Anime adaptations of video games have gained notoriety for never living up to the source material’s legacy. The most common complaints tend to be poor pacing and poor animation, which even the most popular video games are unable to escape from.
For Ufotable, bad animation has never been an issue. The studio is known for its stunning visual presentation, most notably, their work on the anime adaptation of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba. Unfortunately, the studios video game adaptations have never lived up to the studio’s standards.
Narrative Changes Bring Down Overall Quality
In order to tell the core narrative when adapting video games, changes are often required. This can lead to scenarios being trimmed down, or entire arcs being cut. In Tales of Zestiria X‘s case, so many changes were made to the anime’s story that it ended up completely deviating from the game. Major supporting characters from the game had their roles diminished in favor of giving more limelight to anime-original characters, new concepts that went against the original game’s lore were introduced, and many of the main characters were altered to the point of being completely separate characters from their game counterparts.
Katsugeki: Touken Ranbu introduces a brand-new scenario separate from the main plot, choosing to focus on a specific set of characters instead of making an attempt to feature everyone, unlike Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru. It was already known from the that the anime’s scenario would be more serious, but many noted a rather drastic change in personalities and dynamic between the two main characters: Izuminokami and Horikawa. In the original game, Izuminokami is brash and immature, often needing Horikawa to assist and guide him. In Katsugeki, their roles seem to have switched, with Izuminokami acting as a mentor to Horikawa.
Tales of Symhponia: The Animation is an OVA rather than a televised anime, so naturally, there were multiple content cuts to fit its runtime. Several important details and characters were left out in order to fit all the important parts of the story in such a short amount of time. While the original personalities of the characters are largely intact, the adaptation suffers from the loss of important information that adds further detail to the story and lore.
Preferential Treatment to Certain Characters
Tales of Zestiria is supposed to follow a young man named Sorey taking on the mantle of the Shepherd and going on an epic quest to save the world alongside mystical beings known as Seraphs. Tales of Zestiria X follows the same pattern for the first half, but by the second half shifts, following two characters named Rose and Alisha. It’s worth noting that Alisha in particular is not fully playable in the original game, and is ultimately a supporting character in the grand scheme of things compared to the more major role she plays in the anime.
Because so much more focus is placed on them, the other main characters are often relegated to the background, including Sorey, the original protagonist. Much of the plot and backstory details relating to the other characters also end up getting completely skipped over as a result, which makes it especially frustrating given that many of the stories introduced in the anime don’t tie-in to the original game.
Touken Ranbu has a very large cast, which is relatively common for a mobile gacha game. Due to the time constraints present within anime, naturally, certain characters are inevitably going to get more focus than others. This isn’t as much of an issue for Katsugeki compared to Tales of Zestiria X due of how massive Touken Ranbu‘s cast is by comparison. There really would have been no way to tell a coherent story if the show attempted to give all the characters their moment to shine. With that said, even with the smaller cast size, the show fails to properly flesh out most of them, with only Izuminokami, Horikawa, and Mutsunokami being the exceptions.
While Tales of Symphonia: The Animation does leave out a few supporting characters, all the major characters’ roles remain largely unchanged, and they’re all given just the right amount of focus. That said, the elimination of certain characters does at times hurt the overall narrative. Of particular note is Tabatha, who in the game initially just appears to be a minor character but ultimately plays a major role by the game’s final act. She doesn’t appear at all in the anime until the final episode, making her sudden appearance incredibly abrupt, especially since she never even properly introduces herself.
Tales of Symphonia: The Animation is the shortest adaptation from the Tales of franchise, with an 11-episode OVA. The original game was quite dense, divided into two main story arcs. The first arc of the anime gets the shorter end of the stick, as it’s only covered in four episodes. The second arc is covered in the remaining seven episodes, although four of these focus more on the new characters introduced for this arc while the last three focus more on the final act of the game.
Katsugeki: Touken Ranbu benefits a lot from following an original plot, or at least, it should have. But there are many moments where the writers seem unsure of what to do and often times some scenes feel like they could have been better spent just moving the plot forward. Longtime fans have also noted that certain plot beats that could have spiced up the narrative were completely ignored, such as Horikawa’s relationship with his brother Yamanbagiri, who leads the First Unit. The two never interact throughout the entirety of the show, despite both characters bearing significance to the overall plot.
Tales of Zestiria X suffers from the poorest pacing despite having the most amount of episodes. The show suffers from focusing too much on Rose and Alisha instead of the main story at hand. Once the character arcs for both girls are wrapped up, there are not a lot of episodes left so the final episodes spend most of their time rushing towards a proper conclusion. As such, the ending doesn’t feel completely earned as the audience never gets the chance to get to know the rest of the show’s supporting cast, all of whom play much more major roles in the source material.
Time will tell if Ufotable does a better job with future adaptations of video games outside of those from the Fate franchise. But one thing is clear — they would definitely benefit more from sticking to the original script.