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If there’s anything people ponder about at one point or another, it’s a variation of some sort relating to time travel. Maybe it’s travelling to the ancient past to observe what life was like. Maybe it’s travelling to the more immediate past to witness historical events or observe certain people alive during that time. Maybe it’s travelling to some point in the future to see what happens to humanity. Whatever the case, it’s an idea that is very difficult to get your head around, leading to multiple ideas and theories as to what might happen if it was ever attempted.
There are multiple anime that depict these ideas. Some are more detailed in their approach to a resolution, such as exploring the idea of multi-verse theory or the consequences that result in not thinking through your actions. Others focus more on other aspects of the anime and leave time travel as just another tool in the story. Here are the top 10 examples of time travel used in anime.
10. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
- Episodes: 14
- Aired: May 22, 2009 - Sep 11, 2009
Although this anime may be about a group of students having supernatural adventures due to the main character’s unique ability to warp reality, it does have a unique take on time travel, even if it’s controversial. In what’s become known as the “Endless Eight arc” in the 2nd season, this anime does succeed in demonstrating the idea of time looping, or repeating the same events over and over. In this case, most of the 2nd season has the same few weeks looped for years and years as the characters experience the same events and do the same things repeatedly with no change whatsoever. If you’re a fan of Groundhog Day in terms of witnessing a character repeat the same day over and over again as well as the “slice of life” anime tone, this is the anime for you.
9. In Search of the Lost Future
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Oct 4, 2014 - Dec 20, 2014
This anime may start off as something of a “slice of life” anime at first as we are introduced to the main cast of characters attending Uchihama Academy participating in school events and beginning to move to a new building due to increased numbers. However, a mystery slowly begins to unfold in the old building, and we eventually see the main character, Sō Akiyama, wrestle with premonitions of the future showing his friends in danger. As Sō struggles to attempt to rescues his friends, including his closest friend Kaori Sasaki, and resolve the mystery, the tension only continues to build until the final reveal. If you’re a fan of both time travel and mystery, this is certainly an anime worth checking out.
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Apr 4, 2016 - Sep 19, 2016
This anime is a great example of the time travel theme of returning back to the same spot in order to redo something over and over. After mysteriously arriving in a strange land only to get beat up by some thugs, Subaru Natsuki meets a beautiful girl only to get killed by a mysterious darkness alongside said girl. However, Subaru suddenly awakens to the same exact scenario of confronting the same thugs and meeting Satella. Re:ZERO is a great time travel anime not only because it does not have any plot holes as a result of time travel, but also keeping the viewer engaged as Subaru gets more and more desperate in his attempts to fix his mistakes and redo everything. If you enjoyed the movie Source Code for its similar take on time travel, this is definitely worth watching.
7. Noein: To Your Other Self
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Oct 12, 2005 - Mar 29, 2006
In the near future, a struggle is taking place between 2 different dimensions: the good guys, La'cryma, and the bad guys, Shangri-La. A group, known as Dragon Calvary, is dispatched throughout space and time to search for the Dragon’s Torque, seen as the only thing that can stop the invasion from Shangri-La. One of those members, Karasu, meets his past self and his friend 15 years in the past, which appears to be a promising lead…
Noein’s time travel mechanics revolve around the idea of how different dimensions can result due to different actions that are taken. This is especially important, as the series takes a more “character driven” approach to what happens as opposed to a “plot-driven” approach. As a result, you have a beautifully crafted series that achieves what it set out to do. If you’re a fan of the time travel genre who would also like more of the quantum aspect involved, this would be the anime to check out first.
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Jul 5, 2015 to Sep 27, 2015
This anime may focus a fair amount on kids with magical powers who lose them when they become adults or overuse them, but one of the main characters, Shunsuke Otosaka, has the power to send his mind back in time to change the past, resulting in some key events unfolding. This is a unique take on travelling back in time, as most anime have the characters going back physically either through a time machine or some other unique way. To go back through the mind alone is a trend that may start to appear more and more as time goes on. If you were a fan of the time travel method used in X-Men: Days of Future Past, then this anime may be the one for you.
