Haven’t you ever had that moment watching an anime when a character does something unbelievably cool or powerful and you think, just for a moment, how awesome it would be if you could do that? Because its just an amazing anime power and one that looks fantastic and possibly story destroying.
That moment is usually followed by the next moment of realising how unbelievably awful that character’s life would really be when you look at the physical or mental toll that the cool power takes on them or the price they have to pay in order to use it.
This post takes a look at anime powers that come with a price. We’re moving away from superheroes who are born with power or gain it through some cosmic accident and looking specifically at those who choose power and how they pay for that choice. And oh, do their narratives make them pay. And pay. And pay.
Amazing Anime Powers Ahead
Be aware: Spoilers ahead.
The obvious example of an anime that puts the price of power as a central theme would be Madoka Magica.
Keep in mind that in the anime series, Madoka is not a magical girl for the vast majority of the run time. She dreams of being a magical girl, accompanies Mami Tomoe on her jobs (with tragic results), works to save Kyubey from Homura Akemi but it isn’t until the very end that she makes her wish. And why put in hold for so long?
A magical, white bunny creature that can call you telepathically just promised you that it could grant you any wish you liked and that you would become a magical girl in the process so that you could fight evil witches. Sounds like a great deal; like something straight out of a story book.
But Madoka is being warned by Homura not to make a wish. She directly witnesses the end of another magical girl. She also has to watch as her friend, Sayaka Miki, loses her sense of self and purpose after having her own wish granted. To put it simply, the price of gaining power in Madoka Magica is not to be taken lightly.
When the wish is finally made, it is a wish on such a grandiose scale no one could have seen it coming and it changes everything. Madoka sacrificed herself and her future, and did not save Sayaka Miki (as we see her apologising to her after the wish was made) to prevent others from being forced to make such choices in the future.
Madoka is absolutely a cautionary story about relying on wishes to solve your problems. Moreover, it clearly explores that while you will get what you wished for, the price the girls pay goes on long after the effect of their original wish. In Sayaka’s case, the boy she healed fell in love with another.
Other characters felt isolated, cast out, lost, alone, burdened by knowledge and power. Ultimately none of the magical girls we see in Madoka would believe that the power was worth the cost, save Madoka, whose wish removes her from our reality entirely.
So you’d have to ask yourself whether you ever wanted something badly enough that you would risk a Madoka Magica style wish?
Pandora Hearts sees Oz being forced to make a contract with Alice after being cast into the Abyss in order to escapes. Everything that follows after would indicate that being a contractor in this world is very much not worth it. Whether it is the incredibly short life expectancy, the constant attacks, or just the fact that once you die you are headed straight back to the place he was trying to escape all make it seem like it wasn’t worth it. Throw in that the people that banished Oz in the first place are still out for his destruction and really the power Alice grants him is hardly going to be enough.
While the various contractors we meet in the series certainly have significant power, their lives and ends are pretty messy and within the anime almost none of them accomplish anything they truly wished for. The bleak world they live in and the dangers they seem to face definitely seem like a steep price for borrowed and temporary power.
Unfortunately, the anime remains incomplete leaving those of us who never went and read the source, left to speculate as to whether Oz’s price was ultimately worth it. What I know is that none of the contractor’s here really seem happy. I also can’t see how they could possibly end up winning in the scenario set up. It really looks like a system that provides very temporary victory but then extracts a significantly higher price.
So, when faced with certain death in an awful place, would you make the deal even though your life will still end sooner rather than later and you’d be unleashing a creature of the Abyss on earth?
Darker Than Black
Lastly I want to look at Darker Than Black, although technically the contractors in that series didn’t actually choose to become contractors. While there are some very cool powers in this show, the price tags attached are varied and strange and you have to wonder who or what decided on the method of payment, though a number of characters in the show also muse on this as many times the price seems directly linked to some event in the contractor’s life.
November 11’s power to freeze liquids is amazing and use well in combination with April’s power. However, his need to smoke after using his power, when he clearly finds the habit disgusting, just seems a little cruel.
Then again, Paul’s price of eating a flower is just plain weird no matter how you look at it. Jean’s obsession with laying out a pattern of stones seems tedious. And Amber, well her price is deadly if she over uses her power.
Obviously there are plenty of other characters who have paid dearly for their powers. Edward Elric in Fullmetal Alchemist lost an arm, a leg, his brother’s body, and any hope of resurrecting his mother. Kind of a steep price for a kid who just wanted to see his mum. And of course, Ciel, in Black Butler making a literal deal with a demon. And the list goes on and on.
Maybe we should also keep in mind how unhappy most of these characters end up being and how few achieve their goals – though I guess Ed in Fullmetal did eventually succeed (he might be the exception to the standard here).
So all of this leads me to the question of what power or wish would you want and what would you be willing to pay for it? Or, which anime character do you think paid the worst price for their power?
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
8 thoughts on “Amazing Anime Power Often Comes with A High Cost”
Seriously, I double checked the date on this post a number of times…as I wondered if this was really one of you first posts. Because really you could have fooled me. 😮😮 Wow! Your skills at writing were pretty much there from the beginning weren’t they? 😊
Now…of ofcourse I still totally am gonna answer your question! I think the Power that I would love to have is erm…🤔🤔 Flying! As I myself have a fear of flying, and something that I haven’t conquered yet, with that power that problem would be immediately solved (that…and of course I could finally visit other places in the world outside Europe…I hear Australia is pretty nice 😊😊). I don’t know if I would really be willing to pay a price for it, but…let’s say I would able to sacrifice one finger for it.
I don’t really know a lot of superpowered anime characters when I’m really thinking about it…but I guess the one that springs to mind is Kaneki from Tokyo Ghoul, who pretty much lost his whole personality at the end of season 1, in order for him to finally evolve. 😊
I don’t know, I’d really like to revisit the topic and rewrite the whole thing. Probably spend longer on each example and flesh it out rather than just kind of skim over some of the depth and complexity of the characters involved (and probably use fewer examples so I could have more time on each one that I use). Glad you enjoyed it though.
Flying is one of those powers lots of people seem to want. I think for travel I’d prefer teleportation, it might not look as pretty but it would still be faster and you don’t have to worry if it is raining.
Kaneki does pay a steep price to finally evolve into someone strong in Tokyo Ghoul and it is an interesting example because while it seems force on him, he does make a clear choice to embrace it at the end.
Haha…You are kidding right? Just think of it in the context of your blog and when this was written. It was in the beginning days of your blog…and it’s totally incredible how good your skill at writing already was back in those days 😀
Ooohhhhh…can I still change my mind? I like teleportation better! 😂😂
Yeah exactly…which is why I immediately thought of Kaneki as a character that just took powers too far and changes so far he is but a former shell of himself 😀
Out of the characters and shows you mentioned, the only one I’m the most familiar with is Pandora Hearts (loved it!). I have only watched one episode of every other show so I can’t really say who paid the most price. Oz did pay a lot of price for his power and also for knowing who he was (honestly, after reading the manga, I just wished all the characters could go back to the first chapter so that they could be happy)
Another character who has paid a price for his power would be Izuku, don’t you think? His powers can literally break him! Also Kaneki from Tokyo Ghoul, though he was forced into accepting his.
Kaneki definitely paid a steep price for a power he never really asked for.
Who is Izuku?