeal for it.

Recca sees Yanagi for the first time in the anime

Recca sees Yanagi for the first time in the manga

 

But in both versions she also displays an ability that becomes crucial to the story. She heals Recca of his wounds (saving his life in the anime) revealing for the first time to someone else that she has healing abilities. Now, in the manga, she does this because no one else is around thereby sharing a secret with Recca as she is otherwise shy and Recca is popular at school. It gives them a relationship to bond over since she didn’t have to heal him at all. In the anime she saves his life in front of a bunch of bystanders as he’s losing blood from internal injuries (I’ll probably be bringing this up again in a later episode, by the way) and then Recca proceeds to run away after waking up before meeting her again in the park.

Let’s pause for a second.

I wouldn’t be bringing this up if Recca and Yanagi’s relationship wasn’t fundamental to Flame of Recca as a whole, but I think the anime version weakens their entire relationship as a whole. In the manga they start as friends who enjoy each other’s company with Recca paying her back for helping him out and being a kind person by becoming her ninja. She ends up being complimentary to him as a rash thinker who never stops swinging by calming him down with her silliness and good attitude. They are sort of opposite and similar at the same time, which is why they work well together. In the anime she isn’t shy or eccentric, losing a lot of her traits in the process which also sort of affects Recca at the same time, though I’ll be getting to that later.

She is not only more boring in the anime, but the fact that she saved him because he would otherwise die doesn’t deepen the relationship since she had no choice to heal him. Instead of a reward she chooses to give him for doing the right thing and the two gaining a friendship in the process, it is now a matter of life or death. For this early in the story, it is a bit of a leap, especially considering what happens later in the episode. That and taking away how her naiveté rubbed up against Recca’s boldness just makes them less fun to be around.

Anyway, that’s just a manga fan’s opinion. Back to the story.

Oh, and the anime changes Yanagi’s eye and hair color for . . . some reason. Okay, now really: back to the story.

Boy meets girl and they get along quite well. They even learn they go to the same school. He invites her to show her his collection of fireworks. They go to an old warehouse where Recca shows her just how much he likes his explosives, since, you know, you can’t really see fireworks when it’s light out. Behind them, a shadowy figure readies to attack.

Scene cut from the anime

Signature trick, indeed. This is what I wanted to bring up earlier with Recca’s ninja tricks. In neither the anime nor the manga have they explained yet how Recca has been able to light his fireworks and explosives so easily.

In the manga we get a reveal here that Recca can create flames through his right arm. He’s been able to do it for years, but he’s never told or shown anybody. So he creates a bond with Yanagi over keeping their powers secret. It adds another layer to their relationship so early.

In the anime he apparently uses matches to light his explosives. In the middle of fights. Somehow. The anime doesn’t explain anything here.

The reason for that is because the anime changed how Recca discovered his flame ability. He originally knew he had it, but only wasted it on his silly ninja games and fireworks before the series began. In the anime the first time he uses it is to save Yanagi’s life from an attack here. Why the anime staff thought it wise to make Recca dumber is anyone’s guess, but Recca gets a lot of this sort of thing in the anime.

Anyway, back to the aforementioned attack.

Well, remember that figure that was watching Recca earlier? Here they are disrupting Recca and Yanagi’s fun with explosives.

Kagehoshi, a woman dressed in black with strange powers was apparently the one watching Recca from the shadows. She reveals she has been searching for Recca for 400 years and has ninja abilities. So unless you missed the first two minutes of the episode, you know exactly who this is even if Recca doesn’t. If you’re reading the manga you just think she’s a psychotic lady who has answers she won’t be giving to Recca, and the audience, for a bit longer.

She approaches them wanting Recca to show his flame. Originally, she had seen him use the flame earlier when showing Yanagi which means her appearance at that moment makes sense. In the adaption she has never seen it and has no proof he can, but thinks he can do it regardless.

They try to run, but Kagehoshi cuts them off to try to force Recca into using his flame power. She slices Recca’s leg and they fumble to the exit.

The anime adds a fight scene here. It’s actually quite messed up for several reasons. She basically beats the crap out of Recca, slicing open his stomach, until she decides to attack Yanagi instead and Recca finally uses his flame powers (that he didn’t know that he had or ever trained with before) to fight off Kagehoshi and send her running after trying to burn her to cinders.

