There are many anime that use time travel as a narrative device. With characters traveling to the past, sending messages into parallel universes, and reliving each day in a loop, these anime explore myriad ways of interacting with and manipulating time.
While time travel may seem like an overused trope in anime, there are a number of series and movies that have managed to use it effectively. These engrossing stories put a unique spin on time travel without sacrificing good writing, storytelling, and character development.
10 The Tatami Galaxy Takes A Page From Groundhog Day
Based on a novel by Tomihiko Morimi, The Tatami Galaxy is about an unnamed protagonist who reminisces on his life as an upperclassman at a Kyoto university. The story harkens to the classic film Groundhog Day, as the protagonist relives his student years over and over again as a member of different clubs in search of the perfect college experience.
With every new club, the narrator becomes more disillusioned, as each one leaves him more and more disappointed until he decides to give up completely and stay inside his tiny tatami room. The anime combines a unique visual style with a plot that is a thoughtful contemplation on the importance of living in the moment and the dangers of waiting for the perfect opportunity.
9 Zipang Is A Historical Time Travel Epic
Zipang is a historical war anime based on the manga by Kaiji Kawaguchi. The series is about the crew of the JDS Mirai, the most advanced destroyer in Japan’s fleet. One day, the Mirai gets caught in a strange storm, and upon leaving the anomaly the crew finds they have been transported back o June 1942, right at the start of the Battle of Midway.
Unlike most time travel anime, which involve the protagonists trying to change the past or alter the future, the crew in Zipang deliberately try to avoid altering history. Despite their best attempts, the crew of the Mirai ends up getting dragged into the conflict, and the story follows them as they try to resist the totalitarian and militaristic propaganda of the war.
8 Re: Zero – Starting Life In Another World Is An Isekai Time Travel Story
Adapted from Tappei Nagatsuki’s light novel, Re: Zero – Starting Life in Another World tells the story of Subaru Natsuki, a socially awkward young man who is suddenly transported to a new world. Upon arriving, he promptly dies and discovers that he can rewind time to a point where he can change the outcome of events for himself and others.
Throughout Re: Zero – Starting Life in Another World, Subaru dies over and over to save his friends and must live with the loneliness that comes when no one remembers his heroics. The series is a thoughtful introspection into the downside of altering the past that features beautiful worldbuilding and compelling characters.
7 Puella Magi Madoka Magica Is A Unique Magical Girl Anime
Described by some as a deconstruction of the magical girl anime, Puella Magi Madoka Magica follows a group of middle school girls led by Madoka Kaname who make magical contracts to battle evil witches. However, the girls soon realize that the role of a magical girl is not all it’s cracked up to be.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica features complex themes, characters, and narratives including a storyline where one of the magical girls relives each month in an attempt to save Madoka from a grisly fate. The series is emotional and unpredictable, as it explores concepts that most magical girl anime never come close to touching.
6 Erased Is A Time Traveling Murder Mystery
Based on the manga by Kei Sanbe, Erased follows Satoru Fujinuma, a young man who possesses the power to rewind time back moments before a life-threatening incident. When Satoru’s mother is murdered, he rewinds time back eighteen years and gets the chance to not only save his mother but also some of his childhood friends.
Erased manages to elements of both time travel and a murder mystery into a compelling narrative. From episode one, the anime pulls in audiences with its beautiful animation, excellent pacing, and deep themes including loneliness, abuse, and courage in the face of fear.
5 Inuyasha Is A Timeless Classic
Considered by fans to be one of the greatest anime of all time, Inuyasha tells the story of Kagome Higurashi, a fifteen-year-old girl from modern Tokyo who is suddenly transported back to the Sengoku period of Japan. It’s there she meets Inuyasha, a half-dog, half-human demon and joins him on his journey to recover the shards of the magical Shikon Jewel.
Although it’s been over 20 years since it was released, Inuyasha’s iconic storytelling and captivating characters continue to delight both new and old fans. As Kagome and Inuyasha travel back and forth between the past and present, fans are transported on a journey across time and Japan in an epic fantasy adventure of good versus evil.
4 The Girl Who Leapt Through Time Is A Charming Slice-Of-Life Story
Released in 2006, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a sci-fi romantic film that serves as a loose sequel to Yasutaka Tsutsui’s novel of the same name. The story follows Makoto Konno, a teenager who learns she has the power to travel through time, as she attempts to use her powers to make her life and the lives of others better.
At first, Makoto uses her power frivolously to get better grades and avoid uncomfortable situations, but upon discovering that she has a limited number of time leaps, she is forced to make some difficult decisions with her power. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a charming story that packs a lot of heart and features both excellent animation and voice acting.
3 Your Name Is A Charming Romantic Fantasy
Directed by Makoto Shinkai, Your Name follows a young girl from Itomori named Mitsuha Miyamizu who suddenly begins to intermittently switch bodies with a boy in Tokyo named Taki Tachibana. Over the course of the film, the two discover that they are separated by space and time and work together to try to save the residents of Itomori from being destroyed by a comet.
Your Name earned favorable reviews from both audiences and critics, with viewers particularly impressed by the film’s animation, music, and emotional impact. Mitsuha and Taki’s desperate attempts to maintain their memories of each other while they struggle to change the past make for a charming romantic thriller that leaves audiences glued to the edge of their seats.
2 Orange Tackles Serious Subjects
An adaptation of Ichigo Takano’s acclaimed manga, Orange follows Naho Takamiya, a young girl who receives a letter written by herself ten years in the future. Together with her friends, Naho attempts to use the information passed on by her future self to prevent the new transfer student, Kakeru Naruse, from taking his own life.
Orange’s plot about sending messages to parallel universes to prevent tragedy allows it to explore the concept of loss in a unique and compelling way. Fans praise the series for its honest depictions of depression along with its realistic and relatable characters.
1 Steins;Gate Is A Time Travel Masterpiece
Based on the science-fiction visual novel game by 5pb. and Nitroplus, Steins;Gate follows Rintaro Okabe, a self-proclaimed “mad scientist” who runs a science laboratory with his friends. When the friends discover that the cell phone-operated microwave oven they invented can send text messages to the past they start down a path that forces them into a conflict with a powerful organization called SERN that is intent on seizing the technology for itself.
Steins;Gate is a thrilling sci-fi anime adventure full of surprising twists that keep audiences guessing from start to finish. Fans praise its character development and compelling plot, as the series leverages the power and mystery of time travel to its fullest potential to create a unique and intricate narrative.
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