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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. This caused a lot of people to think that the video games were adapted from the anime rather than the other way around, a belief that has persisted decades after the franchise got started.
    • 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.
  • All three animated Confession Executive Committee adaptations (the first two movies and the television miniseries) 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 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.
  • 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 requested it be purged from the collective consciousness of humanity (and fans gladly oblige)… the original Nausicaä manga was in fact published in its entirety several years before Disney released the true 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!, Yu Yu 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. While the remainder of the manga still remains officially untranslated, the TV series was (eventually) picked up by Discotek Media and is easily viewable on video-streaming sites like Crunchyroll… albeit in sub-only format, since Manga Entertainment only dubbed 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 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 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 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 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 Detective Conan 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 (1981) and Unico in the Island of Magic (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 Thunder from 1979) remains exclusive to Japan 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, but the respective arcade games both anime were based on are not available in the West.

     Asian Animation 

  • Dr. Who and the Daleks was released in America a good decade before the TV series it was based on.
  • The Shop Around the Corner was based on an obscure Hungarian play that was never translated into English.
  • Ringu was a video-only release in the US that came out six months after the American remake The Ring was released theatrically.
  • 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.
  • 300: Rise of an Empire is loosely based on Frank Miller's sequel to 300 Xerxes. However, either because of Schedule Slip or simply because the two projects began simultaneously and the comic hit some bumps due to Miller's advanced age, Rise Of an Empire released years before Xerxes began publication.

  • 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.
  • 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 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 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, 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 Machine 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.
  • 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 


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