Wouldn’t we all like a second chance at something? Everybody loves the do-over, the second take, the make-up test, right? Some people fantasize about a second chance at getting the grade, making the goal, being a better friend, sibling, roommate, co-worker, or just a better person in general.
Sometimes a person will bemoan the job offer they didn’t take, the date they didn’t go on, or the great friend they over looked or left behind. Or maybe they just would rather start life all over again from the beginning. We’ve all felt like that at one time or another. In these anime the main character gets a chance to do just that and more, but maybe having to relive something a second time around isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
Many people skip the Endless Eight story arc of the anime The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, mainly because this eight episode event in the middle of the series is actually just one episode, being relived by the main characters without them really knowing it, over and over and over again. The story arc is about a time loop and it is presented as a loop!
For anyone that hasn’t seen The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, here’s a quick summary: this anime centers around Haruhi, a high school girl that is obsessed with the paranormal. Espers, aliens, time travelers, she loves them all! It is narrated by Kyon, a high school boy that just wants the quiet life and to be left alone. Well, near the first day of school Kyon makes the mistake of talking to the class weirdo (Haruhi) and gets dragged her new club the “SOS Brigade”, and their mission is to investigate paranormal stuff. But there is a little hiccup with this otherwise benign but annoying situation, Haruhi is a god and doesn’t know it. The other members of this club are an Esper (Koizumi) an alien robot (Yuki) and a time traveler (Mikuru) and all of them came to study Haruhi. And though it was her power that summoned them to her club, they can never tell Haruhi what they are and what she is! Because at the moment the world is stable-ish and they don’t know what would happen if Haruhi knew about the power she held.
As for the Endless Eight story arc, the arc skippers do have a point, you could just watch the last one of the episodes in the arc and get basically the same story, or would you? For the casual viewer it might seem like it’s the same episode playing over and over (and it is) but for fans that want to look a bit deeper, this is actually a very interesting and unique arc that needs to be watched not just in it’s entirety, but also in one binge-tastic sitting! And what do you get if you pull yourself through this repetitive marathon? The answer is a story in subtlety. Episode by episode the characters seem to do and say the same things over and over again, and yet they don’t. I first noticed the changes in Kyon, when he seemed to have a harder and harder time waking up for a late night call. After I noticed the first little changes, I couldn’t help but notice more and more little changes in Kyon. Like how he seemed to be less and less interested in the baseball game at the beginning of the episodes, to the point that near the end of the story arc he absently admitted that he didn’t even know why he was watching it. Or the way Kyon’s shirts go from fairly average Summer shirts designs to more and more abstract images on his T-shirts. It’s as if little by little Kyon is being worn down by the repetitiveness of his life even though he doesn’t realize it.
Likewise, Yuki shows a few changes as she gains frustration at these never ending cycles of Summer. Though Yuki rarely shows any sign of emotion, she still does try to leave some hints for her observation subjects to point them to the problem, even though it is against her programming. At the festival she heads right to the mask booth, but when Kyon offers to buy one for her she insists that only she buys it, and every time she selects an alien or robot mask of some kind. Perhaps a little reminder to Kyon that she is a advanced alien robot and there are somethings that only she can do? When Kyon stops her to talk just after everyone else heads home, Yuki seems to wait longer and longer for Kyon to continue talking, as if Yuki knows Kyon is on the right track trying to talk to her but she can’t do or say anything more.
Tokyo Revengers is about a former gang member (when he was in middle school) named Takemichi Hanagaki, who moved away after being beaten and bullied by older boys that were also in a gang. Years later, Takemichi (now in his mid-twenties) returns to his old stomping grounds. Not long after he moves back, he sees on the news that his former girlfriend and her brother were murdered and organized crime is suspected. Takemichi is upset, but after half a lifetime of running away from conflict and meekly excepting whatever anyone does to him, he just thinks there’s nothing he can do and decides to move on. Then, as he’s waiting for a train someone shoves him from behind! He’s about to be hit by the train when “Bam!” he’s suddenly in his middle schooler body and years in the past!
Unlike The Endless Eight arc of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Tokyo Revengers main character is fully aware that he is traveling back in time over and over again. In fact, he’s actually doing it on purpose. Takemichi has a lot more control over when and if he moves back into the past and unlike in The Endless Eight, he isn’t trapped there. Though Takemichi does have more control, The Endless Eight story arc is significantly more benign. While Kyon and crew are trying to end the time loop they are trapped in, no one is actually being hurt by it. Conversely, Takemichi is using a time loop to prevent crimes and murders.
Some honorable mentions for time traveling anime fun are Link Click, Occult Academy, and Inuyasha!
Do you have any favorite anime that time travel? Leave a comment below!