Seiken Densetsu: Legend of Mana - The Teardrop Crystal 聖剣伝説 Legend of Mana -The Teardrop Crystal-
Legend of Mana -The Teardrop Crystal- start not far from the town of Domina lives Shiloh, a boy who keeps hearing a voice in his dreams about a mission he must fulfill. But what mission could he be needed for remains unknown. That all changes when he meets two Jumi, a race that’s hunted for their unique gemstones, as a sudden outbreak of attacks against the Jumi occurs. His dream, his quest, becomes clear—help the Jumi and their gemstones!
Legend of Mana is an amazing video game. However it is also a very unconventional game, where instead of following a linear story, it consists of multiple unrelated side quests that you complete in a mostly non-linear order. Eventually some of these side quests start to form into three distinct branches: the Jumi arc, the Faerie arc and the Dragon arc, and these three arcs form the core of the game’s story.
When the anime was announced I couldn’t help but wonder, how on earth are they going to turn such a non-linear game into an anime? I love Legend of Mana’s story for its non-linearity and seeing how everything eventually connects to each other, so turning it into an anime with a linear story would completely remove a huge part of what made the game so special for me.
Not only that, but anime and video games are very different mediums, and even for a linear video game story, adapting it into an anime is extremely difficult. If you simply adapt a video game directly to anime you are going to end up with a complete mess, a good adaptation of a video game needs to take as many liberties as possible to fit into the different medium. The solution the anime’s staff came up with was to only adapt the Jumi storyline (hence the subtitle The Teardrop Crystal) and ignore every quest that’s not directly related to it. Cutting out huge portions of a game’s story and only adapting one arc of it sounds like it would be a bad idea, but as I said, it’s important for video game adaptations to take as many liberties as possible, and maybe only adapting the Jumi arc is the best way to go if you want to turn Legend of Mana into an anime. If the anime staff knows what they’re doing then this could turn into something really special.
The anime staff didn’t know what they’re doing.
Even after cutting out the vast majority of the game’s story and characters, The Teardrop Crystal’s attempt at turning this into a linear story is mediocre at best. I liked the story of the Jumi arc a lot in the game, but when you remove all the other smaller stories surrounding it and turn the Jumi arc into the central story of a 12 episode anime, it really starts to show its weakness. The beauty of Legend of Mana is how alive the world feels, no singular story is the main focus of the game and instead there is always something small going on for you to discover. And by only focusing on one of those stories, The Teardrop Crystal fails to make the world feel so alive. The magic that made Legend of Mana feel so special is completely gone, and in its place is simply another fantasy story that has nothing unique to offer.
Though one thing I will praise the anime for is that it does turn the game’s two silent protagonists (Shiloh and Seraphina) into actual characters, and has quite a lot of anime original scenes to give the main characters some backstory and development. In the game you select one of two different protagonists at the start, and the one you didn’t choose simply won’t exist in the story, so the anime actually having both characters in the story interacting with each other is a nice addition I wasn’t expecting. They could’ve done it the easy way and simply had Shiloh as the only protagonist, but they did some pretty interesting things with the anime original scenes involving Seraphina (especially at the end of the series) and it helps the anime stand out on its own a little bit compared to the original game.
I do honestly feel my score might be a little harsh because it’s not like The Teardrop Crystal is straight up bad, if you know nothing about the original game then you might enjoy this anime a lot more than I did, but I simply don’t think it’s worth watching when the game exists and is so much better in almost every regard (the one point I will give the anime over the game is Shiloh’s and Seraphina’s character arcs). The Teardrop Crystal takes a really interesting and unique game, but doesn’t really try to do anything with the game’s interesting and unique aspects when adapting it into a different medium. And that really makes me wonder, out of every possible game Square has ever made, why on earth did they choose to adapt Legend of Mana? There’s so many other games in Square’s huge library that would’ve been much easier to adapt, but instead they chose to adapt Legend of Mana. It’s such a bizarre choice that you’d think they must have some kind of master plan for turning the game into an anime, but they didn’t. I really can’t help but wonder how this project was ever even greenlit.
But if anything at all about Legend of Mana sounds interesting to you, the original game was remastered in 2021 for PC, PS4 and Nintendo Switch, and I highly recommend you give that a try. It’s a very unconventional game and its mechanics might take some time to get used to, but it is a very special game and I promise you it’s much more worth your time than this anime.
Though one last point I think is worth noting is that the anime doesn’t cover the actual ending of the game, which makes me believe the anime staff also has plans to eventually adapt the Faerie and Dragon arcs too. And I think there’s some potential in the idea of adapting all three arcs as separate seasons of anime, but with the way the Jumi arc turned out here, I am not looking forward to seeing how they’re going to handle the other two arcs.