Did you know that only a few years into its extensive television run, the hit series Supernatural was reimagined as an anime? That’s right, the show’s popularity spanned all the way to Japan, where Warner Bros. partnered with the Japanese animation studio Madhouse, Inc. to produce Supernatural: The Animation. Unlike some of the other failed spin-off attempts, this project was entirely animated (hence the title) and centered on retelling some of the same stories that made the original show great in the first place. If you’ve been missing Supernatural since 2020, this might be the detour for you.
Although the original series starred Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, only Padalecki returned consistently for the English dub, playing Sam Winchester as naturally as ever. In Ackles’ place, actor Andrew Farrar took over as Dean Winchester for the majority of the show’s 22 episodes, with Ackles resuming his role for the final two. Of course, in the original Japanese, Yûya Uchida and Hiroki Touchi voice Sam and Dean respectively, and they do so with style. But that’s not all the anime series does well.
‘Supernatural: The Anime Series’ Adapts Some of the Original Show’s Best Episodes
Adapting only the first two seasons of the original show, Supernatural: The Anime Series (as it was known in the United States) takes Sam and Dean’s story and condenses it into something a bit more personal. But instead of starting at the beginning, the first episode, “The Alter Ego,” serves as an adaptation of the show’s sixth episode “Skin.” From there, only 11 other episodes of the total 22 are pulled from the original series, each ending with the show’s trademark theme song, “Carry On Wayward Son” by Kansas. Because, of course, they do.
Other fan favorites from the live-action counterpart, including “Roadkill,” “Home,” “Heart” (retitled “Moonlight”), “Crossroad,” and “What Is And What Should Never Be,” are condensed into brand-new 20-ish minute episodes that take the plot of the originals and toss them on their heads. Sure, the basic structure remains relatively unchanged, but these new Supernatural installments are just different enough to keep fans of the Winchester’s live-action escapades on the edge of their seats. After all, this is still Supernatural, and nothing should be too easy.
Sometimes, stories are even told out of order. “Roadkill,” which usually takes place during Season 2, occurs here before the events of “Home,” the mid-season finale of Season 1. Other episodes are skipped over entirely to focus better on the plot, such as the Season 1 episode “Salvation,” which traditionally occurs between “Dead Man’s Blood” (renamed “Reunion” for the anime) and “Devil’s Trap.” Of course, the series ends with the iconic Supernatural two-parter “All Hell Breaks Loose,” which expertly adapts the Season 2 finale of the same name.
The Winchesters Hit the Road for Brand-New Animated Adventures
But in order to justify this Supernatural reimagining, not every episode could be a remake. Don’t get me wrong, we’d watch the heck out of a direct animated adaptation of the original show, but what sets Supernatural: The Animation apart is its commitment to telling original tales that supplement the overarching plot and place Sam and Dean in new, exciting, and unpredictable situations. Starting with the fourth episode, “Ghost on The Highway,” the anime versions of the Winchester brothers find themselves in some pretty distinct circumstances while road-tripping to find their father.
Of all the original episodes (there are 10 in total), some of the most notable include “Till Death Do Us Part,” “Temptation of the Demon,” “The Spirit of Vegas,” “Loser,” and “Rising Son” (itself technically an adaptation of a Supernatural prequel comic book of the same name). Each of these installments adds something unique to the Winchester mythology. From additional context regarding Sam’s relationship with his dead girlfriend Jessica (Angela Galuppo; Mie Sonozaki) to flashbacks of Sam and Dean’s childhood, there’s enough new material here to make us wonder why we hadn’t discovered this series earlier.
Some episodes of Supernatural: The Anime Series are especially good at connecting seamlessly to the familiar plot of the original series. “Loser,” for example, partially follows soldier Jake Talley (Shinichiro Miki) before the events of “All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 1,” giving him some necessary backstory and better tying him into the Winchesters’ lives. On the contrary, other episodes, like the standalone “The Spirit of Vegas,” show how fun the animated reimagining can be as Sam and Dean deal with a humorous Japanese poverty spirit. In many ways, it feels like an episode that could’ve easily been shot in live-action (indeed, Supernatural should’ve adapted some of these back into live-action).
