5 (And a Half) Great Anime Sequels

Sequels, even the decent ones, are very rarely as good as the original. This seems to be the general rule of thumb for most forms of fictional media, anime included, and although there are a number of decent-to-great anime reboots that help balance the scale a little (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Hellsing Ultimate, Kuroshitsuji: Book of Circus, and this season’s Fruits Basket, to name just a few examples), the fact remains that second (and third, and fourth, and fifth…) seasons of anime typically just aren’t as inspired as their original counterparts.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, with shows like Bakuman, Natsume Yuujinchou, and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex having sequels that are just as good as, or arguably even slightly better than, their initial seasons. However, there are also a small handful of sequels out there which I consider to be better than their predecessors by a far wider margin. So as something of an antidote to a much earlier post of mine covering the worst in anime sequel history, I’d like to take this opportunity to highlight those few anime sequels that I believe manage to significantly outdo their respective originals.

½. Clannad: After Story

I’m putting this here so that I don’t have to deal with a laundry list of comments asking why I didn’t. I get it – After Story is widely considered to be better than the first season, and I have no reason to believe otherwise. But I also don’t care for Clannad. At all. Period.

Right. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s move on.

1. Sailor Moon S

I still have a great deal of fondness for 90s Sailor Moon, warts and all, and for the record, I certainly don’t think the first season is bad – it’s just that Sailor Moon S, the third season of the original anime, is way, way cooler. This is the season that introduces the enigmatic outer sailor senshi (Uranus, Neptune, Saturn, and Pluto), deals fairly openly (yet at the same time remarkably gracefully and yes, even subtly) with a canon lesbian relationship, and is generally quite a bit darker and more emotionally complex than either of Sailor Moon’s previous seasons. Though still very much in keeping with its roots as a shoujo magical-girl series, Sailor Moon S is surprisingly sophisticated in places, and deals with a number of ideas and themes which make for a very compelling watch. For these reasons, it remains my favourite season of the entire franchise.

2. Jigoku Shoujo Futakomori/Hell Girl: Two Mirrors

The first season of Jigoku Shoujo has some cool ideas beneath the surface, but these are unfortunately largely undermined by the overarching story during the second half, which for the most is poorly executed and likely never would have made for an especially gripping plot anyway. On the other hand, the second season of Jigoku Shoujo features the same core narrative but takes a much more sinister approach, so that even the first half of the show, which like the initial half of season one is made up of purely episodic stories, are generally far more interesting to see play out. Two Mirrors also has the added benefit of a new character to help kick the creep factor of Jigoku Shoujo up by several notches. My advice to those who haven’t yet seen any of Jigoku Shoujo is to simply skip most of the first season and head straight into the second, which tends to be more polished in general and requires no prior knowledge to enjoy.

3. Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage

Unlike Jigoku Shoujo, I think the first season of Black Lagoon is pretty good – funny at times, tragic in others, and sometimes even a simultaneous mix of both. However, Second Barrage still easily manages to be the better show – it’s grittier, meatier, and generally just pushes the envelope all the way, which is exactly what an anime like Black Lagoon feels engineered to do in the first place. The first season also happens to include the weakest and most unrealistic story of the bunch (Roberta), whereas season two jumps right into the creepiest (the ‘vampire’ twins), with no beating around the bush whatsoever. While season one of Black Lagoon is undeniably fun and sets the tone for all the action to follow – and is a necessary watch anyway in order to understand how our main character came to be a part of all the insanity – it’s definitely season two that kicks it out of the ballpark as far as I’m concerned.

4. Lupin III: Part V

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed at least some of Lupin III: Part IV well enough, but what starts off as a fun and even fairly compelling watch really peters out during its second cour – by the time it wraps up, the story loses any sense of cohesion or internal consistency, and at the time it was airing, I was still going mainly for the incredibly swanky OP. Part V, on the other hand, manages to remain coherent throughout its entire run, keeping up a great balance between the kind of dumb comedy we all know and love, and drama in which I can genuinely get emotionally invested – shocker, I know. Heck, even the vast majority of Part V’s retro breather episodes inserted between the main story arcs are pretty good, and that definitely says a lot. Surprisingly smart but still undeniably entertaining, this is probably the best Lupin has ever been, at least as far as the televised version is concerned – quite a feat for a franchise over 50 years old.

5. Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu

Last but not least, what list of anime sequels better than their forebears would be complete without Fumoffu? I never thought I’d say be saying this, but less central plot and more high school romcom and general hijinks sometimes really does pay off. Often more out-and-out parody than straight comedy, Fumoffu at last ditches the attempt to take itself seriously and does itself a huge favour in the process, presenting a bunch of cheerfully idiotic and bawdy side-stories that feel utterly at odds with the first season and yet at the same time somehow completely natural for a series such as this. Maybe it’s because Full Metal Panic practically begs to be parodied in the first place, or maybe it’s just because Kyoto Animation were that determined to make a memorable first impression, but either way, the chemistry is perfect. Don’t waste your time watching all of the original Full Metal Panic – I’d suggest watching only the first handful of episodes just to familiarize yourself with the core cast, then diving straight into Fumoffu.

Question of the post: Which anime titles do you think have significantly better direct sequels – and is that because the original anime in question is outright bad, or because the sequel is just that good?

32 thoughts on “5 (And a Half) Great Anime Sequels

  1. Having seen both Clannad and Clannad After Story, I’d agree that it only gets half a point. It has a couple of contained, but pointless threads, and the ending is a slap in the face to all the show has done over the season, but the things it slaps are extraordinary are deeply moving. So yeah, 1/2.

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    • I’ve seen neither. It’s just so not my thing, but everyone always tells me that After Story is miles better than the original series, so I figured I’d put it in just to get people off my back about it.

