Amazing Anime Power Often Comes with A High Cost

Power Feature

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.

Madoka Magica

The obvious example of an anime that puts the price of power as a central theme would be Madoka Magica.

The girls from Madoka Magica - Madoka has an amazing anime power
Let’s see: Beheading and death – endless loop of time travel and watching friends die over and over – ceasing to exist in this reality – um, going crazy, turning into a witch and then I think blowing up – being killed by girl you tried to save. Question: Why does anyone want to be a magical girl?

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

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.

Pandora Hearts
Though Alice was pretty persuasive.

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.

Flower Girl
Do you think she really got what she wanted?

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
Incredible freezing power – and then choke on a cigarette.

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.
Karandi James

Pandora Hearts Series Review


Pandora Hearts Overview:

Oz has just turned 15 and at a coming of age ceremony is attacked and cast into the Abyss where he meets and makes a contract with a chain named Alice. on their escape from the Abyss, Oz is going to have to confront these mysteries head on as well as a whole pile of new ones.

Pandora Hearts Review – Not holding back from spoilers at all:

Right, if you are looking for an anime that finishes or offers any resolution you can pass on Pandora Hearts right now. While there are 25 episodes of this we are really just starting to meet the characters who have some of the answers to some of Oz’s and Alice’s mysteries when the show comes to an abrupt and inconclusive end.


Before I talk about the end anymore, I am going to point out that Pandora Hearts is actually an amazing anime and I really enjoyed watching it. Right, so now I’m going to spoil the last few minutes of the final episode so if you want it to be a mystery skip over the next bit.

Okay, Oz has an epiphany about his own existence and goes and tells his father off but otherwise we aren’t given much in the way of a resolution. And are Oz’s daddy issues really the main point? Other than that we’re given this pearl of wisdom from the final episode:


And I’m just not sure that writers should advertise the fact that their own story is ridiculous.


If you can forgive an ending that pointless what you will find in Pandora Hearts is a really interesting piece that is an incredibly dark tale with heavy influence from Alice in Wonderland as well as a unique story in its own right.

While Oz remains 15, his time in the Abyss doesn’t measure up with time in the real world so his childhood friend is significantly older than him on his return to the real world. This creates a really interesting dynamic in the show because Oz’s memories of his friend and the reality of the man he has become keep blurring and his expectations are met and then betrayed again and again.

For Gilbert, while his motivation never changes, he’s had a lot longer to sniff around the mysteries surrounding Oz and has had to give up a lot to gain the power that he needed to be able to help him. It makes for one of the more interesting childhood friend stories I’ve seen in a while.


Oz himself is a bit of an air-head. He comes off as rich and pampered but of course has been rejected by his father and has been lonely and hurt (because who doesn’t need a tragic back story). He’s also really weirdly accepting of strange things to the point where even the creepiest characters in the show point out that Oz is in fact quite creepy.

The thing is, we’re never really sure where we stand with Oz. Is he what he looks like, a rich 15 year old who went through a trauma and is now out for answers and revenge, or is there really something going on with him (other than possible possession, past lives, or just plain evil). It’s fun guessing but without the series giving any answers that’s all it remains (and yes, I know some people will say read the manga and in this case I am seriously tempted but haven’t committed to that just yet).


Outside of the Oz/Gilbert relationship we also have Alice. She’s a chain from the Abyss but was human. She’s lost her memories and part of the story involves Oz helping her find fragments of her memories, though they might be better off if they just gave up on that one given every time they find one things get more twisted and confused and darker.

She also transforms into the Bloodstained Black Rabbit who is kind of awesome in a fight (at least at first) and seems overpowered though later in the series she seems to get defeated more and more often. Stronger enemies or loss of focus we aren’t really sure. That said, as is always the case in anime, when Alice and Oz’s feelings match up, she suddenly gets signficantly stronger again.


I’d also have to mention Sharon and Break. These two characters are fantastic (if equally creepy) but never really give us anything more than fragments of information. Whether that is because they genuinely don’t know the answers or because they are working at manipulating the situation (or a bit of both) is also never made clear.

The last character I’m going to talk about (although there are literally dozens of others that could be mentioned) is Jack Vessalius. He mostly appears in Alice’s memories and looks suspiciously like an older version of Oz and occasionally takes over Oz in order to make weird and confusing declaration. He’s definitely got his own agenda but what that agenda is remains shrouded in as much mystery as the rest of this series.

I think what I like about Pandora Hearts is that it just kind of goes. It has that Alice in Wonderland feeling of she’s fallen down the rabbit hole and now she’s reeling from encounter to encounter and along the way she’s going to learn about herself and she wants to find the way out but you are never quite sure when that’s going to come of why.

The exploration of darkness within humans is done really well and the idea of being careful what you wish for is also woven through the story quite nicely. That said, the anime is a mess of ideas that don’t get enough time or attention to ever be actually called a storyline. Instead our story is just Oz running from place to place and dealing with immediate threats while piling up foreshadowing that never really eventuated into a climax.


Normally I don’t rewatch anime that don’t end but Pandora Hearts just hits the right notes to suck me into the world and the story. It’s dark while not trying to be soul crushing, it has action but balances that with character development and dialogue, there is intrigue in the overall narrative but also smaller stories with side characters that are resolved, and at the end of the day I just enjoy watching it.

Pretty much if you like darker fantasy adventures with some character self-reflection this anime is going to appeal, though be prepared for an ending that just makes you want to throw your hands in the air and ask ‘why’.

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James