In the original version Kagehoshi comes at Recca with the knife and he fights her off refusing to show his flame power in order to keep it a secret between him and Yanagi. Recca shows far more guts here as he tries to fight off an unknown enemy and make sure Yanagi doesn’t get dragged into it. He doesn’t get the crap kicked out of him, and Kagehoshi doesn’t try to gut him or kill Yanagi. He fights her off and shows he is more than a kid, threatening to blow himself and her up with his explosives to stop her from hurting Yanagi therefor cornering Kagehoshi and forcing her to admit defeat. She leaves them with a warning, impressed at his skills, and this potentially dangerous situation is averted. It’s a mysterious encounter, but it’s no bloodbath.

In contrast, the anime has her kicking him around the place like a total amateur until he lucks out and uses his flame to save Yanagi’s life. Considering who Kagehoshi turns out to be later, this act is pretty out of character, especially leaving Recca and Yanagi half-dead in an abandoned warehouse, but we’ll let it slide since they already changed Recca into a total amateur in both fighting and flame power.

So, let’s pause to talk about Recca.

He gets beaten up a lot in episodes to come. Before the series began, being a ninja freak, Recca had already trained in the arts and has some semblance of fighting ability. Using his flames for years, he also has practice to the point that he uses them to light his explosives in fights without anyone seeing the sparks, which gives him the advantage and a reputation. He always felt a bit out of time being so old fashioned and having such strange abilities.

While Recca has a hard time in fights in the manga, he never feels like an amateur or completely over his head at all times. At the adaption, he loses a lot of the fire and spunk he had in the original version, typically reverting to general surprise as his default reaction to everything and lucking out on wins, like this fight, all the time.

The end of the confrontation in the anime

The end of the confrontation in the manga

Why you would ever change the personality of the protagonist of a highly successful series is absolutely baffling. But that is the case for the Flame of Recca anime.

Once more: back to the story.

The anime overstuffs this encounter making it a lot grander than it really should be. It was originally just a confrontation to show Recca that there is real danger out there threatening him and all he holds dear. For some reason it is turned into a fight where Recca shows no talent whatsoever and saves his life only by dumb luck while his romantic interest is almost murdered and would have been if he didn’t randomly figure out how to cast flames. He’s supposed to be the main character and, unlike the original version, he doesn’t show nearly the amount of resolve or ability he should have. Kagehoshi is making far too many leaps in logic considering she is running off a lot less certainty of who she thinks Recca is in this version and it makes her seem way too over the top and dangerous. As a whole, this fight is also pointlessly long and drags.

Finally, as the smoke clears, Recca escapes with his life and Yanagi’s as he carries her to safety and strengthened in his resolve to be her ninja. How he managed to do this with a split stomach in the anime is anyone’s guess. But who is this mysterious woman, and what danger awaits them next? Surely we’ll find out in the next episode.

Our story really begins here

And the very cool ending theme plays.

So this is the first episode of the Flame of Recca anime and I can only imagine what fans of the manga thought when it first premiered. Sure it changes some things, but as a whole it does adapt the first two chapters pretty well. And compared to some changes we’ll be seeing later, this is far more accurate than it could have been, even though it really shouldn’t have been changed at all since none of the changes improve the story.

Still, since this is a comparison feature I have to be honest and say which version is the better version of the story and for this first instalment, the winner is the manga for both better characterization and pacing, not to mention having a satisfying confrontation where the anime makes the main character look very weak to ratchet up drama.

I hope you had fun seeing a comparison between the manga and anime versions of Flame of Recca and will be joining me next time for even more. Because in the next episode we get more character introductions as well as more elements aside from fire and quite a few more changes to the story as well.

Things will only get more hectic for Recca and Yanagi from here.

2016
03.14

Comic books and animation go hand in hand a lot of the time. While live action tends to have trouble handling a lot of the more imaginative and out there aspects of tales from the visual print medium, animation is always able to keep up. From superheroes, to outlandish comedy, space opera, the medium of animation has no problem giving the stories the visual realization they deserve.

But there are exceptions. Sometimes the result is immaculate, the animated version easily stacks up to and even surpasses the original work, such as in the case of anime classic, Trigun. There are also cases like the Yu Yu Hakusho anime which cuts off the jarring and rotten parts of the original manga and sands it down to be a much better and fleshed out work as a whole. In other cases, the result is a final product not even on par with the original, in fact missing much of the original’s appeal.

The shonen fantasy action manga, Flame of Recca by Nobuyuki Anzai, is in the last camp. One of Weekly Shonen Sunday’s most popular series and selling over 25 million copies, it was only natural that it would have gotten an animation adaption. However, years later, it is greatly regarded as the inferior version of Anzai’s story, though there is not much out there to explain why that is.

