One of the most popular wish-fulfillment fantasies in anime is the time travel story, where characters go back in time to rewrite, relive, or endlessly repeat their lives. Not only is going back in time something almost everyone wishes they could do, but it’s also a compelling way to analyze complexly flawed characters.
That said, not everyone’s time-traveling ends ideally. Where some time travel escapades give the characters a brand new and better future, others end up worsening things not just for themselves but for everyone they care for.
WARNING: Spoilers ahead.
10 SAVED THE DAY: ‘Remake Our Life!’ Let Kyouya Hashiba Rewrite His College Years For The Better
Years ago, Kyouya turned down the chance to enroll in the prestigious Onaka University Of Arts to enroll in a traditional university instead, the more practical choice. Now, Kyouya regrets this decision in lieu of his recent termination from his job and seeing the school’s Platinum Generation make artistic names for themselves.
But after sleeping his sorrows away, Kyouya wakes up 10 years in the past, on the day he chose his university. From there, Kyouya goes for art school and remakes his boring empty life into what he always knew it was meant to be: a creatively fulfilling one where he gets to befriend the greatest artistic minds of his age group.
9 MADE THINGS WORSE: The Endless Eight From ‘The Melancholy Of Haruhi Suzumiya’ Led To Escapism & Worse
Using her godhood, Haruhi trapped herself and the SOS Brigade in the last two weeks of summer. In this time loop, Haruhi and friends relieved summertime fun forever. Problem is, the Endless Eight (named after the arc’s eight episodes) only delayed the inevitable end of adolescence and led to one of the Brigade’s darkest timelines.
Because she’s an alien robot, Yuki Nagato went through all 15,532 repetitions of the Endless Eight without having her memories reset. Tired of Haruhi’s selfishness and impulsive behavior, Yuki rewrote reality in such a way that the Brigade never met, as seen in the finale movie, The Disappearance Of Haruhi Suzumiya.
8 SAVED THE DAY: In ‘Tokyo Revengers,’ Takemichi Hanagaki Fights In His Past For A Better Future
Takemichi used to be a delinquent in his high school days, but all that’s in the past. Now, he’s an aimless loser who wishes things turned out differently. He gets his wish when, after nearly getting run over by a train, he wakes up 12 years in the past where he can rewrite how some of his lowest points went.
None of this is easy, since Takemichi has to fight tooth and nail for a better tomorrow. Worse, he has to get involved with Tokyo’s worst gangs to drastically shift the future. That said, Takemichi is willing to do these and more if it means saving his friends, his former girlfriend Hintata Tachibana, and himself from bleak futures.
7 MADE THINGS WORSE: In ‘Steins;Gate,’ Rintaro Okabe’s Life & World Got Worse With Each Time Leap
Okabe may love acting like a mad scientist for fun, but never in his wildest dreams did he think he’d actually become one. When he and his friends accidentally turned their microwave oven into a time machine capable of sending life-changing information to the past via cellphone, Okabe’s life was drastically rewritten.
The more Okabe tried to repair his mistakes through time leaps, the worse things got. Every new timeline saw his friends die horribly, with him as the only one who remembered everything. The darkest timeline came in Steins;Gate 0, a retelling of the original anime where Okabe gave up in the penultimate episode and faced the depressing outcome.
6 SAVED THE DAY: The Narrator Of ‘The Tatami Galaxy’ Needed A Time Loop To Get Over Himself
After a heartbreaking rejection, the unnamed protagonist of The Tatami Galaxy dedicated the last two years of his university life to wrecking couples’ happiness. But when he develops a crush on Akashi, the protagonist realizes that he’s been wasting his time and decides to turn things around. Unfortunately, time is working against him.
According to the self-proclaimed God Of Matrimony, he only has until the lunar festival to make his move. Luckily, he can repeat the same few days and make wildly different choices (like joining certain clubs and organizations) to win Akashi over. It’s only at the end of countless loops that the protagonist learned how to mature, embrace life’s unpredictability, and confess to Akashi.
5 MADE THINGS WORSE: Yuno Gasai’s Time Hopping In ‘Future Diary’ Resulted In Even More Death
The big reveal of Future Diary is that it actually takes place in a multiverse where time serves as the connective tissue of parallel worlds. In the First World, Yuno won the death game for Deus Ex Machina’s godhood but went insane when she realized that she couldn’t use her powers to resurrect her dead lover, Yuki Amano.
The solution was to travel back in time to a world where the game had yet to start. Specifically, the Second World, where Yuki just entered Deus Ex Machina’s game. Yuno thought this new world would give her a happy ending, but her actions instead led to a bloody battle for Deus’ powers that ended with countless dead, including herself.
4 SAVED THE DAY: ‘ERASED’ Had Satoru Fujinuma Stop A Serial Killer But At A Steep Price
Satoru is a struggling mangaka who can’t make anything worthwhile. The only thing of interest in his mundane life is his “revival” ability, which allows Satoru to travel back in time in short bursts to help strangers avert a mild inconvenience or two. However, one revival kicks him all the way back to 1988, allowing him to relive his childhood.
This isn’t as nostalgic, though, since there’s a serial killer on the loose. This killer, coincidentally, framed him for murdering his mother in the present. From there, Satoru laid the groundwork for the killer’s future downfall, but this resulted in a 15-year coma and his first love moving on with her life to start a family.
3 MADE THINGS WORSE: Time Travel In ‘Attack On Titan’ Might Spell The End Of The World
One of the biggest shockers in Attack On Titan was the reveal that the Titans’ powers aren’t limited to waging war. Specifically, the Attack and Founding Titans can let their users alter the future by influencing the decisions of people living in the past. Because of the Shifters’ meddling, the end of the world was set in motion generations ago.
For those who have not caught up on the manga and are waiting for the anime’s conclusion, it’s either going to end in the fulfillment of Zeke Yeager’s Eldian Euthanasia plan or the activation of the Rumbling. Neither is a good outcome, and the fate of humanity and the entire world rests in the hands of the current Attack Titan holder: Eren Yeager.
2 SAVED THE DAY: ‘Your Name’ Had Taki Tachibana Avert A Past Catastrophe Through Body Swapping
Your Name took the old body-swap comedy to new heights by adding a time travel twist that was revealed at its halfway point. In brief, Taki and Mitsuha don’t just swap bodies and genders but timelines as well. Mitsuha lived in a village that got obliterated by a comet years before Taki’s present.
In the last cycle, Taki successfully convinced Mitsuha to evacuate her hometown before the meteor crashed. They succeed, and the townsfolk got to live long lives, but Taki and Mitsuha drifted apart. Though it may have taken five years of longing, Taki and Mitsuha finally reunited in the movie’s end, much to everyone’s delight.
1 MADE THINGS WORSE: Homura Akemi’s Time Loop In ‘Puella Magi Madoka Magica’ Broke Her And Reality Itself
The dark truth of Puella Magi Madoka Magica isn’t just that Magical Girls are doomed to die horribly, but that the anime’s events are the nth time loop created by Homura. Originally, Homura became a Magical Girl with the ability to control time to save Madoka Kaname from dying or worse, becoming a world-ending Witch.
By constantly reliving the same three months, Homura inadvertently strengthened Madoka’s godhood and the strength of her Witch form, Kriemhild Gretchen. In the movie Rebellion, Homura lost all hope after more than 1,000 futile cycles, so she took matters into her own hands and rewrote reality by merging with her inner darkness.
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