The more popular an anime is, the more likely it is to expand into a wider franchise made of spin-offs and off-shoots. That being said, spin-offs are almost always transparent cash grabs. As a result, spin-offs generally inspire disinterest or even annoyance from fans, but there are some spin-offs that defy expectations.
These spin-offs aren't only entertaining or better than fans expected, but they're arguably better than the parent franchise they came from. Whether this is because they pushed their original series' potentials to the next level or because they succeeded where their predecessors failed, these spin-offs won over even the most hesitant fans and viewers.
10 The Melancholy Of Haruhi-Chan Suzumiya Was Better Received Than Haruhi's Second Season
It's impossible to undersell just how much of a runaway success The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya's debut season was. Not only was it an overnight blockbuster hit, but the demand for a second season was so intense that, assuming the rumors are true, Kyoto Animation rushed out a spin-off gag ONA just to appease fans.
Consisting of 25 short skits, Haruhi-Chan was initially met with annoyance due to its non-canon nature, but time vindicated it. Besides Haruhi-Chan's rapid-fire humor finding its audience later, it also helps that the initial reception of Haruhi's actual second season was so bad that fans were willing to accept any alternative.
9 Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu Became Its Franchise's Most Popular Entry
As an old-school mecha anime, Full Metal Panic! gave fans everything they needed and wanted. Mithril's mech battles against mech-riding terrorists were perfectly balanced with Sousuke and Kaname's school-life hijinks, and fans were satisfied. Then, the parodic Fumoffu came along and changed their minds for the better.
Unlike the mainline anime, Fumoffu completely did away with the wartime aspects and focused on life in Jindai High School. Though it's still respected among mecha fans, Full Metal Panic struggled for relevance in the late 2010s. Fumoffu, on the other hand, endured as a school-life comedy that can stand surprisingly well without its original context.
8 Carnival Phantasm Was The Nasuverse Parody Fans Never Knew They Wanted
Fate is arguably the definitive battle anime of the late 2000s, and fans couldn't get enough of seeing their favorite Servant/Master fight. The last thing they'd expect from this epic clash of historical and mythological figures was a wacky parodic OVA mixed with a franchise crossover, but that's what they got in Carnival Phantasm.
Carnival Phantasm wasn't just a Fate crossover, but one for every anime under the Nasuverse banner, like Tsukihime and every Fate anime ever made. Fans who took their Holy Grail Wars seriously didn't expect much from Carnival Phantasm, but they got tons of hilarious inside jokes and one of the best-received gag shows.
7 Burn The Witch Was A Surprise Return To Bleach's World
Based on first impressions, Burn the Witch was just Tite Kubo's side project. At its worst, it was another anime with Kubo's usual formula, and it felt more aged than a 2020 anime should. To everyone's surprise, this may have been intentional since Burn the Witch was the belated sequel to Bleach, which went silent for nearly a decade.
Because Bleach's anime and manga ended so weakly, fans gave up on any hopes of seeing more. Burn the Witch changed this sentiment in its last seconds, and it also revived interest in the long-dormant Bleach. Shortly after Burn the Witch aired, the adaptation of Bleach's final arc was also announced, much to fans' excitement.
6 Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online Redeemed Its Franchise's Concept
As far as many are concerned, Sword Art Online is the perfect embodiment of everything that's wrong and problematic with modern isekai anime. It wouldn't be controversial to say that only Sword Art Online's biggest fans would want sequels or spin-offs, but Gun Gale Online actually won over some of Kirito's biggest critics and detractors.
Gun Gale Online was also a gamified isekai adventure, but it used this premise to examine Karen Kohiruimaki's character and digital escapism. In contrast, Kirito's anime was just an obvious vicarious power fantasy. Those who felt that Sword Art Online squandered its best opportunities found what they were looking for in Gun Gale Online.
5 Dragon Ball Z: Bardock — The Father Of Goku Won Fans And Akira Toriyama's Blessings
As legendary as it may be, Dragon Ball Z isn't without faults. One of the nostalgic favorite's most glaring issues was its anime-only storylines, which range from decent to mediocre. The rare exception was the spin-off special Bardock — The Father of Goku, a prequel that was so good that Dragon Ball's creator declared it canon.
Bardock — The Father of Goku chronicled the eponymous Saiyan's last moments, as he plotted to save his son from Frieza's coming betrayal and genocide. Dragon Ball spin-offs are something of a mixed bag that splits even the most dedicated fans, but Bardock — The Father of Goku is one of the few that's universally loved.
4 Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex Gave Section 9 New Life And Relevance
Ghost in the Shell's biggest problem as a franchise is that it's impossible to live up to the expectations set by its landmark 1995 movie. Fans felt that one movie was enough, so much so that the sequel polarized them, even if it was made by the same cast and crew. Fortunately for Stand Alone Complex, it mostly escaped the movie's shadow.
Stand Alone Complex retained the movie's tone and themes but traded the slow-burning existentialism for an action-oriented procedural show. This change paid off so well that not only did Stand Alone Complex become one of Ghost in the Shell's best spin-offs, but it also set a high standard that the franchise struggles to overcome.
3 A Certain Scientific Railgun Became The Face Of Its Franchise
The thing about A Certain Magical Index is that it's just average at best. As a combination of a shonen battle anime and harem elements, Index didn't really stand out from its competition. The show's one claim to fame was the fan-favorite Level 5 Electromaster, Mikoto Misaka, who was so popular that she was given an entire spin-off series.
Index wasn't a flop, but it didn't exactly inspire a demand for more. Conversely, Railgun was an instant success that catapulted Misaka and her friends into stardom. Railgun continues to be Index's most consistently viewed and beloved part, while Index and other spin-offs like A Certain Scientific Accelerator are treated like background filler.
2 Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Brought Gundam Into The Cosmic Era
After Gundam Victory's disappointing performance and the Gundam franchise's near-death experience, the series had no choice but to branch out into new styles and timelines to maintain relevance. This is where Gundam SEED came in, as it wasn't just the start of the Cosmic Century, but Gundam's entrance into the 2000s.
At first, Gundam fans argued that SEED was just a remake of the original Mobile Suit Gundam, while newcomers weren't that interested in visiting the old franchise. All these doubts were alleviated as SEED aired. Not only did SEED establish itself as one of the best Gundam spin-offs, but also as the definitive Gundam title for newcomers.
1 SSSS.Gridman Revived Interest In The Long-Forgotten Show
Gridman the Hyper Agent (or Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad to Americans) is a tokusatsu show that almost nobody remembers, not because it's bad, but because it got buried by time. When it was confirmed that the series would be revived through an anime spin-off, the announcement only inspired curiosity at most.
Despite this initial tepid response, SSSS.Gridman quickly became a sleeper hit the moment it began airing. Besides being praised for simultaneously deconstructing and reconstructing the cheesy tokusatsu shows of yesteryear, Gridman's spin-off/stealth sequel brought the once-obscure series back into the spotlight.
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