5. Puella Magi Madoka Magica
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jan 7, 2011 - Apr 22, 2011
Again, another example of an anime that upon first glance you would not expect a complicated theme to be explored. Yet one of the “Magical Girls”, Homura Akemi, sets out to prevent the harm of another Magical Girl by going back in time. A big lesson regarding time travel is demonstrated here, though: sometimes the changes you set out to make are impossible to achieve, no matter how hard you try. If you’re a fan of the idea of how time travel doesn’t necessarily work out in the end as well as cuteness, Puella Magi Madoka Magica delivers in spades.
4. Dragon ball Z
- Episodes: 291
- Aired: Apr 26, 1989 - Jan 31, 1996
Yeah, this may be a shounen anime at heart, but considering you have one of its biggest arcs revolving around a time traveler from the future arriving to save Goku and his friends from androids as well as an android travelling back to the past to absorb the very androids themselves, it’s impossible to ignore this aspect. Not to mention Dragon Ball Super currently featuring one of the strongest characters in anime who can turn back time 3 minutes at will. Time travel may not be approached in this anime as the “main topic” so to speak, but if you want to watch an anime where time travel is still fun and interesting despite being a secondary focus, then look no further than DBZ.
3. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: July 15, 2006
This movie serves as the definitive example for what someone would probably do when realizing they can go back in time for the first time, making it that much more believable. Makoto Konno isn’t someone who has plans for going back in time. On the contrary, she tries to figure out what to do with her new ability as she goes along, only to learn the hard way what the consequences of her actions are. It is only by the sudden arrival of a character we wouldn’t expect that Makoto truly learns how to treat this new power. If you want to watch a believable experience in terms of what an average teen would do with time travel, then watch this movie.
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jan 8, 2016 - Mar 25, 2016
The newest example of a time travel based anime, Erased focuses on Satoru Fujinuma using his special time travel ability to prevent bad things from happening to those he cares about. In this case, the focus of the time travel aspect is mainly on the mystery of how his ability suddenly jumps to going back years in the past as opposed to seconds. With the protagonist being a 29 year old male suddenly gifted with said ability as well as a new focus on the time travel element changing within the series, this anime is worth checking out if you’re curious as to a new take on the time travel genre.
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: April 6, 2011 – September 14, 2011
No doubt which anime was going to be #1. Steins;Gate earns that spot for a reason: the setup of the time travel aspect, the combination of different takes on it, the different reactions of the characters to it as they slowly learn what it means, and the resolution at the end that ties back into the beginning without nay plot holes. As time passes, Steins;Gate will serve as the benchmark as to not only how to properly do a time travel related anime, but also serve as a basic framework in terms of how to properly tell a time-travel related story. If you have not seen this anime yet and are a lover of time travel, then wait no longer.
Time travel is a complicated concept to nail down. With so many aspects, possibilities, and a high likelihood of going wrong if not executed correctly, it’s a wonder why there are so many anime that choose to use it. However, if done correctly, the payoffs can be huge, as you can not only have an incredible adventure that unfolds with great characters along for the ride, you can also create a story that ultimately is fun to watch. These are the top 10 anime that best convey time travel. Are there any that are missing? Is there an anime that is ranked too high or too low? Let us know in the comments!
Have you ever wished that you could view the statue of liberty before it changed colors or watch the broadcast of Neil Armstrong stepping onto the moon, live? You could even go back to feudal Japan, like Kagome did in Inuyasha, and see a world full of yokai (monster) and other dangerous things. There are many different events throughout history that I would love to see, if I could travel through time. Which brings us to this list of the top 10 time traveling anime.
In this list, you will be reading about different anime that have taken the concept of time traveling in their own way. While most of the time, they will purposely travel in time, other times, they will be picked up by the hands of fate and played with.
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: October 2004 – March 2005
The phrase “wrong place at the wrong time” could summarize Zipang for us. As the latest destroyer, Mirai, travels into a fierce storm that does little damage to the ship, but the storm is a rouge time vortex that sucks the Mirai and all of her crew into the past during the middle of the of the biggest war in human history, World War II. Now, it is up to Captain Umezu Saburo to get his ship and crew back to their own time, without interfering with history too much.
