Everyone loves a sequel. Or rather, they love the concept of sequels. If something’s good, people want more of it. Some can match or even surpass their predecessor, like Terminator 2: Judgment Day. But if it’s mediocre or bad, then it’s ruined the franchise forever and gets ignored.
Usually, the diminishing returns are because the sequels keep trying to repeat what the first film/anime/season/etc, did. But there is a way to avoid that: change up the formula. Introduce new characters! Change the show’s setting! Change its genre! It can reinvigorate the franchise by expanding its universe. Or end up making the series so different that it may as well be a spin-off. Here are a few anime sequels that really shook things up for their series.
5 Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders
This one doesn’t seem that dramatic, and it’s carrying on a change from the original manga. But that’s only because Stardust Crusaders set the template every other part would follow. It’s the series with the punch-ghosts named after topical music acts and whichever prog-rock band was in Hirohiko Araki’s CD collection. However, Stardust Crusaders was the third part of eight. The prior parts still had the music references, but there wasn’t a Stand to be seen.
Before then, the big hook Parts 1 and 2 offered was Hamōn: a martial art based on breathing techniques. It was essentially a European Fist of the North Star with Araki’s taste for the flamboyant and fashionable. North Star’s time in the sun was winding down when those parts were published, so JJBA’s shift into Stands came at the right time.This shift gave the series its nationwide fame, got it an OVA series, and a brace of video games. While Part 1 got a lost anime film, and Part 2 got nothing until the start of the 2012 anime series.
4 Dragon Ball
Dragon Ball was a sequel to something? Kind of. Before Akira Toriyama thought of Son Goku, he made his name with Dr. Slump. It was a sci-fi comedy that followed a robot girl called Arale and her creator Senbei Norimaki as they go around Penguin Village and foil the machinations of Dr. Mashirito. It was more of a slice-of-life comedy manga notable full of puns and toilet humor than a big action epic.
Yet it takes place in the same universe as Dragon Ball, complete with its quirks like humans living alongside dinosaurs and anthropomorphic animals. The two shows blended better in Dragon Ball’s early days, with Arale even helping Goku out against General Blue. By Dragon Ball Super, the Super Saiyan shout fest had changed so much that Arale’s appearances seemed bizarre. She did beat Vegeta though, so she could probably hold her own against Goku’s foes quite well.
3 The Cat Returns
Whisper of the Heart was one of Studio Ghibli’s underrated gems. It was the first and only film by Yoshifumi Kondō, which Ghibli founders Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata thought would be their successor. Sadly, he passed away in 1998, three years after this film’s release. His film was a sweet romance about a boy meeting a girl over their love for books. It was particularly notable for a sequence where an anthropomorphic cat statue called Baron came to life and messed around with the girl.
So, seven years later, the cat returned in…The Cat Returns. This time, a new girl called Haru gets more than she bargained for when she saves a cat from being run over. The cat is the Prince of the Cat Kingdom, and his father wants to repay her by marrying the two to each other. She gets dragged off to their home and has to escape before she becomes a cat too. That’s where the Baron steps in to help her out. It was entertaining enough, but it wasn’t really a standout in Ghibli’s lineup. It might even get usurped as Heart’s weird sequel by the upcoming live-action film.
2 Carole & Tuesday
This one’s kind of borderline. Shinichiro Watanabe’s works apparently all take place in the same universe, but the connections between the different franchises can be a little vague. Mugen from Samurai Champloo may be the great-great, etc, grandfather of Cowboy Bebop’s Spike Spiegel, or that might be a fan theory because they look a little similar and have the same English dub actors. However, there is a show that is confirmed to be part of the Bebop-verse.
Carole & Tuesday is about the titular singer-songwriter duo and their differences. The former is an orphaned girl from Earth, and the latter is a rich girl from a terraformed Mars. It takes place a few years after the events of Bebop, but it doesn’t really follow on from that show. Carole & Tuesday trade in sci-fi action for romance, music, and interracial dynamics. It’s received solid praise from critics, despite some issues. Though as far as drastic turns from the source materials go, this is one of the most noticeable examples.
1 Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle
Nearly all of CLAMP’s creations have crossed over at one point or another. Angelic Layer is the predecessor to Chobits. A character from Yumeragi, a CLAMP short story from 1996, turned up in their dark fantasy series xxxHolic, as did a talking pig from Murikuri, another CLAMP short story. At this rate, Jōta Kujo from CLAMP in Wonderland will turn up in their next project. Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle stands out as it’s a straight-up sequel to Cardcaptor Sakura.
An older Syaoran and Sakura are the main characters as they go through different worlds to retrieve Sakura’s memories. In other words, Cardcaptor’s magical girl setting got turned into an isekai. The person who tasks Syaoran with his multidimensional jumping quest is Yūko Ichihara, the Dimension Witch from xxxHolic. It’s like if Berserk’s Skull Knight told Usagi and Tuxedo Mask from Sailor Moon to leave the Moon Prism Power behind, pick up a sword, and hop through the world of Escaflowne. It’s an ambitious mix, to say the least, and those are just a few of the show’s many crossover characters.