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Adaptation Distillation
"Doomed planet. Desperate scientists. Last hope. Kindly couple. Superman."
All-Star Superman, telling Superman's Superhero Origin in 4 panels.

Some adaptations take a complex character or situation and greatly simplify it, removing elements the producer believed to be unnecessary. This effect is more common when adapting from a long-running series, especially if it hasn't had a singular vision over the years.

Compare Compressed Adaptation, which deals more along the lines of a direct adaptation and is about all the stuff that is cut out along the way to make this trope happen.

Contrast with Pragmatic Adaptation: in a distillation, a complex story is simplified, without much substantive change. In a Pragmatic Adaptation, the story is changed with the shift in medium. Also contrast Adaptation Expansion, which tacks on more content but retains all of the original source material. When a story element is removed, but its effects aren't, that's Adaptation Explanation Extrication.

Examples (sorted by the format of the Distilled Adaptation):

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    Anime & Manga 
  • The 2122-page AKIRA manga was condensed into a 120-minute movie by ending it 3/5 of the way through (the manga itself was not completed at the time), eliminating subplots and fusing several scenes together.
  • The Road to 2002 animated adaptation of Captain Tsubasa, the premise was to cover the first manga series up to the 3rd manga series (the titular Road to 2002), but in practice is merely a rushed retelling of the beginning of the manga series and altering the many sub-plots along the way to catch up with the later manga series; to wit: all romantic subplots from the manga were dropped, even the one involving the protagonist himself who would be married by the 2002 arc, some Love Interests for the guys were introduced, only to provide support as they never went anywhere, while other girls weren’t lucky enough to even exist in this adaptation. Removing the romance wouldn’t be so bad if originally it wasn’t one of the main forces keeping and inspiring the guys to continue playing soccer, but is, and by removing it several events had to be altered or to be downright ignored.
  • Mazinger Z: The anime removed many unnecessary characters (such like the Inspector Ankokuji, the Gamia or the twins Loru and Lori) and storylines and streamlined several stories (like the Lorelei story), trying to make the plot more cohesive and coherent.
  • Similar to the above example, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind ends at around volume two of the seven volume manga.
  • Rebuild of Evangelion seemed to be going this route for the first movie, but the second movie introduced a number of changes to the storyline and the third goes completely Off the Rails and into brand-new territory.
    • The manga also counts in this category, as it removes a lot of the anime's more superfluous scenes (as well as adding some of its own), streamlines angel battles, and removes a high quotient of Mind Screw scenes. However, some of the characters have their personalities and backgrounds altered, so there is some Adaptation Decay to it.
  • Anime Compilation Movies are like this. The Mobile Suit Gundam trilogy, especially the third installment, Encounters In Space is a particularly good example.
    • One large example are the quartet of Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny movies. Destiny had a number of flaws, and while the movies didn't alter the storyline, they did do some editing to mitigate the worst of it: flashbacks were greatly reduced, a couple new scenes were added to clarify certain plot points, and Athrun was made the viewpoint character, rather than Shinn or Kira, which improved the story's flow somewhat.
    • Another example is Memory of Eden, the AGE movie. It comes across as an Author's Saving Throw after the disastrous final run of AGE, and cuts out most of the story to focus exclusively on Asemu Asuno and Zeheart Gallette. This turns the story from a sprawling, shallow plot of a 75-year long war to a character-driven, personal story with the war as a backdrop, and goes a long way to justifying the actions Zeheart took at the end of the show, which seem to come out of nowhere in the series itself.
  • The anime of Air Gear cuts quite a bit of content from the manga and adds some original scenes, changing the beginning of the series and streamlining the story a bit. However, they cut out a few side characters and get rid of quite a bit of some minor characters' characterization.
  • The film version of Leiji Matsumoto's Galaxy Express 999 - not so much a compilation as a new adaptation of the original manga series - cuts out much of the unnecessary melodramatic elements of the original to focus on the core story-arc, while at the same time expanding on Tetsuro's quest to get revenge on Count Mecha.
  • The live-action series of Ouran High School Host Club was this to and the anime that came before it, given how it's only 13 episodes long. It cuts about half of the material from the anime.
  • Astro Boy's long history is rife with examples. While the first anime series generally had low production values (it was the first animated TV series produced in Japan, so it took them a while to get the hang of it) and the heavier themes of the manga were often toned down for mass consumption, a few of the stories adapted from the manga were much tighter than the originals. The 1980s anime had the same problems as the first, but added the character of Atlas (actually an amalgam of three different characters from the manga), a complex recurring villain who tied several episodes together into a single overriding story arc. Then came the 2003 series which, while still fairly episodic by modern anime standards, had a continuous storyline revolving around the struggles between humanity and robotkind tying together classic stories from the manga, greatly expanded the role of Astro's father, Dr. Tenma and featured animation quality similar to that used in Tezuka Productions' acclaimed theatrical release Film/Metropolis. In a non-animated example, the Sankei Newspaper comic strip version, originally a continuation of the story from the first anime, turned into a continuity reboot after Astro Time Travelled back to the (then) present, eventually died and then the time of his creation rolled around again. This version greatly expanded on Astro's backstory and his relationship with Dr. Tenma. And then there is the Ultimate Universe version created by Naoki Urasawa (of Monster fame) for his futuristic suspense-thriller manga Pluto. Then we have the 2009 animated movie by IMAGI but distributed for American audiences... definitely the farthest away from the original storyline, only keeping the key points from the Origin Story.
    • Then we have the GBA game, Astro Boy: Omega Factor. It takes almost every Osamu Tezuka character and weaves them into one giant, all-encompassing storyline. It manages to do justice to the man's entire career. And it plays well, to boot.
  • Mamoru Oshii turned 300-odd pages of the Ghost in the Shell manga into an 80-minute movie by selectively picking out only a handful of chapters out of the entire story (not even covering them in the order that they appear), changing some scenes, removing many of the characters and changing the personality of the characters who were left in. A good 5 minutes of the movie is just spent showing Scenery Porn while children sing a mystic chanting song. It serves no purpose at all. The 2nd movie comes off even more confusing because it was created using the exact same manner as the first, including the mystic chanting Scenery Porn.
  • The live action films of Death Note keeps many of the best parts of the original story while changing several things, including giving Soichiro Yagami more prominence and letting him live in the end, giving a larger focus on the murder of Misa's family as a way of making her character seem less shallow, and most of all cutting the Mello and Near arc entirely and having L win personally instead.
  • YuYu Hakusho condenses the events of the first two volumes, in which Yusuke helps out spirits in stories completely unrelated to the battles of the later manga, into five episodes, all centered around the essential events; 1)Yusuke dies, 2)Yusuke finds out what he has to do to come back to life, 3)Yusuke helps his old rival Kuwabara, 4)Yusuke sacrifices his work toward resurrection to save Keiko and as a result 5)comes back to life. It also condensed the ending into a single episode (cutting out a lot of pointless stuff including an out-of-nowhere fight with human terrorists), and actually showed Yusuke's fight with Yomi to its conclusion (when in the manga, it abruptly stops at the end of Chapter 169).