I will be covering its anime adaption in this series as a contrast to the original manga and where I feel it fails to match up. Though Flame of Recca is popular in manga circles, it is not so much in the anime world, and there is a good reason for that. First: the basics.

Volume #1

Flame of Recca was written by Nobuyuki Anzai for serialisation in Weekly Shonen Sunday magazine back in 1995. He had been working as an assistant on Kazuhiro Fujita’s magazine favorite Ushio & Tora and left to make it on his own. Flame of Recca, by all accounts, was a hit for Sunday running for 329 chapters and 33 volumes, and ending in 2002. The series had video games, an anime that ran from 1997 to 1998, and is still represented in Sunday events now.

Flame of Recca has clear inspiration from both Ushio & Tora (itself a manga that achieved incredible success despite taking 25 years to get a proper anime) and Yu Yu Hakusho (its weaving storyline clearly an inspiration from Yoshihiro Togashi’s shonen classic) all while having a flare of its own, no pun intended. FoR had great fight scenes, inventive action, good chemistry between characters, sharp art, a romance, and an adventure plotline that never strayed in its drive from chapter one to the end. Over 20 years later and it is still considered one of the best series to run in Shonen Sunday and is still looked at as Anzai’s best series to this day.

So you may have noticed the mention of it getting an anime and wondered how this article could exist. How could anyone mess up a shonen anime? After all, they were the bread and butter of the anime industry in the ‘90s (and are still the most popular genre now), so certainly something like this should have been easy to adapt. This doesn’t even factor in the fact that that anime was made by the same studio and director of the classic anime adaption of Yu Yu Haksuho not so long before FoR.

Well, this is where it differs from Ushio & Tora (which had no anime, yet had incredible success) and Yu Yu Hakusho (which got an incredible anime adaption that surpassed the popularity of the manga). FoR is not remembered for its anime except as a nostalgia piece, when anyone brings up FoR today it is usually because of the manga.

Why, you may ask?

The anime version of Flame of Recca is a disappointment for both fans of the manga and for those looking for a good shonen series in general.

How does it fail? Well, let’s be honest and say it’s not a total failure. It more or less follows the story of the manga, the music is great, the opening and ending themes are excellent and suit the series excellently, and it did give the manga a bit of a boost in popularity when it came out as most anime do. But as an adaption, it is generally accepted as a letdown.

This series of articles will start with episode one and work its way through the 42 episodes of the anime to discuss what exactly it does wrong and does right and compare it with the original manga. It will be a long ride, and probably won’t be interesting for those who detest old anime and manga, let alone shonen, but for the rest it might be a bit informative in how an adaption can stumble in translation or do right by the source material.

Before we get started, it would be best to focus on some general changes with the anime compared to the manga. This should help understand how it differs from the source right off the bat.

The first change: The color coding of the characters is changed between the anime and manga.

Manga

Anime

Some characters are changed in hair and eye color, and this happens with many characters in the series. This is a minor thing but it still stands as a change to bring up. The art style is also tweaked from its rougher early 90s tone to a softer late 90s feel.

The second change: You might have noticed Flame of Recca is 33 volumes long. That’s right; it’s 329 chapters of hot blooded shonen action that tells one complete story. You might have also noticed the anime is only 42 episodes long. How did they fit 329 chapters into 42 episodes? That’s easy enough to answer.

They didn’t.

The Flame of Recca anime truncates the first 16 volumes (less than half the series) into 42 episodes. It misses two very important arcs in the manga, cuts out characters and events, and some of this writer’s favorite material, to cut straight to the ending and missing a lot of the story growth in the process. It stands as an incomplete adaption– and even that which it adapted was tweaked, sometimes rather arbitrarily.

The third change: Personality tweaks. There are moments changed from the original manga that alter events to the point that they change character motivations and drives. This causes some weird inconsistencies that will have to be brought up when they come up in future entries.

After all this you might think the Flame of Recca anime is pure garbage that you should avoid as well as one of the worst adaptions of a popular work. It’s not. It’s merely a competent shonen anime that isn’t very well remembered now because it isn’t that well done. The manga, on the other hand, holds up really well for an older action series and is deserving of more attention. This series will attempt to explain why that is.

Next time, we will get into the nitty gritty as to the difference between the anime and the manga.

Stay tuned!