Sometimes an anime story is so successful with fans that they need to know more about their favorite heroes and characters right now. This leads to tons of spin-offs, sequels, and in this case, prequels. The thing is, not all prequels get the same level of attention as their predecessors.
For one reason or another, these prequels have gone unnoticed or no one has realized that it is a story prior to that anime that they do not tire of. What’s worse, some of these titles have yet to be animated, further obscuring them despite the hit anime they lead to.
10 Fate / Zero – Often mistaken for the first Fate anime
If you ask any Fate fan where to start, they will almost always point to the incredibly popular Fate / Zero, which can make this entry sound a bit cheating. That being said, the fact that the Fourth Holy Grail War is mistaken for the first Fate anime is more of an identity mistake than a forgotten prequel, thanks to the franchise’s lengthy and convoluted nature.
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Fate / Zero is the prequel to the original Fate / Stay Night that it overshadowed. The initial Fate / Stay Night anime from 2006 is something fans prefer to ignore now that Unlimited Blade Works has basically supplanted it. Kiritsugu Emiya and Saber’s brutal struggle to get to the Grail can be seen as a standalone anime or a rookie’s gateway to Fate, further reinforcing accidental displacement.
9 Hellsing: Dawn – Alucard’s War Service
Set near the end of World War II, Hellsing: The Dawn follows a teenage Walter and Alucard (in his female form) as they are sent to Europe to verify rumors of Nazi vampiric experiments. After just six chapters, Hellsing: The Dawn entered an indefinite hiatus after mangaka Kouta Hirano abruptly left it.
Aside from publishing a single volume, The Dawn went unnoticed by even the most ardent Hellsing fans, as its anime is nearly impossible to watch. At the time of this writing, streaming sites have yet to locate or offer The Dawn. The only way to see it is to get the Hellsing: Ultimate DVD volumes 8-10, with their three episodes distributed as bonuses.
8 Quick! – Free !, but in middle school
When Free! originally aired, a prequel was also released. It was about the light novel High Speed !, which follows the main members of the Iwatobi Swim Club but when they are in high school. High Speed! went unnoticed because, outside of the usual waiting period between Japanese releases and locations, Free! dominated the conversation.
Free! it was a resounding success, spawning three seasons and tons of fans who couldn’t get enough of the boys on the swim team. High Speed! had a sequel that served as the basis for the prequel film High Speed! – Free! Starting Days, which bridged the light novels with the anime setting in high school.
7 Lupine III – Daisuke Jigen’s tombstone prepares a classic Lupine movie
Lupine III is so timeless that it transcends the need for a specific timeline. The successful franchise features loads of series, movies, games and other elements that can stand alone as unique adventures in Lupin’s long and storied career. The 2014 film Daisuke Jigen’s Tombstone, the sequel to The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, is the exception to this rule.
Daisuke Jigen’s Gravestone is the usual for Lupine, with him and Jigen fleeing from a deadly sniper who has yet to miss a target. What makes the movie special is that it ends up featuring a mysterious figure named HLW, who has some interest in Lupine and the band. This acronym is an alias for Mamo, the central figure in Lupine III’s first 1978 film: The Mamo Mystery.
6 Atom: the Beginning – The creators of the Astro Boys take center stage
Even the most casual anime viewers know Astro Boy, the super kid robot of the 1950s who practically started anime and manga as we know it today. What many do not know is that Astro had a kind of prequel, since it was not starred by him, but by its creators: best friends Hiroshi Ochanomizu and Umatarou Tenma.
Atom: The Beginning shows young scientists teaming up to usher in the era of robotics that will define Astro Boy, while also chronicling his tragedy. When Astro is born, Dr. Tenma and Dr. Ochanomizu have become bitter rivals, as Dr. Tenma advocates for robotic superiority and Dr. Ochanomizu aspires to peace between man and machine.
5 Fist Of The Blue Sky – The pre-post-apocalyptic adventures of Kenshiro Sr.
Anyone curious to know what the world was like before it became the arid deserts of Fist of the Northstar need look no further than Fist of the Blue Sky, which occurs long before the end of the world. In 1935, Kenshiro’s uncle (also named Kenshiro) finds himself caught in the crossfire of a war between the Triad gangs based in Shanghai, China.
Fist of the Blue Sky is more of a gangbanger saga than a martial arts epic, but like its legendary successor, it features plenty of intense melee combat, with Kenshiro hitting enemies so hard they explode. The manga ended unceremoniously in 2010 following the demise of its Weekly Comic Bunch magazine, but returned in 2017 and continues as Regenesis thanks to Comic Zenon.
4 Codename: Sailor V – The beginnings of Sailor Venus and Sailor Moon
Long before Usagi Tsukino (aka Sailor Moon) led the Sailor Scouts to pop culture immortality, there was Codename: Sailor V, the prototype that would evolve into Sailor Moon. Naoko Takeuchi originally created Codename: Sailor V as a fun one-shot episode about magical girls, until Toei saw its potential and encouraged her to expand it.
Codename: Sailor V stars Minako Aino (also Usagi prototype) in notably dumber adventures than the main Sailor Moon line. After a short series, her manga ended with her joining the Sailor Scouts and the abandonment of the Sailor V alias for Sailor Venus. Despite being the original, Codename: Sailor V never replicated the success of Sailor Moon, and it wasn’t translated into English until 2011.
3 Jaco The Galactic Patrolman – Jaco’s failed mission kicks off Dragon Ball
Created by Akira Toriyama of Dragon Ball fame, Jaco the Galactic Patrolman is another space comedy from the manga genius. In it, the space cop of the same name, Jaco, is sent to Earth to intercept a certain spaceship before it crashes, as it contains a deadly alien capable of blowing up the planet.
Unfortunately for Jaco, not only does his own ship crash to Earth, but he is unable to prevent the alien rocket from landing. Failing, Jaco unwittingly launches Toryiama’s masterpiece, Dragon Ball, as the ship contains Son Goku, a Saiyan with abilities to destroy the planet. Jaco the Galactic Patrolman premiered in 2013, roughly 30 years after the debut of Dragon Ball.
2 FLCL: Alternative – The prequel / sequel to FLCL by surprise
FLCL fans had a two-in-one special with the release of the anthology sequels FLCL: Alternative and Progressive, starring bassist Haruko in surreal adventures about growth. While Progressive could be considered an ending, Alternative is actually a prequel to the entire FLCL. However, this is not evident on first viewing.
Some indications that Alternative predates FLCL are that Haruko doesn’t have his signature scooter yet and that Atomsk is practically nonexistent. FLCL follows an imprecise chronology, so even though Alternative features technology from the 2010s, such as smartphones, it may predate the original 2000 anime. However, the internal logic of the anime makes this ambiguous.
1 Luluco Space Patrol – The Retroactive Origins of the Trigger-Verse
On its own, the Luluco Space Patrol is a wild celebration of the works of Studio Trigger. To pay for the unfreezing procedure for her frozen father (makes sense in context), Luluco is forced to work for the Space Patrol. This means jumping from universe to universe or, specifically, from one Trigger anime to another.
Luluco visits Kill La Kill and Little Witch Academia, receives wise advice from Inferno Cop, and fights alongside Over Justice (who may or may not be the SSSS Gridman villain Alexis Kerib). In the end, he becomes Trigger-Chan, Studio Trigger’s mascot. The Luluco Space Patrol not only confirms the existence of the Trigger Multiverse, but it is also the origin story of the Studio Trigger figure and the connective tissue of its anime.