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Adaptation First

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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, Light Novel or Visual 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:
    • The franchise 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, with the games releasing weeks (in America) to months (in the UK) afterwards.
    • In South Korea, the anime came first due to a ban on Japanese cultural products preventing the game from being imported.
  • 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.
  • Most of the animated Confession Executive Committee adaptations (the first two movies and the two television anime) were shown internationally via streaming, with only a few countries receiving a handful of the light novels they're based on. The series also started out as a collection of songs, but while most of them are available on HoneyWorks' channels, those compilations never made it out to international audiences before the adaptations did.
  • Doraemon: German-speaking countries didn't get the franchise until when Doraemon: Story of Seasons came out there in 2019, and German dub of Stand by Me Doraemon series was released in Netflix two years later.
  • Dragon Ball:
  • 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.
    • However, considering that Warriors of the Wind is a Macekre of such infamy that Studio Ghibli completely disowned it (as did many fans)… the original Nausicaä manga was in fact published in its entirety several years before Disney released the uncut movie in North America.
  • 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 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 of a subversion. The original manga was released in America first by Viz Media in 1989, but it only lasted the first two volumes. Viz 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. They only published nine volumes before they went out of business. Viz has since re-licensed the title, and is currently publishing it in a hardcover format, but not before Toei Animation themselves had already released all 152 episodes of the TV series on video download and streaming services with English subtitles (Manga Entertainment produced a dub in 1999, but it only covered the first 36 episodes).
  • The original light novels of Full Metal Panic!, Slayers, and Shakugan no Shana were not translated into English until after their anime adaptations first aired, and the complete novel series has yet to be released for the latter two. Only five of the twelve FMP novels were originally published in America (With 4 and 5, a two part story, being sold as a combined volume). Thankfully, the entire series was eventually (re-)released years later under a new publisher. Only eight of the fifteen Slayers novels have been published in English, 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 original A Certain Magical Index novels were licensed a few years after the North American release of the anime adaptation. Its spin-off manga, A Certain Scientific Railgun, did get a North American release before its own anime adaptation, but still before the license of the Index novels.
  • This happens with anime based on visual novels 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!)
  • 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, Trigun, and Case Closed would not be released in North America (or most other places) until after their anime counterparts aired on television.
  • In North America, it took three years after DiC began their Sailor Moon dub for the manga to be acquired and translated by Mixx.
  • The 2001 Fruits Basket anime had been released in its entirety for over a year before Tokyopop was convinced (via a reader poll) to publish the original manga. It even went on to become their best selling title.
  • ADV Films released the Excel♡Saga anime in early 2002. Viz published the original Excel♡Saga manga a year later.
  • Studio Proteus and AnimEigo coordinated to try and get the manga and anime versions of Oh My Goddess and You're Under Arrest! out at about the same time. Nonetheless, the OVA's for both ended up coming out a couple months before the first manga chapters.
  • The time between Geneon's release of the Master Keaton anime and Viz's publishing the original manga was over ten years.
  • The Variable Geo OVA was dubbed into English, whereas the Advanced V.G. fighting game series it was based on has still never been released outside Japan. The only other part of the franchise that received a Western release was Variable Geo: Neo, which is an alternate continuity H-series unrelated to the original OVA.
  • 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 before the 1997 anime got an official release. Dark Horse published the first volume of the manga a year after that.
  • In America, the Yo-Kai Watch anime came out a month before the video game did.
  • The Tamagotchi anime was the first part of the Tamagotchi franchise to be released in South Korea due to the Japanese cultural products ban. The toys would not see a release there until 2019, with the Tamagotchi Some, their version of the Meets/ON.
  • While Sanrio's 1978 film adaptation of Ringing Bell was given an English dub and released in America alongside gaining an official Spanish dub for Spanish speaking countries. The original book by Takashi Yanase (Chirin no Suzu) never gained an official English translation outside of Japan.
  • For a period, the only Unico related work to gain an American and international release was the two animated films (The Fantastic Adventures of Unico from, and Unico in the Island of Magic from 1983). The original manga by Osamu Tezuka which ran from 1976-1979 didn't receive an official translation until decades later. Not to mention the first animated appearance of the title character (Unico: Black Cloud and White Feather from 1979) remains exclusive to Japan note  alongside the 2000 animated short Saving Our Fragile Earth: Unico Special Chapter starring the character. The only country that was able to receive all animated works starring Unico (including the 1979 pilot and 2000 animated short) was Mexico and Spain where both gained official Spanish dubs.
  • While all three Kimba the White Lion TV series have been at least partially dubbed into English (the original 1965-67 one twice), Osamu Tezuka's Jungle Emperor manga has never been officially translated.
  • Show by Rock!! and its sequels were the only part of the series that made it overseas, with the game they were based on region-locked to Japan.
  • Pretty Series: The Kiratto Pri☆Chan and Idol Time PriPara anime series were licensed outside of Asia in December 2020 and February 2021 respectively, with Waccha PriMagi! also being licensed for simulcasting by Sentai Filmworks just a few months before its premiere, but the respective arcade games the anime were based on are not available in the West.
  • Despite the announcement of the anime based on JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean, Diamond is Unbreakable and Golden Wind have yet to get full English releases in manga form.
  • The original When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace light novels were licensed in North America nine years after the series began; however, the anime adaptation was simulcast by Crunchyroll the season it aired and was eventually given a proper release in the West in 2016, around five years prior to the licensing of the light novels.
  • Two novels adapted into critically acclaimed anime films by Satoshi Kon:
    • Perfect Blue. Loosely based on the popular Japanese novel Perfect Blue: Complete Metamorphosis, the film was picked up for Western release by Manga Entertainment after its 1997 premiere at the Fantasia Festival in Montreal, and got its first theatrical releases just over a year after release in Japan. The novel, on the other hand, would not be picked up until 2018. Seven Seas licensed it just after US distributor GKIDS rescued Manga’s long expired license for the film.
    • Paprika. The film had a relatively quick turnaround time in the West, with a successful theatrical arthouse release in summer 2007, less than a year after its initial release in Japan in fall 2006. The original novel by Yasutaka Tsutsui, first published in Marie Claire Japan in 1993, was picked up by Alma Press (in the UK) and Vintage (in the US) shortly after, and released in 2009 in those territories.

