When the new year rolls around, it’s always an opportunity for fresh starts and new beginnings. But what would it feel like to be able to have a way to get rid of regrets, or avoid mistakes made in the past? If you could go back in time and have a do-over, could you make things right… or perhaps make brand new mistakes that might be even worse?
Time travel and alternate futures are a common plot twist in fantasy and science fiction in both Western and Japanese comics and movies (Groundhog Day, Somewhere in Time, and Sliding Doors). In some cases, time travel offers characters a chance at a better tomorrow, to prevent tragedy or rediscover lost love – but more often than not, messing with the fabric of time creates unintended consequences that can be messy for the characters, but fun for readers.
Here are six series that take a look at what could happen when you mess with the time/space continuum:
Naho begins her junior year of high school with a strange discovery: a letter addressed to her, written by her future self. At first, she thinks it’s just a joke, but as the predictions in the letter start coming true, she starts to take its warnings seriously, especially since one of the predictions is that one of her classmates – Kakeru – will suffer a grave tragedy if she doesn’t intervene immediately.
Orange is a touching slice of life romance manga / young adult series that balances a time travel / alternate universe fantasy with everyday life events. The characters act like normal high school students who are used to living in the “now” but are confronted with the possibility that their actions will lead to long-term repercussions that will affect them for years to come. There’s a lot of drama and many twists along the way as Naho and her friends begin to realize that their small, everyday actions are changing their future lives in unexpected ways.
Orange has been adapted as a live action film, and as an anime series.
The day started like any other – Subaru went to the convenience store, picked up some snacks, and headed home. But in a blink of an eye, he was transported to a world very far and very different from modern day Tokyo; a world of magic and danger.
For Subaru, this scenario feels awfully familiar – it’s filled with tropes he knows from fantasy video games and movies. He eventually figures out this world has one more thing in common with video games: when he dies, he gets transported back in time, back to a moment before all the events that led up to his death. Each time this happens, he gets a chance to do it all again to try to change his fate, and the fate of the people he meets in this strange new world.
Initially published as a light novel, Re:ZERO has evolved into a bestselling multi-media franchise that has told and re-told its stories as anime, light novels, visual novels, and of course, manga. It’s a story that is both familiar and new, with just enough twists to make it a fun ride for fans of fantasy and adventure stories.
Hitoshi Aoshima Is a high school junior who is pretty painfully ordinary. He’s not very athletic, he picks his nose a lot, and he’s not exactly the guy that all the girls in school want to date.
But one day, he wakes up to find that the prettiest girl in school, Wagatsuma-san is talking to him like they’re friends. No, not just friends, they’re living together. No, not just living together, they’re MARRIED? Wait a minute – how did he find himself 10 years in the future? And how is it that 10 years in the future, he’s married to his hot classmate that he can barely talk to as a high schooler?
These are the questions (and much more) that are explored in My Wife is Wagatsuma-san, a 13+ volume romantic comedy that is kind of like if How I Met Your Mother took place in a Japanese high school, and there were a lot more panty shots allowed on US network TV. It’s goofy and kind of bawdy, but hey, not all time travel has to be so darn serious, right?
For anime fans, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time needs no introduction. The 2006 anime feature film directed by Mamoru Hosoda (Summer Wars) is itself a sequel to a novel written in 1967 by Yasutaka Tsutsui. This single volume manga is a largely faithful adaptation of the anime.
The premise is pretty much as promised in the title: Makoto is a high school girl who discovers that she can leap back and forth in time. Her time travel can be done in both short and long spurts, to get an instant re-do of moments to avoid mistakes, get a peek at the future, and re-live moments over and over again. At first, she uses it for her benefit in simple ways, like getting a sneak peek at a test, or to avoid arriving to school late. But Makoto soon enough learns that messing with time is not something to treat frivolously, and that her time traveling abilities are finite.
Like the anime, the manga is a charming, slice-of-life fantasy with as many moments of light hearted laughs and romance as there are moments of drama and suspense. While there will be no surprises for anime fans who have seen the film, the manga version of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a both a pleasant companion to the film and a stand-alone reading pleasure even for readers who aren’t familiar with the animated version of this story.
Keiichi Maebara has moved far from the noise and crowds of Tokyo, but the tiny village of Hinamizawa is not the peaceful hamlet it seems to be. Sure, he’s made friends with a bevy of cute girls who just happen to be his classmates, but are they really his friends? And what’s up with the annual village festival, which somehow always ends with someone getting killed or disappearing? It may require Keiichi to go back in time, and relive key moments over and over again, ala Groundhog Day, to truly begin to unravel the many tangled threads from the past that have ensnared him, and may possibly cost him his life.
Based on the visual novel game of the same name, the Higurashi manga series has numerous chapters and alternate timelines that spin and re-spin this quasi-gothic horror story of a city boy who moves to a small town with a mysterious secret. Once you delve into the world of Higurashi, be prepared to dive deep into its many twists and surprises over several volumes.
And now for something slightly different! Pandora Hearts doesn’t take place in modern day Japan, but in a fantasy world, where the human world co-exists with an other-dimensional world called The Abyss. The Abyss is a dark, forbidding prison where the normal rules of time don’t exist, and strange creatures with vaguely storybook-like names like Oz the B-Rabbit, Cheshire Cat and Humpty Dumpty seek to bind themselves to humans in order to leave. The main character, Oz Vessalius is a privileged 15-year old from a noble family who finds himself thrust into The Abyss, and must find the courage to solve its many mysteries before they consume him.
Compared to the high school drama of Orange or even The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Pandora Hearts is a complex, multi-dimensional epic fantasy that layers mysteries upon mysteries over its 24+ volumes.
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(C) Ichigo Takano 2012, (C) Ranmaru KOTONE 2006(C)Yasutaka TSUTSUI 2006(C)2006 TOKIKAKE Film Partners, (C) Yuu Kuraishi, Keishi Nishikida / Kodansha Ltd.