9 Critically Acclaimed Anime That Failed to Make Money

Every once in a while, an anime will leave a big mark on the minds of critics and audiences. The show will appear on “top” lists, receive awards, and be praised for originality. Despite the critical success, only a few people bothered to watch and support the series.

Maybe the series lost viewers to more mainstream fare, the topic was too controversial at the time, or there was a lack of advertising. Either way, almost all of you have never seen these anime, but that won’t stop you from agreeing with this list.


1From the New World

Average copies sold: 606 per volume.

From the New World is hailed as a modern masterpiece for being a dialogue and character driven series. The dystopian tale is filled with mystery and social commentary but failed to find an audience.

A-1 Pictures chose a hybrid of 2D and cel-shading for the art, which may have turned off fans looking for something pretty to watch. Others blamed the serious homosexual themes, which is not something found in mainstream anime.

From the New World has a cult following in the international community, but even then, not many people have watched the post-time skip arc.


Average copies sold: 3,024 per volume.

Nichijou was Kyoto Animation’s follow-up to the K-On! franchise, so expectations were very high. The warm slice of life series aimed to highlight the tiny absurd moments in life that people should appreciate, and critics applauded this message.

However, fans weren’t buying, which led Nichijou to become Kyoto Animation’s first financial flop. 2011 was highlighted by darker anime like Madoka MagicaFate/Zero, and Steins;Gate. Maybe fans just didn’t want to support a moe work at the time, but Nichijou has slowly become a cult classic.


Average copies sold: 705 per volume.

Fractale may have been dead on arrival the moment director Yutaka Yamamoto claimed his work will kill the moe subgenre and usher in a new era of anime. The series received good reviews for its adventure story and for not having clear-cut heroes and villains.

However, the series had the misfortune of airing on the same time slot as Madoka Magica, which caused Fractale to become the least watched series on the prestigious Noitamina block. While Fractale didn’t kill moe, it’s still worth rediscovering for fans of adventure.

4Paranoia Agent

Average copies sold: 751 per volume.

Satoshi Kon is a beloved name within the community, but he never directed a financially successful anime during his short career. Unfortunately, his works only became appreciated by critics and fans after his death in 2010.

Paranoia Agent is his most known work, and it’s a psychological thriller about a juvenile delinquent who may or may not exist. At the time of initial release, Paranoia Agent was criticized for being too confusing and moving at a slow pace. It has gained a cult following since Kon’s writing style benefits from binge-watching instead of waiting for weekly releases.


Average copies sold: 1,325 per volume.

WataMote is always a topic of hot debate. Is it a study on social anxiety and depression? Is it a comedy mocking otaku? Does the series belittle mental illness? Is the series too relatable for some fans? Like most controversial works, most critics applaud WataMote for at least creating a conversation about social anxiety.

Either way, WataMote was a massive flop with Japanese fans but was a hit with American fans. The mangaka has even said the manga is serialized due to its popularity outside of Japan.


Average copies sold: 598 per volume.

Bokurano is constantly hailed as a more depressing version of Neon Genesis Evangelion as well as a moralistic tale about war. Maybe it’s that exact tagline that makes the series a hard sell?

Bokurano is a mecha series that follows a group of kids that are tricked into playing a death game in order to save Earth. It’s a heavy series and not one that has been able to find an audience in or outside of Japan.


Average copies sold: did not chart.

Monster is highly regarded for its intense and mature story, which centers around a surgeon whose life is ruined by a former patient.

Monster‘s biggest competitors at the time were Gundam SEED DESTINYSchool Rumble, and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig. Despite being passed over by Japanese fans, it has gained a small buy loyal following with international fans.


Average copies sold: 1,071 per volume.

Want to impress your hipster date? Just mention Texhnolyze and say how nihilistic and deep it is. You’ll get so much cred without having watched the series!

But seriously, Texhnolyze is one of Madhouse’s more overlooked projects. It follows a prizefighter who loses an arm and a leg to satisfy a debt and a girl who can see into the future. They get caught in the middle of a fight between three factions trying to take control of The City. It’s a dark and depressing series that will steal all sense of happiness from you.

Maybe it was too depressing for anime fans at the time, but it’s worth looking at for cyberpunk fans.

9Serial Experiments Lain

Average copies sold: 2,397 per volume.

Serial Experiments Lain is as underground as Nirvana within the international community, but it was a flop in Japan. The tale about a girl being dragged into the conspiracy-filled world of The Wired was, according to producer Yasuki Ueda, created as part of a “culture war against American culture and the American sense of values we have adopted after World War II.”

I wonder how he feels about the work being more popular in America than Japan?

What critically acclaimed flops do you wish more people would watch?

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