Weiss Kreuz is the brain child of veteran voice actor Takehito Koyasu (Angel Sanctuary, Fushigi Yuugi, Tokyo Babylon, etc.), which was originally conceived as a star vehicle to allow himself and several other high-profile voice actors to show off their acting and singing talents. He sent his idea to a group of producers, who at first were wary of signing on for an obvious vanity project unless there was something of "substance" to get audiences to watch. Thus, they hired some writers to use Koyasu's ideas to create a series with Multiple Demographic Appeal, which included hiring a character designer to create some rather sexually dubious promotional illustrations (in other words, action and intrigue for the boys, and plenty of Bishōneneye candy for the girls).The series itself is about quartet of incredibly handsomeprofessional assassins with very dark and angsty pasts, who fronted themselves as the clerks of a flower store. They were involved in an Ancient Conspiracy between the corrupt factions of a very rich family, and had to fight against a group of psychic-powered assassins even more unhinged than them.To the surprise of just about everyone but Koyasu, Weiss Kreuz was a success. Everybody won: he was able to demonstrate his dramatic capacity and win some credibility, the female public across the world drooled, and the executives made an obscene amount of money.Weiss Kreuz is a multimedia franchise, ranging from radio drama (as it was initially conceived by a bunch of seiyuu), to anime series, OVAs, light novels and manga. The seiyuu themselves formed a music band under the same name and released several singles, albums and concert tours. These releases may also be in anachronic order due to a couple of prequels, and certain releases centered around some characters' pasts (such as the Schwarz drama CDs).
A rough chronological (not release) order of the series, radio dramas, manga, etc. are as follows:
A Four-Leaf Clover: Four audio dramas about Weiss before they were Weiss.
The Orchid Under The Sun: Kritiker sends Aya to their Tsushima base, where he meets Knight's sister.
Crashers: Knight and Ran I & II: Two dramas detailing Aya's membership in Kritiker's Crashers unit. This was before Ran assumes the name of Aya.
Weiss: Forever White: a light novel, illustrated by Kyoko Tsuchiya.
Weiss - An Assassin and White Shaman: A two volume manga illustrated by Kyoko Tsuchiya, detailing Aya's Start of Darkness and recruitment into Weiss. Has been quite thoroughly retconned by the anime and CDs, but still very popular among fans.
Eternal Angel I & II: CDs which establish the Weiss Kreuz series' love affair with butchering young girls.
Theater of Pain: Released around the time of Glühen, Weiss chase a target to Italy and team up with another assassin group called Fortuna. Includes a cameo from Knight and name-drops Kryptonbrand.
Holy Children: Weiss is assigned to kill the nun that raised Ken and Nagi. Explains how Nagi became one of Schwarz.
Kaleidoscope Memory: Momoe-san leaves for a retirement home, Omi is hearbroken.
Weiss Kreuz: The original 25-episode anime series co-produced by TMS and Studio DEENnote With help from Magic Bus, and the most famous part of the franchise. Popularly referred to by fans as Kapitel since the release of Glühen. Weiss fights against Reiji Takatori, Eszett and Schwarz; Schwarz probably wins.
Schwarz I & II: Dramas focusing on Schwarz. Pure, unadulterated Fanon Dis Continuity to Schwarz fans.
Endless Rain: Audio drama divided between Weiss's mission in Sendai and flashbacks to Aya's early days with Kritiker's Aoba Center team.
Weiss Kreuz - Verbrechen and Strafe: a two-part OVA during the mobile flower shop period, showing first signs of Ken's madness. The main plot concerns the American army hunting down and killing high school girls, then turning Weiss against each other.
Ranjatai: An illustrated short story which takes place while Weiss are traveling and operating out of their trailer/mobile flower shop, in which Aya encounters a woman connected to one of his earliest missions.
