10 Anime Series That Found Fame Internationally, But Not In Japan

With its diverse array of genres and captivating storytelling, anime has become a global sensation that enthralls fans from all walks of life.

anime popular internationally
Panty and Stockings, Volte V, Crayon Shin Chan

While some anime series achieve blockbuster status both in Japan and internationally, there are those that find their most ardent followers primarily outside of Japan.

If you’re an anime fan searching for under-the-radar masterpieces, you’re in luck. These lesser-known titles became a big hit in different parts of the world while they were widely ignored in Japan.

10. Samurai Pizza Cats (1990)

10 Anime Series With International Popularity But no Local Popularity
Popular InUnited States
Number of Episodes54 Episodes

“Samurai Pizza Cats” is a unique case in the anime world. While it struggled to gain traction in Japan, being dismissed as merely a “children’s series,” it found a new lease on life when it was dubbed in English and introduced to audiences in the United States and beyond.

Upon its arrival in the U.S., the series was promptly dubbed into English, giving it a newfound popularity that extended to various other countries.

Set in the city of Edoropolis, home to robotic animals living in harmony, the series takes a turn when Lord Wanko, the city’s leader, becomes aware of Lord Korn’s sly attempts to take over the government.

To counter this, Wanko forms a secret spy team known as the “Nyankees,” led by the smart cat robot, Yattarou.

To keep their true mission a secret, the Nyankees operate under the guise of running a pizza restaurant, ensuring they go unnoticed as they work to foil Lord Korn’s plans.

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9. Vision of Escaflowne (1996)

10 Anime Series With International Popularity But no Local Popularity
Popular InUnited States & South Korea
Number of Episodes26 Episodes + 1 Spin-off Movie

“The Vision of Escaflowne” had a rocky start when it first aired in Japan, receiving only a tepid response from viewers. This left the producers feeling uncertain about the series’ future.

However, the tide turned dramatically when the series was introduced to international audiences.

In the United States, the series saw impressive Blu-ray sales and garnered high ratings in South Korea.

This international acclaim eventually led to the creation of a spin-off movie, which similarly found a warm reception outside of Japan.

The series follows Hitomi, a teenage girl who enjoys using tarot cards to tell people’s fortunes. Her life changes when a mysterious boy named Fanel falls from the sky, battling a dragon.

After Hitomi accurately predicts his victory, they are both transported to a different country, where Fanel is actually a prince.

This country soon faces peril, and Fanel takes on the challenge, fighting the danger in his family’s Escaflowne, a specialized battle suit. Hitomi is now in a unique position, witnessing the potential collapse of a nation.

8. Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt (2010)

10 Anime Series With International Popularity But no Local Popularity
Popular InWestern Region of the World
Number of Episodes13 Episodes

“Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt” is another anime series that faced a lukewarm reception in Japan, possibly due to its art style, which closely resembles American cartoons.

The series’ underperformance led to staff departures from its original studio, Gainax, who formed a new studio called “Studio TRIGGER.”

However, the series found a different fate in the Western world, particularly in the United States, where it received significant support.

This international popularity was so impactful that Studio TRIGGER recently acquired the rights to the series and announced plans to continue it.

The anime follows the “Anarchy Sisters,” who are angels kicked out of heaven for their bad behavior. Now, in Daten City on Earth, they have to fight ghosts to earn their way back.

Their powers include turning their underwear into weapons, which is problematic for various reasons.

Despite their mission, Panty is more interested in romantic encounters, and Stocking is fixated on sweets. The question is, can these fallen angels fight their way back to heaven?

7. Leiji Matsumoto’s Works (1938-2023)

10 Anime Series With International Popularity But no Local Popularity
Popular InFrance
Famous WorksSpace Battleship Yamato, Captain Herlock, Galaxy Express 999, and Interstella5555

Leiji Matsumoto may not be a household name in Japan anymore, especially among younger fans, given that his groundbreaking works were primarily released in the late 1950s.

However, in France, he’s nothing short of a cultural icon. Matsumoto was even honored with the “Ordre des Arts et des Lettres,” a prestigious French award recognizing significant contributions to the arts.

One of his most impactful works in France is “Interstella5555: The 5tory of The 5ecret 5tar 5ystem,” a film that featured a soundtrack by the renowned French music duo Daft Punk.

This movie drew heavy inspiration from Matsumoto’s earlier work, “Galaxy Express 999,” and has helped to keep his legacy alive and well in France.

6. Elfen Lied (2004)

10 Anime Series With International Popularity But no Local Popularity
Popular InUnited States
Number of Episodes13 Episodes

“Elfen Lied” is one of the most underrated anime series, which inspired the character “Eleven” in the famous American TV series Stranger Things.

The series was not received well in its native country because of its explicit and horror content. As for its international reception, especially in the United States, it was successful in every way possible.

The series also has one of the most beautifully directed anime opening and ending songs, a hit worldwide, if not only in the United States.

“Elfen Lied” follows the story of Lucy, a Diclonius, who has horns and invisible hands that can rip apart anything in sight. She is kept under surveillance, as society shouldn’t know her existence.

One day, she escapes the surveillance with a strange headache. This headache leads to her developing split personality disorder (two personalities in a single person).

