The question, while often posed, is somewhat farfetched. How can two different kind of medium where one is watching and the other is reading can be compared? Regarding anime and manga, the question should be about the original material and the adaptation. Therefore, the real question in this case should be: Why is the original material generally better than the adaptation? It’s more usual for the manga to be the original one of two, so that’s why the statement that manga is better than anime is often used. I have to say, while it is a complete subjective matter, this position is nearly a fact for most cases and is supported by very strong arguments.
Deviation from the main storyline
Every now and then, an anime that is adapted will change course from the main story line. Why is that? Sometimes is to end the series quicker than the actual manga, or perhaps it is because the director wanted to share his ideas with the rest of the world. That being said, to deviate from the main story is an aspect that is generally not well received, especially for the manga readers. For instance, the ending of the original Full Metal Alchemist holds much controversy. One might say that the ending was original, thoughtful and that it differed from the typical shounen ending, while the other will think that ending is an insult to the intention of the original author. A more prime example would be the adaptation of a terrible manga “Dance in the Vampire Bund”. After much change from the manga, turns out the anime version was even worse. I find this argument to be lightly weak. Simply for the reason that I’m totally for original content and new ideas with adaptations. That’s what I can reproach to Full Metal Alchemist : Brotherhood. It simply wanted to please the fans with a complete copy paste of the original story.
Too much content, not enough time
Let’s face it, most series out there are 12-13 episodes and only few them actually pass the 25 mark. It is normal for an anime to have problem adapting a manga that is quite long. Results, the anime will be cut at an uneventful place or the last episodes will simply be rushed right of the bat. The prime example here is the anime adaptation of Claymore, where in all respect, it is impossible to actually find an ending; a true disgrace to the fans of the series. It is also common for a series to be lightly rushed to meet the expected ending. However, it is also a fact that some series will be rushed beyond any humans’ capacities. Shadow Star Narutaru, a very well received mind-fuck manga, is a whole shit of lameness in the anime. Elfen Lied also falls into this category. I find this to be a major problem with new series lately. Most of them is always rushing into nonsensical endings. Really, it hurts my soul when a potentially good anime is ruined by a mediocre pacing.
Anime is all about free sex, free violence and profanity, how is this an argument? Believe it or not, there is censorship in anime. This argument is more about the manga comics that will never get an adaptation than the actual adapted series. This being said, there are tons of excellent manga that will never get a chance to have screen time because of its excessive violence, nudity and often taboo subjects. And recently, Japan’s government recently passed a regulation bill on anime. Freesia is an excellent psychological seinen, but it’s too “fucked up” for being showcase as an anime. Uzumaki is perhaps the greatest horror manga ever made, but everyone can see why an anime adaptation is impossible. That said, this also go against original anime that have the same problem of not doing what the heck they want.
There’s also the aspect of innovation and originality which goes well with the question of censorship. Since anime is costly and is rarely a one man band, they must make a considerable amount of money. Usually, 90% of anime each seasons will fail to make the profit it wanted. Innovation and originality in anime is getting rare for these reasons. A manga is actually different, where even though there are less original titles being released lately, they are still there.
This is the case where it is impossible for an anime to grab the overall feeling and meaning of a manga and to transform it into animation. For this, I give the best example in my manga review of Aria:
“Aria is really helped by the black and white. Though, this statement has a better impact when comparing it to the anime where, even though it benefits the color and the animation, isn’t just as lively and thoughtful as its original source.”
It is often the artwork that is impossible to translate. As I mentioned Uzumaki and Freesia earlier, these two can’t work because of an art style that is impossible to make it look good in anime.
The benefice for anime is also a reason
If there’s a benefice with anime, is that the characters actually move and talk. For some, this is the ultimate argument to protect any anime. However, it is also a crucial counter-argument. First, the voice acting of anime if often enthusiastic and very high pitched. Now, even though it adds up to the enjoyment of the show, some people can’t stand it at all. Second, since it is an animation, you are a slave of the pacing that the anime is giving you. In manga, one can read at his pace and stop where ever he wants. With anime, one minute is the same minute for everyone and you usually have to stop till the end of the episode before stopping.
Ok, are there any exceptions?
I actually feel bad for bashing anime in this article. I love anime and I actually do think that some anime titles surpassed the original. Here are some of them my friends :
Seto no Hanayome
This parody worked fantastically in anime, not so much for reading.
If you compare what is adapted, which is the first story arc of Berserk, the anime surpasses the manga for having a better focus on the story.
Ghost in the Shell : Stand Alone Complex
Just because of the music.
Ga-Rei : Zero
It’s not really a fantastic series, but I give it credits for being way better than the manga in term of enjoyment and actually making sense.