    • Also, the original manga ending had a lengthy explanation about how evil demons were a Vocal Minority, humans had made them what they were, and Spirit World authorities had been brainwashing a lot of demons into committing crimes so that Spirit World could look good. This soiled the point of peace between humans and demons being established, as it made the demons look much too blameless. The anime cuts all this out, and both sides (humans and demons) are left much more even in terms of fault.
  • Zero no Tsukaima's 1st season condenses the first few light novels into a fast-moving, lighthearted tsunderes and magic series, removing some rather awkward scenes. The VAs also define the characters well.
  • This seems to be what Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is going for.
    • As an added bonus, it tweaks many minor things and event orders, which shakes things up and keeps it from being a precise retread of the manga, without disrupting the overall spirit and character of the manga.
  • The manga adaptation of Breath of Fire IV. This is a condensation of a 40- to 80-hour video game with a very large number of Fetch Quests, two largely separate plotlines that don't interweave until close to the end, and Multiple Endings into a five-volume (and around 175 pages per volume) manga series. Just getting things sorted into a linear storyline was impressive in and of itself; even more impressive, they managed to incorporate both the Good Ending and the Downer Ending into a linear plot.
  • Hellsing Ultimate rearranges certain events and streamlines or expands others (particularly the fight scenes) in order to give it a more fast-paced and dramatic narrative flow. Most notably, the Major's "I Love War" speech is moved from the departure of the airships from Brazil to right before the assault on London.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha The Movie First, which took the first season, removed a lot of the less plot important bits (such as a huge chunk of the earlier episodes), cut out nearly all the secondary characters, made it more consistent with later seasons (The Staff and Cannon modes are now previously installed in Raising Heart, as opposed to being forms that Nanoha thought up), animated a lot of the more important All There in the Manual stuff (Like the full backstory of Fate), and showed the entire Start of Darkness of Precia as opposed to just hinting at it, turning her to a more fleshed out Tragic Villain.
  • The anime adaptation of Aoi Hana concentrates mostly on the lead characters, with the relationship between Fumi and Yasuko taking central stage. This leads to it having more focus than the original manga, since Shimura loves to introduce loads of extraneous characters with their own back stories.
  • The Black Lagoon OVA "Roberta's Blood Trail" had the tough task of adapting a manga story arc ("El Baile De La Muerte") that most fans agree went on too long and suffered from poor pacing. For reference, the OVA lasts about as long as the Japan arc from the second season, but has to adapt twice as many chapters. The OVA compresses the narrative without cutting information, changes the order of scenes for dramatic emphasis. Significantly, the action scenes that took up so many manga volumes are shorter, more comprehensible, and more exciting when animated.
  • Ayashi no Ceres was compressed from a 14 volume manga to a 24 episode anime, leaving out several chunks of the original manga. To make up for this, either entire expeditions of Aya's group to find the hagoromo in various cities and prefectures were left out, or if the details were a bit more important, they were fused together with other details.
  • The first season of the Ah! My Goddess anime essentially cuts out everything that's not relevant to Keiichi and Belldandy's romance, with the exception of the Lord of Terror arc, and in so doing, manages to develop the romance farther than the manga has ever gone in 24 episodes (with Urd and Skuld each getting a side story to round out the season). When it was picked up for a second season, by contrast, they simply did a Compressed Adaptation of several manga storylines put together in no particular order.
  • Dragon Ball Kai cut out a lot of the Filler in the original Dragon Ball Z not just reducing it from 194 episodes (through the end of Cell Games Saga) down to 97, but following the manga more closely.
  • The Idolm@ster anime combines story elements from all of the game routes, and Miki, Takane, and Hibiki are already part of 765 Pro from the start instead of eventually defecting from 961 Pro.
  • The manga adaptation of Code Geass Lelouch Of The Rebellion simplifies and compresses the series' main storyline in eight volumes and removes most of the less meaningful subplots or characters. It also removes the giant mechas and the action sequences that accompany them entirely, which was probably done because that works much better in animated format than it would on page.
  • The Trigun anime is significantly distilled from the original manga. For instance, the anime doesn't even feature Livio as a character, and many of the Gung Ho Guns only get a few minutes of screentime, or are replaced entirely. To be fair, though, the production of the anime began partway through the manga's lifetime, and since about three print issues can be squeezed into a single aired episode, it quickly outpaced the source material.
    • In addition to the distillation, the anime is in many regards just different from the source manga. Some of the bonus gaiden stories appeared as filler material for the first few episodes, probably to give the manga a month or two to go on with storyline before beginning with the story itself. One can fairly easily see exactly where the divergence begins; most of the early story arcs are nearly identical in both media, even down to having the exact same lines, but around where Monev the Gale first appears, the two stores take somewhat different directions.
  • The anime version of Axis Powers Hetalia, while having a number of differences from the source material, does try to stay close to the manga.
  • The anime that uses the most from this trope has to be Rosario + Vampire. The anime skipped over many unimportant parts of the manga for its first season and almost completely abandoned the manga for its second season.
  • The anime adaptation of the light novel series Hidan no Aria removes quite a bit of the Gun Porn as well as the protagonist's First-Person Smartass tendencies; and his general inner thoughts. While the gun info wasn't really necessary the anime never gives a real reason why we should like the protagonist; it makes what was justifiable dislike for his situation seem like plain old angst. This is due to the character being the type convey his reasons in his thoughts rather than explaining his circumstances to other people; which the Anime never really displays properly.
  • In the same vein as Black Butler was Steel Angel Kurumi, whose story went a completely different direction in the anime than the manga. Its direct continuation Encore and its sequels 2 and Zero stay with that same vein and the only thing brought over from the manga by that point where the main Angel trio's outfits used in 2.
  • The anime of Umineko: When They Cry suffered heavily from this with several scenes either rushed, changed or removed entirely. Normally this would be rather bad but in this case it was catastrophic since Umineko is a mystery that heavily relies on small hints and clues. This means that if they ever makes a second season the mystery will be unsolvable.
    • The manga on the other hand, while not perfect, is much better at keeping the clues and the mood. It also had several clues not present in the novels.
  • In anime version of Kindaichi Case Files this happens almost every time when the animators pick up a case from the Short Files series and try to fit it into one episode.
  • The original anime of Berserk. It mostly focuses on the Golden Age arc (with some of the Black Swordsman arc in the beginning) and for the most part, it follows the story fairly well despite being Lighter and Softer than its source. However, many characters important to the story are strangely absent in the anime version. Most notable are Puck and the Skull Knight.

