After watching Rewrite 2nd Season recently, I decided I wanted to write a post about time travel in anime – influenced by the time travel anime that I’ve seen.
Specifically time travel from a character’s perspective, not the viewers. For example, Baccano jumps to different points along the plot’s timeline throughout the anime, so that everything comes together at the end once you’ve seen the completed timeline. I don’t consider this time travel as the characters themselves do not travel through time.
Now time travel is not always the main plot device – sometimes time travel is referenced or brushed over, such as for a comedic joke or a character point. Example in this case being Mikuru from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, who is a time traveller, but the overall anime doesn’t really hinge on this. Time travel can also be used as a the main focus of a story and done badly – the easiest way to do this is to “travel too much”, confusing the viewer with too many possibilities unexplored / too many questions left unanswered.
Time travel is a powerful tool that when executed well can deliver a very satisfying experience for the viewer. Time travel allows a character to take knowledge from the future and apply it in the past / present, which really opens the viewers mind to more possibilities in plot development. There’s something about time travel as a plot device that really engages the viewer.
When done well, I think that time travel draws two different emotions from the viewer:
Excitement that the character will succeed / overcome an obstacle by using their knowledge from the future.
Uncertainty that the character will somehow create a new obstacle / change up the timeline by using their knowledge from the future.
Together, these two emotions create a mix of excitement and anxiety, which is pretty much the goal of the suspense/thriller genre – these emotions leave the viewer eagerly waiting to find out new developments in the plot. I’m sure there is much more to it than that, but I think that this is the main draw of time travel as a plot device. Overall I love this feeling, and time travel anime as a result.
Below are four anime that involve different forms of time travel that I enjoyed.
Thanks for reading.
Steins;Gate is the king of time travel. I actually think that this might be the best use of time travel I have seen in any form of media. This anime uses traditional time travel – character travels through time / influences the past to create many timelines and possibilities. Amazing anime.
Re:Zero uses time travel extensively, but not in the traditional way like Steins;Gate. In this anime, the main character “respawns” at a previous point in time every time he dies. Essentially this is time travel in the sense that he possesses knowledge from the “respawn” time to his death, and can use this to change future events. A really nice use of time travel.
Orange is about a high school girl that receives a letter from herself – from the future. It’s a nice anime that follows how future knowledge impacts her and those around her as she tries to correct her regrets from the future. I think that its a good concept, and works well in this anime.
Rewrite 2nd Season isn’t 100% focused on time travel, but it uses time travel in a nice way to tie the first and second seasons together. As this is the anime that inspired this post I decided to include it here – I’d explain more but I don’t want to spoil the anime! Also be sure to watch the first season prior to this one!