‘Supernatural’s Monsters Thrive in Animation
But Supernatural was always known for its spooky villains, and, unsurprisingly, The Anime Series thrives at bringing its monsters to life. While the live-action series usually framed its monsters as natural (or, supernatural) extensions of human beings, the animated series leans into the cryptid-ness of their respective frames. In the original series, the shapeshifter in “Skin” appears only as the people it pretends to be, whereas in “The Alter Ego” (which ends pretty differently than the original episode) the creature reveals its ugly, skeletal frame. But it’s not the only one.
When the boys encounter a werewolf in “Moonlight,” it looks more like the traditional depictions of the creature, whereas the live-action series only gives them extra fangs, claws, and changed eyes. Vampires and demons are given a similar treatment, which makes them all the scarier. Most notable of all the monsters, though, is the Yellow-Eyed Demon, referred to by his actual name Azazel (Alain Goulem; Naoya Uchida) throughout the show. But Azazel is revealed to not be much of a demon at all, but rather a fallen angel cast down by God and twisted into an evil spirit as a result. In truth, he’s scarier in animation than in the original show and feels more like a mix of Yellow-Eyes and the Supernatural’s depiction of Lucifer (Mark Pellegrino).
But possibly the scariest changes made to the monsters in Supernatural: The Anime is that they, and the series in general, are much more violent. Animation (and anime in general) often gives filmmakers the freedom to create grander action sequences, and that certainly rings true here. Though simulated blood was always a part of Supernatural, on the animated series, it feels even more gruesome. No doubt, Supernatural always thrived when it leaned into its horror roots, and The Anime Series doesn’t disappoint.
The Mythology Switch-Ups Make For An Exciting Ride
Of course, the show’s original mythology is toyed with quite a bit to make Supernatural: The Anime Series work, but it’s done so in a tasteful way that feels in step with the original series. We’ve already mentioned the changes made to Azazel (who faces off against the Sam and Dean’s father in the original episode “Darkness Calling”), but other characters are different here too. Bobby (Harry Standjofski; Takashi Taniguchi) is not at all like his live-action Jim Beaver counterpart (which is admittedly a bit startling at first), and Ellen Harvelle (played by Samantha Ferris in the original series) is replaced by Missouri Moseley (Lucinda Davis; Seiko Tamura). Though Missouri (played by Loretta Devine in live-action) was only a part of the first season of the live-action series (and wouldn’t return until Season 13, albeit briefly), she returned again for the series finale, “All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 2.” Other changes include the vast scope of Sam’s psychic visions. Here, he sees not just the future (specifically things tied to Azazel and his plan), but visions from the past as well.
These powers only grow over time, and by the series finale, they reach their frightening conclusion. Jake’s death at Sam’s hands is exceptionally more brutal here than in the show, as Sam rips off his killer’s arm and uses super-strength that rivals Jake’s own to punch holes into Azazel’s lackey. Though the original series continued far beyond where Season 2 ended, The Anime Series concludes there, leaving us wondering how Dean gets out of his crossroads demon deal or if Sam did, in fact, come back different after his resurrection. Thankfully, the original show lasted to give us some more concrete answers.
Where Can I Watch ‘Supernatural: The Anime?’
Unfortunately, Supernatural: The Animation isn’t available on any streaming service. How that’s possible, we have no idea. Unlike its live-action counterpart, The Anime Series is only available for purchase, either physically on DVD or digitally. In contrast, the original series can be found in a variety of ways. Of course, you could easily purchase the show on home video, such as DVD and Blu-ray (both the complete series box-set and the individually sold seasons), or digitally on any of the aforementioned problems. Thankfully, Supernatural can also be streamed in its entirety on Netflix. Though, as the anime reminds us, the early seasons are still its best.