    Comic Books 
  • The Punisher MAX is an example of distillation, although it's just a set of "hardboiled" crime stories with only Frank Castle (and an Ennis take on Castle's backstory) to make it "Punisher," which works very well. (In "The Slavers" though it works too well, especially when you see the Downer Ending.)
  • The entire Ultimate Marvel line of comics did this for a while, but gradually started doing its own thing.
  • All-Star Superman is an intended example for the Golden and Silver Age Superman, and it's widely regarded as doing a great job at it. Alan Moore's run on Supreme does the same thing (albeit with a Superman analogue).

    Fan Works 

    Film 
  • The film versions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets retain the dialogue almost word for word (though not all of it spoken by the same character or characters - Hermione stole quite a few of Ron's lines and at least one of Seamus's for example) and every important scene from the books is left in, with a few merged with other scenes or removed from the story.
  • Classic moments, images and arcs from 40+ years of Spider-Man stories are squashed down to their best bits to fuel the Spider-Man Trilogy, though the 60s and early 70s are clearly the main inspiration.
  • All of the film and animated versions of the X-Men comic book series have involved considerable amounts of this.
  • The Last of the Mohicans is an extremely distilled version of a very long and rather complicated novel. Omitted portions include redundant portions where the women are captured and quickly freed, a deranged white man at the Huron camp, a shooting contest, and Natty Bumpo disguised as a bear. The changes generally streamlined and improved on the novel.
  • The Lord of the Rings is often considered easier to follow in movie format as opposed to the written version, since many of the plot's more complex nuances were omitted from the films, leaving only the core of the story. On the other hand, there have been loud grumblings from fans of the books about some of the things that were left out as well as some changes that didn't make any sense.
  • The Towering Inferno was based on two books, The Glass Inferno by Scortia and Robinson and The Tower by Stern, because studio executives correctly realized that the market would not have supported two simultaneous films about buildings going up in flames. There is enough material left out to make at least another whole story.
  • The 1980 Flash Gordon film cut out the extraneous parts of the original comic book and adventure serial, making for a better adventure movie. It also cut out racism against black people, but oddly enough, not Asians, although even that was done so over-the-top it had to be tongue-in-cheek, which, apparently, makes it okay.
  • The film adaptation of the graphic novel Road to Perdition merges all the anonymous hitmen sent after the protagonists into a single character.
  • The film adaptation of Peter Benchley's novel Jaws stripped away most of the book's land-bound subplots and condensed the climactic shark-hunt to a single voyage.
  • Layer Cake definitely comes across as a distillation of the novel, being much more tightly plotted, and notably, when the author of the novel, J.J. Connoley, attempted writing a screen play, it was several hundred pages long, and thus he wisely left this task to Mathew Vaughn.
  • The film version of The Godfather eliminates about two thirds of Mario Puzo's novel to concentrate solely on the core story of Michael Corleone, dropping most of the Johnny Fontane plot and all of the Lucy Mancini storyline (Lucy Mancini, Sonny's mistress has a tiny non-speaking part in the movie). The result is a much more fast-paced and interesting work. The sections regarding Vito Corleone's rise to power were relegated (and fleshed out in The Godfather II).
  • The original Conan the Barbarian stories were somewhat unsuited to adaptation to film, and the original script for Conan the Barbarian (1982) featured lots of huge fight scenes that would have been expensive to shoot. John Milius took both as inspirations for writing the movie, preserving some of the feel of Robert E. Howard's world without the unfortunate tropes.
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe films in general.
  • The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 both take elements from the classic comics and the Ultimate Spider-Man series. The perfect example is the Rhino; He's a Russian gangster like his classic depiction, but pilots a Mini-Mecha / Powered Armor like his Ultimate counterpart.
  • The Name of the Rose also stripped away all of the description of dreams, historical lessons and other scenes not directly related to the main plot.
  • The first Left Behind movie makes the opening attack less of a non-event (by condensing the amount of time between it and the Rapture), plays up the mystery in the first half, puts Buck in a position where he has a lot more influence over the nation, and streamlines the book's rather ping-pong opening sequence. That said, it's still not well-liked.
  • A History of Violence: The original graphic novel featured a finger in a jar on a boss' necklace, an overly-devoted wife who immediately had no problem with her husband's previous life, and a brother being kept alive while having parts of him cut off. Cronenberg's take on the story removed the more "comic-book-y" aspects of the graphic novel, while adding more depth to the characters, and replacing the Happily Ever After ending with a more Bittersweet Ending.
  • The film version of The Cider House Rules is a considerable distillation of the original novel by John Irving—who also wrote the screenplay of The Film of the Book.
  • In Mildred Pierce, the early part of the film follows the book fairly closely, but once Mildred opens her restaurant, things go in completely different directions. Among other things, the novel contains no murder. Instead it follows Veda as she builds up a singing career, largely by sleeping her way to the top.
  • Silent Hill is this applied to the plotline of the first game. The intricate not-quite-occult-not-quite-pagan mythos was replaced with a heavily simplified pseudo-Christian substitute, the protagonist is functionally a mix of the heroes from the first three games (Radha Mitchell looks like an older Heather from 3), the "all that matters is the person I love" mentality of Harry and James, and the diabolical force running the whole show were tremendously simplified, but no less evil for it.
  • The 2009 Star Trek movie took decades of Backstory culled from the show's various series and distilled it to fit with the Origin Story of the alternate Enterprise crew.
  • The 1994 film of The Shadow. As there were two separate versions of the character running at the same time, the film instead chose to combine the most well-known elements of both—namely the radio Shadow's identity and abilities, combined with the magazine Shadow's network and attire. Several characters were removed entirely. The character of Margo Lane was retained, but instead of simply being The Watson, she was given psychic abilities of her own in order to explain why The Shadow keeps her around.
