There's such endless creativity and versatility present in anime series that it truly feels as if there's a show out there for everyone. There are a wealth of unique storytelling genres that exist in anime, all of which are able to recontextualize stereotypes and make old ideas feel genuinely new and exciting. Part of the appeal of anime series is that they frequently expand their scope into more grandiose franchises that are filled with sequels, spin-offs, and supplemental lore.
A larger universe is usually a good thing, and there are lots of anime prequels that attempt to fill in the blanks before the events of the core series. Anime prequels can be rewarding opportunities to understand the origins of beloved worlds, but they can also rob series of their mystique or push them down a thoroughly confusing direction.
10 Tenchi Muyo!: Tenchi Muyo In Love Puts Tenchi's Parents In The Spotlight
The Tenchi Muyo! series was a breakthrough anime in North America during the 1990s and, in some ways, was just as influential as Ranma 1/2 or Sailor Moon. Tenchi Muyo! is a playful harem series with heightened sci-fi elements, which has developed a very dense chronology for itself with multiple side stories and alternate continuities that exist.
Tenchi Muyo in Love is the first movie in the franchise. It's technically set after the events of Tenchi Universe, but the movie's plot owes a lot to Back to the Future, and lengthy periods are set in the past during the courtship of Tenchi's parents.
9 Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas Goes Back Several Centuries To A Pivotal Holy War
Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas is set in the 18th century, 250 years before the original Saint Seiya series, as it unpacks the circumstances behind the Holy War that predates Saint Seiya. The Lost Canvas focuses on the schism that forms between Tenma and Alone, two friends that are pulled in opposite directions in this war as Tenma aligns with Athena and Alone becomes the reincarnation of the villainous God, Hades.
The story in The Lost Canvas is crucial for devoted Saint Seiya audiences, but it's fairly dense and confusing for newcomers who aren't already entrenched in the lore.
8 Fist Of The Blue Sky Hits Diminishing Returns With A Dumbed-Down Action Saga
Fist of the North Star is an iconic martial arts series and the burly physique of Kenshiro and the rest of the action anime's characters is so recognizable that it's become its own style. Fist of the Blue Sky presents a similar story, but with Kenshiro's namesake, Kenshiro Kasumi, as the lead in 1930s Shanghai.
The manga for Fist of the Blue Sky is on par with Fist of the North Star, but its anime adaptation loses much of the cultural nuance that's crucial for this refugee story. The anime also dramatically simplifies the characters' motivations, which results in very generic action tropes.
7 Go Nagai's Demon Knight Explores The Origins Of Demonic Evil
Go Nagai's Devilman horror-action hybrid is a foundational part of the anime industry that continues to receive new and creative riffs. There's such a rich mythology present in Nagai's Devilman world, and his prequel series, Demon Knight, looks at the origins of Satan and his Demon Knight warriors as they fill the world with monsters and fight against God's chosen people.
Demon Knight remains a manga prequel rather than an anime, but elements from it have made their way into different Devilman properties. It features a beautiful world of incredible creatures but lacks the emotional resonance of Devilman.
6 2112: The Birth Of Doraemon Provides The Backstory On An Anime Legend
Doraemon has been an adorable staple of the anime industry for more than 40 years, with hundreds of episodes and nearly 50 feature films under its belt. Doraemon is a quirky series that's content to coast on silliness and the robotic cat's many tools.
2112: The Birth of Doraemon is a 30-minute film that functions as Doraemon's origin story and fills in the details regarding his travel back through time, his missing ears, and his introduction to Nobita Nobi. The Birth of Doraemon is adorable, but its short length makes it feel more frivolous than it needs to be.
5 Ga-Rei: Zero Uses Malevolent Magic As A Harsh Character Study
There's a creative approach taken with Ga-Rei: Zero, which adapts the original Ga-Rei manga, yet morphs the story into a prequel that better sets up the events of the manga series. Ga-Rei: Zero chronicles a dangerous world where exorcists routinely handle supernatural threats through the government's Supernatural Disaster Countermeasures Division.
Kagura and Yomi use their powers to fight against these evil forces but find themselves pulled in opposite directions. Ga-Rei: Zero stays true to the original manga, but some of the story beats come across as reductive, and some might have preferred a traditional adaptation of the original Ga-Rei story.
4 Fairy Tail: Zero Details The Start Of The Famous Guild And The Birth Of An Immortal
Fairy Tail is one of the bigger shonen fantasy series to come around during the past decade. Curiously, Fairy Tail: Zero is combined into Fairy Tail's eighth season and consumes ten of the season's 12 episodes. Fairy Tail: Zero focuses on Mavis Vermillion, the Fairy Tail guild's first master, and how Zeref helps develop her magic and combat skills.
Mavis' journey and transformation into an immortal being is important, but it's such a deviation from Fairy Tail's core story. Fairy Tail: Zero's anime would likely work better as its own entity instead of a narrative that steals focus away from Natsu Dragneel's narrative.
3 Rozen Maiden: Ouverture Chronicles The Start Of A Bitter Feud
Rozen Maiden is a mix of action, drama, and comedy that's set in a world where human-like dolls known as Rozen Maidens engage in combat against each other. Rozen Maiden explores the complex relationships between these dolls, but much is left to the audience's imagination.
Rozen Maiden: Ouverture is a two-episode special that's set in 19th century London and examines the birth of the first doll and the rivalry that forms between her and her first friend, Shinku. The details regarding Shinku and Suigintou's rivalry are haunting, but Ouverture still feels lacking in comparison to the main series. It's not always advantageous to answer every single question.
2 Jaco The Galactic Patrolman Gets Lost In Frivolous Comedy
Akira Toriyama's sprawling Dragon Ball universe continues to expand in exciting ways with new stories that are set all over the franchise's chronology. Dragon Ball has engaged in a proper prequel with its Bardock - The Father of Goku special, but more recently, Toriyama turned back the clock with Jaco the Galactic Patrolman.
While technically just a manga and not a proper anime prequel, Jaco, and Bulma's sister Tights, to a lesser extent, have become a proper fixture of the Dragon Ball universe. Jaco the Galactic Patrolman isn't necessarily bad, but the lack of action is jarring for many hardcore Dragon Ball fans.
1 Hellsing: The Dawn Pits Vampires Against War Criminals
Hellsing remains a standout action-horror anime hybrid that creatively subverts vampire lore in bold and bloody ways. Hellsing and its companion piece, Hellsing: Ultimate, are deeply immersed in non-stop carnage. Hellsing: The Dawn is a three-episode OVA installment that looks at the older guard of the Hellsing organization during the height of human experimentation in World War II.
Hellsing: The Dawn sends a younger Dornez and Alucard into a volatile warzone to stop the exploitation of vampire tech. It's easy for Hellsing: The Dawn to feel like a rehash of the standard series.
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