10 best time travel anime you can't miss
Time travel anime, a popular sci-fi trope, is renowned for creating intriguing plots and dynamic character interactions. Anime creators have employed this concept in various captivating ways, leading to some of the most entertaining series in the medium. From classics like Steins;Gate to recent hits like Re:Zero, these time travel anime offer top-notch stories that delve into complex philosophical questions.
This article will highlight the 10 best time travel anime that no fan should miss. The selections offer thought-provoking narratives, fully-realized characters, and creative approaches to the concept of moving through time. Whether watching someone rewrite their own history in time travel anime or seeing time policemen ensure proper chronology, these titles showcase why the genre resonates strongly with viewers.
Disclaimer: The article is not ranked and reflects the opinion of the writer.
Beyond the clock: Top 10 must-watch time travel anime
Orange, a time travel anime, is a poignant teenage drama with a time travel twist. When Naho receives a letter from her 26-year-old self, she learns that her new transfer student Kakeru will die by suicide in the near future. Armed with this foreknowledge, current Naho aims to save Kakeru with the help of close friends.
While often labeled as a romance anime, Orange earns praise for its sensitive handling of depression and mental health issues. It also wonderfully captures the relationships and painful regrets that remain long after tragedy.
The time travel creates tension around whether the future is set or can change through compassion.
2. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
A modern anime classic, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time won numerous accolades upon release. The time travel anime tells the story of Makoto Konno, who gains the ability to literally "leap" back in time and alter past events. She starts small by fixing awkward situations or avoiding minor accidents. But her carefree attitude is challenged when her actions inadvertently impact others and their futures.
With stunning animation and grounded characters, this anime film questions the ethical implications of changing destiny for personal gain. It further explores the idea that even understanding the future does not necessarily make it easier to accept.
This is an emotionally resonant work about adolescence and learning lessons the hard way.
Commonly known as Boku Dake ga Inai Machi in Japan, Erased is a thriller time travel anime focused on 29-year-old Satoru. When a tragedy occurs in his present timeline, Satoru’s special ability activates and sends him back 18 years to his childhood. He then has the opportunity to uncover the truth behind a long-ago incident and avert the bleak future awaiting him.
Heart-pounding and binge-worthy, Erased utilizes the time traveler premise to examine Satoru’s regrets from the past. Combining mystery genre tropes and real-world issues like corruption and child abuse, it tells an emotionally heavy story flavored by sporadic moments of innocence and hope.
4. Link Click
For a Chinese anime-inspired series, Link Click brings an unexpected sci-fi gem to the table. When Cheng Xiaoshi gains the power to travel through time by taking photos, he partners with Lu Guang to solve various mysteries across history. As their time travel detective agency grows in ability, Cheng and Guang witness defining moments in China’s past decade.
They then piece together puzzling crimes in the present timeline. More than a convenient plot device, the snapshot time jumps add atmosphere and emotional impact by transporting our heroes into poignant historical events that shape their perspectives. The storytelling uses time travel to examine the ripple effects of choices and moments on people's lives.
No list of time travel anime is complete without the beloved series, Steins;Gate. Eccentric "mad scientist" Rintaro Okabe accidentally discovers time travel, only to quickly learn the universe attempts to course correct any interference with the past. His friend Mayuri becomes fated to die, prompting Okabe to try countless desperate ploys utilizing the ability to send text messages into the past.
More sci-fi thriller than traditional action anime, Steins;Gate features cool technology, several unexpected twists, and endearing characters that make the wild ride entertaining. Exploring the idea of divergent timelines and the butterfly effect, this modern classic topped anime polls for years after its 2011 release.
Fans are now eagerly waiting for the final film in the trilogy, due in 2023.
6. Re:Zero - Starting Life in Another World
Re:Zero, a standout time travel anime, blends psychological fantasy adventure with time loop tragedy. When suddenly transported to a fantasy video game-esque realm, average teenager Subaru Natsuki thinks he’s lucky to join this exciting new world. But he soon dies horrifically, only to snap back to an earlier point in time, forced to relive events while retaining knowledge of potential futures.
Seeing Subaru experience brutal death after brutal death could get monotonous, yet somehow each sequence proves more devastating than the last. As he slowly pieces together the rules of this unprecedented phenomenon, watch him inch towards defeating the time loop through allies, sacrifice, and plenty of suffering.
7. The Tatami Galaxy
Featuring a unique art style matching its inventive premise, The Tatami Galaxy centers on an unnamed third-year university student regretting his lifeless college experience. When offered the chance to remake choices from the past two years, he attempts to correct previous mistakes, but only seems to swap one disappointment for another.
This surrealist dark comedy anime uses time travel to showcase decision paralysis and the futility of comparing reality to idealized notions of potential happiness. Crisp 11-minute episodes encourage viewers to breeze through this existential time travel anime series in a single, thoughtful evening.
8. Buddy Complex
When mecha pilot Aoba is suddenly transported from the future into the middle of a battlefield one year in the past, he joins student soldier Dio to pilot the Buddy Complex robot. This eventual friendship sees the duo synchronizing fighting moves across the time rift.
As Aoba struggles to return to his original timeline, he and Dio become embroiled in a temporal war with devastating secrets that may erase their shared future entirely. Buddy Complex blends classic mecha action with anticipatory time travel twists across its 13 episodes. This time travel anime series features stunning mecha animation sequences highlighting the synchronized combat between the two main characters.
9. Tokyo Revengers
After his middle school ex-girlfriend Hinata dies mysteriously, Tokyo Revengers' protagonist Takemichi Hanagaki discovers he can travel back in time. He is transported to his middle school years with a mission to infiltrate the Tokyo Manji Gang and prevent Hinata's death. His journey involves confronting the gang's internal conflicts and rivalries.
While the setup leans into common tropes, the series surprises by maturely tackling heavy themes like abuse and violence through empathetic character writing. Takemichi’s growth from weak to heroic further highlights profound questions about whether we can exonerate past sins even after redemption later in life.
10. Puella Magi Madoka Magica
While known primarily as a dark magical girl anime, Puella Magi Madoka Magica utilizes significant time travel elements, particularly regarding the character Homura Akemi. After failing to protect Madoka Kaname from a grim fate, Homura's special ability allows her to rewind time to prevent the tragedy from occurring.
This sets up an intricate time loop structure where Homura repeatedly goes back attempting to change events, only to witness Madoka meet misfortune in different ways.
Homura's painful perseverance through these time jumps gives Madoka Magica its emotional weight and explores her motivations in depth. Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a standout in the time travel anime genre
Time travel anime pulls viewers in by speculating clever takes on the age-old trope, offering excitement as characters manipulate the past, present, and future for better or worse. From sci-fi thrillers to poignant dramas to hilarious comedies, anime creators utilize time travel in diverse, fascinating ways, leading to entertaining spins on the concept.
This list reveals only a snippet of the incredible stories showcasing why time travel matters in anime. Give these compelling series a watch to witness what’s possible when rewriting destiny. What anime would make your list of time travel greats? The possibilities through time remain endless.