Time travel can be tricky and the consequences of a single mistake years ago, could change what you know about the present. Luckily, the Captain of Mirai knew this and tried to stay out of history’s events. Leaving it to be the first choice for the entrance to Time Traveling anime.
9. Arata naru Sekai: World's/Start/Load/End (World’s End)
- Episodes: OVA (30 minutes)
- Aired: October 2012
A rite of passage for most high school students is the graduation trip. Some students go off to tropical paradises while others just take a trip to the big city. Arata, Hongou, Arisa and Ichimiya take a trip to their own town. Doesn’t sound that exciting, until you see what has happened to the once pristine town after 6,000 years.
Methods of time traveling can vary from show to show. Sometimes we are not even shown the explanation behind the time traveling. These girls are shot out of their time and are put into a world that they never expected to be the future, for without humans around, the earth could take strange turns.
8. Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya)
- Episodes: 14
- Aired: May 2009 – September 2009
A whirlwind with long hair tied up in a yellow bandana, that is the best for Haruhi Suzumiya, for her logic is far out there and even the wises person in the anime, Kyon, can’t figure out what she is doing half the time. This is an anime where the main character, Haruhi, drags her friends around to do anything that she thinks of and sometimes her imagination can run wild.
It is almost like Haruhi can conjure up anything out of her imagination, even a Time Traveler who joins her school and becomes a slave of Haruhi’s whim. Though, it’s not all bad for Mikuru Asahina as she sometimes likes the outfits that Haruhi dresses her up in.
In the second season, the mechanics of time traveling come into play with most of the season portraying the repetition of the same few weeks for almost 43 years. Bringing the possibilities of a time loop into this list. Where sometimes that loop is set up to fix something, this time it was set up for fun, even if Haruhi didn’t realize it.
7. Noein – Mou Hitori no Kimi e (Noein: To Your Other Self)
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: October 2005 – March 2006
When a man in a black trench coat appears before you, you should run for you don’t know who that might be. Haruka was lucky because the man in the black cape was Karasu, the furture version of her high school friend Yu Goto. Karasu was sent back to find the Dragon Torque and to fend off the agents of Shangri-La, people from a alternative future, where Haruka was already killed for who and what she is.
The time traveling in Noein shows us that many different actions can cause different dimensions to appear. Even if the event that caused the branch to split was not that long ago, a small change could drastically alter the course of time and have major repercussions with the world around it. If Captain Saburo wished, he could have changed the outcome of World War II with his accidental time traveling. The agents from Shangri-La showed us the outcome of what a change in history could do to in our future. Which brings it to number seven of this list.
6. Ima, Soko ni Iru Boku (Now and Then, Here and There)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: October 1999 – January 2000
Now and There, Here and There is another anime that the main character finds himself in a new time, surrounded by a harsh environment and harsher people. Shuuzou Matsutani tries to find his way back to his time and go home. Getting the help from Lala-Ru, a blue haired girl, he sets out to survive, and in doing so, he helps those who have to live in the harsh future.
Now and Then, Here and There shows us another version of what the future may bring if we don’t change our actions and protect the environment. Once the world turns into that from Fallout, there is no real hope. The time traveling in Now and Then, Here and There comes from the future, where they can grab people and bring them back from the past. Almost like the teleporters in Star Trek, just temporal-porters.
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: July 2015 – September 2015
Life is tough sometimes and when you have magical powers, it doesn’t really make life any easier. In Charlotte, some teenagers have gained magical powers from a mysterious source. But, they are not going to take over the world, for once they become an adult their powers fade. Though, to control a child with magical powers would make any adult powerful, so an academy was built to protect those kids with powers. The builder of Hoshinoumi Academy is a secretive man who doesn’t want to be in the memories of anyone again.
Without giving away too many spoilers, one of Charlotte’s key plot devices is a person with the power to send his mind back in time to change the past. Charlotte spends some time explaining what happens as a result of this persons’ time traveling. Hopefully, you’ll agree why this new show is up high on the list of Time Traveling anime.
