Sci Fi in Anime; Tales of Time Travel

If there is anything that is constant in life, it is the factor of change. Living in a world that has three tangible dimensions, time is necessary for anything to change or develop. The curiosity of humans to be able to manipulate this factor of reality has been articulated in many forms of literature; anecdotes, musings, and memoirs. Some even date back as far as the ancient times, particularly to the Hindu and Buddhist religions, as well as some tales in Japanese mythology.

“Anime” is Japanese for animation. Inclusive of animations that are both computerized and hand-drawn. In Japan, when they use the word anime, they pertain to any drawing that is engineered to move and including those made by foreign countries. To those foreign countries, anime is exclusively used for animations made in Japan.

The Beauty of Using Time Travel In A Plot

Not only does it captivate the interest in most, if not all human beings, time travel is also a very malleable tool to create storylines. Because anime is drawn (albeit often painstakingly and meticulously), the writer of the story has complete control thanks to the ease of illustrating it – compared to live action, that is. This means stories can be as bizarre as possible, and can still be properly communicated, and leave a touching moral.

With time travel, one can either go back in time or forward in time. The date they go back to, the reasons behind why, the manner of which they time traveled, and the frequency of this can paint quite an enticing picture with its limitless possibilities. There are already much anime out there that currently have plot lines that have executed these situations fairly well. Making them huge commercial hits among fans of sci-fi and anime both in Japan and abroad.

Time Travel as A Genre In Anime

Because using time travel as a theme or element in anime has become so rampant, it has become recognized a genre in anime. Fanatics who enjoy this kind of science fiction go out of their way to watch anime that has this recurring theme, as there are different categories and subcategories (or “tropes”) of templates used to generate these different anime shows. The tropes are virtually limitless.

Examples of Time Travel Tropes

Here are some examples to give you an idea of the different tropes that time travel comes with. First, there’s Butterfly of Doom, which is a trope that is commonly used because of the idea of the butterfly effect. The butterfly effect states that everything is interconnected, and how this is so much so that any small act could dramatically change the course of someone’s life. It’s called Butterfly of Doom because something as inane the single flap of a butterfly’s wing in another direction, in another part of the world, could cause multiple wars and destruction in another part.

An example of the Butterfly of Doom in an anime is in the film “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”, the main character Makoto would try to use her power to go back in time to patch up petty issues, but would end up causing consequences much bigger than what she would have had to face, had she never gone back in time.

Then, there’s the Groundhog Day loop. In this plot, the character can’t stop himself from traveling back in time, over again. This process does not stop (and sometimes the character gets used to it) until the character learns what he must properly do, or what he’s doing wrong. The character will then do different things to test their situation and see how to get out of it until they finally solve the problem.

A good example of this can be found in the anime Cardcaptor Sakura, where the Time card won’t stop replaying the same day repeatedly, which instigates Sakura (after she finally notices it after an amount of time), as they try to find the Time card. The character Syaoran, in the end, is the one who catches the Time card.

“You Can’t Fight Fate” talks about how, no matter what someone does to try to reverse something from happening, it still happens – no matter what. This also works in “You Can’t Change the Future”. This happens in an anime called

As for the trope of “You Can’t Fight Fate”, there’s the simple example from Dragon Ball Z. The character named Bardock could see into what was to happen and saw that Vegeta would ultimately be destroyed. This truly did happen, and so did his other vision about the defeat of Friza, by Bardock’s son.

Selections of the Best Japanese Time Travel Anime

The crème de la crème of Japanese Time Travel Anime has been sought out and debated over, and after many comparisons among those who have browsed and watched different selections, these shows emerge the top crowd favorites.

One example of a Japanese animated movie that is well-loved by enthusiasts of the theme of time travel in anime is the “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”, or “Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo” in Japanese. The story is about A teenager Makoto Konno who studying in high school. As she goes about her daily life with peers and school, she chances upon a small object that incidentally gives her the power to go back in time. Makoto uses this object, initially, to patch up small-scale oversights among herself and her friends, but realizes that leaping to the past and changing things too often leads to even more hazardous outcomes.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (available with subtitles in English) aired on July 15, 2006, with Mamoru Hosada as director. It was based on a novel written for teens but the film made a few adjustments such as bits of Makoto’s personality. The film adaptation is scored 8.4 by 212,239 people and won many awards. Included among these awards are the Animation Grand Award, Sitges Film Festival’s Best Animated Film in 2006, Japan Academy Prize’s Animation of the Year, and in the Japan Media Arts Festival in 2006, the animation division’s Grand Prize.

