What would you do if you could go back in time? Would you go back and kill Hitler, possibly altering the entire history of the world and giving Kouta Hirano no good villains for Hellsing? Would you keep things simple and just go back to just a few years ago and tell the Tokyo Ghoul directors that deviating from their source material is a poor decision? Would you zip back a few months and karate chop whoever in the industry thought that clunky CGI in Berserk 2017 looked good?
Well, whatever you do, clearly you have a passion for your anime. So if you can’t actually go back in time, you can at least watch some series that show off the consequences of time travel.
Of course, If you are looking for good time travel anime, Steins;Gate has been continuously shoved down your throat, causing it to overshadow all others. So it is being left off this list. If you haven’t seen Steins;Gate and want a good time travel story, go watch it.
Erased, too. I love that series to death, but we’ve kind of finished beating that dead horse.
Aside from those two anime series, what are some good time travel anime?
Inuyasha is not what you would generally think of when you think of a time travel series, but that is exactly what it is. A modern Japanese girl falls down a well and because she is the reincarnation of a shrine priestess with a sacred magic jewel in her, she is able to travel back to the feudal era where both demons and samurai roam the land. To its credit, it at least didn’t try to sell the whole time travel aspect to you with logic other then MAGIC! (jewel). Explaining time travel is often where most time travel anime series take a huge nose dive.
Orange didn’t mess with sending actual people back in time, but rather the plot is dependent on the characters ten years in the future sending letters to their past selves so they can help erase their regrets. While the series starts off strong, it starts to flounder later in the series when it switches from past selves to future selves and tries to explain how the letter got back there. This shoujo romance series is one of those that, like Inuyasha above, would have been better if they just left it alone. However, they try to explain it with something ridiculous like black holes. Literally no one came to watch Orange for the science of it all.
The Ambition of Oda Nobuna
Time travel series and a lot of historical anime in general take place during the Nobunaga-era of the country’s feudal history. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. If there was, there wouldn’t be some many Samurai Warriors games. Anyway, the way this series sets itself apart from the pack is for the main character to replace the recently deceased Kinoshita Tokichiro (better known as Toyotomi Hideyoshi) in history. Oh, and all the famous samurai are cute girls.
Without the time travelling aspect, Buddy Complex is an unambitious mecha series about a boy being plucked from obscurity by a mysterious woman and thrust him into an intergalactic war between two nations. With the time travelling aspect, though, well, it is still pretty much that, but the time travel looping adds an extra layer of complexity about past and future selves struggling to right the world and the timeline. It is its time travelling feature that pretty much saves this show from being horrible.
Noein is a series about a girl that is thought to be some sort of cosmic keystone and thus is sought after by two alternate dimensions for various purposes. The series tosses around Quantum Mechanics in every episode, and does so with incredible liberties taken. Primarily it works with the theory that every action you do creates a parallel universe, which is one way of looking at it, but some of their time travel-dimension hopping-future altering plot lines resemble real science, but are just plain wrong.
Although a popular time travel plot in the west, Occult Academy is one of only a handful of time travel anime series to be about an apocalyptic future sending someone to the past to prevent it. In this case, the future was overrun by aliens, so they send a man back a few years into the past to destroy an object responsible known as the Nostradamus Key. Like in stories like Twelve Monkeys, he is not exactly a super awesome future soldier either.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
Endless Eight. Need I say more?
Okay, for a little context, Haruhi has reality-bending powers that she is unaware of, often causing the supernatural affairs throughout the show. However, in the Endless Eight, she doesn’t want the summer to end so she forces her friends (and the audience) to replay the last day of summer over and over again with only slight changes.
Lazy animation team or genius writing? You decide.
Despite the name, the time travel aspect of Future Diary doesn’t come in until much later in the story and comes with a big dose of spoilers. However, as a major character in the series is literally the God of Space and Time, time travel isn’t exactly something beyond the realm of possibilities.
Another day, another time travel series about going back to feudal Japan. However, instead of falling into a well or finding out all samurai were cute girls, Nobunaga Concerto is a little more historically accurate. In this series, poor history student Saburou is hurled back in time where a frail and tired Nobunaga asks him to take his place. He isn’t given much of an option, so you watch as this guy tries to blunder his way through the life of a man that he doesn’t really know anything about and is famous for trying to unite all Japan. Often the show focuses less on how he got there and more on the time period itself, which seems closer to accurate than most series and is pretty refreshing.
Tatami Galaxy thankfully doesn’t taint an otherwise existential masterpiece by trying to explain the “how” of it all, but rather focuses on the “why” in a subtle sort of way. The show is about an unnamed protagonist meant to mirror the audience regretting his past two years he wasted in college being an ass. After failing to ask out a girl, he falls further into despair and is hurled back in time. Now he is given the chance to repeat the past two years so he can have his rose-colored college life and find the raven-haired maiden that he feels he is entitled to.
Charlotte provides another rarity for the time travel series – the main character isn’t the one with the time travel power. While Charlotte is about characters at a special school for people with powers, the main character doesn’t actually have the power to travel back in time, but one of his peers does. Needless to say, the power is used for a few quick fixes to the plot, and it doesn’t go very in-depth with the physics of it all.
Erased and Steins;Gate may be well-beaten dead horses, but Re:Zero is still too young. If this time travel series has escaped your notice, then you have been out of the anime world for a spell. Unlike other series, Re:Zero doesn’t seem like a time travel series at first. Subaru, the normie main character, is transported to another world, a fantasy world. This is more dimensional travel than time travel. However, you later learn that when he is killed, he can turn back time. So Re:Zero combines two very interesting themes in one neat package.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica
As another rare time travel series where the time travel powers actually belong to someone other than the main character, Madoka Magica stands alone in its quality in the genre. You know, next to Steins;Gate and Erased, anyway. While the series is about a lot of different things, one of the more interesting concepts that it shows off is that just because you can time travel, doesn’t mean you can change the outcome of the timeline. It is something that is shown in such an absolutely crushing way that it hits you just as hard in the realizations as it does in the feels as you watch said time traveling character try again and again to make her present end up in a more positive light.
Did we miss any other good time travel anime series? It is distinctly possible. If so, time travel on down to before this article was written- Eh, you know what? Just leave a comment in the section below. It’s easier.