6 Anime Series That People Thought Would Be Failures

Anime, like any form of entertainment, is a risky business. When an anime gets made, the main goal in mind is for everyone involved to make a profit. But not all projects are successful.

Attack on Titan

© Wit Studio / Production I.G. / Kodansha

Some series are believed to be big hits, but end being massive flops. Today, we’re looking at series that were shipped out without much thought, but ended being winners! Some series on this list may surprise you.

1. Lupin III

Monkey Punch’s series wasn’t always a hit, cultural icon in Japan. While the manga was a hit, the first anime was considered a failure. It is believe to be the first anime to target adult viewers in Japan, but there was not an audience to be found, and was canceled after 23 episodes.

Lupin III

© TMS / Futabasha

The anime did face a lot of production issues. The production committee did not like the overly dark tone, and asked director Osami to lighten the content. When he didn’t, he was fired and replaced by a young Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. It has been reported that there bad time working on the Lupin series led them to form Studio Ghibli.

Lupin III

 © TMS / Futabasha

Anyway, Lupin III would find an audience during re-runs. It was so popular, that well, you already know the rest. Four TV series, eight movies, and five OVAs later, and the lovable thief has found his way into pop culture.

2. Mobile Suit Gundam

The face of the mecha genre wasn’t always popular at Sunrise. Originally planned to run for 52 episodes, Mobile Suit Gundam was cut down to 43. Toymaker Clover was on the production committee, and wasn’t satisfied with the sales of Gundam based toys. You have to remember that from the ’70s to ’80s, mecha anime were considered toy commercials for the mecha figures.

Mobile Suit Gundam

© Sunrise

However, that all changed when Bandai swooped in to purchase the toy rights. Instead of the action figures Clover was releasing, Bandai would create buildable models. It was such a hit, that now plastic models are casually called Gunpla (Gundam + plastic model).

Mobile Suit Gundam

© Clover

Clover released these figures

With the models popular, and the show doing well in reruns, a trilogy of compilation movies were released. Fast forward to the present, and Gundam has become a cash cow for Bandai and Sunrise. All because of a new toy. Think about that.

3. Attack on Titan

Oh boy, Attack on Titan may be everywhere today, but it wasn’t without its challenges. Hajime Isayama originally pitched the series to run in Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump. They liked the basic idea, but they wanted Isayama to modify the story and tone to fit in with the rest of Jump‘s tone.

Attack on Titan

© Wit Studio / Production I.G. / Kodansha

Unwilling to compromise, Isayama took Attack on Titan to Kodansha, which was then published in their Bessatsu Shonen Magazine.

Now, Attack on Titan is one of the biggest series in the world. Isayama did state that he plans on ending the manga in 20 volumes, but that was back in 2013. For now, we’ll enjoy the ride and wonder what the series would look like if it got the Jump treatment.

Attack on Titan

How we believe the meeting between Isayama and Shueisha went down.

4. K-On!

Nobody really expects much from an adaptation of a yonkoma (4-panel) manga. Since each strip is only 4 panels, they rely on quick or surreal humor. While Azumanga Daioh was one of the first successful adaptations of a yonkoma, K-On! was the first commercial hit.

K-On!

© Kyoto Animation / Houbunsha

When people talk about “cute girls doing cute things,” odds are it’s K-On!

Prior to the anime, K-On! had a modest audience. The first volume had 26,500 copies sold according to the Oricon charts. However, what Kyoto Animation did with the source material was magical.

They took the music based humor, toned down the yuri undertones, and increased the character development. Fans loved it. The first volume of the blu-ray sold 33,000 copies in its first week. Even the opening and ending songs charted in second and fourth place respectively on Oricon.

K-On!

© Kyoto Animation / Houbunsha

Overall, K-On! went from a modest manga to a top selling anime series, and had the box office record for an anime movie until it was defeated by Madoka Magica.

5. Tiger & Bunny

Superheroes may be big in the U.S., but Japan doesn’t have the same thirst for such content. So, when Keiichi Sato pitched the idea to Sunrise, they thought it wasn’t going to take off.

Tiger & Bunny

© Sunrise

Boy, aren’t they glad they took the gamble? Tiger & Bunny quickly became a fan favorite in Japan. Sato was able to blend Western and Eastern to make a perfectly balanced series that is accessible worldwide.

Tiger & Bunny

© Sunrise

Tiger & Bunny has went on to have a full 25 episode run, two movies, two games, a manga adaptation, and a lot of slash fiction. So much slash fiction.

6. Deadman Wonderland

This only applies to the U.S. While the manga was a modest success in Japan, the anime adaptation failed to take off. Many attribute this to being a really bad adaptation. Key characters are removed from the stories, plot lines are left unanswered, and the overall pacing is way too fast.

Deadman Wonderland

© Manglobe / Kadokawa

That being said, the series was one of the headliners when Adult Swim relaunched Toonami in 2012. Deadman Wonderland was even able to top a million viewers a couple of times.

Deadman Wonderland

© Manglobe / Kadokawa

The first edition of the blu-ray run even sold out in the U.S., causing Funimation to release a second print. While we doubt a second season will ever get made, it is impressive to see how a show can fail in Japan but take off elsewhere.

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Aaron Magulick
Aaron Magulick has been a fan of anime ever since being exposed to it in the late '90s. A fan of nearly all genres, he is not afraid to explore the creepier side of the industry.
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