Crossovers have long been a popular concept in fiction.
The basic idea is simple enough. Take two (or more) characters from two separate fictional universes and have them meet.
Will they be friends? Will they team up? Or will they fight? Which one is stronger, smarter, more skilled, or faster?
Naturally, anime and manga series are not immune to the appeal of the crossover.
Before we look at anime crossovers, we need to acknowledge some “rules” which crossovers tend to follow:
- It helps to have one company own both characters. Lawyers don’t care if All Might vs. Captain America would be awesome, but they do care about copyrights.
- For example, Goku, Naruto, and Luffy can easily meet (especially in promos) because they are all Shonen Jump characters. Bringing together Naruto and Inuyasha would require more legal loophole juggling.
- Heroes often distrust each other in crossovers. They may even fight. This satisfies the fans’ need to prove which character is stronger/ tougher/ better.
- Eventually, the fight will end in a tie. The two heroes will join forces to fight some common enemy.
- The crossover may be done with time travel, or a portal, or some other science-fiction concept. It doesn’t matter. See the next bullet point:
- None of this is canon. The characters will usually go back to their own story arcs and not remember a thing.
Keeping that in mind, let’s look at a few good anime crossovers:
Space Patrol Luluco
This wonderful combination of cute, sweet, weird, action, and comedy was one of the first anime shows to come out of Studio Trigger. Appropriately, it contained several crossovers which highlighted the new studio.
Inferno Cop also has a crossover — Chief Over Justice is clearly meant to be a parody or tribute to Inferno Cop. This connection is confirmed when the real Inferno Cop shows up later.
This series is extremely Gainax-ish, with wild animation, an over-the-top plot, and generally fueled by huge amounts of pure awesome.
However, these crossovers suggested that the new studio was more than just a spin-off of Gainax. With Space Patrol Luluco, Trigger created a whole Trigger-verse, where different anime franchises are just a planet away.
Lupin III vs. Detective Conan
Take a great thief and a great detective, and you should have a pretty good combination, right?
Obviously, Japanese audiences thought so, because two separate Lupin III vs. Detective Conan stories have been animated.
The first was a 2009 movie-length television special. This was followed by an actual movie in 2013.
Both have the same title, except for the addition of “The Movie” to the sequel, so be cautious if you want to watch them “in the right order.” This little mini-review is based on the 2009 TV special.
As is often the case with “X versus Y” crossovers, the two main heroes take a while to realize that they are actually on the same side.
For one thing, Lupin’s thieving ways don’t sit well with the boy detective. If you applied typical Dungeons & Dragons character alignment, Lupin would be a Chaotic Good at best. Conan is definitely Lawful Good.
For another thing, many of the characters don’t actually meet up until the middle of the story. When they do meet up, there’s a lot of comedy and hijinks.
The main story tells about a princess who has a “princess and the pauper” relationship with Ran Mouri from the Detective Conan series. Conan must also solve a murder mystery.
Meanwhile, Lupin and Jigen are planning a heist of some royal jewels.
Jigen also befriends Conan through a silly fake father-son thing, which is annoying and awkward for both of them.
Fujiko technically kidnaps the princess, although for most of the story it’s just two girls out to have a good time.
Overall, Lupin III vs. Detective Conan is a funny adventure story, if perhaps a bit too light-hearted for a Conan story.
To give you some idea of the comedy and jokes, Lupin wears red — just like he does in the lighter, sillier “Red Jacket” series.
Isekai Quartet is an odd, funny, and short parody anime series.
It’s rather ridiculous to think that Kadokawa has enough isekai series characters to fill an entire high school classroom. But here we are.
Of course, KonoSuba already makes fun of typical fantasy world scenarios. But Isekai Quartet takes these comical characters, and makes them even more silly, useless, overzealous, and just generally more funny.
The other isekai series are more dark and serious, so it’s fun to see them in a farcical setting. All of the characters are chibi-sized, so we get to see a goofy, chibi skeletal Ainz.
If you think about it, the series is sort of an anti-isekai. It features fantasy characters stuck at a high school.
Rather than normal people stuck in a fantasy world, these fantasy world characters are required to participate in the stereotypical “normal” school activities — classes, athletics, and other school events.
We also learn that Subaru and Kazuma are essentially the same character.
When Dr. Slump Invaded Dragon Ball
Akira Toriyama’s best well-known series have crossed paths on several occasions. All of the crossovers have been fun.
Although they are both Toriyama classics, the two shows aren’t really that much alike. Dr. Slump is pure comedy, featuring the cartoonish hijinks of a naive little robot girl.
Dragon Ball starts out as somewhat comical, but it quickly develops into an action-adventure, martial arts shonen series.
In Volume 7 of the Dragon Ball manga, Arale gets to fly on Goku’s Kinto’un cloud. Senbei fixes Goku’s Dragon Radar, and Arale fights the Red Ribbon Army’s General Blue.
Blue quickly learns that this little girl is no pushover.
Arale makes a couple of appearances in Dragon Ball Super. One is a brief cameo. Goku has grown up, but Arale is still the same age as before.
In her most recent Dragon Ball Super appearance, she beats the snot out of Vegeta. (To be fair, Vegeta gets in a few good shots as well.) She also holds her own against Goku. It’s a silly episode, and Vegeta even breaks the Fourth Wall.