Time travel is often used in anime to create exciting and enigmatic plots. This trope opens up many possibilities as you can do almost anything if you control time. This has been the central premise of some of the most entertaining and beloved anime ever.
While it is not a necessity, it always helps when a show gives a clear explanation as to why the characters can time travel. Shows that do not explain how their characters can leap through time are not bad. They confuse fans sometimes.
In this list, we will talk about four time travel anime with clear explanations and four that never provided one.
Disclaimer: This list reflects the author's opinion and contains spoilers for various anime series.
Inuyasha and four other anime that explain their Time Travel mechanics
1) Steins; Gate
Based on a visual novel of the same name, Steins; Gate has been one of the most beloved time-travel-related anime. The show follows Rintaro Okabe, a self-proclaimed mad scientist who stumbles upon the dead body of Kurisu Makise, a famous researcher. This occurred while attending a conference about traveling through time.
However, Kurisu is still alive in his timeline, and when he tries to warn his friends about what he stumbled upon, he finds out that his text messages are getting delivered before he sends them. The show explains that the cellphone-operated microwave Okabe has in his laboratory is disrupting the time-space continuum and allowing him to send texts and memories through time.
Thanks to this discovery, Okabe can change tragic events from the future, effectively altering the timeline in which he resides. Sadly, he quickly learns about the dangers of tampering with time when his world becomes more dangerous with each trip back in time.
2) Re: Zero
After being transported into a fantasy world, Subaru started to think of himself as the protagonist of an epic adventure. Unfortunately, he quickly discovered that being sent to a fantasy world had not given him any abilities like he was expecting.
Nonetheless, he was given magical powers, which can sometimes be more of a curse. Each time Subaru reaches a critical moment for his character, he will get a checkpoint. Whenever he dies, he will time travel back to this checkpoint, only to repeatedly relieve the events that led to his death until he can prevent them.
Subaru has repeatedly watched his friends and the person he loves die. He had to learn to use his time-related powers to prevent his loved ones from dying while getting traumatized in the process. This anime's explanation of Subaru's time-leaping powers is simple yet effective.
Kagome, also known as the reincarnation of the priestess Kikyo, was an ordinary girl who lived near a Shinto shrine guarded by her family. She grew up hearing stories of demons and monsters who used to roam the Earth in the past. Kagome believed all those stories to be nothing more than fantastical tales to scare children until she stumbled with a cursed well that made her time travel.
Due to the particular curse of the well she fell into, Kagome found herself trapped for five hundred years in the past, where she met Inuyasha, a half-demon, half-human hybrid. She learned that Kikyo, herself in a past life, used to be Inuyasha's lover until they had a dispute over the Shikon Jewel. This magical item granted its users outstanding powers.
It is now up to Kagome and Inuyasha, as well as the unique and colorful friends they find along the way, to stop the evil Naraku from obtaining the Shikon Jewel. This anime does not try to give its time travel a scientific reason and explains it with magic, a simple but understandable solution.
4) The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
Haruhi may look like nothing more than a simple and hyperactive high school girl who loves to have fun. Nevertheless, behind her cheerful demeanor hides the power of a god, which gives Haruhi the ability to reset the entire universe if she is bored. To prevent this from happening, individuals from all over the universe created the SOS club to keep her entertained.
One of the individuals who joined the club is the time traveler Mikuru Asahina, whose entire mission is to prevent Haruhi from erasing her timeline. Tragically, Haruhi mainly uses Mikuru to attract people, specifically boys, to join her club.
The Haruhi Suzumiya anime explains that Mikuru could travel back in time thanks to a device that ruptured the time-space continuum. By doing this, she can slip through a tear her device created to arrive at the specific time she set on her machine.
Erased and four other anime that never explain why their characters can Time Travel
1) Tokyo Revengers
At the show's start, Takemichi was nothing more than a simple young man in his mid-twenties, regretting many of his past choices. One day, while waiting for the train to arrive, Takemichi was pushed into the rails before the train arrived at the station. Instead of dying, Takemichi's consciousness time traveled ten years into the past.
He took this chance to change his life, undoing everything he regretted. This caught the attention of Mikey, the leader of Tokyo's most dangerous motorcycle gang, Toman. Takemichi became a member of Toman, helping them defeat rival gangs while also figuring out how to prevent the deaths of his friends in the future.
Besides explaining what is needed for Takemichi to travel back in time, the anime does not attempt to explain Takemichi's time travel powers. The manga has given fans more information about this ability in the latest chapter, but fans are still confused about why this happened in the first place.
Our protagonist, Satoru Fujinuma, has the power to time travel to prevent tragedies. In his twenties, he saw this power as more of a hassle than a blessing. He was tired of saving people every day until his mother died, and he was sent back to his nine-year-old body.
He quickly figured out that changing the past was the only way to prevent her mother from dying. He embarked on a quest to apprehend the serial killer that terrorized his town when he was a kid. He became determined to save one of his childhood friends, Kayo, the killer's victim in the original timeline.
The anime attempts to explain why Satoru can travel back in time, informing viewers that tragedies trigger his powers. Unfortunately, that is all the intel we have on his abilities.
Ten years after the death of Kakeru, Naho and her friends decided to write letters to their past selves, asking them to prevent the death of their friend. They were successful, and past-Naho ended up with a strange letter telling her all about the events that would take place in the future, including Kakeru joining her class.
Using the letter as a guide, Naho tried to do everything she could to prevent Kakeru from dying while also fixing all the mistakes her future-self made.
Orange tried to explain the science behind Naho and her friends sending back the letter but ultimately only confused fans more. The anime tells the viewer that Naho and her friends traveled to the Bermuda Triangle to use a black hole that allowed them to send the letter through time. Yet, the show never explains how they got close to the black hole or why it was even there.
4) Your Name
Mitsuha and Taki were two ordinary teenagers who led everyday lives until the day when their bodies were swapped. Believing it to be a dream, they tried to continue their lives as usual. However, their body exchanges happened more than once.
The two started falling in love, happy to have had the opportunity to get to know each other despite the distance. Sadly, Taki realizes one day that he can no longer trade bodies with Mitsuha, which worries him a lot. He ended up discovering that they were not only trading bodies but also time traveling, as Mitsuha's portion of the film occurred years before it even started.
The movie is incredibly wholesome and dynamic, easily one of the best time travel romances in anime. Still, it never once tried to explain to the viewer how it was possible for Taki and Mitsuha to change bodies and travel in time.
The idea of transcending space and time has intrigued human minds for a long time. Knowing that you have the power to correct any mistake or go wherever is hugely appealing to many individuals. This fascination is often portrayed in time travel anime, a popular subgenre.
Whether the show attempts to explain how the time travel system works or leaves it to the viewers' imagination does not affect how enjoyable a show is. As long as the creators behind the time-travel anime know how to make a compelling story, an explanation is unnecessary, although it is always welcome.