  • The Secret Of Moonacre, the movie based on The Little White Horse, also mixes the two concepts. Gabor Csupo took the book's characters, and went off and did his own thing. To be fair, however, the original book really doesn't lend itself that well to a cinematic adaptation.
  • Superman: Doomsday was both this and a Pragmatic Adaptation of the The Death of Superman, Funeral for a Friend and Reign of the Supermen storylines which, when combined, spanned over 60 issues of story. Granted, a lot of that was extraneous storyline for followers of the continuity, but they also managed to effectively compress two or three of the four fake Supermen into a single character and used the audience familiar Luthor as its creator in place of multiple entities that would have had to be introduced and made the conflict about stopping him as opposed to an alien invasion. It still managed to hit the important points of those series.
  • Wanted had the plot revolve around a secret organization of high-profile assassins. Main character Wesley Gibson/The Killer was in fact an assassin in the comic, but the Fraternity was a shadowy cabal of comicbook-style supervillains, who are presently in control of the entire planet after having killed all the superheroes and then altered the very fabric of reality in 1986. Its membership is in possession of superscience, alien technologies, and magical powers, and partakes in atrocities on a regular basis. The comic's writer Mark Millar was actually pretty happy with the transition result.
  • The animated version of the Batman arc "Under the Red Hood" compressed several issues of story into one animated movie. It removed several of the more outlandish moments and origins and created a tighter storyline.
  • The novel of Get Shorty features a handful of scenes written from the perspective of characters who work in the movie industry who view the scenes as though they are scenes in a script. The film takes those scenes and shoots them to pitch-perfection. The rest of the movie was mildly altered, but John Travolta stood in the way of any substantial Executive Meddling.
  • Jurassic Park. Many side plots from the book were written out and several characters were combined and their fates change.
    • Most notably, in the film Hammond's character was a kindly old man who just wanted to share the magic of dinosaurs with people. In the novel, he's a manipulative Jerkass who really just wants people's money, and won't listen to anyone's advice about how dangerous the situation is.
    • Some scenes in the book that were left out of the first movie appeared in later movies. The book opens with a scene of a family having a picnic on a beach. A child chases a tiny dinosaur into the forest and then gets attacked by a swarm of them. Another scene has the female character jumping from roof to roof being chased by velociraptors. Those scenes were shown in The Lost World: Jurassic Park.
    • The context of that first scene was drastically changed, though; the original version of that scene takes place on a Costa Rican beach, thus showing us that dinosaurs have already escaped the island. In the movie, however, the family just happens to unknowingly weigh anchor for a picnic on the island, where the dinosaurs are apparently safely confined.
  • The Dark Knight Saga combines and rearranges elements from many famous Batman storylines over the course of three films. Batman Begins fuses Batman: Year One with elements of The Long Halloween, while The Dark Knight blends The Killing Joke with a few other aspects of The Long Halloween, and The Dark Knight Rises goes for a three-in-one by combining Batman: The Dark Knight Returns with elements of both Batman: No Man's Land and Knightfall.
  • The film adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy merges two minor characters, Jerry Westerby and Sam Collins, into one. It works well enough for the film, but could be problematic should the studio decide to adapt the rest of the Quest for Karla trilogy, since both Westerby and Collins become major characters (the protagonist and one of the main antagonists, respectively) in the second installment, The Honorable Schoolboy.
  • The animated adaptation of The Last Unicorn is regarded as highly faithful to the text, even though significant parts of the book (such as the poetry and songs) are left out.
  • Despite quite a few things being removed for time and expenses, the film version of Holes is still regarded as faithful to the original book. Louis Sachar had a big hand in the adaptation.
  • The Hunger Games shortens how long the actual games take, and a few scenes/flashbacks are cut due not being a first-person narrative (on the other hand, others from outside the protagonist's scope are added).
  • The V for Vendetta adaptation is understandably forced to make a great deal of simplification (in addition to changing a few themes), including combining Creedy and Finch into one character and turning the tortured leader Adam Susan into the faceless foe Adam Sutler.
  • Surprisingly, Chuck Pahlaniuk himself, after viewing the adaptation of his already-cult novel Fight Club by David Fincher, said the movie worked more efficiently than the book, was more tightly structured and handled the finale better. Then again, this is David Fincher we're talking about. An example of true distillation: considering the complex task of even beginning to dramatize the disjointed Palanick's writing, Fincher used an astonishing array of temporal, visual, point-of-view and narration devices to cram a good deal of the original material into the film. One of the DVD commentaries features Pahlaniuk and the screenwriter discussing the adaptation. It's pretty much a two hour lesson in how to do this well.
  • The Incredible Shrinking Man: While this film adaptation of the book largely reflects many aspects of the plot, there are a couple plot points not included. The first one was that Scott had a daughter. The second was when Scott encountered a group of boys who recognize him as that shrinking man, they express the desire to remove his pants to see if EVERY part of him had shrunk
  • Watchmen combined the two Ozymandias plots of getting Dr. Manhattan of Earth by framing him for causing cancer in people and thus removing him from the picture in time for the second plot, the fake alien attack on Earth. Instead he was framed for causing the cancers, resulting in public anger that drove him away, and then framed for striking back in response.
  • Man of Steel puts its own spin on elements from Superman: The Movie, Superman II, Smallville, and modern (usually Post-Crisis) Superman comics such as The Man of Steel, Superman: Birthright, Superman: Last Son, Superman: Secret Origin, All-Star Superman, Superman: Earth One, and Superman: Secret Identity.
  • Topher Grace's Star Wars Episode III.5: The Editor Strikes Back takes the prequel trilogy and distills them down into a single movie that more efficiently tells Anakin Skywalker's Protagonist Journey to Villain.

