With any medium not everything is a sure thing, even when something starts out amazing things can go wrong. I call this the second series curse when it comes to anime, where a series second outing just doesn’t live up to the first. Now these anime aren’t necessarily the worst; just compared to their predecessors they are found wanting in the quality department. From bad direction, to a flawed concept, these anime just didn’t hit the mark.
We start this out with likely the worst offender on the list, Berserk 2016. Even if you consider Berserk 2016 to be a continuation of the Golden Age film trilogy and not the classic 1990's anime of the same name this is still a horrible second outing. This series remains a massive let down for fans and an open wound as more is likely on the way. Honestly its hard to talk about what Berserk 2016 got wrong because honestly it’s everything.
Right from the get go giving one of the great action franchises of anime to a director not known for his action chops was likely a mistake. Loading it up with hated CG when said director has no experience in making CG look good was another mistake. All while rushing through hundreds of chapters of the classic manga in only twelve episodes with no regards for world building or context, something the original anime excelled at was just icing on the cake.
The entirety of the production was flawed right from the get go. What makes it worse is how important Berserk is to seinen anime in general and the fans in particular. To watch this done to such a seminal work like Berserk was painful, with Berserk 2016 you didn’t know to laugh or cry.
The first season of Shakugan no Shana was a surprise for me, going in I expected a standard issue tsundere led action fantasy. What I got was the best tsundere led action fantasy of the mid 2000's, a series so popular it contributed to the glut of the genre during the time. Decently written, expertly voice acted, and well paced Shakugan no Shana was a fun watch.
Sadly the same could not be said of its sophomore outing. Right from the get go it was clear the characters contracted a serious case of development reversal as most of the character development was promptly ignored as the S1 status quo was returned. Furthermore the series was clearly the middle chapter of the overarching story. With plot points brought up and promptly forgotten you just knew there would be no satisfying conclusion to this chapter, so when the inevitable cliff-hanger ending happened nobody was surprised. Sadly the series was so poorly received it almost killed the franchise was Shakugan no Shana Final not being produced for the better part of a decade.
Funny enough things were even worse if you were a dub watcher. As the license changed hands from S1 to S2, now normally this would not be a big issue. Except Funimation decided to bring in an entirely new cast forcing the viewer to get used to the new voices which had the annoying habit of sounding like other characters voice actors...
Knights of Sidonia was Netflix’s first big foray in the anime distribution business, considering how prolific they have been in recent years it was obviously a success. An adult sci-fi horror series with a distinct visual aesthetic Knights of Sidonia was something rare and great.
Sadly the same could not be said of the second series. While present in the first part, the ecchi comedy within the series was dialed up considerably creating a weird tonal shift the series certainly didn’t need. Beyond that inexplicably the series shifted from a serious sci-fi horror/thriller to an odd romantic comedy between the main character and a tentacle monster of his dead girlfriend... Needless to say the response to the series second outting wasn’t great.
While the original Gundam SEED is no ones idea of a masterpiece, it’s certainly one of the most popular modern Gundams both in Japan and North America. With a cohesive story, populated by memorable if flawed characters, and some of the best mech designs in the series it was certainly a fun watch.
However even by the low standard of SEED, Gundam SEED Destiny fails to meet that. Widely regarded by fans as one of the weakest entries to the venerable series ever SEED Destiny brought about a lot of the issues that have plagued the series since. Overpowered mobile suits, beam spam “battles”, and incoherent plots led by forgettable villains. Oh and of course an increase in ecchi fan service, because that is why people turn into Gundam...
The first Baka to Test was a surprisingly fun comedic outing about the exploits of a class of dullards, well one dullard and various others of varying bad luck and circumstance. While the series is nobodies idea of high quality anime, the first series followed a pretty fun story. Populated by jokes that land in either English or Japanese and have a healthy dose of anime in jokes. An entire episode for example lampoons Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Sadly though the second series lost a lot of the charm of the first. One strange decision was sidelining the Summoner Test System that made the first series unique. Considering its literally in the name of the series (in both English and Japanese) this was an odd choice, especially when it was replaced by annoying character based melodrama. Something that really didn’t fit the tone of the series.
All around Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu Ni! wasn’t terrible it just didn’t understand what made the first series great. Furthermore much like Shakugan no Shana S the series ended on a cliffhanger having only adapted a small part of the Light Novels and considering the reception to Series Two this series looks dead and buried.
Haganai as it’s popularly known was a surprise hit from its season and became something of a minor anime phenomenon. Blending slice of life, ecchi comedy, and slightly broken characters it caught many an Otaku’s heart. It was so popular it even helped the light novels receive the live action drama treatment.
However with mainstream success the second series was rushed into production to capitalize on the success of the first. Sadly what made the first series such a treat was lost in the rush, the ecchi comedy that worked in the first series was replaced by annoying and repetitive slapstick that just didn’t. The complex characters that elevated the series from being a standard harem comedy were reduced to one trick ponies with their main traits enhanced to appeal to less die hard fans.
All around Hanagi NEXT felt like a cynical cash grab. An attempt to strike while the iron was hot to extract more disk sales from the masses. Unfortunately for the production committee this didn’t work out all that well as the less then favorable reaction to the series caused disk sales to crash, likely dooming any chance of more being produced.
If you haven’t seen the first season of Log Horizon turn your PC or Smartphone off and go watch it now. Honestly it’s that good. Existing in the shadow of Sword Art Online many missed out on the far superior Log Horizon which focuses as much on the politics of the world as with the awesome game based action the genre is known for.
However Log Horizon series two had development issues even moving to a new production company. In the transition a lot changed including the art style and character designs, to say Series Two was different would be an understatement. Sadly in this case “different” is just a nice way of saying worse.
The series was a disjointed mess of multiple story lines that never really comes together. Entire arcs focus on characters nobody really likes nor cares about, with the main heroes been absent for weeks. Furthermore much like Shakugan no Shana S so much of the plot development was done in service of setting up future events. Future events which will likely not be animated once again due to the less then positive reaction from fans to this massive let down of a series.
The last entry on our list is another infamous one the much loathed Root A. If you look at any manga sales chart in North America or Japan even now you will still see Tokyo Ghoul if not dominating it showing respectable results. This is because the manga is likely one of the best in print today and while the anime lost a bit of its luster the first adaption of the story was as clear a hit as we have had in a while. A modern equivalent would be the popularity One Punch Man received during its run.
As such their was much rejoicing when it was announced their would be a quick turn before its “sequel”. Sadly Root A is what nobody wanted instead of continuing to adapt the manga story the series took an alternate path, Root A is effectively an anime only “What If” Story. Despite being penned (allegedly) by the manga’s author Root A seems little more then a Tokyo Ghoul fanfiction missing all the dread and excitement that positively drips off every frame and page of is much superior source material.
At the time it was thought Root A was just a place holder until more manga was produced to finish the story proper. However with the Tokyo Ghoul manga long over in Japan and more then enough material for a successor season available the Tokyo Ghoul anime project remains in limbo. Hey at least this is one example where somebody can say with certainty the manga is better.
Anyways that’s all folks. What example of Second Series Curses can you think of. Personally their is a few other pretty obvious ones out there, however I’d like you to have your turn. Sound off in the comments.