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Indecisive Medium

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"My best guess is Ang Lee wanted to create the closest thing he could to a comic book, meaning the film literally has panels, speed lines, and elements of space and time overlapping each other. There's just one problem with that, though. If you're adapting a book, would you constantly put words all over the goddamn place? This is way too friggin' literal!"
The Nostalgia Critic's review of Hulk

A work in one medium, that heavily relies on the unique quirks of another, different medium, as if it's trying to remind us all the time that the story is just adapted from another form.

It might happen because the original work is so famous that everyone will think about it in that format anyways: The Bible is a book, Romeo and Juliet is a theater play, Citizen Kane is a movie, Looney Tunes is a series of animated cartoons, and Super Mario Bros. is a video game. If you are making an adaptation of these, your audience won't be fooled into believing that they are watching an equal version to the original, so you might as well stylistically remind everyone that yes, this is a mere imitation of the real deal.

Another cause might be that the original format influences the plot so heavily that it simply wouldn't work in the other format.

Yet, it isn't necessarily an adaptation trope. Maybe the work is just heavily inspired by another medium, and this is why it may try posing as an example, without actually being adapted from it. For example, a television series that is all about how awesome reading is might have "chapters" instead of "episodes", or an anime about video games might have "levels".

Common versions, with their usual traits:


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Oreimo, as Visual Novels are a recurring theme in its plot, had choice screens, a Bad End screen, and at the ending of some episodes, still pictures imitating the style of CGs you get at the ending of a Visual Novel route.
  • Every episode of Bakemonogatari begins with long written quotes from the original Light Novels.
  • Bakuman。 preserved its manga within a manga in the anime adaptation as several minutes of showing still black-and-white manga frames, and reading its dialogues.
  • In the CLANNAD anime, some of the jokes based on gag options, were conserved as Tomoya having a random Imagine Spot about what option would he choose if this where a visual novel, and it was shown on screen with an actual scene from the original game. Also, there is this whole thing about the light orbs, that were basically completion points in the game.
  • In the Haruhi Suzumiya light novels, they would sometimes make it ambiguous as to whether Kyon was thinking or speaking. In the anime, they keep the ambiguity by not showing his mouth when he speaks.
  • Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! is a manga about three girls who aspire to be an animation studio, which means the anime it was adapted into was actually truer to the spirit of the original manga than the original manga.
  • Persona 4: The Animation still keeps track of the main character's social stats during its eyecatches, despite the show obviously not having stat checks. This ended up being a really fun punchline when Persona 4: The Golden Animation started... and showed all of his stats already maxed out right from the beginning, quickly revealing that Golden would be, of all things, an adaptation of a New Game Plus playthrough.
  • Rebuild of Evangelion ends with a Battle in the Center of the Mind, the first part of which HAS the Evas knock buildings around like they're light cardboard models, press against the painted background of the sky, step off the stage, and at one point Gendo kicks Shinji clean through the wall, causing him to fall out into a backstage area. The Evas themselves appear to be motion-captured CGI models, so they move like people in suits instead of the agile and dynamic monsters they are in the rest of the movie. The whole sequence is meant to look like a Toku setpiece, like the ones that originally inspired Hideaki Anno to become a director.
  • The anime adaptation of Umineko: When They Cry keeps the use of colored text so vital to the original Visual Novel by having the words literally manifest in the air when a supernatural creature speaks. It works... ok?
  • In the first episode of the anime version of THE iDOLM@STER, the Producer's lines are all subtitled and not voiced, leading several people to think that the adaptation of the game would be literal.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Hulk's screen was divided into comic book panels for a scene or two.
  • Repo! The Genetic Opera appears to follow this trope, but the comic book panels were actually due to budget constraints.
  • There's a lot of scenes in Unbreakable where characters are pictured in door frames and such, to mimic the frame effect of the comic books that form an integral part of the plot.
  • The Laurence Olivier film of Henry V is purportedly actually a film of an Elizabethan-era performance of Henry V; at the beginning, we get to see some glimpses of the backstage. As the film goes on, it gets less and less theatrical, presumably corresponding to the audience's increased immersion in the plot.
  • In Kenneth Branagh's Henry V, The Prologue - which is about making theater magic by suspending your disbelief over the people prancing about on stage pretending to be the real Henry V, etc. - is said in an empty soundstage. Then at the very end: "Who, Prologue-like, your humble patience pray / Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play!" and he throws open some doors showing a production utilizing the hyperrealism of film.
  • The Doom movie kept whole scenes in first-person POV, in tribute of the original game, that defined FPS.
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. The World does this twofold: As a film adaptation of a comic book whose plot runs on video-game logic, it has quite a few video-game elements (scores, extra lives, enemies that turn into coins when defeated, and so on) as well as displaying most of its flashback scenes in the form of animated comic book panels and making extensive use of comic-book style onomatopoeia.
  • Watchmen has the "Rorschach's Journal" sections that narrate parts of the graphic novel as internal monologue in the movie.
  • Fight Club is narrated by Edward Norton's character, to mimic the book's first person narration.
  • The Princess Bride was presented as a movie about a grandfather reading a book to his sick grandson, echoing the novel's Framing Device of annotations in which the "editor" recalled being read the book himself as a boy.
  • The Royal Tenenbaums parodies this with chapters showing sections from a nonexistent Book of the Film, partly because the movie is inspired by J. D. Salinger's Glass family stories.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005) features several passages which are narrated or read from the guide to preserve jokes that are funnier for how they're described than for what actually happens and to capture memorable passages that can't really be filmed as scenes.
  • Clue is based on a board game where solving the murder is the point of the game and so, for obvious reasons, the solution is rarely the same twice in a row. When the film was first released, each showing of it had one of three different endings, allowing viewers to see the film twice and get a different solution to the murder each time. (The video release included each of the endings, with title cards between them with captions like, "Or this is how it could have happened...")

