Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song definitely left an impression on me in the Spring 2021 season with a terminator style time travel element to kick the story into motion and an AI on a 100 year journey to prevent the end of the world. All very dramatic really.
That said, for some, Vivy was a mis-fire. Early in the season Crow (Crow’s World of Anime) discussed his reasons for not following the show episodically and on its conclusion Scott (Mechanical Anime Reviews) explained why he didn’t much like Vivy.
So what other time travel anime are out there?
Well, plenty. So many that when listing my top 5 I actually had to leave Vivy out altogether (doesn’t change the fact that I love Vivy but is more that there’s so many titles out there and a lot of them have a lot more time travel or place more emphasis on the time travel element).
As always, the titles on this list are entirely my own opinion and I’d love to know what time travel anime you love so be sure to leave me a comment below. Also, as always, there are potential plot spoilers below so you have been warned.
Time Travel Anime Number 5: Sagrada Reset
I know, we’re at the start of the time travel anime list and I’m already picking titles that are a little left of field. Sagrada Reset was not a popular anime by any means and honestly I understand that given the odd characters and stilted dialogue that pervades the series.
However, there’s a lot to think about in the series and one of the central gimmicks is the reset ability of one of the two main characters. While not strictly speaking time travel, it functions similarly by returning the world to a previously saved point. Actually not overly useful to the user because they are also reset and don’t realise the world has returned or why and so can’t change anything.
Until you pair that power with the power of someone who can remember previous timelines that have now ceased to exist. It’s an intriguing premise and one that carried me through two cours of an anime that by most definitions should have bored me to watch.
Honestly, if you have some spare time, a bit of patience, and a curious personality, Sagrada Reset may be worth a watch because there’s some really intriguing ideas at play here. However if you are wanting a story that moves along or characters that are dynamic, this one won’t work for you. The reason it earns a place on my list ahead of Vivy or any of a slew of considered titles is that the reset function is so integral to the narrative working here.
Time Travel Anime Number 4: Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni
You would think we’d have more horror stories that incorporated time travel in this day and age. I know that there’s a handful or so, but really the idea of being trapped in a loop gets played for comedy, suspense and a whole range of reasons, but rarely gets used for the slaughter of an entire village again and again.
Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni to the rescue then.
Or maybe not.
The original two seasons of Higurashi paint a pretty grim picture with each time look beginning with the friends playing games together innocuously until a triggering point at which stage one of the characters would start to go off the deep end before ultimately taking actions that would kill the others. Usually quite horrifically.
It isn’t until the beginning of the second season that we realise that one of the characters has been aware of the time loop all along and during each loop of the second season other characters become aware of their choices and the consequences.
Whichever way, this is an anime that uses time travel to really explore individual choices, team work and the small ripples created by our actions and provided you don’t object to the heavy violence is quite satisfying to watch in the end.
Time Travel Anime Number 3: Erased
Do you want a time travel anime where the main character returns to his own childhood to stop a series of murders that in his present day have resulted in his mother’s death? Well Erased has you covered.
While not the strongest mystery anime with the culprit being pretty readily identifiable by process of elimination, Erased is a nice character piece and really does look at what it means to have a second chance at a situation.
Or in the case of our protagonist even a third chance because he isn’t necessarily going to get it right straight away.
While Erased doesn’t have any world ending consequences or wholesale slaughter as stakes, it still manages to draw you into the world of these characters and the murders have a lot more impact because of the more believable scope of this story.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching Erased and even the live-action version of this time travel anime was pretty solid.
Time Travel Anime Number 2: Madoka Magica
Imagine having the power to go back in time to try to save your best friend. And doing it again and again and as a result of your actions you doom her and the world to an even worse fate?
Yep, Madoka Magica is one of those super cheery stories where love and friendship win the day but not before we put the characters through hell and just because the world will be saved doesn’t mean all these cute characters are going to escape unscathed.
While not a traditional magical girl story by any means, Madoka Magica certainly taps into the magical girl myth but then builds its own world and rules around it. The end result was quite interesting and the visuals here are worth the watch. The story ends up being a little too impressed with its own cleverness but largely works and as far as narratives where time travel is at the centre, Madoka Magica is certainly one that needs to be remembered.
Time Travel Anime Number 1: Steings;Gate
I couldn’t go past the mad-scientist who accidentally made a time travel device with his microwave and ended up setting the world onto an alternate world-line before having to try and undo it all through a series of time leaps and text messages.
Yep, Steins;Gate had to be my number one for the simple fact that without the time travel aspect there is absolutely no story here and there are a number of elements of time travel at play.
From sending messages to the past, to sending your entire consciousness and memories back to a prior version of yourself, to a physical time machine that crashes into the top of a building… time is getting messed with in so many ways in Steins;Gate and with every change the characters are getting further away from where they need to be.
While I didn’t think much of the follow up, Steins;Gate 0, the original Steins;Gate remains one of those anime that I’m very fond of and a binge watch of it is always pretty entertaining.
That’s my list, but what time travel anime would you have included on yours?
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9 thoughts on “Top 5 Anime That Enchant By Using Time Travel As a Narrative Device”
Tokyo Revengers is a time travel show too. Are you watching that one?
I’m not watching it but I am waiting for it to finish airing because it is on my list to try once it is complete.
You have a long wait then as there is no final episode count at the moment according to MAL … :-/
MAL sometimes just doesn’t update or confirm the episode count. I was kind of hoping it would at least conclude season 1 in a couple of months and then I could catch up.
This may be the first anime list that I’ve seen where I’ve actually seen every anime in the list!
Which is your favourite?
That’s a tough one. Of those five, it’s close between the top 3. Maybe Erased. I’m also partial to The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.
I was tryung to avoid movies but I have a soft spot for The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.
Me too. Still makes me cry, that one, towards the end when Makoto breaks down into tears.