Subplots aren't just a necessity in long-form storytelling, but a tradition of their own. In brief, subplots are needed to give more life to their story's setting and to develop side characters who normally don't get that much attention. Some anime don't just follow this unspoken rule diligently but exceeded expectations as well.
Whether it came in the form of filler plots or side stories for the supporting characters, many anime had more subplots than anyone anticipated. Depending on the anime in question, the character and story development either enriched the series or burdened it with more baggage than it could handle.
10 Madlax Took Almost 18 Episodes For Its Subplots To Connect
Madlax is a 26-episode anime about two very different women living in different countries, but as fate would have it, their lives and destinies were connected. Normally, this would mean that the assassin Madlax and the high schooler Margaret would cross paths before the halfway point, but that didn't happen until two-thirds through the series.
For most of the anime, Madlax and Margaret dealt with their own subplots. Meanwhile, subtle connections cropped up, and seemingly disconnected subplots about ghostly children and an ancient conspiracy played in the background. Everything tied up neatly but, before then, viewers had to keep track of countless moving parts.
9 Future Diary Needed Omakes To Expand On The Other Diary Users
All in all, Future Diary's death game had 12 distinct participants with their own motivations and personalities. That being said, the anime dedicated most of its focus on the first and second Diary Users, Yuki and Yuno, and their respective supporting characters. However, this didn't mean the other 10 Diary Users were forgotten.
While Yuki and Yuno obviously got most of the scenes, Future Diary still made the effort to highlight the other Diary Users and side characters' actions and lives. What's more, there were so many subplots that Future Diary resorted to using after-credits shorts where Mur Mur and Deus explained the leftover details and filled in the gaps.
8 Dragon Ball Z Gave Every Z Fighter Their Time In The Spotlight
As much of a revered childhood classic as it may be, one of Dragon Ball Z's biggest shortcomings was its excessive amount of filler subplots. At the time, this was necessary since Toei Animation had to wait for the manga to publish enough chapters to animate. While understandable, this decision didn't get better with the passage of time.
Dragon Ball Z'sfiller subplots were well-intentioned since they gave Bulma, Piccolo, and the others more stuff to do, but they negatively affected Goku's main story by dragging out the pace. Dragon Ball Z'sremaster, Dragon Ball Z Kai, addressed this by excising all the filler episodes and moments, which was appreciated by most fans.
7 Bleach's Subplots Overshadowed The Main Characters & Conflicts
One of the best and worst things about Bleach was its massive character roster and expansive world building. At best, this meant that Bleach's world felt lived-in and was populated by one of the most unique casts of characters ever made for an anime. At worst, this meant that Bleach was overcrowded and easily distracted by subplots.
Bleach is ostensibly about Ichigo Kurosaki being a Substitute Shinigami, but this kept getting sidetracked by subplots starring Karakura Town, the Gotei 13, the Arrancar, and more. Not helping matters was how almost everyone else was more popular than Ichigo, which resulted in filler plots being made to explicitly sideline Bleach'shero.
6 Naruto Diverged Into Multiple Perspectives At The Halfway Point
When it started, Naruto seemed to be a straightforward shonen anime that focused on Team 7's time together. However, roughly halfway through the anime, Team 7 split up when Sasuke chose revenge over his friends. The team would only reunite years later, and they lived their own lives before then.
Before Team 7 even crossed paths, Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura got their own arcs that occurred simultaneously but separately. On top of that, Naruto added filler subplots while developing other ninjas' subplots. Naruto and its sequel Shippuden had so many stories to tell that viewers either stayed hooked or left in exhaustion.
5 A Certain Magical Index's Subplots & Spin-Offs Intersected A Lot
A Certain Magical Index is set in Academy City, and it stands to reason that the city would house countless stories and encounters. Such was the case for Index that not only did it feature many subplots, but it expanded in spin-offs like A Certain Scientific Railgun and A Certain Scientific Accelerator, which also had their own subplots.
Index'ssubplots and major eventstied up with Railgun and Acceletrator'scanons and vice versa. What's more, additional subplots and world-building can be found in the manga and light novels. The only way to get the full scope of life in Academy City was to watch and read everything, not just follow Touma Kamijou in Index.
4 The iDOLM@STER Makes The Most Sense To Devoted Gamers
Since it's an idol anime, The iDOLM@STER can be deceptively simple to most casual viewers. At first glance, it's just a fun show about 765 Production's stars and their lives on and off the stage. However, every one of the anime's main 13 idols has a fully developed personality and backstory that the anime rarely (if ever) touches on.
Most of the idols' personal subplots were only revealed through unlocks in The iDOLM@STER games — especially The iDOLM@STER 2— and the anime expects viewers to know already know these factoids. Without these, The iDOLM@STER may seem generic, but knowledge of these subplots makes for a more meaningful watch.
3 Hetalia: Axis Powers' Canon Includes Non-Anime Material & Actual History
On its surface, Hetalia is a cutesy anime parody of world history, especially that of the 20th Century. However, every personified country has a lot more going on. This isn't just because they have intricate backstories and subplots that are only explained in the manga, but because they're also influenced by actual history.
In brief, countries' personalities and actions only make sense when the manga, webcomic, and history are acknowledged. For example, Britain and France's tense relationship isn't just a tease, but a reflection of their historical alliances and feuds. Taking note of all these external subplots will maximize appreciation for Hetalia'shumor and wit.
2 One Piece Follows An Entire World's Worth Of Pirates & Marines
At its heart, One Piece is a shonen battle anime, meaning it follows a tight-knit group of friends (namely the Straw Hats) who meet and/or fight eccentric people while on their way to accomplishing their lives' dreams. Normally, this would mean that some enemies and supporting characters are just one-arc wonders, but the opposite is true.
Every named person in One Piece has a fully realized character and subplot, and they all have a part to play in the coming war between the pirates and World Government. One Piece is a master of the balancing act and long game, as seemingly insignificant early subplots are actually key parts in other subplots and the anime's grander plot.
1 Kaguya-Sama: Love Is War Can Only Be Fully Appreciated By Following Its Spin-Offs
Kaguya-Sama is famous for basically combining the typical romantic comedy with the intrigue of Death Note, but there's a lot more to its complexity than just Kaguya and Miyuki's mind games. Every one of Kaguya and Miyuki's classmates is practically the star of their own rom-com anime, but this only makes sense outside the anime's context.
To wit, the spin-off manga We Want To Talk About Kaguya (which stars Kaguya's fans Erika and Karen) and the steamier Doujin Edition give side characters subplots that tie into the anime's events, but these have yet to be animated. Reading these while watching Kaguya-Sama is the only way to get the full picture of the romantic battlefield.
NEXT: 10 Anime Characters Who Were At The Right Place At The Wrong Time