  • Creatures of Light and Darkness by Roger Zelazny has one chapter that's written as an epic poem and another that's written as a script for a play.
  • The Invention Of Hugo Cabret is a book about the history of film and was heavily inspired by the author's love of early movies; as a result, most of it is told in the form of pictures, with a Fade In/Fade Out at the beginning and end, and only the bits where there are dialogue are rendered as text.
  • The UK cover of My Best Friend's Exorcism is designed to look like a badly battered VHS cover, complete with "Be Kind, Rewind" sticker. The back cover blurb gives the impression of a novelization to an eighties movie that just happens to not exist.
  • A recurring gag in Discworld is to have descriptions include camera movements as different elements are shown/described.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy makes a point of the fact that the Guide doesn't just display text, but '"began to speak the entry as well in a still quiet measured voice", an obvious requirement in a radio series.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Wonder Woman (1975) uses comic book panels both over the titles and for some transitions within each episode.
  • The onomatopoetic "Biff! Bam! Pow!"s in the Batman (1966) TV series.
  • The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. had each episode broken down so that each act was a chapter in a pulp western. One episode even had a father (in-universe, mind you) reading one of these books to his son, in a manner not unlike The Princess Bride.
  • The credits of The Cape show comic book panels coming to life.
  • Heroes portrayed itself as a comic book in television form, calling its episodes "chapters" and its seasons "volumes." The early scene in each chapter with the chapter title written on the landscape is designed to look like a Will Eisner-style opening Splash Panel.
  • While Wishbone generally averts this trope, the "Romeo and Juliet" episode plays it straight. Instead of Wishbone fantasizing about being a character in the story, as he usually does, in this episode he fantasizes about being an actor playing Romeo on stage. This allows the show to keep the downer ending without being actually depressing.
  • Post-ad break scenes on iZombie start with comic book panels transitioning to live action.
  • The 1980s ITV kid's magazine show Do It was set at the publishers of a kid's magazine, also called Do It! Transitions between the features were represented by the pages of the magazine turning.
  • The ending credits to Blackadder the Third are presented as a Regency playbill.

