How’s this for a fun premise? Strong-silent-type mercenary who can recreate anything he eats wanders around a cyberpunk/dystopian/fantastic world taking on all kinds of jobs!
Well, both adaptations of Eat-Man are indeed that – but I’ve been having trouble deciding precisely how I responded to them. They were only made a year apart and both completed by Studio Deen, so there are plenty of similarities in terms of art style and other production aspects.
The biggest differences are story, character and tone.
In some ways, Eat-Man is less satisfying than Eat-Man ’98 due to those differences… or at least, so I thought at first.
Usually, I try to complete an entire post for each anime when I do these comparison-style write-ups, but I’ll combine these two series into one post today, I think because it’s going to be a fair bit shorter than usual.
Here’s a comparative overview:
- Our hero ‘Bolt’ is generally very quiet and seems unhappy
- Narrative is episodic with Bond ‘girl of the week’ feel
- A whole heap of unexplained stuff
- Art style has a little more detail in some aspects
- Quite a moody, even mystical tone
- Our hero ‘Bolt’ is extremely taciturn and seems cold
- Narrative has no overarching storyline but more connected episodes
- Less unexplained stuff
- Art style more polished overall, maybe more variety in direction
- More of an action/adventure tone
In this version of the adaptation, Bolt seems to wander in an attempt to find meaning, and his characterisation seems a little more enjoyable to me overall. The anime steps away from the manga but remains similarly episodic, yet throughout it sneaks in foreshadowing: there’s a floating wreckage of what appears to be a space ship.
In many episodes it’s just hanging there in the background and other times it’s framed with Bolt appearing to look at it – it’s a nice narrative hook that maybe didn’t pay off for me, considering that it’s rushed into focus at the end.
But probably the most fascinating things to me were the fantasy elements that were almost… occult-like, and added a whole lot of mystery but also deep confusion, even if it did at times make for some striking imagery.
In this first series too, there’s a minor difference – which is the colour of Bolt’s glasses, here they put me in the mind of Vash more than they did in the second series. (And to quickly play chronology, the Eat-Man anime predates the Trigun anime by a year, and the Trigun manga pre-dates the Eat-Man manga by a year.)
One clear mark against this version for me were the filler-moments, or the stretching out of certain scenes beyond what was needed, something that I didn’t notice anywhere near as much in the 1998 show.
Eat-Man ’98 (1998)
Here, the mystical elements are stripped away a fair bit, and a little more cyberpunk pushes through. More of the episodes present little arcs or multi-part storylines here, in stark contrast to the 1997 season. This mostly removes the ‘girl of the week’ feel though the series is still ultimately episodic.
Bolt is a little colder, seemingly more unyielding – but the storylines like to play with the idea that he’s cold, yet there is usually a reason for his manner. It’s also in this re-do that we get a few more tantalising hints about who or what Bolt really is, though I imagine more seasons would always have been needed to get any more answers.
One welcome change here is that there are actually a few characters that return, or have an impact on Bolt and so it feels like there is a bit more at stake. I probably slightly prefer the direction in this version of Eat-Man, something that jumped out to me during the highlight of the Bye Bye Aimie episodes.
And now to quickly sum up!
In the end, I think that the 1998 Eat-Man is essentially a better adaptation (not precisely because it’s more faithful to the source either) and I preferred its OST, but despite the faults of the 1997 iteration, somehow I enjoyed it a little more. It’s less conventional within an already unconventional setting/premise and I preferred the art-style.
Eat-Man 97, 3 Stars
East-Man 98, 3 Stars