10 Best Anime Series That Were Almost Never Made – CBR – Comic Book Resources

Specific troubles behind the scenes almost prevented these anime from making it to air.
Anime is a tough and often exploitative industry. Although it's one of the most popular forms of entertainment today, creating even just one anime season (let alone a single episode) can be more demanding than fulfilling. In fact, these otherwise great anime had so much backstage troubles that they were almost canceled mid-production.
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Due to the industry's lack of archivists, some of these accounts should be taken with a grain of salt. While some can be verified through legitimate sources, others are only backed up by word-of-mouth. That said, these behind-the-scenes recollections can at least explain why certain creative choices were made and show a bit of the creators' processes.
Original anime not based on pre-existing source materials are risky even for the most established studios, and this fueled Sunrise's concerns with Code Geass. Besides it being a brand-new series, Code Geass was helmed by Planetes' director Goro Taniguchi, who's infamous for his perfectionism. Needless to say, it felt like Sunrise wanted Code Geass to fail.
Sunrise railroaded Code Geass at almost every turn, like limiting it to a short 25-episode run and not providing the animators the resources they needed. It was even said that Geass' crew had to borrow other productions' photocopiers. Code Geass became one of the biggest anime of all time, and it was only then that Sunrise actually helped the animators.
As the sequel to Digimon Adventure, Digimon Adventure 02 had the seemingly impossible task of living up to the beloved childhood anime's legacy and expanding the growing Digimon franchise. Not helping matters were the warring creatives, whose creative differences and arguments got so intense that some wanted to leave the show entirely.
Reportedly, head writers Genki Yoshimura and Atsushi Maekawa argued over Adventure 02's direction so much that it all but caused the anime's tonal inconsistency. Meanwhile, Bandai gave the staff who wanted to leave the messy production their own project in Digimon Tamers to keep them around. Adventure 02 was finished, but not without its glaring issues.
To most veteran Gundam fans, Zeta Gundam is both the franchise's best entry and the one responsible for cementing Gundam's zeitgeist. Zeta Gundam was the darker and more mature sequel of the already bleak wartime anime Mobile Suit Gundam, and it's a miracle it was finished given what reportedly happened behind the scenes.
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Zeta's rumored scandals include: Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino and mecha designer Mamoru Nagano fighting then competing for voice actress Maria Kawamura's affection, voice actress Yukana being bullied online for unfounded claims, and more. Given how chaotic things supposedly were, it's a miracle that Zeta Gundam was completed and achieved classic status.
Inuyasha was one of the biggest anime of the 2000s but then in 2004, it was abruptly canceled. Given its 167-episode length, ending on a high note seemed to be the right call, but this wasn't the case. In truth, the anime ended with an inconclusive promise to chase Naraku again because the animators ran out of chapters to adapt.
Besides the lack of source material to animate, the anime-original filler arcs were received so poorly that Sunrise put Inuyasha on hold instead of dragging things out. Sunrise kept quiet about Inuyasha for the longest time, leading fans to think it was canceled before it finally returned in 2009 with the finale season, The Final Act.
There are some anime that flop in Japan, but find success and fans overseas. The Big O is one of the premier examples of this trend, since it suffered from low domestic ratings and views, but it won over American audiences. In fact, The Big O was such a cult favorite in America that Adult Swim commissioned a sequel season.
To be clear, The Big O was originally envisioned a 26-episode series, but its initial domestic failure resulted in half of its episodes getting canned while they were in production. Adult Swim gave The Big O the chance to complete its story, although this resulted in a notoriously surreal final episode that left more questions than answers.
After being relatively dormant in the 2000s, Dragon Ball roared back to life thanks to the combined successes of the reboot Dragon Ball Z Kai and the movie Resurrection F. Toei Animation took advantage of this resurgence by quickly greenlighting Dragon Ball Super, and overestimating themselves in the process.
Super was given two months of pre-production, even when big series typically need at least six. Worse, Toei's animators were stretched too thin across projects, resulting in poor animation and meandering writing. Super miraculously survived a 131-episode run, but only after Toei exerted more effort than necessary to keep it on track.
Today, the original Macross is held up as one of the definitive mecha, war, and idol anime. One of Macross' greatest strengths is its balance of wartime action and drama with sincere humanist themes, but it could've been a different beast if its original conceptualization went as planned. In brief, Macross almost became a comedy with almost 50 episodes.
Macross' producers Wiz Corporation wanted the comedy, but creators Studio Nue fought back. Worse, Macross' massive budget and demanding technical designs delayed production even more. This led to the episode count being cut to 36, animation being outsourced, and many close calls. In the end, tough compromises were made, and they thankfully paid off.
Although it's not exactly the greatest anime ever made, Nadia stood the test of time and became one of the premier cult anime classics. For one, it's one of Gainax's more underrated shows, and it's the first full series that Hideaki Anno directed. What makes Nadia special is that its troubled production actually laid the groundwork for Evangelion.
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Midway through production, Nadia was suddenly extended into a 39-episode run, forcing Gainax to outsource episodes, drag out storylines, and add filler. Nadia barely escaped a stressful production, only for it to flop and take a toll on Anno's mental health. Anno left the industry to recover, only returning to confront his depression with Evangelion.
Evangelion's chaotic production cycle directly affected Anno's mental health. This didn't just make anime history, but it also became the stuff of legend among anime fans and chroniclers. Given Gainax's shady financial mismanagement, Evangelion's complex rights issues, and a nonexistent budget by the end, it's a wonder that Evangelion was even finished.
These issues, combined with Anno's already troubled mental state, contributed to Evangelion's descent into cynicism and culminated in the infamous, barely animated finale. Anno threatened to quit many times, but he stuck with Evangelion until the end. Anno returned for the movie finales, which were also rife with their own problems.
In 2019, the anime industry was shaken when a mass murderer attacked Kyoto Animation. 36 people were killed and 34 were injured during the massacre and, unsurprisingly, KyoAni put almost all of its productions on hold. One such project was Dragon Maid's second season, as director Yasuhiro Takemoto was one of the victims.
In the attack's immediate aftermath, there was a high chance that KyoAni would cancel everything it was working on. Had Dragon Maid S been canceled, nobody would've held any ill will towards KyoAni. Instead, Tatsuya Ishihara finished Dragon Maid S in Takemoto's stead, and the sequel season was met with acclaim when it aired in 2021.
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CBR Staff Writer Angelo Delos Trinos’ professional writing career may have only started a few years ago, but he’s been writing and overthinking about anime, comics and movies for his whole life. He probably watched Neon Genesis Evangelion way too much, and he still misses video stores. Follow him at @AD3ofc on Twitter, or email him at [email protected]
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