When she escapes, she encounters Yuka and Kouta, two college students. They take her in as an injured person and shower her with kindness. But what will happen to these college students, as the government is after Lucy?

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5. Voltes V

10 Anime Series With International Popularity But no Local Popularity
Popular InPhilipines, Indonesia, and Cuba
Number of Episodes40 Episodes

“Voltes V” holds a unique position in the world of anime, particularly for its cultural and political significance in countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, and Cuba.

In the Philippines, the series became an unexpected symbol of resistance against President Ferdinand Marcos, who imposed martial law in 1972.

Marcos banned the series, citing its “violent” content as the reason, but many believe the true motive was the show’s themes of revolution and resistance against tyranny.

After the Marcos era ended, “Voltes V” returned to the Philippine airwaves and has since become a lasting symbol for “freedom of speech” in the country.

The series itself centers on the Voltes V team, a group of young fighters piloting powerful robots. Their main adversary is Zu, the oppressive leader of the Boazanian empire.

Under the guidance of their leader, Kenichi, the team members unite their strengths to form the ultimate Voltes V robot, aiming to defeat Zu and liberate Bozan from his tyrannical rule.

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4. FLCL (Fooly Cooly) (2000)

10 Anime Series With International Popularity But no Local Popularity
Popular InUnited States
Number of Episodes6 Episodes + 2 Movies

“FLCL” is an anime series that initially received a lukewarm response in Japan, largely due to its unconventional animation style.

However, the series found new life and a dedicated fan base in the United States, thanks to the support of “Adult Swim,” a streaming service.

Adult Swim not only brought the series to American audiences but also sponsored the anime committee responsible for “FLCL,” leading to the creation of future sequels like “FLCL Progressive,” “FLCL Alternative,” “FLCL Gurenge,” and “FLCL Shoegaze.”

The series centers on Naota, who is left to look after his brother’s belongings when he leaves for the United States to play baseball. This responsibility also includes dealing with Mamimi, his brother’s ex-girlfriend, who immediately clings to Naota.

But that’s not all; Naota’s life becomes even more complicated when Haruko, an eccentric space girl, shows up and essentially moves into his house as a maid.

Now, Naota has to manage life with two difficult women, one of whom, Haruko, holds secrets that are key to Earth’s safety. Will Naota be able to handle it all?

3. Crayon Shin-chan (1992)

10 Anime Series With International Popularity But no Local Popularity
Popular InSpain
Number of Episodes1142 Episodes (Ongoing)

“Crayon Shin-chan” is an anime series that, while not a flop in Japan, was primarily aimed at children and thus didn’t make huge waves in the broader anime community. However, the series found unexpected fame in Spain, where it was broadcast on some of the country’s largest channels.

The popularity was so immense that certain Shin Chan merchandise was exclusively released in Spain and Japan.

In a nod to its European fans, Volume 49 of the series even features the cast taking a trip to Spain, as a way to thank the audience for their overwhelming support.

“Crayon Shin-chan” is centered around the toddler “Shin,” who loves to do anything that annoys the people around him. Every day is filled with shenanigans, as Shin is accompanied by his friends, who are second to none.

2. The Big O (1999)

10 Anime Series With International Popularity But no Local Popularity
Popular InUnited States
Number of Episodes26 Episodes

“The Big O” is a unique anime series that incorporates Western elements and a storyline reminiscent of “Batman.”

However, this blend didn’t resonate well with Japanese audiences, who found it hard to embrace the series as their own. As a result, the show was initially limited to just 13 episodes.

However, the series found new life when it was aired in the United States, where it was warmly received as a compelling adaptation. Due to this positive reception, an additional 13 episodes were produced, giving the series a second chance.

The series follows Roger, an adult living in Paradigm City, a place stuck in the past due to a tragedy 40 years ago.

With no one else to tackle the rampant crime and robberies, Roger, along with his butler Norman and female android Dorothy, takes on the role of keeping peace in the city.

1. Mazinger Z

10 Anime Series With International Popularity But no Local Popularity
Popular InFrance & Mexico
Number of Episodes92 Episodes

“Mazinger Z,” created by the iconic manga artist Go Nagai, holds the distinction of being the first-ever Mecha (Super Robot) series.

Despite its pioneering status, the series is surprisingly not well-known among Mecha enthusiasts. However, in Europe, and particularly in France, “Mazinger Z” holds a special place. A statue dedicated to the series has even been erected in France, immortalizing Go Nagai’s impact on European fans.

The series also found acclaim in Mexico, where renowned filmmaker Guillermo del Toro cited it as a major influence for his blockbuster film, “Pacific Rim.”

“Mazinger Z” is set in contemporary times and follows the story of Dr. Hell, an archaeologist who amasses an army of magical creatures with the help of his henchman, Baron. Standing in his way is Kabuto, who seeks to avenge his grandfather’s death at the hands of Dr. Hell.

Kabuto pilots his grandfather’s prized robot, Mazinger Z, which is made of a rare alloy found only in Mount Fuji. The series explores how long Dr. Hell can continue his reign of terror before Mazinger Z puts an end to it.

There you have it: Ten anime series that found exceptional popularity in international countries instead of Japan. Let us know what you think of this list in the comments below.

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