Dramatic Precious: 4 drama CDs detailing the eventual destruction of Weiss (Aya and co. are actually the 3rd incarnation of the unit) as they come up against the 2nd generation Weiss (gone rogue from Kritiker). Yohji and Ken go through break the cutie events, Omi is recruited as the next Persia and head of the Takatori zaibatsu and Aya finds resolution by fighting his mentor. Directly responsible for the huge difference of characterization of the main cast in Glühen.
Fight Fire With Fire: 2 years after Dramatic Precious, this picks up on where the main cast has ended up and their recruitment into the 4th generation of Weiss headed by the new Persia. Aya is an assassin in the U.S., Ken is trying to get someone to play Persia so he can kill people without (as much) guilt, Kyo is introduced, Omi has taken up his birth name, and Youji is living off various women.
Glühen Dramatic Soundtrack II Jazz Me Blues: takes place before Aya enters the Koua Academy. Aya, Knight, Rex and Queen meet at a bar.
Weiss Kreuz Glühen: the 2nd anime series. Introduces Sena.
Weiss Side B: the final, discontinued manga series where Koyasu teams up with a new mangaka. Aya and Ken join a British assassin group with several new characters, while Omi and Youji are Demoted to Extra.
The Glühen redesigns.
Unfortunately, after the original TV series ended (and accompanying artbooks and OVAs were released), Kyoko Tsuchiya quit the project and denied the producers the right to continue using her designs. As the story was still unfinished and there was more money yet to be made, they were forced to continue with a new artist, who had to radically alter the character designs to avoid a lawsuit. The Oddly Named Sequel, Weiss Kreuz: Glühen, didn't do as well financially, and the new designs turned away many fans.After Glühen, the series continued with a new manga and artist. Weiss Side B lasted about thirty chapters before being Cut Short. It remains to be seen if Takehito Koyasu's project Velvet Under World, which features a lead character named AYA and several apparent other nods to Weiss Kreuz continuity, will be set in the same universe or if it will even make it off the ground.
This series provides examples of:
Aborted Arc: Weiss Side B and whatever the deal is with Human Interleukin.
Adaptation Dye-Job: The main characters' designs vary, between the Kyoko Tsuchiya manga, Kapitel anime, Glühen anime, and Shoko Oomine manga.
You don't even have to go that far. Due to Off Model and Animation Bump, Kapitel has the characters changing appearences, from the style they're drawn to their eye colors. Ken has his eyes colored brown, blue and green in many different shades.
All Love Is Unrequited: Throughout the entire series, there are exactly two romances that turn out anything resembling well. (That would be Yoji and Asuka Ito at the end of Gluhen, and Farfarello and Sally in the Schwarz drama CD, if you were wondering.) Even one-episode background couples are not safe.
All There in the Manual: Only the two anime series have been exported, and while much of the rest of the material is more or less extraneous, the Radio Dramas contain a good bit of important information about the transition between the original anime and Glühen.
Bloodier and Gorier: Verbrechen and Strafe don't have a particularly higher body count than Kapitel, but the violence is animated with a lot more blood, especially as compared to the original anime's relatively Bloodless Carnage. Gluhen settles into a more reasonable medium between the two.
Continuity Nod: Surprisingly often in Side B. One of the first things Aya says to Ken after their reunion is a reference to Fight Fire With Fire, asking him about his 'lingering affections.'
Contract on the Hitman: In the OVA, Ken and Omi refuse to kill a sympathetic target, so their teammates are ordered to kill them. In Glühen, Weiss goes against orders and Saijou Takatori orders the Crashers team to eliminate them.
Flower Motifs: The franchise dabbles with flower motifs and hanakotoba; the four Hitman with a Heart protagonists work as florists as a cover job and are each associated with a particular flower, and they also use hanakotoba as a code language, allowing for a Out-of-Character Alert plot twist in the Verbrechen ~ Strafe OVA. Additionally, Aya's real name, Ran, means "orchid" and is pronounced the same as the word meaning "war," an association played upon in both the "Ranjatai" short story and the Dramatic PreciousRadio Drama.
