What would you do if you could time travel? Would you try to go back in the past and maybe make certain changes to have a better present? Or would you travel to the future to get a glimpse of all the advanced technology that humans would be capable of using? Whatever your reason may be, I’m sure that at least once you’ve fantasized about traveling through time. But unfortunately, as of now, none of all that is a possibility and the only way we can actually have somewhat of a time-traveling experience is through what we watch in movies, TV shows and even anime.
Time Travel is one troupe that has been seen in every possible medium of storytelling and has been featured in some of the most well-known anime. While some of these anime explore ideas such as the consequences of one’s actions in an advanced time travel setup, there are others that take a more simplistic approach through their depictions of “time camping”. Either which way, it is always fun to watch our favorite characters trying to make sense out of a construct that no one can really escape in real life. So if you’re looking for a temporary escape and are willing to take your imagination on a wild roller coaster ride, then we’re here to help. Here’s the list of top time travel anime ever made. You can watch several of these best time travel anime on Crunchyroll, Netflix or Hulu.
15. The Tatami Galaxy (2010)
Framed in a pattern that is very similar to the Hollywood film ‘Source Code‘, ‘The Tatami Galaxy‘ is about a college boy named Watashi. He keeps reliving the first day of his college again and again in an attempt to have the perfect future college life that everyone else seems to be living. But every time he tries to do this, it leads to a new series of misadventures that further ruin his “rose-colored” campus life.
Though quite underrated, ‘The Tatami Galaxy’ is considered to be a gem by those who have had the chance to experience its incredible exploration of a rather simple idea. It’s not just the story of this anime that makes it stand out, but it’s the portrayal of the story through gorgeously surreal visuals that makes it a masterpiece. It is unlike any other anime you’ve ever seen and it’s the kind of show you’ll re-watch again and again to discover something new every time.
14. Orange (2016)
Naho Takamiya, the main protagonist of ‘Orange‘, is all prepared for her first day of sophomore year at school. As she rushes out of the door of her home, she finds a strange letter that is addressed to her. It turns out that the letter is actually from herself — 10 years in the future. Though a little skeptical at first, all of her doubts fade away when she realizes that her “26-year-old self” seems to know everything that’s going to happen next in her life. Soon, several students start receiving similar letters that express regret about an upcoming event. What follows is an extremely emotional story of a group of high school students who race against time to save the life of a loved one.
13. Mirai Nikki (2011-)
‘Mirai Nikki‘ is a mystery thriller that revolves around a lonely boy named Takamiya Naho. He spends every single day alone and only interacts with an imaginary friend through a diary on his phone. It turns out that his imaginary friend is actually the god of space and time who forces him to join a brutal battle royale. Each participant of this battle holds a future diary that possesses unique abilities. Out of these, Takamiya possesses the “Random Diary” that allows him to get descriptive entries of the future. With the help of his diary and a newfound friend named Yuno, he must now learn to survive this game of life and death. Along the way, he must also unravel the mystery behind Yuno’s obsession with him. ‘Mirai Nikki’ is a brilliant blend of action, romance and psychological thriller that will keep you at the edge of your seat at all times.
12. Re:Zero – Starting Life in Another World (2016-)
Premiered in 2016, ‘Re:Zero‘ came out during a time when the world of anime was full of time travel stories. But what made this Isekai stand out from all the others was its incredible use of captivating plot twists, apart from the many different kinds of emotions that it makes you go through. If you’re into adventure video games, you’ll probably be familiar with the whole checkpoint save concept where you end up at a specific point again after you die. ‘Re:Zero – Starting Life in Another World‘ adopts a similar concept where the main character has no control over which point in time he’ll return to after his death. And as frustrating as this can be for the protagonist, it is even more troublesome for you to watch the protagonist screw up his timeline again and again.
11. Charlotte (2015)
For the most part of it, ‘Charlotte‘ is about cute girls with unique magical abilities. But one of the main characters named Shunsuke Otosaka possesses the ability to mentally travel back in time instead of physically being there. Adopting an idea that is very similar to ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past‘, ‘Charlotte‘ takes a very interesting approach towards time travel. Coming from Jun Maeda, who is known for creating other shows like ‘Angel Beats‘ and ‘Clannad‘, this anime explores the whole supernatural genre in a way it has never been explored before.