4. Mirai Nikki (The Future Diary)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: October 2011 – April 2012
Imagine that you are given the power to always know what your loved one is always doing, before they do it. Now, think if your stalker had that power instead! The Future Diary centers on the idea of a powerful god, the God of Time and Space, who gives his power to different people. Those people have to fight to survive. When Yukiteru Amano starts receiving messages from his future self, he teams up with Yuno Gasai, to hopefully survive this whole game/battle together. But, Yuno’s intentions are not as honorable as they may seem.
Time traveling can be good and harmless, but The Future Diary takes the concept to a darker place with the whole “Fight to Survive” aspect, but it does give us a new take on what time traveling can be. The time traveling in The Future Diary is limited to around 10 minutes. Which leaves you open for major insolvencies if you’re in trouble stretching further back than that limit.
3. Toki o Kakeru Shoujo (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time)
- Episodes: Movie (98 minutes)
- Aired: July 2006
High school is the time of a young girl’s life. Makoto is a normal high school girl who loves baseball and her normal high school life. Unfortunately for Makoto, that all changes one day when she is alone in the chemistry room. She hears something in the teachers’ area and goes to investigate. Finding a small metallic walnut. As she looks down at the walnut, something falls over behind her, scaring her, causing her to trip. She lands on the walnut and finds herself in a time vortex. Waking up on the floor of the chemistry room, she thinks nothing of it, until she wrecks her bike, flying through the air and almost getting run over by a train. But, something weird happened that caused her to relive the past few minutes of her life.
Time Travelers need to keep good track of their toys, or who knows who will pick it up and cause havoc in the time stream. Luckily for the owner of the walnut shaped T.A.R.T.I.S., Makoto didn’t abuse the power too much… or destroy the universe. Time traveling should be for the professionals.
2. Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica (Puella Magi Madoka Magica)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 2011 – April 2011
There have been many “Magical Girl” anime and each one has its own spin on an enemy and an ally. Now, when the enemy you have to fight, is a soul stealing witch, then you must count on your little fluffy friend, Kyuubey. The only thing Kyuubey wants is the crystals from the evil witches, what could be so wrong with that? To help fight the witches, Kyuubey grants his little magical girls anything that they could wish for. One of those little magical girls received the power to travel through time.
With the power to time travel, Magical Girl Homura Akemi sets out to stop the evil of the witches from harming another Magical Girl. However, she tries so many times that she becomes cold and the changes she wishes to make are impossible to achieve. Time, just can’t be changed sometimes. That is what this anime tells us about the hazards and rules of time traveling.
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: April 2011 – September 2011
What can go wrong when a self-proclaimed mad scientist tries to fix his microwave? Luckily, you get a working microwave that can still heat up your leftover meatloaf from last night. Unlucky… or maybe lucky, you also get a time traveling device that allows you to send messages back to your past self. Each text that is sent, slightly changes the past until, Rintarou Okabe, discovers how it works. Then he really messed up Akihabara, the wonderland for Otaku all around the world. Left with a broken microwave, Rintarou has to repair what he wrecked.
This is not a happy-go-lucky anime where the lead character gets rich and lives a happy life. Instead, Rintarou’s life will not be the same. Each text he sends changes the very world he lives in and not every text that is sent can change what is meant to be.
This is an anime full of laughs and heartache by bringing you into its grasp like a hurricane playing with a butterfly. It drags you into the action and breaks your heart by the time it’s done.
Steins;Gate, is said to be the prime example of what a time traveling anime should be. It is what other sci-fi anime should look to become. Of course, you have older anime that has dealt with time traveling, Inuyasha for starters. Even Dragon Ball Z has had some time traveling. But Steins;Gate is currently the top among Time Traveling anime.
Time is not something that should be messed with. Even if you can achieve miraculous things with it, the little butterflies that you could make are numerous and unpredictable. A simple action in your past, could completely change your life, and not always for the best. Anime, such as Steins;Gate and Charlotte, show what could happen if you mess with time traveling, both good and bad.
As the anime Zipang showed us, it is sometimes best to just stay out of the course of time and let the events that happened, happen. Other time traveling anime, like Inuyasha, Now and Then, Here and There and World’s End, just pretend that the events in the previous time don’t really affect the future time line.
Is there another great anime series that is based on time travel that you want to share? Let us know in the comments below!