Welcome, one and all, to this month’s instalment of Manga vs. Anime. This time around, I’m going to be looking at one of the first series that I ever reviewed on the site: D-Frag! The source manga is written and illustrated by Tomoya Haruno, with the anime adaption being created by Brain’s Base. To quote my original review, the story is mostly about Kenji Kazama and his daily toils at Fujou High. You see, Kenji is a proud delinquent and leads the gang known as the ‘Kazama Party’. One day, Kenji and his gang stumble across a clubroom where a group of girls are attempting to put out a fire. After assisting them in doing so, the girls proceed to kidnap poor Kenji and, through threats of element based physical torture, force him to join ‘The Game Creation Club’. And so begins Kenji’s journey as the comedic straight amidst a group of eccentric females with an inherent ability to drive him crazy.
This is another of those series where I saw the anime first, and started collecting the manga second. With both Black Lagoon and Dogs: Bullets and Carnage on hiatus, this is actually one of my favourite series when it comes to getting a new book in the post, so that should give you an idea as to how much I enjoy the manga. But, the question is, does the anime eclipse it? Well, the anime and OAV only cover up to the end of book five, so that’s where we’re going to focus as we try to answer that question. Let’s have a look-see …
The first thing to note here is that the series is bonkers. When I said ‘element based torture’ in the description, that applies to the girls declaring themselves as having an elemental affinity. Roka dual wields fire and darkness, Chitose is earth, Sakura is water, and taser wielding club adviser Minami is lightning. Yup, even the faculty are getting in on it! Even putting the Pokémon style of this aside, the whole thing has a relatively bonkers sense of humour anyway. What this essentially means is that the series is chock full of slapstick, misunderstandings, innuendo and over the top encounters that are very aware of how silly they are. While the kinetic style of it all is well suited to the anime format, the manga itself approaches it well, and even comes across as a little Shonen at times.
Art wise, there’s little difference between the two formats. The character designs have remained consistent, and both versions do a great job with things like facial expressions and making scenes appear mobile. The vibrant colours of the anime suites the feel of the series, but the manga has plenty of little things going for it too, such as the bubble-free snarky comments interjected by Kenji.
The characters almost remain the same in both versions. You see, one of the great things with this series is that it does a good job of interspersing some character development in the middle of the oddball stuff. While that means that it’s easy to like most of the characters, the anime did actually drop the ball with one of the primary protagonists: Sakura. The tomboyish water affinity girl has a fair bit of depth in the manga, but the anime cuts her scenes of this nature down quite considerably. While the OAV – which covered the Sakura centred Shrine Water Arc from book four – did go some way to rectify this, it is a shame that the general series left her with little to work with.
In terms of other cuts, the anime is an odd one here too. From what I can see, it remains pretty faithful, doing little more than some script tidying. But … the dub version does make one considerable cut. You see, towards the end of the initial arc, Kenji and his friends battle the Student Council President and earth wielder Chitose. This results in Kenji unwittingly being drawn into a challenge of trying to scale the outside of the building to peep into the girl’s changing rooms. He succeeds, and is suspended from school. The subbed version keeps this scene intact, but the dub cuts it, jumping straight to the suspension with little explanation. Now, the uncut scene does feature some members of the school in a state of undress, so the cut makes sense. Even if other shows get away with it, it’s not something that I can really say they’re wrong to cut. What makes it odd is that the manga got around it by not showing the girls themselves and just having their reactions in speech bubbles. Honestly, if the anime had adapted that scene in the way it’s shown in the manga, there likely wouldn’t have been a problem.
So, which version is better? Well, I described the anime as a five-star rated hidden gem, and I stand by that. It’s colourful, odd, and funny. But … the manga edges it. The reason for that is that it never really does anything that requires the cuts that the anime did, meaning that it has better marketability in my eyes. On top of that, it does a better job in how it presents the cast as a whole. Is the anime worth checking out? Absolutely. But as it stands, I prefer the source material.
But what about you all? Have you seen D-Frag? Have you read the manga? What did you think?