10. Occult Academy (2010)
Set in the year 2012, ‘Occult Academy’ is about mankind’s time travel mission that sends a few individuals to the year 1999 in order to destroy an artifact known as the Nostradamus Key. The present world has been invaded by aliens and the only way to stop them from destroying the planet is by completely removing the artifact that caused this invasion in the first place. Maya, the headmaster of the Occult Academy, and a time traveler named Fumiaki must find the artifact and while they’re at it, they must face some of the most gruesome creatures like demons and mothmen. ‘Occult Academy’ has a great concept but it slightly falls short of expectation in terms of the execution. However, if you’re looking for a unique anime, then this one deserves a shot.
9. Inuyasha (2000-2010)
‘Inuyasha‘ is another Isekai show where a girl named Kagome Higurashi gets transferred to an alternate version of Japan’s brutal Sengoku period. Here, she gets to know that she possesses a wish-granting gem that is being hunted down by those who wish to rule the world. During a battle, this jewel shatters into many different pieces. Now, with the help of a human-like fox demon, Kagome must find all the different pieces of the jewel before they end up in the hands of someone evil. With several threats on the way, Inuyasha and Kagome set on an adventure that ends up teaching them a lesson or two about relationships.
8. Dragon Ball Z (1989-1996)
Being one of the most popular battle shounen out there, we’re all very well aware that time travel has never really been the primary focus of the anime. But even then, it has a whole arc that revolves around a time traveler who comes from the future and saves Goku and his friends from Androids. Time travel, in this case, is not highly conceptualized, so if you’re just looking for something fun to watch, then ‘DBZ‘ is where your search ends.
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7. In Search of the Lost Future (2014)
‘In Search of the Lost Future’ starts off as your typical high school anime that involves characters who participate in regular school events and then later move to a new school building. But while all of this goes on, So Akiyama, the main protagonist, is troubled by disturbing visions of the future that show his friends in danger. Slowly running out of time, he must solve the mysteries that lurk in the old school building and only then he might have a chance of saving his friends. ‘In Search of the Lost Future’ is an anime that starts off as a slice-of-life show but soon turns into a gripping mystery thriller that can be enjoyed by all anime lovers.
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6. Break Ups (2009)
‘Break Ups’ is a 15-minute short film about the tribulations of a young couple’s inconsistent relationship status. One day, the couple comes across an object that allows them to travel through time and takes them back to all the important junctures of their relationship. Technically, ‘Break Ups’ has more of a Korean touch and its animation style is very different from what you see in most typical anime shows. Though it has a very short runtime, it manages to leave a mark on you that stays long after the show is over.
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5. Erased (2016)
One of the most recent titles on this list, ‘Erased‘ is about a young man named Saturo Fujinuma who automatically gets transported back in time when something bad happens around. This allows him to turn the situation around and save the lives of many innocents. After his mother gets murdered one day and he is framed for it, he drifts back many years in the past. As he finds himself back in school, he must now find the killer of his mother to protect her in the future.
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4. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (2006)
‘The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘ is all about a group of students who possess supernatural abilities. Almost all the episodes of the second season of the show take a ‘Groundhog Day‘ approach towards time travel. The characters are stuck in this endless repetitive loop where they keep doing the same things over and over again. Though it can be a little annoying to watch the same thing over and over again, if you’re a little patient with this show, you will also become one of those so-called “Haruhiists”. One of the most popular supernatural slice-of-life shows out there, ‘The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya’ should definitely be at the top of your anime watch list.
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3. Sakurada Reset (2017)
‘Sakurada Reset’ is a hidden gem that has sadly been dragged down by the opinion of some harsh critics. While the first season of the show is indeed a little slow with not much of character development, what really shines bright is its plot, that presents you some of the most interesting time travel concepts. If you’re patient enough to get through an anime that develops its characters at a snail’s pace, then you’ll certainly fall in love with what this show has to offer.
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2. Steins;Gate (2011)
It comes as no surprise that even to this day, ‘Steins;Gate‘ is one of the highest-rated anime series of all time. Apart from all the diversity in its characters, it has the perfect time-travel dynamics involving stable time loops and parallel timelines. It uses all kinds of advanced scientific terms such as Schrodinger’s cat, the Observer effect and even the Butterfly Effect to present you a story that unfolds in the most impressive way. With barely any plot holes at all, ‘Steins;Gate‘ is one of those few anime shows that are much better than the visual novels they have been adapted from.
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1. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006)
After falling over a walnut-shaped object, Makoto, a cheerful high school girl, ends up possessing the ability to leap through time. With this newfound ability, she does something every teenager would do — make life a bit easier in many different ways. But what she forgets is that playing with time can have some serious consequences on her. Although quite simple, ‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time‘ follows a very intriguing concept that makes it a classic in the time travel genre. It is more or less of a representation of the famous saying: “With great power comes great responsibility.”
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