     Asian Animation 

     Comic Books 
  • Saya no Uta received an American comic book adaptation in 2010, three years before JAST USA released the original Visual Novel in English.


  • The Night Watch (Series) books were first released in English when the film of the first book proved a surprise hit internationally.
  • Before Slumdog Millionaire 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).
  • Author Isaac Asimov agreed to write a novelization of the 1966 movie Fantastic Voyage only if he was allowed to modify the story to fix the plot holes and science errors in the screenplay. Asimov wrote quickly, while the film's production was plagued with delays. As a result, the novelization was released six months before the movie, leading many fans to conclude that Asimov's novel was the original version and the (much weaker) film was an adaptation.
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is based on the fourth book of a wuxia pentalogy by Wang Dulu, none of which have been officially translated into English. Its 2016 sequel Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny is an adaptation of the fifth book, Iron Knight, Silver Vase (which was also the film's original title).

     Live-Action TV 
  • The Noddy Shop was the first Noddy-related work released in most regions outside of Europe (save for Portugal), Asia and the Commonwealth, as the Noddy books never saw a release in those regions.

     Video Games 
  • Parasite Eve is known to most Americans as a video game series. In Japan, the game was based on a movie, which was based on a book. Both got localized years after the second game was released.
  • 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, none of which made it outside Japan. The first entry in the franchise to come West was Jack Bros for Virtual Boy, followed by Persona a year later.
  • The JoJo's Bizarre Adventure fighting game by Capcom made it to the States years before the manga or the APPP OVA ever did. As a result, many confuse the latter to be adaptations of the former. Due to Crunchyroll and Hulu streaming subs of the David Production anime, Viz Media re-releasing the manga (including the first two story arcs, which were previously subject to No Export for You status), Jonathan and Joseph Joestar being playable in J-Stars Victory VS (which was ported to the States), and the release of two more video games in the series, this is finally changing.
  • 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 canceled 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 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 2004 action game Blood Will Tell: Tezuka Osamu's Dororo was the first ever release of... well, Osamu Tezuka's Dororo to reach western shores. The manga itself wouldn't see a proper english translation until 2008, 40 years after its original release.
  • The first appearance of the Kamen Rider franchise in English, predating Saban's Masked Rider by a year, was The Masked Rider, an FMV 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 Mashin Hero Wataru was a Macekred translation of a licensed video game for the TurboGrafx-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.
  • Roco Kingdom 2: Wish of the Holy Dragon got a South Korean localization without the country ever getting a translated version of the game it's based on.
  • Stitch Jam, a tie-in to the Lilo & Stitch anime spin-off series Stitch!, was released in the United States over eighteen months before the show's English dub finally aired there, despite said dub debuting in Australia the year prior. (Even then, the U.S. run of the anime lasted for less than a week with only five episodes.)
  • The Touhou Project series has never been released outside Japan, as ZUN wants the games to remain Doujin and fears that any professional translation would be a Macekre (if you want to play them, he recommends piracy). While Double Dealing Character was eventually made available through Playism, only the menus were translated into English, with the player being expected to use a Fan Translation patch to understand the story. However, ZUN would later give his blessing to a number of Touhou fangames to participate in the Play, Doujin! scheme (wherein Sony purchased enhanced remakes of Doujins to be sold on the PS4 as Indie Games). Several of these games later received English releases, where they were retitled to seem like a series and marketed as "the Touhou games".

     Western Animation