7 Strange Anime & Manga Spin-Offs
Modern-day anime series usually come from three major categories: a light novel or manga adaptation, a mobile game or idol group promotion, or a completely original project. However, there’s a growing category of anime series spin-offs too. Sometimes these are also light novel or manga adaptations, like Sword Oratoria or Mr. Tonegawa: Middle Management Blues. And every once in a while, these spinoffs are notable for being super-weird. I touched on some older examples a number of years ago, but this time we’re diving into some new spinoffs, some old stuff I missed, and just one manga that I couldn’t leave out.
From a layman’s perspective, the core Fate franchise is already complicated enough with its complex magic systems, alternate timelines, and that one new series based on a post-bad-ending what-if to a PlayStation Vita game. In the behemoth that is the Fatefranchise, Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya is the cotton-candy cousin. The core characters’ family relationships are reworked into something more typical, and our Berserker-controlling anti-hero becomes a wand-wielding magical girl. Of course this is Fate, so what initially appears to be a Kinoko-Nasu-flavored Cardcaptor Sakura adds parallel worlds and characters’ distaff counterparts to complicate the plot.
Next to magical girl spinoffs, transplanting characters into a normal school setting might be the most common variation. The same idea is central to Gakuen Basara, a reimagining of CAPCOM’s Sengoku Basara video games, but Attack on Titan: Junior High is the first that comes to mind when I think of a huge tonal shift. The original story is a constant wave of tragedy and gore, so to take that setting and jump to super-deformedschool shenanigans is certainly cause for a double-take. Fortunately, the show is funny enough to pull it off.
In Yoshifumi Kondō’s Whisper of the Heart, the character Shizuku Tsukishima gains inspiration for a story after seeing a well-dressed cat statue in an antique shop’s window. That story becomes The Cat Returns, which then became a separate Ghibli movie, directed by Hiroyuki Morita. The Cat Returns follows Haru, a girl who winds up engaged to the Prince of Cats, and The Baron, the cat statue in the window brought to life, who agrees to help her get the engagement rescinded.
Betterman is a dark and gritty mecha series whose Rei Ayanami-alike is a girl with hedgehog hair. In the series’ timeline, humans can contract a brain mutation called “Algernon” that causes them to become psychically linked with other mutants while also becoming aggressive and violent. But it isn’t immediately evident that this world is supposed to be shared with the anime’s predecessor, The King of Braves: GaoGaiGar. That series was about invading aliens. Nonetheless, characters from The King of Braves: GaoGaiGar make reccurring appearances within Betterman, and a timeline was further fleshed out in audio dramas. Then The King of Braves: GaoGaiGar’s sequel closes the loop, showing incidents that happened within Betterman being reported on TV.
I didn’t really think you could ramp up the craziness of Excel Saga, but Puni Puni Poemymakes a hell of an attempt. The over-the-top magical girl premise originated as a joke in the series, but Nabeshin and company couldn’t help taking this idea to the next level. Both OVA episodes take a crack at the magical girl genre and nothing is sacred. There’s bondage, crucified robot dogs, and weird alien dicks. The anime even managed to get banned in New Zealand.
It’s School Days! One of the most notorious slasher eroge has a reputation for its Bad Ends. So it’s not the first example that springs to mind when I think of a bright and cheery setting. School Days: Magical Heart Kokoro-chan seems like an attempt to lighten the animators’ moods.The OVA is fully self-aware, so it skips any pretense of being a serious magical girl show and instead lets parody run wild. The now infamous “nice boat” makes an appearance, and one group of former love interests create a sentai squad.
Shinji never could catch a break. That might be why he lives on in manga adaptations with a much nicer life. He moonlights as a detective in Neon Genesis Evangelion: The Shinji Ikari Detective Diary, plays video games all day in Neon Genesis Evangelion: Legend of the Piko-Piko Middle School Students, and otherwise lives a normal high school life. Neon Genesis Evangelion: The Shinji Ikari Raising Project plays out like a romantic comedy where our usually depressed hero is instead focusing on which of his two classmates he likes the most. The whole premise comes straight out of the original Evangelion itself, when the series’ final episode shows Shinji getting woken up to go to school by Rei and Asuka. The idea was popular enough for fans of the original series to get behind, and this spinoff manga ran for 10 years.