Time travel stories never fail to tickle the imagination. Movies, for example, have shaped our popular concepts of how travelling back to the past and to the future works, Japanese animation also pushes the possibilities of the genre further with top notch storytelling and thought-provoking mechanics.
We list three time travel stories in anime for you to explore: three staples and two new suggestions. Plus, we add one movie where time travel was never mentioned before launch but played a huge role in the story.
Scientist Rintaro Okabe works on a cellphone-operated microwave oven in his Future Gadget Labs. He discovers later on that he could send messages into the past, which starts a 24-episode story of changing the present, one short message at a time.
High school student Makoto Konno gets into a bicycle accident which flings her towards an oncoming train. But she doesn’t get hit. Instead, she “time-leaps” moments before the accident. She enjoys leaping through time like it doesn’t have a limit.
Manga artist and pizza delivery boy Satoru Fujinuma occasionally finds himself going back in time by a few minutes. Called a “Revival,” his time travels allow him to save someone’s life. However, after his mother’s death, his Revival sends him back in time by 19 years.
Three-year-old Kun gets a new sister, named Mirai (which means time). He hates losing his parents’ attention to the baby, but eventually, he gets a visit from a grown-up Mirai, all the way from the future.
Dragon Ball Super: Future Trunks Arc
A popular Dragon Ball Z arc introduced Future Trunks, a Saiyan from an alternate timeline where he is the only remaining defender of Earth. In Dragon Ball Super, the time traveler seeks help from the present anew, while encountering a version of his younger self. Time travel plays a bigger role in this arc than it did back in Dragon Ball Z.
The next anime was never marketed as a time travel movie. But halfway through, a twist reveals a journey between two points in time.
You’ve been warned.
If you’re still reading this, here we go:
Tokyo boy Taki and country girl Mitsuha find themselves switching bodies in their sleep. However, Taki finds out later on that they are not just switching bodies: they are switching timelines as well.
First published in 2020; updated in December 2021