When a sequel to a series releases, fans usually expect the next story to get darker. This is especially true in anime, where fans often see continuations from the moment when things get real. The protagonists now know what they’re fighting for or what they’re fighting for has expanded to counter the antagonist’s goals.
Some shows have to work backward, though. After continuously showing how serious things are, once they wrap their main story up, there’s nowhere left to go to get “more” serious without getting away from the core of what made the series. In such cases, the next show in the franchise will often get less serious in response, sometimes even becoming light-hearted.
10/10 Dragon Ball Super Has Lowered Stakes But Impactful Battles
Dragon Ball Super started out with lower stakes than Dragon Ball Z, with its opening arc being with a “God of Destruction” that never actually destroyed anything. Since the first arc was based on Battle of the Gods, the serious vibe Z was known for was suddenly gone.
And while some arcs are tenser than others, Dragon Ball Super just feels less dangerous than Dragon Ball Z ever did. Part of it is there are simply too many powerful protagonists to believably think the heroes could lose. However, it’s also valid to think that Akira Toriyama simply isn’t as interested in telling stories like the Frieza or Android Sagas, where a loss meant the entire planet was destroyed.
9/10 Gundam ZZ Starts With A Fruit Fight
The 1985 anime Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam is one of Tomino’s darkest works. It starts with a teenage boy running from a tyrannical military who loses both parents in the first five episodes. Most of the show’s main characters are dead by the end, and even the hero is in rough shape by the end.
So naturally, ZZ Gundam starts with Judau Ashta, the new lead protagonist, having a fruit fight with one of the remaining survivors from the last series. Fans who finish the series know that ZZ Gundam eventually does get pretty dark, but the first half of the show is light-hearted, largely to balance out just how grim Z Gundam’s finale is.
8/10 Nanoha Vivid Focuses On Martial Arts Tournaments Over Saving The World
Nanoha StrikerS focuses on the adventures of Nanoha Takamachi and her friends, a group of magicians who investigate dangerous incidents around the world and protect the universe from dangerous eldritch horrors and wacky scientists alike. StrikerS’ sequel series/spin-off series, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha ViViD, follows Nanoha’s adopted daughter, Vivio Takamachi, a young girl with tremendous magical powers.
Rather than following in her mom’s footsteps, though, Vivio uses her powers in martial arts competitions. Though the fights are no less interesting, the stakes are drastically lowered, and no one is in danger. It’s still a better magical girl anime than most would expect.
7/10 Boruto Is Nothing Like Its Predecessors
By its very nature, Boruto wasn’t going to be more serious than Naruto Shippuden. With a focus back on the younger ninja of Konoha, it’s hard to have the same scale of missions. However, Boruto is a massive tone shift from even the original Naruto series.
Rather than focus on the dangerous world of being a genin-class ninja, the early episodes of Boruto focus on the protagonist having almost slice-of-life adventures within the Naruto world. It’s a fascinating change of pace; however, it’s also one the fans are entirely uninterested in. Even Boruto’s Chunin Exam is less serious, with them being careful to make sure none of the younger ninjas are ever harmed.
6/10 Tekkaman Blade II Is More Hopeful Than The Original Series
The original Tekkaman Blade series is a grim action series from the early ’90s. Takaya’s struggle against the Radam is a war not just for humanity, but for his own life, with each new transformation risking his life. The ending is decent, but it still ends with him having lost more than he gained.
Tekkaman Blade II has significantly more fun with the idea, introducing more people that are capable of fighting to lighten the burden on the protagonist. Even the ending is more light-hearted, with all the heroes surviving until the end of the story.
5/10 Digimon Frontier Returns To Classic Shonen Adventure
After Digimon Tamers showed the DigiDestined fusing with their Digimon partners, there was only one idea left: the humans had to become the Digimon. And so it was with Digimon Frontier, where the new group of children transformed into different versions of heroes to save the world.
While Digimon Frontier had a sense of danger and tension in its conflict, it couldn’t compete with its predecessor. Digimon Tamers was designed as a kid-“friendly” version of Neon Genesis Evangelion, with darker themes present more than any series that came before or after. In the face of that, Frontier had to return to its roots a bit. Digimon Frontier did have amazing battles, though.
4/10 Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL Introduces A Hero Who Wanted To Feel The Flow
Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s is easily one of the darkest kids shows of the 2000s. The protagonist lives in a broken city that was abandoned after a disaster partially destroyed it. It subtly references class divides and regularly features characters risking their lives in duels. And then Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL features the protagonist talking about “feeling the flow.”
This wasn’t an accident, but rather a contrast to give kids a break from 5D’s unrelentingly dark tone. ZEXAL is an intentionally more light-hearted, less-serious show, with Yuma being the first legitimately awful Duelist as a protagonist. The series does get more serious later on as more Number monsters appear on the show and the stakes are raised, but early ZEXAL sees the show go into straight slapstick.
3/10 Dragon Ball GT Turns Goku Into A Kid Again
After Dragon Ball Z ended in the early ’90s, Toei wanted to keep going with the series even though Toriyama wanted a break from a universe he’d been writing about for nearly a decade. So with Toriyama’s blessing, Dragon Ball GT started not long after Dragon Ball Z ended.
The creators decided to harken back to Dragon Ball’s days, starting with de-aging Goku into becoming a kid again. The villains were also more comedic for the first half of the series, and the series offered a lot of villains who were only threats because Goku was stuck as a child.
2/10 Soul Eater Not Is A Slice-Of-Life Series Within The Soul Eater Universe
The idea that Soul Eater Not isn’t all that serious is implied in the title. The series is legitimately telling fans this isn’t like Soul Eater. These protagonists don’t go on dangerous adventures where they risk their lives.
Instead, they spend time at the school, learning to master their abilities in the hopes they might become useful. Unfortunately, the fans didn’t think too highly of this series. Soul Eater Not’s slice-of-life aspects were a huge turn-off to people who were expecting a more action-heavy series.
1/10 Transformers: Robots In Disguise Brought Humor Back To Transformers
Transformers: Robots in Disguise was the first time Transformers went back to being anime since Victory ended back in the late ’80s in place of Takara’s Brave Saga, a copycat of Transformers. For much of the ’90s, the focus was on series like Beast Wars and Beast Machines. But with Robots in Disguise, the series went back to an anime-focus, and got much sillier in response.
With Transformers: Robots in Disguise, humans were brought back to the show — and with them, much of the humor. The Autobots face off against the Predacons, who can be either threatening or silly, depending on the episode. It’s not until Transformers: Armada that the series gets back to being serious again.
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