Sometimes it happens by complete accident. Other times it's more justified, with the people behind the Spiritual Licensee being bigger fans of the source material than the ones in charge of the official adaptation, or at least they understand the source material better.This often happens when a Spiritual Licensee more closely follows the tone and themes of the source material, while the official ones is too busy lifting names or visuals from the source material to pay attention what the source material was trying to convey.
Anime and Manga
- My Hero Academia is closer to the Teen Titans and New Mutants comics that ANY of the official adaptations of either, retaining both the balanced tone and the "teenage heroes forming a team to learn from veteran heroes" premise. In terms of Teen Titans spiritual adaptations, it's even truer than the below-mentioned Young Justice, since it keeps the balanced tone throughout (the Uncanceled Young Justice is Darker and Edgier).
- As the trope image indicates, The Incredibles is a far more faithful adaptation of the Fantastic Four comics than any of the Fantastic Four movies, combining the very best from both the original Lee-Kirby run and John Byrne's seminal run.
- Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a far more faithful adaptation of the Carnosaur novel than the Carnosaur movie.
- Valerian and the City of the Thousand Planets captures the spirit of Flash Gordon better than most modern Flash Gordon adaptations.
- The Ba'di in Dark Phoenix are a much more faithful adaptation of the comic book Skrulls than the Skrulls we saw in Captain Marvel, with Vuk in particular much closer to Talos' Manipulative Bastard Evil Overlord role from the comics than the Hero with Bad Publicity Talos from Captain Marvel.
- The Anti-Monitor in the Arrowverse Crisis on Infinite Earths event is a lot closer to the regular, non-Jim Starlin Thanos of Marvel Comics, as opposed to the Thanos of Avengers: Infinity War and the beginning of Avengers: Endgame. The way Crisis on Infinite Earths plays out in the Arrowverse (the entire event is done in one go, there is no Time Skip, heroes return to their already ongoing storylines after the event is over without giving the event a second thought) is also a lot closer to how The Infinity Gauntlet actually played out in the comics (as opposed to how it played out in the MCU).
- The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Every Little Thing She Does" is a far more faithful adaptation of Goethe's The Sorcerer's Apprentice than the Jerry Bruckheimer movie.
- The Winterchilla/Winterzilla in Best Gift Ever is so far the truest adaptation of the Incredible Hulk: a quiet, friendly and gentle creature that turns into a huge rampaging monster when the sun goes down, and then turns back when the sun rises. That's the essence of the original Lee/Kirby "grey" Hulk. Most adaptations resort to the "green" You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry Hulk, and if the Grey Hulk shows up, he receives Adaptational Heroism and isn't linked to the time of the day.
- Young Justice is a much more faithful adaptation of the Teen Titans comics than any of the official adaptations. Young Justice depicts the balance between light and darkness present in the Titans comics (most official Titans adaptations either go too dark or too light), the lineup features Speedy, Kid Flash and Wonder Girl (who either get Adapted Out or Demoted to Extra in official Titans adaptations), and even features Mister Twister, the very first villain the Titans fought, as one of the villains (while he is Adapted Out in official Titans adaptations). Young Justice's depictions of both Robin and Beast Boy are also truer to the comics than their depictions in official Titans adaptations.