5 Anime Reboots and Whether You Should Watch

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By Caitlin Donovan | More Articles
January 20, 2016  05:58 AM

It seems like reboots are something that every industry is unlikely to grow tired of any time soon and that includes the anime industry. Sometimes anime are rebooted to be closer to the source material (the manga, typically) and sometimes they're rebooted to show a new take on the characters. Sometimes it’s simply for some nicer, more modern animation. Either way, there are some reboots that are worth checking out even if you’ve seen the original and there are some that…aren’t.

We’ll be looking at five reboots of major series today and discussing whether they’re worth checking out, either on their own or as a supplement to other versions. When this article refers to reboots, this means a story being retold from the beginning with the same characters, rather than a continuation or a new installment with an entirely new cast.

We’re keeping it to five in this article in the interest of both time and in covering only stuff I’m intimately familiar with, but if commenters have their own opinions on reboots and suggestions to give, maybe another article can continue this analysis!

1 Sailor Moon (1992) vs Sailor Moon Crystal (2015)

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Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon is one of the most beloved and influential magical girl series out there. This tale is about a young girl named Usagi Tsukino transforming into a heroine of justice thanks to a mysterious talking cat. Four other girls join her hero team and while battling many monsters, they embark of a quest to find the legendary moon princess.

The 1992 anime series was very loosely adapted from the original manga by Naoko Takeuchi. The original anime was 200 episodes long compared to the 52 chapter manga. Characters and plotlines were changed a lot from the original work from the process. The 2015 anime, Sailor Moon Crystal, is far more faithful to the manga. It’s 26 episodes so far, with a third season coming in the spring.

There are several questions to be asked when deciding whether to watch CrystalIs this reboot accessible to those not familiar with the first anime? Will you like it if you liked the first anime? And even: is this series a good adaptation of the manga?

Sadly, in Crystal’s case, I would say the answers to those questions are all no. I am a huge fan of all forms of Sailor Moon. I adore the manga, 1992 anime, the live action series and even the musicals. But I did not enjoy Crystal and I don’t think it functions well as an introduction to the franchise.

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First off, Crystal’s animation is poor. This is not to say the animation of the original series was  always great by any means, it’s 20 year old stuff that relied a lot on stock footage. But Crystal is even worse. It is almost astounding that a series made in 2015 would be more riddled with mistakes than a series from 20 years ago, but here we are. Though there are a few very “pretty” moments in the show. But while the original anime balanced its lack of budget with charming cartoony expressivemess, Crystal has none of that and its characters are often rather dead-eyed. The lowest point of the series was when during a supposedly emotional reunion, we were treated to still images of the characters sliding slowly across the screen.

But for me, animation is not as important as story. Unforunately, Crystal is weak there as well. The characters are underdeveloped and the plot is shaky. Anyone who liked the original Sailor Moon anime probably liked it for its humor, focus on the ensemble cast of powerful girls and the strong relationships between the characters. Crystal does not have much of this. It is there are a couple of good points of course, but not anything that wasn’t already in the manga.

As an adaptation of the manga, Crystal fails because it doesn’t bring anything new to the table. I couldn't even really enjoy seeing the manga’s scenes in motion and color because the animation was so bad. And instead of strengthening the manga’s storyline, it adds more plotholes and unnecessary elements. The worst offender was a romance between eight characters that was completely tacked on in the tenth episode. It was given absolutely no development, came out of nowhere and was completely irrelevant to the plot outside a few scenes. The audience was simply told to care about it, but given no reason to.

So in the end, there’s really no reason to watch this series so far. You get the exact same story from the manga, except slightly better put together, so you’re better off just reading that.

2Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995) vs Rebuild of Evangelion (2007)

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The original 26 episode Neon Genesis Evangelion combined giant robots with psychological horror as the protagonist Shinji Ikari struggled both with his own demons and saving the earth from mysterious attacking angels. The heavy symbolism and complex, deeply flawed characters in the series caused it to be influential for years to come.

The Rebuild of Evangelion refers to a movie series that retells the story from scratch. So far, three movies have been released titled Evangelion 1.0: You are (Not) Alone, 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance and 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo. A fourth film is set to come out…someday.

Is this reboot accessible to those not familiar with the first anime? Yes. It was the goal of the producers to make this accessible to non-fans. The first movie is essentially a condensed version of the first few episodes of the series with better animation. This is not bad because first episodes function quite well as condensed story. The second movie goes off in a different direction compared to the original series, doing its own thing in a lot of ways. It comes off as an interesting, somewhat dark mecha anime with very nice animation.

Will you like it if you liked the first anime?  That’s a tricky question. The characters in the movies are similar to the characters in the series, but go in some different directions, so it’s a matter of taste. Evangelion is known for its characters being a quagmire of issues and in the original series there was little hope for their recovery. However, the second movie showed the characters progressing to a slightly healthier place. Asuka was softer and more affectionate than her previous incarnation and Rei started developing some self esteem, for instance.

However (spoilers ahead) all this progress and happiness was completely destroyed in the third movie and we returned to the Evangelion status quo of “everything is awful”. I found the third movie to be easily the weakest of all of them- there was a jarring time skip that meant lots of plot holes and unexplained attitude changes for characters (Misato went from yelling at Shinji to do what he wanted to being mad at him for it) and very little development for any character besides Shinji. Thanks to the third movie spinning its wheels a bit, its therefore undeniable that the movie characters are less developed than their original counterparts.

On the other hand, it’s a complete mystery how this will be wrapped up in the fourth installment. So the answer to the question of whether this series is ultimately enjoyable for long time fans is “maybe”. It’s interesting to see these characters in different situations than before, but it will depend on how the series concludes to see if it has something new to say, or is just a repeat of what came before.

3 Hunter x Hunter (1999) vs Hunter X Hunter (2011)

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Hunter x Hunter is an action-packed adventure series following a young boy named Gon on a quest to find his absent father and colorful group of friends he meets along the way. It’s also based on a manga that has been ongoing for nearly a decade. The original 1999 anime was produced alongside the manga, but despite adding numerous episodes to pad out the storyline, the anime eventually caught up with it’s source material and stopped. The new 2011 adapted the manga all over again and covered all the story that had happened since the anime ended.

Is this reboot accessible to those not familiar with the first anime?  Yes. The reboot is a faithful adaptation of the manga from start to finish with gorgeous animation, exciting fight scenes and a dynamic ensemble cast. It stands on its own as a great action anime, though since the manga is unfinished, it has a very open ending.

Will fans of the first anime like the reboot? I think so. The first part of the anime is material the 1999 anime covered (minus some character building episodes that were added to pad the series), but with much better animation. However, the series then covers brand new material. If you liked the original anime, you’ll doubtless want to see how this story continues and the reboot provides that. It’s definitely worth a watch.

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Caitlin Donovan is a long-time nerd with a passion for superheroes and epic fantasy. She lives in North Carolina with her cat and wrestles with writing novels and doing editorial work when she's not ranting about pop culture online. She runs a blog at ladyloveandjustice.tumblr.com
@Caitlin Donovan | caitlin@epicstream.com