Adaptation First

Some piece of fiction is created that doesn't get released outside its home country. But it proves extremely popular inside its home country, and so it is adapted into a movie, TV show, book, comic, or whatever.

Due to the pre-existing fanbase, this new adaptation enjoys massive sales upon release, and so the publishers decide to give it a worldwide release. The international release is so successful that the copyright holders decide to give the original an international release as well, based on similar logic to that which persuaded them to make the adaptation.

This is, so far, standard practice with anime, since a cartoon tends to be marketable to more demographics than the manga or Light Novel it was based on. However, now that manga are getting more popular, that tendency is fading somewhat.

This also happens a lot to books that are turned into foreign films. Translation of higher-profile works takes priority in fiction, and a film raises the work's profile.

Related to Sequel First, Marth Debuted in Smash Bros., and Novelization First.


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     Anime & Manga 
  • Pokémon started off as a pair of video games, which was adapted into a few manga, and was then adapted into an anime. The anime was the first to be released outside Japan, and when it proved extremely popular, the games were released as well.
    • In America, the games were released just a few weeks after the cartoon as part of a big marketing blitz.
    • In the UK, the anime series was first aired in early 1999, with the release of the first games following in October of that year.
  • The Haruhi Suzumiya anime got a global release long before the books it was based on. ....Except in Spain, where it was manga first, then the novels two months later. The anime is still unavailable.
  • Dragon Ball The Magic Begins, the first live-action Dragon Ball movie, was released in the US several years before the anime film it was based off of, Dragon Ball: Curse of the Blood Rubies
  • The anime versions of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z were released in North America by Funimation a few years before the manga was translated by Viz.
  • The feature-film version of Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was released in English-speaking territories (as Warriors of the Wind) years before the manga.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha has been distributed internationally a lot more than its source material. This isn't much of a surprise since the original Nanoha was a mini-scenario of Triangle Heart 3: Sweet Songs Forever, a hentai game.
  • Zoids: New Century Zero was the third Zoids series, but was dubbed and broadcast in the U.S. prior to the earlier Chaotic Century and Guardian Force series.
  • The starting lineup of Shonen Jump was half determined by popular anime (Yu-Gi-Oh!, YuYu Hakusho, and Dragon Ball Z).
  • Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune and its sequels have all been released worldwide. The source manga, the original arcade game (Wangan Midnight R and its PS2 port and PSP ports, the PS3 game, and anime, however, remain Japan-only.
  • Fist of the North Star is a bit subversion. The original manga was released in America first by Viz Media in 1989, but it only lasted the first two volumes. Viz only resumed publication after the cult success of Streamline Pictures' dub of the film, but it only lasted three more volumes before Gutsoon brought the rights to the series, who only published nine volumes before they went out of business. While the remainder of the manga still remains officially untranslated, the TV series can easily be view in North America on many streaming video sites such as Funimation and Crunchyroll (albeit in a sub-only format, as only the first 36 episodes were dubbed by Manga Entertainment).
  • The original light novels of Full Metal Panic!, Slayers, and Shakugan no Shana were not translated into English until after their anime adaptations were published, and the complete novel series has yet to be released for any of them. Only five of the twelve FMP novels have been published in America (With 4 and 5 - a two part story - being sold as a combined volume), and some of them are extremely hard to find. Only eight of the fifteen Slayers novels have been published in America, and it took an online petition to get volumes 7 and 8 published. Only two of the 22 Shana novels have been published in America.
  • Similarly, the light novels of A Certain Magical Index were licensed a few years after the North American release of the anime. Its spin-off manga, A Certain Scientific Railgun, did get a North American release before its own anime adaption, but still before the license of the Index novels.
  • This happens with anime based on Visual Novel or otherwise text-heavy games nearly without fail. Examples include:
  • The Mobile Suit Gundam spinoff novels were released around 1990 or so, nearly a full decade before the compilation movies and the TV series were released in the US (and 21 years before the TV series was released in the original Japanese in the US!)
  • The JoJo's Bizarre Adventure fighting game by Capcom made it to the States years before the manga or OVA ever did. As a result, many confuse the latter to be adaptations of the former.
  • A few days after The Anime of the Game adaptation of Senran Kagura started airing in Japan, Funimation announced a simulcast of the series. It wasn't until November 2013 that the Updated Re-release of the first game was released in North America.
  • Several big name titles such as Rurouni Kenshin, Fullmetal Alchemist, Sailor Moon, Trigun, and Case Closed would not be released in the U.S. until after their anime counterparts aired on American television.
  • In North America, it took three years after the DiC dubbed Sailor Moon premiere for the manga to be acquired and translated by Mixx.
  • The Variable Geo OVA was dubbed into English, but the Advanced Variable Geo games have still never been released outside Japan. The only other related work that received a Western release was a Porn Without Plot adaptation of an H-Game.
  • The first work in the Berserk franchise released in English was the Dreamcast game Sword of the Berserk: Guts' Rage in 2000. It would be another two years until the 1997 anime got an official release, then the first volume of the manga was published one year after that.


  • The Night Watch books were first released in English when the film of the first book proved a surprise hit internationally.
  • Before the movie was made, it was difficult to find a copy of Q & A outside India. Now, the book is an international bestseller.
  • Memento is based on the short story "Memento Mori" by Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan's brother, which would not be published until after the film was released. Because of this, the film did not qualify for a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination at the Academy Awards (it was nominated for Best Original Screenplay instead).

     Video Games 
  • Parasite Eve is known to most Americans as a video game series. In Japan, the game was based on a movie, which is based on a book. You can get the movie if you frequent an Asian video store.
    • The book has been released in English by Vertical, as well.
  • Shin Megami Tensei would be another famous example; the franchise began with the novel Digital Devil Story, which was adapted into the original Megami Tensei games for NES.
  • Thunder Force II MD, a port of the Sharp X68000 game Thunder Force II, is the only version of TFII to be released outside of Japan. In fact, outside of Japan, it's simply known as Thunder Force II, minus the "MD" title.
  • Spy Hunter: Nowhere to Run was supposed to be a tie-in for the cancelled movie.
  • The NES adaptation of Metal Gear was released in North America years before the original MSX2 game was ported to the PS2 and included in Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence. While the NES version is technically a port too, many changes were made to the gameplay and level designs that it feels more like a separate game.
  • Second adaptation first: The video game based on The Witcher is better known than the successful Polish literary series that has yet to be fully translated into English. The previous film and TV adaptation were shown to the rest of the world first, but not many saw it.
  • The first appearance of the Kamen Rider franchise in English, predating Saban's Masked Rider by a year, was The Masked Rider, a Full Motion Video game for the Sega CD based on Kamen Rider ZO.
  • Kinnikuman was first exported under the title M.U.S.C.L.E. as a toyline and NES Licensed Game.
  • Little Nemo The Dream Master was released in 1990 in the U.S. and in 1991 in Europe; the anime feature it was directly based on, Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland, was not released outside Japan until 1992.
  • So far, the only officially licensed English appearance of the fantasy mecha series Machine Hero Wataru was a Macekred translation of a licensed video game for the Turbo-Grafx 16 which was retitled Keith Courage In Alpha Zones.
  • The video game Retro Game Challenge came out in English-speaking countries a good while before the TV series Retro Game Master ever got an official translation- though the show was advertised in the game's instruction manual, so it was clearly being planned when the game came out.

     Western Animation