Next, Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a Japanese animated television series that also has hints of the world of time travel, but is not exclusively about it. It’s about the characters Madoka Kaname and Sayaka Miki who are studying in middle school. Their lives are changed dramatically when they meet a new student named Homura Akemi and a magical cat named Kyuubey. Homura has magical powers – and Kyuubey gives the girls a chance to become just like Homura. though warning them, implying that the life of a magical girl is not as easy as they think – even if it lets them achieve their dreams.

The part where time travel comes to play is when Madoka realizes how many times Homura has saved her life, unbeknownst to her. This is because Homura has time traveled to the past many times to prevent chaotic and murderous events from happening to Madoka. Madoka becomes so inspired by this noble act of Homura, that this is the moment she decides to be a magical girl herself, to fight off the evil forces in all aspects of time. Under the direction of Akiyuki Shinbo, Puella Magi Madoka Magica scored an 8.48 in myanimelist among 324,443 users on the site myanimelist, its original run airing from January 7, 2011 to April 21, 2011. There is only one season with an episode count of 12.

Lastly, Steins;Gate is the best-recommended choice, topping many quite a few list collections It aired in 2011 and rated 9.15 out of 10 by almost half a million people on myanimelist. The anime is during the year 2010. Tackling the story of Rintarou Okabe who is a mad scientist. Rintarou loves tinkering with machines with his two lab mates. As they come up with a device called the “Phone Microwave”. All the phone microwave initially achieves is producing green gel out of bananas it’s fed. After a series of strange events, Okabe and his lab partners soon discover that their contraption does so much more than produce slime – it can also send emails to the past.

Steins;Gate was actually once a novel and was adapted into an anime and manga. The series was directed by Hiroshi Hamasaki and Takuya Soyo and written by Jukki Hanada. It has a total of 24 episodes and aired inter-continentally. Thanks to Crunchyroll, which lets you video stream media and entertainment. The show lets you see how the main characters deal with the rewards and banes of having access to the past and dealing with the repercussions in the present.

Time Travel Girl; An Educational Japanese Anime

In the past two years, there has emerged a Japanese animated piece that uses time travel as a means of educating kids about discoveries and inventions of the past. This Japanese animated tv show is called “Time Travel Girl” Mari, Waka and the Eight Scientists”. In Japanese, it is called “Taimu Toraberu Shōjo: Mari Waka to Hachi-nin no Kagakusha-tachi” This is not a new idea. In fact, there is a book called “Jishaku to Denki no Hatsumei Hakken Monogatari” published in 1983 which this television series was based off. It’s gotten a rating of 6.62 by 3,298 users on myanimelist and was aired during the summer of 2016 (July 9 to September 24, 2016, by TV Tokyo). It was directed by Osamu Yamasaki and written by Sachiko Kubo, Yoshiko Nakamura, and Mitsutaka Hirota.

The main character in the show is a 10th-grade student, Mari Hayase. The story goes that her father (who was a scientist himself) went missing, leaving her a token, which was an armillary compass. While Mari was reading a book that talked about great discoveries of past scientist, her token began to light up. Mari thus travels backward in history, meeting all these Scientists first-hand, and learning more about what they invented along the way.

The Morals Learned From Time Travelling

There are actual ethics when it comes to time traveling. What would happen if you could go all the way back and change someone’s mind about committing genocide? Would he go on to create an even more atrocious act than that or would you be the reason that so many people were saved and got to live rich and beautiful lives?

Because each trope is different, so is each lesson. The Butterfly of Doom shows us that there is a grander scheme that ties up events in this world, and that, technically – everything is within the subconscious/unconscious control of a person or group of people - with some exceptions of conscious control. There is an intricate system behind the way the world works, and if you dare tinker with it, you’ll have to accept responsibility for any repercussions.

In the same breath that anything could change in the blink of an eye, there’s also a lesson to be learned with the idea of determinism. There are some things that are destined to happen just because the universe is wired that way, and sometimes you just should go with the flow and let it happen. Accept that some things are the way they are and will be like that forever.

Time traveling may also teach you to be more appreciative of the “now” the current moment. Some people would do anything to have a second chance at getting something they want and having the ability to do. So lets you realize how the future and the past are all an illusion. The only thing you ever have is the present, and you’ve got to make the most out of it.

Watch It Anytime

Now that you know which time travel shows are revered by fans of anime, you now have an idea of what to watch. The best part is, you can go to sites such as Crunchyroll for the latest news and to watch your favorite anime episodes whenever you want.