    Video Games 
  • Asura's Wrath tries hard to present itself as a playable Anime (to the point that some of the DLC is just anime with Quick Time Events on top, Dragon's Lair style). This includes some rather unusual additions for a video game, like regular On the Next sequences and even Eyecatches in the middle of each stage.
  • Odin Sphere is framed as a little girl reading a series of books about characters whose stories interconnect, so each character's tale starts with pages flipping and is separated into prologues, chapters, and epilogues. The 2d graphics are also a bit reminiscent of a picture book.
  • Max Payne was never a graphic novel, but the cutscenes are presented as a dynamic comic strip.
  • XIII. The whole game has Cel Shading to look like a 2D drawn comic book, onomatopoeic effects and speech bubbles appear during the gameplay,
  • The sides of most of the stages in Jump Super Stars and Jump Ultimate Stars look like a stack of pulp paper, mimicking the pages of Shonen Jump. Because of this, you can rip the sides away, allowing you to ring out your opponent. As your health goes down, you colors become more washed out as well, becoming greyscale when you only have a sliver of health. And, of course, the Inventory Management Puzzle that uses actual panels from the manga to determine your lineup.
  • In Comix Zone, an author get sucked into the comic he's drawing by his own villain, who then draws mooks for him to fight throughout the game. Fights happen within panels, along with all kinds of wall breaking.
  • Anachronox has Super Villain Rictus with a comic-book style intro and narrator cameo.
  • Split/Second: Velocity, which is set within a fictional TV series, is separated into episodes. Each episode begins with a Precap and ends with an "On the Next..." segment, complete with TV-style narration. There's even a logo for a fictional TV station in the top-right corner.
  • Tyrian 2000 displays an "INSERT COIN" message in its Attract Mode, though it never was an Arcade Game.
  • Alan Wake splits itself up into episodes complete with a recap at the start of the next chapter to make itself more like a TV series. The DLC game Alan Wake's American Nightmare has a narrator just to drive home the similarity between the plot and a The Twilight Zone episode.
  • Rockin Kats, inspired by Saturday morning cartoons, depicts the game world as a television set, with the channels representing different game levels.
  • Evil Zone is a Fighting Game whose story mode is presented as episodes of a TV series.
  • Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number makes several cinematographic references. The levels are called "scenes" and are divided into "acts". In the level selection menu, each level is represented by a VHS tape cover. Pausing the game causes a VHS-style pause effect to appear on the screen, and when the plot moves forward or backward a couple of years, a "fast forward" or "rewind" screen appears. And at the end of the "table sequence" cutscene (shown as an intro when re-playing the game after beating it), Richard is shown activating a movie projector moments before the game starts.

  • MS Paint Adventures are presented as Interactive Fiction games.
    • And as for Homestuck... It's styled as Interactive Fiction, originally was an Interactive Comic (although that has since stopped), is a webcomic that is in style is reminiscent of an illustrated novel, occasionally includes animated features involving sound, and less commonly involves actual games that range from simple Fighting Games to RPG-style games revolving around interacting with various characters. Homestuck isn't just Indecisive Medium, it's Schizophrenic Medium.
  • morphE is presented as a visual novel. For the most part this is a stylistic choice of presenting narrative and sprites in a way familiar to dating sims and lawyer simulators. It's when there are Pixel Hunt investigation modes and animated cut-scenes that the "comic" part starts to fall apart.
  • Sonichu sometimes seems to treat itself more as a television series, given its references to "episodes" throughout and how Chris is referred to as its "director".

    Web Original 
  • In 2006, BIONICLE had these non-canon on-line animations that, similar to the Hulk movie mentioned above, had shifting comic panels instead of normal transitions, adopted 3D Thick-Line Animation to enhance the effect, and were also a series of mini-games.
  • Buildingverse fics (like Only A Dream) have the tendency to reference the Art Shifts of the webcomics as "and the art went..." (all straight, chibi, etc.) in their text. Sometimes even other webcomic tropes, like talking about Speech Bubbles and such.

    Western Animation 
  • Disney's Winnie-the-Pooh frequently featured the characters as illustrations in the original book, complete with hopping between the pages and walking on the letters of the text. Unlike Storybook Openings, this happened all the way during the story.
  • Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?, a Saturday-Morning Cartoon based on a video game: The characters are aware that they are characters in a video game, and often speak directly to the player. Also, each episode begins and ends with a brief live-action sequence of the Player sitting at his/her computer.
  • Dora the Explorer is supposed to take place in a 1990s computer game. It used to have things like mouse pointers showing on screen, but has since scrapped the "It's a game" concept.
  • A minor example: Avatar: The Last Airbender and its Sequel Series The Legend of Korra had titled screens that refer to seasons as a "book" and each episode as a "chapter."
  • The opening credits to DuckTales (2017) show the characters running through comic book panels. The ground (which turns out to be the logo) is a pattern of yellow dots suggesting the Ben-Day coloring process, although it's also equated at some points with Scrooge's money (he swims through it like his Pooled Funds).
  • Code Monkeys is very heavily styled after 1980's-era video games, complete with sprite graphics, status bars, and a pause screen for commercial breaks.
  • KaBlam! is a anthology cartoon show that's a comic book anthology In-Universe. The hosts, Henry and June, are seen moving between panels and such.