    Literature 
  • William Goldman's The Princess Bride claims to be "the good parts version" of an earlier novel by Simon Morgenstern, turning what was a digression-laden, politics-heavy slog into a fun action-adventure story. In fact, Morgenstern and his unabridged novel are entirely fictitious. This setup allows Goldman to lampoon such authors as Victor Hugo and his ilk. The film distills the story even further, into its purest essence.
  • Thomas Malory, in Le Morte Darthur distilled an enormous mass of wildly contradictory Arthurian legends into a book that is often regarded as the definitive Arthur story.
  • T.H. White's The Once and Future King is a distillation (and paraphrase) of Le Morte D'Arthur. The reader is actually directed to read Mallory's version to find out the specifics of certain jousts, etc. Tom himself makes an appearance in the final pages, directed by an ancient Arthur to run away from the final battle so that he can record the Arthur's history.
  • Subverted by The Sandman: The Dream Hunters, a book by Neil Gaiman. In the introduction, the author claims it's an attempt to take various elements of various retellings of a certain preexisting Japanese myth, and bring them together in a logical, complete way. It apparently works as the thing turns out great, and the illustrations by Yoshitaka Amano are beautiful to boot... as it turns out, the preexisting myth didn't so much exist at all, which is standard for Neil Gaiman.
  • Over time, DC Comics has released various novels over its various popular events and as such, even they have had certain events removed. For instance, The Death and Life of Superman keeps most of the events of Doomsday, Funeral For A Friend and Reign of the Supermen, but removes a number of events, mostly because it was written while Reign was still being worked on. Among the events removed were more involvement with the rest of the DC heroes outside of the required appearance of the Justice League and brief appearances by Wonder Woman and Batman, and it condenses a number of side story events and, for some odd reason, removes Green Lantern Hal Jordan (and replaces his fight with Mongul that leaves the villain unconscious) despite Coast City still biting it. On the other hand, it expands other events, including the eulogy for Superman delivered by Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary, for example, and adds more eulogies delivered by world leaders, including even Pope John Paul II (who was still alive at the time of the book's release)!
    • The adaptation of Batman: No Man's Land, beyond dumping a few side events, seems to toss out appearances by both Superman and, oddly, Azrael, despite Azrael being part of the Bat-Family.
  • The Land of Stories makes it so that the Prince Charmings of Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Snow White are all brothers.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The eponymous hero of The Flash (1990) was an amalgamation of the Silver Age and Post-Crisis Flashes in the comics. While his secret identity was that of Silver Age Flash, Barry Allen, some aspects of the character (like his relationship with scientist Dr. Tina McGee and his need to eat insane amounts of food to maintain his powers) were incorporated from the character of the later Flash, Wally West.
  • The miniseries version of Hogfather and The Colour of Magic managed to retain most of the good material from the original novel, though it was apparently hard to follow for those who hadn't read the books, as it assumed you already knew most of the backstory. In this case, the distillation is probably because Terry Prachett was heavily involved in both productions, even having cameo appearances in the last scenes of Hogfather and the first of Colour.
    • One specific example: They based the Patrician on his later appearances (including Wuffles), instead of his eventually rather contradictory appearance in the actual early books. The "Machiavellian Vampire Flamingo" Vetinari was introduced approximately at the same time as the name "Vetinari".
  • The J-Drama form of Hana Yori Dango managed to compress thirty-six volumes of manga written over a period of eleven years into a much smoother story, combining characters and editing plot arcs as necessary.
  • The Nobuta Wo Produce J-drama was based on a book whose title character was an overweight, unattractive boy, and the main character was a cold-hearted Jerkass who only wanted to produce Nobuta because he was bored. In the drama, Nobuta was a lovable Woobie girl who wasn't even capable of smiling properly, Shuji was misguided and selfish rather than a cold jerk, and the character of Akira was introduced. The resulting drama had an ending that was not saddening as the book, had beautiful cinematography, and mind-blowing plot and characterization.
  • The US game show Minute to Win It spun off versions in Australia and the Netherlands version, both of which manage to cram twice as much gameplay into the same hour (which also fixes the numerous pacing problems of the original) by gutting out all the Padding, Filler, reminding the viewers of what just happened three minutes earlier, and Commercial Break Cliffhangers.
  • The Incredible Hulk: A very loose adaptation of the Marvel Comics character. The comics' supporting characters and villains are left out and only once during the series did the Hulk battle another superhuman character. Also, for the majority of the series, the only sci-fi or fantasy elements were the Hulk himself. With the exception of two TV movies, the rest of the Marvel Universe wasn't even referenced and the name Hulk was rarely used onscreen to refer to Banner's alter ego. The format for the show was a loose adaptation of Les Misérables with David Banner as Jean Valjean and Jack McGee as Inspector Javert. Comparisons to the Kung Fu TV series are also common with Banner as Kwai Chang Caine as is Richard Kimble of The Fugitive. The show focused on character drama instead of deliberate superhero-style adventure.
  • The Vampire Diaries: Bonnie in the TV series is a combination of the book version of Bonnie and Meredith; Meredith's traits are folded into Bonnie and bitchy Caroline takes Meredith's place in the trio.
  • The Hardy Boys Nancy Drew Mysteries cuts most of The Hardy Boys book series' supporting cast. The Hardys' mother, Laura, is dead, and the boys live with their widowed father and Aunt Gertrude, and the only friends from the books that show up are Callie Shaw and Chet Morton — and Chet, only in two episodes. In second season, the series is distilled even more, with even Aunt Gertrude and Callie getting cut.
  • Smallville takes several cues from the Silver Age (friendship with Lex, Clark having a sort of heroic career while in high school, supporting cast getting powers every other week) as well as Post-Crisis (Clark playing football, Clark getting his powers on the on-set of puberty) and the films (Several MythologyGags).
  • Game of Thrones is an adaptation of a series of fantasy Door Stopper novels. Even with about 10 hours of screen time devoted to each book, there is a lot of condensing, particularly in the form of reducing the number and combining the roles of various characters. With only 7 seasons being planned and only the first 3 books being adapted in 4 seasons, this has been happening at a faster rate to the point where Brans arc has already caught up with the 5th book. Books 4 and 5 take place at the same time with Bran's story being in the 5th, meaning that Bran and Hodor et al. will be missing from season 5 out of neccesity.
  • Les Revenants (Rebound as titled in English) is based on a 2004 zombie movie that had a lot more people resurrecting. In the series, there are only five "Revenants", mostly to get a better assessment of their predicament. The movie also didn't provide any explanation for these unexpected resurrections, which the series plan to do eventually.
  • The 1981 television adaptation of The Day of the Triffids crammed a whole novel into six 50-minute episodes by the simple expedient of cutting all the Padding, and was frankly the better for it.

