After seeing the anime disaster that was EX-ARM, I decided to sit down and read the manga to see how it stood up in comparison. I enjoyed the story of EX-ARM but wanted to see better visuals for it. And I’m happy that I did, as the manga goes much more in-depth. This article covers the first four episodes of the anime and the chapters they are adapted from.
EX-ARM Episode 1: “Forbidden Weapon” (Chapters 1-4 of the Manga)
The first episode serves as the exposition to the anime. It opens with human Minami and android Alma busting a black market trade scheme to get No.00-A, the first-ever EX-ARM. An EX-ARM is a powerful weapon–a mechanical component that can only be activated when connected to a biological counterpart (read: a human body). Akira, a teenager that died in a bus accident in 2014, is the brain occupying this EX-ARM and has thus gained impressive hacking abilities. Stuck in a bind, Minami expects him to help, and he does, but almost at the cost of her life.
The most glaring issue with this particular episode is the main villain: the bearer of EX-ARM No. 08. This allows him to manipulate the air in front of him so that objects can pass through him, but only from a forward-facing angle. He’s a dealer on the black market and often obtains goods, usually through harvesting organs. But EX-ARM No.00-A, as well as Alma, could get him good money, so while No.00-A is his main target, he takes Minami and Alma as “treats”. He has very little personality in the anime outside of being evil.
In the manga, he’s much more of a creep, which is understandable considering the manga is considerably more NSFW. It leans into the ecchi/hentai genre, involving nudity and some sexual themes. The villain here comments on the fact that Minami is a virgin when he’s preparing to remove her guts. This scene in the anime is a good example of how poor the animation was, but that’s neither here nor there. What I want to talk about is how poorly he was translated from the manga to the anime. The biggest example? He has a sword in the manga!
In the anime, this villain isn’t a big name in the black market. Instead, he’s just some guy hired to track down goods. He’s brutish rather than meticulous. In the manga, he actually had a basic knowledge of weapon-wielding and knew how to fight well without simply being a meathead thug.
The best part here is when Akira controls the boat. In the anime, he just steers it a bit. Instead, the manga has him fight the attacking ally ships with onboard weapons. But aside from that, all he does is stumble around like an idiot in this part of the story because he hasn’t learned how to use Alma’s body yet.
Overall, this episode was pretty loyal to the manga, and it did a good job of setting up the world and characters.
EX-ARM Episode 2: “Day of Judgement” (Chapters 5-12)
The second episode was where I realized there were going to be major continuity issues. It’s at this point that the manga pays off.
A series of suicide bomber incidents occur. A priest uses EX-ARM No. 09 to convert followers into walking bombs who believe their sacrifice will send them to heaven. Their efforts are thwarted when it’s discovered that freezing them negates the explosion. The bad guy tries to escape in a helicopter but is instead defeated. After this, however, his body isn’t found, so they can’t obtain EX-ARM No. 09.
Their plan was to attack the Japanese Megafloat, a project designed to boost Japan’s status after the massive attack from 2020 that killed millions. The manga goes into more detail about the sociopolitical importance and effects of the Megafloat. Chikage explains to Akira that, along with boosting Japan’s status in the world, the Megafloat is intended for the upcoming 2032 Olympics, and there is a lot of international support going into it.
As it turns out, the priest was a former engineer working on the Megafloat who lost his arm in an accident. After becoming an alcoholic, he created a delusion for himself where he went to war, lost his arm, and God gave him EX-ARM No. 09 to carry out his religious duties. None of this was expanded upon in the anime.
Obviously he’s shot and thwarted, but his body couldn’t be found. In the manga, EX-ARM No. 02 is also introduced here, which takes EX-ARM No. 09 from the priest’s dead body. This was most likely omitted because the arc was not resolved–much less addressed, again–during this manga portion. The anime didn’t bring it up at all until the final episode.
The manga showed that the priest had an additional ability to brainwash Kimura into thinking Kondo was evil. Also, an entire car chase scene and major conflict was omitted in the anime, most likely for budget or time constraints.
EX-ARM Episodes 3 & 4: “Angel of Murder” & “Inheritor of Courage” (Chapters 13-26)
In the anime, Akira and Alma immediately infiltrate the mansion to fight Elmira. Meanwhile, the manga has them work at a brothel to track Elmira down. This was likely omitted from the anime due to the overtly sexual scenes.
There’s also a character that doesn’t exist in the anime: a doctor who obtained EX-ARM No. 24 after Elmira removed his leg. His goal is to enact revenge on the man that Elmira works for. Instead of Akira learning about Elmira’s “head hunter” EX-ARM ability, the doctor explains this to Alma. In addition, he has an entire arc involving his hatred of androids, but this doesn’t get resolved because he dies.
Other than the changes in the setup, the outcome remains the same. Akira goes feral when in the OGRE suit, which means that his “metaphysical” form gets a different appearance. The manga gives an added layer of man vs self-conflict, in which Akira faces the idea that he’s more android than human. Akira genuinely struggles several times with the idea that he doesn’t have a body. This doesn’t happen in the anime.
It could have had just a couple of interactions or bonus lines of dialogue thrown in to add that depth of character, but instead, the anime makes Akira bland.
It’s disappointing how the EX-ARM anime portrayed the original manga story. While I can understand the desire to keep out the NSFW portions, the production quality was terrible in comparison to the illustrations. The manga is wonderful to look at, with well-illustrated fight scenes. This adaptation would’ve probably been better as a 2D anime by a studio that knew what it was doing.
Should you watch the anime? No. Should you read the manga? Probably not. It’s at least interesting with its mixture of ecchi and sci-fi action, and the manga does have emotional parts. Even if the ending is an indirect rip-off of Akira, I still enjoyed the story. The world-building stood out in particular, although you’d definitely need the manga for more of that.
Overall, it has too many flaws to recommend. Plus, the manga doesn’t have an official English translation. And given the failure of its anime, that probably won’t happen any time soon.
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