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  2. Interesting choice for Sailor Moon S. To be fair, I did think Pluto was more interesting than most of the main senshi with her time controlling powers and being the only character who whispers her attack names.

    Some anime sequels that I enjoyed would be ROD: The TV, Hunter X Hunter OVA (sequel to the 1999 series) and Jungle Emperor Leo 1997 to name a few.

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    • The outer senshi always struck me as more interesting in general, but yeah, Pluto definitely sticks out from the others in several ways. Though to be fair, I was always a pretty big Saturn fan.

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      • Sure thing. I thought they had a great concept and were good anti-hero foils to the inner senshi. Big into Saturn? That’s fine. She does play a huge role in S and has some great powers. She also was the main one to save the world in S if you really think about it.

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  3. It is a recent one but I would definitely throw the Morose Mononokean in here. The second season was better than the first in every way. I enjoyed season one but it just never did enough with its characters and premise where season 2 really started to explore these.

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      • I’d love to see what it could do in a third season because it is a show that is really finding its feet as it goes. I’m with you in that neither season wowed me but given I love the style of story it is, the improvements in the second season were delightful to see.

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  4. It’s not often that I find a list from which I haven’t seen a single show (well, I’ve seen Afterstory, but I won’t count that as part of the proper list).

    Hellgirl has been on my list forever, but I was never that interested in either Fullmetal Panic or Black Lagoon. I’ve seen the 90ies Sailor Moon and the occasional Lupin III (I don’t remember what exactly; I’m fairly sure I’ve seen Cagliostro, and about 1 1/2 series, but it’s quite some time ago), so those might be worth checking out at some time (neither franchise holds any special memories for me, but I did enjoy both).

    I had that experience with Oregairu. The first season was occasionally good. During its run I was joking that I liked every second episode. Then the second season came and it was… so much better: harder decisions, greater emotional veracity etc. The fun thing is that everything actually followed through from the set-up of the first season. In retrospect, season 1 contained very little pointless detours. I still wonder what happened. Is it the new diretion? I do prefer the first season’s character design, so it’s not exactly obviously that. Is it that I didn’t get it the first time round? Is it that the material resonated more? I’ve never been able to figure out what was better for me, but the difference is huge.

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    • Of all the shows listed here, Black Lagoon is probably my favourite overall. Granted, some of that may be nostalgia speaking, but I also think it’s a genuinely unique and pretty good anime series as a whole.

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  5. Personally, I think that the second season of Non Non Biyori was pretty great. I, too, liked Clannad: Afterstory. But that second season of Black Lagoon! Dear Goddess, I lay on the floor and wept when Rock’s efforts to save the second twin came to naught. (Tearing up a little now, just writing this. . .) That was brutal.

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  6. Interesting. I never watched the second season of Hell Girl because I was kinda “eh” on the first season. I liked it okay, but it was never as gripping as I felt like it should be. Maybe I should give it another chance sometime in the (distant) future.

    There are at least three second seasons I’ve watched that I definitely found vastly superior to their first season counterparts: Lyrical Nanoha A’s, K-On!! S2, and Encouragement of Climb S2. Actually given your header graphic for this post, I thought K-On might show up in your list somewhere.

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    • I won’t say the second season of Hell Girl is absolutely must-watch material or anything, but even so, I feel it definitely rises above the level of season one.

      I did watch the first season of K-On! but only a couple of episodes of the second. I’m not saying the second season was worse in any way – it’s just that the show itself wasn’t really my thing, and at the time season two was airing, I had stuff to watch that was more up my alley.

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  7. Gatchaman Crowds Insight is my favorite sequel, carries on the sharp social commentary of the first show while always finding new ways to subvert your expectations.

    I dropped Fruits Basket at episode 4, it just wasn’t pulling me in for some reason, would you say it’s worth getting back into?

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    • I never did watch any of Gatchaman Crowds, though I’ve heard plenty of good things about it. Maybe I should get around to that some time.

      The original Fruits Basket? Sure, if you have nothing better to watch (and let’s face it, this season isn’t exactly overflowing with great material), I can’t think of a reason you shouldn’t try and get back into it with the reboot. If it helps, I’d say the new Fruits Basket leans more into the drama, whereas the original was still dramatic but had a bigger comedy focus.

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  8. One and a half candidates spring to mind… The first is Encouragement of Climb S2. It’s so much better than the first that it’s practically a different show. (Not that the first is bad in any way, of course it isn’t because if it was I’d have never come back for S2.)

    The half is Sword Art Online II. The first two thirds, GGO and the side story arcs are garbage and definitely inferior to the original. But then the season closes out with the incredible Mother’s Rosario story.

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    • I never watched Encouragement of Climb, but enough people have mentioned it that perhaps I will at some point.

      SAO is… well, let’s just say I have an interesting relationship with that franchise in general. Personally, I think most of the first half of the first SAO series was pretty decent, even close to downright good at times. Everything after that, other than the GGO spinoff, I have serious reservations about.

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  9. Pingback: Anime Blog Posts That Caught My Eye This Week (May 24, 2019) | Lesley's Anime and Manga Corner

  10. Hey there,
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  11. Similar to what someone else mentioned, I haven’t watched anything in this list aside from after story. 🙂

    That screenshot of Jigoku Shoujo Futakomori/Hell Girl: Two Mirrors though really caught my eye. Looks like it’s in some sort of psycho-horror genre. I’m intrigued. Thanks for sharing this list!

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    • Visually, I really like a lot of what Hell Girl has to offer – that goes for all its seasons, not just the second, although I think 2 is best in terms of story. In any case, if you do end up watching any of the shows on this list, I hope you enjoy them! 🙂

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