I recently came across the aniblog site The Untold Story of Altair & Vega*. Among their many interesting colloquia was one on what each of the blog team’s contributors would like to see in a future anime. All of them were original and interesting, and each of them was built around a single anime on a specific topic (Akkadian history, Taisho Tokyo Noir…). I’d like to take a slightly different approach, and talk about what books I think would make good anime. My ground rules are that I will avoid the low-hanging fruit (Pratchett’s Diskworld) or obvious manga (Gallagher’s Megatokyo), or graphic novels (Foglio’s Agatha Heterodyne), and concentrate on the more obscure novels, or novel series. The structure of the story should allow breakup into a 13 or 26 episode anime series, and the audience is towards the adult end of the otaku spectrum. Herewith, in as-it-popped-into-my-head order, is my list:
Glen Cook’s Garrett series. Garrett is a private investigator in the southern hemisphere of a fantasy world, one populated by the usual run of giants and trolls and dwarves…and vampires and pixies and centaurs. If it exists in someone’s fevered fantasy, it lives here and has crossbred with humans and others. Here is a gritty 16th century-style civilization, with beer and carriages and tricorn hats and eyeglasses, but no gunpowder and no steam power. It’s a monarchic aristocracy, and the power behind the throne is the warlocks, who burn silver like it was oil, and promote wars in desert wastelands to obtain it. As usual, power begets corruption, and most of Garrett’s cases deal with the rich and powerful and corrupt. There’s 13 books in the series, and any one of them would make a good single episode, or four episode arc. What with his many girlfriends, it would make a perfect harem/fantasy/detective series.
Wrede and Stevermer’s Sorcery and Cecelia. A standalone novel, with a separate and somewhat less engaging sequel, this started life as a writing exercise — letters between the two protagonists, one in London, the other in The Country. They are two teenage girls, approaching coming-out age, and are caught up in the affairs of wizards, and plots that extend from old country houses to the most modern (for the mid-1800’s) townhomes. The letter format means that the story can be easily broken and assembled at will and still retain the feel of the original, even in a 26 episode season. The girls are both plucky adventuratrix’s, neither of whom needs rescuing thank you very much. The male love interests are both competent and believable, but there is also a beautiful but ditzy older sister and a bratty older brother to provide the comic relief.
Martha Wells’ Death of the Necromancer. Is the second book of a five book semiseries. I call it a semiseries, because the first one is set several hundred years before the second one, and the last three are set several decades after. Think, Stuart, Victorian, and early Windsor London, except that the feel of the place is more like Paris (despite being called Vienne).
C.J. Cherryh’s Rusalka series. Possibly the least known of her series, this is a dark, Russian, tale of three wizards in the shadowy forests north of Great Kiev. One of them is young, and just learning. One of them is old and tired after years of struggle against magical forces. And one of them has been dead for decades. This is, of course, a mere inconvenience for a wizard, much like living two blocks too far off the tramline. It is a handicap which doesn’t, for example, keep him from draining the life from the forest, and marshalling his magical forces to resume his former place in the world.
Mercedes Lackey’s Diana Tregarde series. This series suffered the fate of Firefly back when Joss Whedon was still writing for Roseanne — poorly placed, released out of order — it died the death of inept marketing after only three novels, despite having a large number of fans. As in fanatics. As in fanatical believers in the truth of the backstory. Never mind. It was good. Tregard is a paranormal investigator and “Guardian”, who bumps into things that go bump in the night every time she turns around. She even has a vampire boyfriend, ten years before that became trendy. The series is long enough to support at least a 13 episode season, although it lacks the closure of a final battle. The three main story arcs — evil people killing gypsy children (and the evil people include a sort of Japanese serial soul stealer), ancient Aztec gods trying to make a comeback, high school students playing with evil just for fun — provide a wide range for action. Tregarde is young enough to be youthed up for the mid teen set.
Connie Willis’ To Say Nothing of the Dog. OK, this one is in here just because I’d dearly love to see an anime based on it. Time traveler and cat inadvertently cause rift in the continuity of time. Other time traveler is sent back with the cat to try to fix things. Ends up at an English Country Home of the late 1800’s. With a dog. Great fun. Could be done in multiple drawing forms — Emma, for the Victorian episodes, Ghost in the Shell for the 23rd Century shots, other minor styles for the 1940’s and 1340’s. The protagonist is of college age. The dog and the cat make admirable animal foils. Tocelyn “Tossie” Mering, the flighty contemp, provides plenty of moe.
I am open to further suggestions, not that this entry will be read by anyone in anime authority, or, well…anyone.. for that matter.
*A reference to the Japanese folktale of the lovers Hikoboshi and Orihime, separated by the Milky Way. Their story is celebrated in the July/August festival Tanabata. It features on the first episode of season two of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Bamboo Rhapsody.