    New Media 
  • Parodied with the in 5 seconds YouTube videos, which cut down the targeted film to its most important points. The quality varies somewhat widely from video to video though. This may represent an inadvertent Deconstruction, as some basic biology knowledge will tell you that it is unhealthy to remove all the fat from the body.
    • A lot of Rule of Funny goes into those, so it's hard to really call it "distillation", in the traditional sense.
    • In the same vein, any time the "A Softer Trek" tumblr handles the destruction of the USS Kelvin.
  • Also on YouTube, "X...in 30 seconds and re-enacted by bunnies!"
  • MS Paint Masterpieces, a retelling of the Mega Man (Classic) mythos does a very good job at telling the story of the games, as well as compositing the Gameboy games and Wonderswan games into a coherent whole.
  • Some of The Abridged Series out there can do this, not just successfully (or unsuccessfully) turning the story into a comedy but also greatly simplifying the story.

    Pinball 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Parodied in the GURPS: Goblins RPG sourcebook; a sample adventure includes "The Abridged Macbeth, With Just The Witches and the Fighting". The entire script is one page long.

    Theater 
  • When Edna Ferber's Show Boat was made into the famous Broadway musical in 1927, it wasn't common at all for such long and convoluted novels to be made into musicals. The result still ran very long for a Broadway show, and so has been subjected to various levels of this in all revivals (and in the 1936 movie, the only faithful film version).
  • The play Auntie Mame is this for Patrick Dennis's pseudo-autobiographical novel. To quote Patrick Dennis:
    "Not every episode of my book is in the play. To get them all in - not that every one would be worth dramatizing - would require passing out box luncheons, blankets, and tooth brushes to a rough-and-ready audience of slavish theatre-goers weaned on Eugene O'Neill and the Ring Series. But an astonishing number of the episodes in the book are in the play; enough so that the casual reader is convinced that every word of the novel has been translated to the stage. If that isn't catching the 'spirit' of a book, I don't know what is."
  • Victor Hugo's original Les Misérables novel contained, among other tangents, a lengthy retelling of the Battle of Waterloo. Many critics agree that you can skip this section of the book and miss nothing. The extremely popular musical adaptation removed such elements and focused on the core story and characters. Sadly, it did also lose a lot of Character Development, and a bit of the plot.
  • A double example: British playwright Christopher Bond took the most exciting elements of the Sweeney Todd myth (the razors, the chair, the pies) and added plot elements from The Revengers Tragedy and The Count of Monte Cristo (as well as excellent dialogue) to create a first-rate melodrama with real character motivation. Then, Stephen Sondheim took Bond's play, fixed the weakest plot moments and set the whole thing to an amazing musical score to create Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, a first-rate musical tragedy.
  • Herman Wouk distilled his novel The Caine Mutiny into the play The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial. A made-for-TV version of this play directed by Robert Altman appeared in 1988, but the more famous 1954 film version is a very different distillation of the novel.
  • The musical version of Wicked departs so greatly from the book that it almost goes beyond this trope and into In Name Only. Justified however, in that it would be nearly impossible to get away with putting a great deal of the content from the book directly into musical format, so the massive re-working of the story was pretty much necessary. About the only things the musical and the book have in common are the general plot idea and characters.

    Theme Parks 
  • The "Dark Rides" at Disney Theme Parks that adapt movies in the Disney Animated Canon take the parts of the movies that recreate the feel and emotions of the movie while generally squeezing the plot into a few rooms. Occasionally they'll throw in some extra stuff, such as making "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" Darker and Edgier than the animated feature that inspired it. The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure takes the approach of focusing entirely on the film's songs, though coming at the cost of Ursula gaining mostly Offstage Villainy.
  • This occurs on The Great Movie Ride, as it simplifies scenes from both Casablanca and The Wizard of Oz, drastically cutting down dialogue or even re-assigning some of the dialogue to a different character.