Four Is Death: Weiss is a team of four. So are Schwarz, Schreient, Kritiker's Aoba team, previous incarnations of Weiss... Also notable is what happens whenever Weiss is suddenly not a four man team: when Omi leaves and Kyou and Sena both join, it doesn't take long for Kyou to get stabbed through the chest—and then when Omi rejoins, Sena is almost immediately shot.
Furthermore, all of the spoiler text above refers to the fates of the fourth iteration of the Weiss team, which is also the iteration that ended up with Kyou dead, Sena dead, Yoji completely amnesiac, Ken in jail, Omi abandoning his identity to become Mamoru Takatori for good, and Aya bleeding out on a New York City sidewalk.
On the other hand, Ran's inclusion makes Crashers effectively a Five-Man Band, and Kryptonbrand is a six-man team. Both are notably less dysfunctional.
Four Girl Ensemble: Schreient. Weiss would also fit the trope perfectly, if they were girls.
From Bad to Worse: Verbrechen ~ Strafe, Dramatic Precious, and Glühen are long, inexorable progressions of From Bad to Worse.
High Turnover Rate: Kritiker personnel have a high mortality rate; the series goes through three Persias and four handlers, and the main characters make up the third and fourth incarnations of the team. At the end of Glühen, Rex discusses assembling a fifth incarnation of Weiss.
Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Kapitel uses German words, while Glühen went with Weiss song titles. The four Dramatic Precious stages are Sleepless Night,Tearless Dolls,Hopeless Zone, and Dreamless Life.
Image Song: "Weiss" is also the name of the singing group formed by the four leads.
Important Haircut: Prior to setting out for the climactic battle in Glühen, Aya uses his own katana to cut off the waist-length braid he'd grown between series.
In Medias Res: Weiss Side B starts with Kryptonbrand carrying out a mission and meeting Kurumi, before backing up and showing how Ken and Aya wound up in England in the first place.
Most notably the title, which went from "White Cross" (the lit. translation) to "Knight Hunters". Because apparently it was too difficult for the translation company to go straight from German to English- they had to bypass 8 other languages on the way.
It helped that even the earlier Tagalog dub (around 1999, way before the English dub) of Weiss Kreuz was already translated as "Knight Hunters". Whether this was coincidence or a requirement by the original company is still unknown.
Market-Based Title: Well most people in the North America can't speak German, so Media Blasters brought it over to the US, under the name Knight Hunters (which is TMS Entertainment's international title for the series), and luckily they used the series original name as a subtitle, while elsewhere the series kept it's original name
May Contain Evil: Employed a couple of times by Eszett, particularly the "health drink" Freude.
Non-Indicative First Episode: The first episode focuses heavily on the girlfriend of one of the victims-of-the-week, following her perspective rather than following Weiss the way that the rest of the episodes do. Though established throughout the episode as an Audience Surrogate / Naïve Newcomer type of character, the girl never appears again in the series.
Oddly Named Sequel: Weiss Kreuz: Glühen ("glühen" is actually the German word for "glowing," and "weissglühend" means, more or less, "white-hot").
Retcon: Aya becoming Aya. In An Assassin and White Shaman, Youji gives him the name because he refuses to identify himself and he keeps repeating it in his sleep; in Kapitel, he vows to take it up in memory of his sister at her bedside, and in the First Mission audio drama, he makes the decision as he goes to meet the rest of Weiss.
Secret Test of Character: Knight and Pawn of Crashers each put Aya through one in Crashers: Knight and Ran. Bishop also gives him a Secret Test, but in his case it's purely a test of skill.
Start of Darkness: Although they're not villains, each member of Weiss effectively has one, as each has at least one episode flashing back to the event which destroyed their lives and left them ripe for recruitment by Kritiker. Aya's in particular is revisited in three different media (and portrayed differently each time).
Surprise Incest: Omi and Ouka Sakaki begin a relationship and then discover that they are half-siblings. Ouka gets killed almost immediately, and then the series reveals that they weren't actually siblings but cousins, for good measure. But the trope is played straight up to that point.