Not all anime can become huge successes and some anime are even made with the plan to not take a total loss. However, there are series that become surprise hits, defying everyone’s expectations. Here are some of the biggest sleeper hits.
1. Girls und Panzer
You can’t go into any anime community without finding a couple of Girls und Panzer fans, but it wasn’t supposed to be a global.
Anime pairing cute girls with a niche hobby are very common. Due to market saturation, the most successful of these anime tend to average around 6,000 copies sold per volume, which is just enough to turn a profit.
Just how big was Girls und Panzer? It shattered sales expectations by averaging 28,000 copies sold per volume!
The whacky sextuplet brothers came out of nowhere during the Fall 2015 season, but gag comedies tend to be a tough sell.
Osomatsu-san’s biggest challenge was adapting and updating the jokes from the 1962 manga Osomatsu-kun. The task was to balance nostalgia of old fans while having comedy to appeal to the younger generation.
Well, we can be assured that Osomatsu-san found the perfect balance, as it became the highest selling anime of 2015.
3. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
It may come as a shocker, but The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was not always a cultural phenomenon. In fact, the light novels were under ground and something that hipsters would read.
Kyoto Animation took a big gamble when they approached Nagaru Tanigawa about adapting Haruhi Suzumiya. Prior to this, the studio had only worked on Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu, Air, and Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid.
No one would have guessed that Haruhi Suzumiya would take the community by storm. Due to the anime’s success, light novels sales shot up to 4.30 million copies, which was unheard of for light novels at the time.
Unless you were one of the few manga fans, you probably didn’t expect School-Live! to become one of the most talked about anime from the Summer 2015 season.
At first glance, the series looks like a standard moe slice-of-life anime that panders to the lolicon crowd. Instead, it’s a dark, psychological series about a handful of survivors during a zombie apocalypse.
While the anime’s sales numbers were bad, only 2,765 copies per volume were sold, the manga saw a sharp increase in sales numbers.
5. Futari wa Pretty Cure
Despite being one of the industries most financially successful franchises, Futari wa Pretty Cure had little backing at Toei Animation.
The magical girl genre was on a downward swing, but the high octane action (and no perverse scenes) saw Pretty Cure become a hit with little girls and adults.
In fact, the series rivals One Piece and Dragon Ball Z in terms of merchandising sales and popularity.
6. Rage of Bahamut: Genesis
Who would have thought that an anime based on a free-to-play mobile game would become one of the most talked about series of 2014?
One of the advantages of adapting a free-to-play game is that studios have a lot of leeway when writing the story. The tale of Favaro, Kaisa, and Bacchus quickly became compared to The Pirates of the Caribbean.
A second season is currently in production.
7. Your Name
The movie no one can get away from. Your Name is the fourth highest grossing Japanese movie of all-time, and could potentially climb into third place.
Your Name features Makoto Shinkai’s familiar themes of young love, but it carries a more optimistic tone. Toho originally projected that the movie would make 6 billion yen ($59.7 million USD), which would have been a moderate success.
What are your favorite sleeper hits?