Who doesn’t love time travel and all the convoluted storytelling and intense moral questions that come with it? Despite being a firmly sci-fi/fantasy-esque device, time travel stories can span all kinds of genres- from psychological stories, to adventure stories, to historical dramas and mystery stories. And you can find all these kind of stories in anime and all with the added benefit of weird sci-fi tropes and questions that come with leaping timelines.
Let’s look at some of the time travel anime out there and the unique stories contained therein. Be sure to mention your favorite time travel anime in the comments!
Erased is one of the anime that has everyone talking about this season.
The main character is a 29-year-old man named Satoru, who possesses a strange ability he calls “revival”. When someone around him is about to lose their lives, he is sent a few minutes back in the past, at which point he has to figure out how to prevent the loss of life from happening. However, when someone close to him is killed, Satoru is not sent back just a few minutes, but instead all the way back to 1988 and finds himself age 10 once more. He figures this huge time leap is not only so he can prevent the death of the person close to him, but so he can prevent the abduction and murder of a classmate that happened around this time and catch the real killer.
Erased is a tense, well-done mystery that keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat. It deals with heavy issues like child abuse and puts a darker spin on the question of what you’d do if you had a chance to redo your life from childhood. It’s based off a seinen manga ( manga aimed at adult men) so it’s definitely for mature audiences only. The series is going to be 12 episodes long and you can check it out on Crunchyroll. The anime can be viewed on Crunchyroll.
Steins;Gate is probably one of the most well-known time travel anime right now. There’s some parallels to be drawn to Erased– it also centers around a male protagonist going back in time to desperately save someone close to him. However, while Steins;Gate is more “science-y” sci-fi. It focuses on a group of science nerd friends who create a time machine microwave. The protoganist, Okabe, is a self-proclaimed mad scientist and there are a lot of jokes about general fandom and geek stuff throughout (“You guys are the OTP in the fanfic that is my life” is a line from the show that will always make me laugh), but things get super intense when a ruthless organization called SERN notices the groups experiments and comes after them.
Steins;Gate has a gripping emotional storyline once it gets going and a pretty fascinating look at diverging timelines, but people who have a low tolerance for fanservice and sexual harassment-tinged humor should be warned there’s quite a bit of that early on, and the storyline with a presumably transgender character might verge on uncomfortable territory for some.
Steins;Gate can be found streaming on Funimation’s website- there is also an OVA (Original Video Animation) and movie sequel to the series.
#3- The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a 2006 film that combines the drama of adolescence and time travel perfectly to tell a sweet coming-of-age story. The main character is a high school girl named Makoto, who is thrown in fronts of train when her bicycle brakes fail. However, before she dies, she is suddenly thrown back in time to before the accident. Makoto discovers that she can literally “leap” back in time now- if she jumps off something high enough, she will be thrown into a past timeline. She uses this power as you’d expect any high schooler to- she tries to relive all her fun moments and make her life go more smoothly.
However, her alterations of the timeline start causing unforeseen disasters. For instance, she goes back in time to avoid something bad happening to her and then something even worse happens to someone else. And going back in time to fix this just causes things to further spiral out of control. And things just get more dramatic from there.
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time can be purchased on Amazon.
#4- The Tatami Galaxy
The Tatami Galaxy combines slice-of-life and comedy with time travel. The 11 episode anime features a hapless college student who regrets how he lived his life for his first two years at university. Then he finds himself thrown back in time to the beginning of his time at college. Now he has a chance to do it all over. The anime is described as “artistic” and “surreal” and generally has glowing reviews.
The anime can by found streaming on Funimation’s website, as well as Hulu.
Zipang is a manga and anime that really touches on the hard ethical choices someone who time travels has to make and combines that with historical war drama. A modern platoon of Japanese soldiers are doing exercises with the US Navy when they are transported back in time to the middle of World War II. They realize with their technology and knowledge of what happens in the future, they could potentially win this war and save the lives of their countrymen.
However, they are aware this would alter the future and potentially destroy the modern, peaceful Japan from which they hail. What’s more, they are confronted with the fact that the milaristic regime of Imperial Japan is not anything like the Japan they know. The crew struggles not to alter the past, but finds themselves drawn deeper into the war.
Obviously, this sounds really meaty from both a political and historical perspective and the anime does seem to try to tackle, or at least acknowledge, the thornier issues of Japan’s past. But since I’m not hugely into military strategy stuff, I can’t say I was able to stick with it or know much about how it goes. But it’s definitely a fascinating concept.
Zipang is available for purchase on Amazon.