This week I’m taking 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 what they pay for it.
There’s definitely some spoilers ahead so be aware.
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.
Pandora Hearts sees Oz being forced to make a contract with Alice in order to escape the Abyss. Everything that follows after would indicate that being a contractor in this world is very much not worth it.
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.
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.
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.
So all of this leads me ot 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?
Love to hear your thoughts below.