    Video Games 
  • Mortal Kombat 9: The story mode is the plot of the first three games condensed into one, while cutting the fat away. While there are changes (some quite major) because of the Timey-Wimey Ball, most of the stuff that happened in the old games still happens in this one.
  • Arcade game manufacturer Global VR lived on this trope by making arcade games that are distillations of Electronic Arts games. Examples include Madden NFL, EA Sports PGA Tour Golf, EA Sports NASCAR Racing, and three Need for Speed games: Hot Pursuit 2- which was rechristened "Need for Speed GT"- plus NFS Underground and NFS Carbon as well. They've also done distillations of UBI Soft games as well- witness Paradise Lost, a rail shooter based on Far Cry and Blazing Angels.
  • Super Robot Wars will take the plots of the various series it crosses over, cuts out the filler and leaves only the important plots, all while mixing it up like they took the plots and put them in a blender. It's less cutting out and more with everything happening at the same time things go much faster, though not everything happens as you would expect with everything interacting.
    • Super Robot Wars Z deserves special mention because the less important plot points and events were put back in the Special Disk expansion. The main game was so crowded not everything would fit.
  • Warhammer 40,000 is an extremely large storyverse, with hundreds of novels, graphic novels, rulebooks, and other sources of backstory, some of which Retcon older works. For the PC, they distilled this all down into the excellent Dawn of War series of Real-Time Strategy games, which manage to capture the gritty feel of the game perfectly.
  • Blast Works is, at its core, a port of the freeware PC Shoot-Em-Up Tumiki Fighters. The main focus of it is the extra-extensive editor, which lets you design many things such as the player ship, background objects, bullet patterns, enemies, and levels. Making this feature even better is the ability to upload and download such creations via the game's official website.
  • DJ MAX Portable, a PSP version of the DJ MAX Online series, found itself becoming its own subseries; while the online versions died off (though a new version, DJ MAX Trilogy, is slated for release this month), the Portable series spawned 4 additional titles, one of which is the first American release in a line of previously-South Korea-only titles, and said Korea-exclusive titles have Japanese- and English-language options, which shows that Pentavision recognizes its international fanbase (and probably didn't have enough funds to make non-Korean releases until recently).
  • When Sega developed Fantasy Zone II DX (the System 16 version of Fantasy Zone II), they took the multi-screen concept of the original and simplified it into a dual world concept.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines is an overly simplified version of and at some points directly contradictory to its source material, Vampire: The Masquerade. But in most cases it is pretty clear that its differences are for the better, since a video game that is completely faithful to its tabletop origins will have some obvious issues. The main problem is that the Word of God states the video game's story is canon, which presents some setting issues as that means some characters (especially Caine) would have had to be in two places at once.
    • It is never really established how far back from the end of the oWoD storyline the end of the game is, even a few days would give the characters ample travel time.
  • The Darkness trimmed down the first couple of story arcs from the comic, altered several characters, removed the supervillains, got rid of that stupid looking armor, and gave Mike Patton the voice of the titular Darkness. The result is a damn good revenge story loosely connected to the comic canon, but doing a far better job of making the player feel for Jackie in a way the comic was never able to. When the game hits you emotionally, it hurts. The enemies trying to beat you is another matter entirely... Nintendo Hard it isn't. Then again, being billed as a horror story where you play the monster, it fits the premise for Jackie to be hard to kill while in Darkness mode. Caught in the light, he dies easy.
  • Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 is known for taking the storyline of Marvel Comics' Civil War Crisis Crossover, and keeping the interesting central ideas while jettisoning a lot of the padding that made the original so difficult to read. It also has the advantage of picking a side. Neither one, since the conflict between pro- and anti-registration is seen as petty and pointless once bigger events start happening.
  • The Xbox port of Doom 3 had a few levels cut short or removed, particularly the filler segments such as the outdoor area in the second level.
  • Although it too had some features removed due to hardware and control limitations, the PSX adaptation of Quake II stayed truer to the PC original than the N64's Pragmatic Adaptation, while adding some new interesting areas and enemies, such as a Vore-like arachnid enemy.
  • The games in the Batman: Arkham series have essentially taken the different forms of media that Batman and his world have appeared in, selected the best bits from each one, glued them together, filed the edges down and then cast the player as Batman. It's generally considered one of the key reasons the games have been so successful.
  • The arcade version of G.I. Joe sets the game around the time of the DiC series of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (the show's overall third and fourth seasons). However the Joes, and with the exception of Metal-Head, all the Cobra bosses came from the Sunbow series (the first two seasons). This is especially notable, when encountering the game's first bosses, Tomax and Xamot, who didn't even appear in the DiC series.
  • Betrayal at Krondor is treated this way. The novelisation cuts away some of the less plot-relevant or dramatically-appropriate sidequests, such as the Quest for Ale. In the Author's Note on the novel, he even talks about his regret that he had to cut out his favorite side-quests.
  • Fist of the North Star is widely regarded as doing a fantastic job taking the entire first half of the manga (everything up to the Time Skip) and presenting it in 15 chapters plus side chapters, telling the story in a concise but complete way. The sequel game does the same, but covers even more of the story just as well. Both games also avert the lingering Unfortunate Implications surrounding Mamiya by Xenafying her enough for her to pull her weight helping storm the stronghold her allies were going after anyway, instead of being The Load.

    Webcomics 
  • The webcomic Girl Genius is the story of Agatha Heterodyne, as told rather "creatively" by Professors Phil & Kaja Foglio of Transylvania Polygnostic University's Almost Certainly True History department, reconstructed from various historical documents.

    Web Original 
  • Abridged Series do this by their very nature. For example, at the time of this writing, Dragon Ball Z Abridged has covered the series up to the debut of Androids 17 and 18 (which took 134 episodes in the original series) in only 38 episodes (while episode lengths vary between around 10 and 15 minutes.), mainly because the Garlic Jr. Filler Arc was cut down to one episode (Garlic Jr. meets Mr. Popo).

