All that something needs to catch on is to be in the right place at the right time. Godzilla wasn’t the first nor only monster movie back in 1954, yet it ended up creating a franchise that’s been going on for nearly 70 years. The long-awaited Lord of the Rings film adaptation finally came after 40+ years of failed projects in 2001, and since then the fantasy genre has dominated all screens big and small.

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But not everything hits that sweet timing spot. Either they miss out on a trend by a couple of years, or they just don’t catch on until someone dusts it off years later and sees their true value. It applies to films, TV shows, and anime among other media. Check out these shows for example. These are some underrated anime that might’ve done better if they were released in other eras.


6 Suisei No Gargantia

The Japanese title is much less of a mouthful than the English one (Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet). The show is about a mech pilot who gets knocked out of his sci-fi setting via wormhole to a strange, primitive planet called Earth. Not only does he have to adjust to the Earthlings’ odd customs and language, but they also have to get used to him and ‘Chamber’- his AI-run ‘Machine Caliber’ (mech).

Taking the mech out of its comfort zone to an old-fashioned one is unique, and the show itself got okay reviews. But the likes of Neon Genesis Evangelion and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann raised the bar in both seriousness and yuks. Nowadays, giant robot anime needs something more than the joy of mechs to get widespread appeal. Thus, Gargantia’s simpler premise and hook may have had better luck in the genre’s 1980s heyday than today.

5 Fist Of The North Star

Kenshiro’s bloody adventures in the post-apocalyptic wasteland are a cult favorite in the West. It’s been popular enough to get some shows, films, and video games released beyond Japan’s shores. But it was a big hit in Japan in its heyday. Both the manga and the show started right as the 1980s were heating up, then departed right as they ended. It shows too, with the Road Warrior­-style villains, and mullets galore.

This might be why its appeal in the West cooled off beyond the basic ‘Bruce Lee meets Mad Max’ concept. Localized in the late 1990s, the show was too old to be fresh, too young to be retro, and too violent for the Pokemon and Dragonball time slots. If it made its way West back at the same time as it did in Japan, Fist of the North Star might’ve been remembered more fondly by more people.

4 SK8 The Infinity

The skateboarding craze tends to come and go. It was hot in the late-1970s with skaters like Tony Hawk, then hot again in the early 2000s via skaters like...well, Tony Hawk again. If it was a cyclical thing, SK8 The Infinity would’ve come out right in time for it. The show follows Reki as he introduces Langa, his high school’s new transfer student, to the world of hardcore skateboarding in Okinawa.

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It may still catch on, as the show has received favorable reviews from critics and fans. But SK8 might’ve blazed a better trail if its premise could’ve been made in the early 2000s. Skating was everywhere both in real life and on the TV via shows and video games. Anime was also on the rise in the mainstream through Naruto, Dragonball, and more. A show combining the two would’ve gotten more eyes on it back then than now.

3 Yakitate!! Japan

There are many anime shows that could be summarized as ‘kid sets off to be the best X’. Naruto wants to be the top ninja in his village. Luffy wants to be the King of the Pirates. Then, in Yakitate!! Japan, Kazuma Azuma wants to put Japanese baking on the map by giving the nation its own, unique type of bread. A Ja-Pan, so to speak.

The premise isn’t a world away from the more popular Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma. In that show, Soma has to concoct curious cuisines at his elite school to save his family’s restaurant and surpass his dad. The difference is that Yakitate stuck to baking, and it came out a decade earlier in 2004. If both shows were put up head-to-head in a Friday Night Food Wars block, they might’ve benefited from that competitive edge. As things stand, Food Wars fans might enjoy its pastry-based predecessor as well.

2 D.Gray-Man

This 19th Century-based gothic tale of exorcists vs devils really caught on in its homeland. The manga has run in multiple Jump publications since 2004, alongside a 103-episode-long anime adaptation. Plus, a relatively short 13-episode sequel series called D. Gray-Man Hallow. The English language versions of the manga even made it to the New York Times Bestsellers List. Yet its anime version didn’t catch on in the West back in 2006.

The critics were cool on it, considering it derivative but entertaining. Viewers seemed to think the same as, by 2011, voice actor Todd Halberkorn said its DVD sales were lagging compared to other works around. Yet interest in the series grew once again in 2016 when Funimation got its hands on it. Now both the original anime and Hallow can be seen in their entirety on their streaming service. Giving 113 episodes of a show a chance is an easier commitment to make with VOD than DVD.

1 Afro Samurai

Afro Samurai walked so Yasuke could run. Starting off as an irregular serial in the Nou Nou Hau dōjinshi back in 1998, this tale of a wandering samurai seeking revenge for the death of his father caught on well enough to gain a short anime run in 2007. It even got an average but fondly remembered video game, and a sequel to that game that was so bad that the publishers recalled it soon after its release.

Black action protagonists were less common around Afro Samurai’s original run, let alone ones in manga and anime. They usually had more hoops to leap through, to put it mildly. However, POC action stars have caught on with the rise of Black Panther, Ms. Marvel, Blue Beetle, and others. The time is ripe for Afro and his headband to show everyone who is truly #1.

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