There are many concepts in anime that can be used for spinning off separate series. Even from a single throwaway character during a very specific story arc, a whole new storyline and accompanying lore can emerge, giving diehard fans more content to dig into.
While some spin-offs provide a total shift to the main story (e.g. changing the plot but retaining the original characters), other spin-offs stay true to the main story but focus on another aspect or element (e.g. expanding on a character's narrative) so that it builds on the original.
From spin-offs with comedic takes to spin-offs that explore the darker sides of a given story, here are our picks for the best spin-off anime series worth checking out.
9. Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals
Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals is a comedy series with a total of 51 episodes and was the first spin-off of Naruto Shippuden. It was created by Kenji Taira and was adapted into the anime format by Studio Pierrot, directed by Masahiko Murata. The first episode premiered on April 3, 2012.
Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals centers on Rock Lee, a ninja of the Hidden Leaf Village who specializes in taijutsu because he can't master ninjutsu or genjutsu. We see his daily life and training in the Village.
The anime also shows the goals of each of the characters, with the first episode showing the rivalry between Lee and Naruto.
8. Attack on Titan: Junior High
Attack on Titan: Junior High is an anime series written by Saki Nakagawa and animated by Production I.G. It first aired on October 4, 2015 with a total of 12 episodes.
Attack on Titan: Junior High is a comedy version of the original Attack on Titan anime, featuring the same characters in a chibi art style.
The story is about the adventures of everyday life for the students of Class 1-04 of Attack Junior High School. The anime also has a sequel called Attack on Titan: High School.
It shifted the dark theme of the original series to a comical one, giving us scenes like battles for cheeseburgers and the "test of courage" that's popular with high school kids.
7. Dragon Ball Z: The History of Trunks
Dragon Ball Z: The History of Trunks was written by Hiroshi Toda with its first original episode aired in Japan on February 1993. It is a spin-off with episodes set in a different timeline from the original Dragon Ball storyline.
The History of Trunks features a future world that was destroyed by Androids, with the Dragon Balls no longer available due to the death of Kami (so reviving Goku and others who died is impossible).
With no other way to save humanity except by relying on technology and Bulma's invention, the time machine, Trunks is entrusted to go back in time and ask help from Goku and other Saiyans.
Handa-kun is a comedic slice-of-life spin-off of Barakamon. The anime series is based on a manga series of the same name, written by Satsuki Yoshino. It was produced by Diomedea Studio with 12 episodes and first aired in Japan on July 8, 2016.
The story is about a high school student and calligrapher, Handa, who thinks that all the students around him talk bad behind his back—when, in fact, he's admired by many and treated as an idol. He even has a fan club and his number one supporter is the Handa Force.
5. Cells at Work! Code Black
Cells at Work! Code Black is a spin-off of the anime Cells at Work! Unlike the original, Cells at Work! Code Black has a darker theme and setting as it's set in an unhealthy body living an unhealthy lifestyle, with cells dying in almost every part of the body.
Cells at Work! Code Black is written by Shigemitsu Harada and illustrated by Issei Hatsuyoshi. They are also supervised by the author of the original manga, Akane Shimizu. The anime series was produced by Liden Films and premiered on January 9, 2021.
4. The Slime Diaries
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime spin-off series The Slime Diaries was first announced to air in January 2021, but actually started airing in April 2021. It's produced by 8bit animation studio.
The Slime Diaries focuses on the daily life of Rimuru and his friends in the Tempest. Each of the episodes contains a collection of at least 2-3 minutes of video about random scenes and moments of the Tempest people around the Kingdom.
3. Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online
As the title implies, this is a spin-off of the Sword Art Online anime series by Reki Kawahara. The anime adaptation of the light novel and manga was produced by 3Hz studio and aired between April to June 2018.
It follows the same virtual reality concept of the Sword Art Online series but in the setting of the Phantom Bullet Arc, where the players battle with guns instead of swords and blades. Its comedic takes and unique approach provide the spin-off with a lighter theme than the original.
2. Boruto: Naruto Next Generations
Fans and otakus often debate whether Boruto: Naruto Next Generations is a spin-off or a sequel. Either way, we can all agree that it drifts far away from the story of Naruto as it focuses on Naruto's son Boruto.
One thing that makes it feel more like a spin-off than a sequel is that Ukyo Kodachi (early parts) and Mikeo Ikemoto (illustrations) worked on Boruto without Naruto's original creator Masashi Kishimoto. It features new characters and new developments unseen in the original.
While some events are relatively in line with the original's story, most of it's brand new—any characters or plot references from the original story are only used to deepen the new characters and plots.
1. Attack on Titan: No Regrets
Attack on Titan: No Regrets is a two-episode spin-off that centers on Levi's life many years before the main story's timeline, back before he was a soldier of the Scout Regiment under Erwin Smith.
This prequel arc sheds light on Levi Ackerman's backstory, which shows how losing comrades was a common occurrence for him, teaching him how he had no choice but to move forward and live for his friends.
Attack on Titan: No Regrets is a manga written by Gun Snark and illustrated by Hikaru Suruga, based on the A Choice With No Regrets visual novel. It was then adapted into a two-episode anime by the same studio that worked on the original anime series.