    Western Animation 
  • Cartoons based of The DCU are ALL ABOUT this trope.
    • The DCAU, from Batman: The Animated Series to Justice League Unlimited, was generally of this kind.
      • A more specific example would be the Batman: The Dark Knight Returns segment of the episode "Legends of the Dark Knight", which perfectly encapsulates Miller's style and the tone of the book in five minutes of animation.
      • Another one is the Justice League Unlimited episode "For the Man Who Has Everything" based on Alan Moore's story of the same name. It kept the spirit of the story while at the same time removed the dark elements present in Superman's dream which made Superman breaking out of the Lotus-Eater Machine even more of a Tear Jerker. Even better, it is the ONLY adaptation of his work that Alan Moore actually likes.
    • Similarly, the Robin from Teen Titans is essentially an amalgam of Dick Grayson (Robin I) and the better aspects of Jason Todd (Robin II, who doesn't exist in the DCAU), along with the costume and general look of Tim Drake (Robin III). Cyborg and Raven were also a bit more interesting in the cartoon. Both had far less Wangst, and Raven also had powers that were actually useful in combat (in the comic, she became nothing but The Empath and was often the first one taken out by bad guys despite her considerable power in her earliest appearances).
    • Batman: The Brave and the Bold is a Lighter and Softer take on the greater DC Universe outside of the "Big Three," and gets the core personalities of the characters it features down pat while improving some others. Aquaman is a Large Ham Boisterous Bruiser in the show, unlike the comics, but it fits better with the tone. The show's also packed aplenty with Mythology Gags ranging from references to the relatively recent Infinite Crisis and 52 to long-forgotten Golden Age Batman stories. It's essentially the "good parts version" of the entire DC Universe but is still accessible to non-readers of the comics. The show is also more respectful to characters who pass the torch. In the comics, Blue Beetle Ted Kord is shot through the head by a villain after refusing to give in; in B&B, he dies stopping a missile attack on America. Likewise, Ray Palmer had a Heroic BSOD after his wife went nuts and became a murderous villain, handing the Atom mantle to Ryan Choi, who was later killed. In this series, Palmer handed the mantle without the tragedy and retired to South America, while Choi had a 10-Minute Retirement.
      • Another example is the Emperor Joker storyline. B:TBaTB very loosely took a 2000 Superman story arc of a Mad God Emperor resembling The Joker and made it the Caped Crusader's own story in 2010. In the comics, the story opens up In Medias Res, with Superman waking up in Arkham Asylum and breaking out of there, only to discover a World Gone Mad. He later discovers that Mr. Mxyzptlk had been scammed into giving 99.99% of his powers to the Joker, turning him into a god-like Reality Warper who twists the world in his own way; eats up everyone in China; kills Lex Luthor, Batman, and everyone associated with the latter (except Supes, of course) repeatedly day after day, all in graphic and bloody ways, leaving the Dark Knight traumatized; later removes Batman's mouth so he can't speak; turns Harley Quinn into a constellation; literally steals Supes' heart; and brings up Apocalypse How Class X-4 by blowing up the entire universe near the end; Superman eventually defeats him by asking him if he would try to take the Dark Knight out of existence, only for the Clown Prince of Crime to realize he can't; Joker's powers are surrendered to Mxy and the universe is eventually restored. In this cartoon series, Bat-Mite replaces Mxy; the reason that Bat-Mite gives the Joker all of his powers is by accident, as he was only trying to help Batman out in the fight; the Clown Prince of Crime destroys the universe during his Villain Song, right in the middle (rather than the end) of the episode, and recreates his Villain World of playing cards; he keeps his henchmen, Harley Quinn, Bat-Mite and Joker-Mite alive while repeatedly killing Batman (in less graphic and more comedic ways) and bringing him back to life for hours instead of days; the worn-out Batman begs the villain not to take away his sanity; the Joker renders Harley mute instead of turning her into a constellation and goes on a journey to the center of Batman's mind to try to toss away his files (instead of ripping out Supes' heart); and it all culminates in the Dark Knight (rather than the Man of Steel) showing the Joker an Alternate Universe in which Batman doesn't exist, resulting in Joker's Villainous Breakdown, allowing Bat-Mite to get his powers back and restore the universe in seconds.
    Batman: "In a world without Batman, you are sane."
  • Ralph Bakshi's The Lord of the Rings until the second half of The Two Towers is this incarnate. With the only changes from the book being the omission of Tom Bombadil, Glorfindel being replaced by Legolas (which was then replaced by Arwen for the Live-Action films), and the history of the ring with Sauron learning from the elves rather than the other way around. The Return of the King was also adapted to animation, by a completely different studio to Bashki's. The story is very disjointed as a result.
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man. It adapts the broad strokes of the original Spider-Man comics while bringing in characters, plot elements, and designs from the more recent Ultimate Spider-Man comics and the popular live-action Spider-Man Trilogy, making a cartoon that is recognizable to both older and younger fans.
  • The 1980s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon did make one notable improvement. The comics by Eastman and Laird, and most subsequent adaptations, depict Splinter as a rat who learned ninjutsu by copying the movements his human master made while training, before mutating and gaining human characteristics. In the 1980s cartoon, the human master himself is mutated by gaining rat characteristics, and retains all his ninja knowledge, which he then passes on to the Turtles. This improvement is kept in the 2012 cartoon.
    • The 2003 cartoon also distilled the Mirage series while adding its own twists and variety.
    • So far, the 2012 cartoon has been a distillation of the entire Ninja Turtles franchise. Scenes, character traits, whole characters, and whole episodes have been taken from previous series and given a fresh coat of paint. To name a few examples, we have:
      • From multiple continuities: the Rat King, note  the flight to the farmhouse, note 
      • From the 80s cartoon: the turtles' obsession with pizza, the Kraang, note , Irma note , Mutagen Man, note  and fly-mutant Baxter Stockman
      • From the 80s movies: Tokka and Rahzar note 
      • From the 80s Toy Line: a toy-only character called Pizza Facenote 
      • From the 2003 cartoon: Mikey's innate talent, note  Mikey's pet cat, note  the Purple Dragons gang, and the Earth Protection Force
  • G.I. Joe: Renegades is a rather successful attempt at this, blending elements from the original comic book, 80s cartoon, and Rise of Cobra movie tossed into a blender with The A-Team.
  • Reviews of Transformers Prime commonly state that this show takes many of the good points of the films (intense action scenes and realistic robot designs) while following thematics that were established by Beast Wars or Transformers Animated.
  • ThunderCats (2011) has showrunner, Michael Jelenic articulating this as his general aim for the series. Also, series composer Kevin Kliesch worked under a demand to rearrange and truncate the original's Theme Tune from two minutes to ten seconds while retaining its signature elements.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes drew on not only the classic Silver Age stories, but a number of the modern elements and bits of The Ultimates as well.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic does this with the previous generations of My Little Pony cartoons, combining fantasy and adventure elements of the original G1 cartoons with the Slice of Life style of Tales, and most of the main cast are re-imagined G3 characters such as Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, and Rarity. The result was extremely successful, to say the least.
    • The book adaptation of the Equestria Girls Rainbow Rocks spinoff has a different ending to one of the scenes made into a short. In the short, DJ Pon-3 puts in earphones after Principal Celestia takes them away. In the book, Celestia takes them away because there's a fire drill.
  • VeggieTales has the episode The Penniless Princess, which is their adaptation of A Little Princess. Unlike many of their episodes based on other source material, it's a straight-up adaptation, staying rather faithful to the source material, but they do simplify the story a lot by cutting out characters, combining scenes, and making the message more obvious.
  • The first season of the 90's The Moomins series combined selected contents from both Tove Jansson's novels and her comics into a single episodic narrative while merging characters and events, simplifying and streamlining The Verse and adding some original contents into the mix. The result is something of a more consistent middle ground between the mood of the comic and the various moods of the novels.
  • The HBO Animated Adaptation of Spawn has a refined, more coherent plotline, more sympathetic characters, and viciously batters the Animation Age Ghetto.

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