.Time Travel article published in Animerica Extra Vol. 5, No. 10, September 2002
This article was written by and is copyrighted to Patricia Duffield and may not be reproduced in part or whole without permission.
Every culture has tales of people who slip into the future, only to discover everything they cared for is gone. These tales encourage us to enjoy the present and remind us of the transience of our lives. But instead of focusing on how the trip affects the character, H.G. Wells' The Time Machine emphasizes what time has done to our world, presenting a somewhat disturbing vision of the distant future. By doing so, this sci-fi forerunner changed our perspective of time and the future. Also, by using a modern-day man and the pretense of a plausible time travel device, the adventure became more realistic than old legends like Rip van Winkle or Urashimataro. From Terminator to Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, the concept of time travel has since been utilized by a diverse array of titles. Naturally, Japan has a collection of its own. From the profound to the preposterous, let's look back at some of anime and manga's time traveling tales.
Deriving its name from Japanese legend, Mirai Keisatsu Urashiman (Future Police Urashiman) sends its lead character, modern-day Tokyo cop Ryu (long u) Urashima, to the year 2050. There, he discovers that although technology may have changed, some things remain the same --cops and criminals, work and play. He's recruited into a special police team whose nemesis is an elegant, tragic villain determined to rescue his love by bringing her into the future before her death. For fifty action- and mystery-filled episodes, Urashiman treated viewers to a high-tech but humanistic view of the future.
Revolutionary Girl Utena manga artist Chiho Saito was probably inspired by the time paradox Terminator movies when she created her two-volume series Tenshi no Tattoo (The Angel Tattoo). A mysterious young man saves Misaki's life. They begin to fall in love, but Misaki doesn't know he's more than just mysterious, he's from the future! In the future, Misaki is the mother of an evil ruler, so her new love has been sent back through time to kill her. The trip has caused him to forget his mission, but for how long?
Sore Yuke! Uchusenkan (second u long) Yamamoto Yoko (first o long) (Spaceship Girl, Yamamoto Yohko) offers a lighter look at the future. In a thousand years, interstellar disputes will be resolved by ritualized combat between champion starship pilots. Problem is, Earth (Terra) doesn't have a winning team. So they go back in time to recruit video game wizards, and Yohko's a player who can't be beat. This whimsical action-comedy has lots of cute girls, competitive mecha action and time traveling adventures. Both OVA series are available in English from The Right Stuf.
Not all tales of time travel take their characters into the future. The past is equally exciting and engaging. Most of the action in Rumiko Takahashi's current hit, Inu Yasha, takes place in Japan's Warring States period. But Takahashi fans know Inu Yasha isn't her only time traveling story. Fire Tripper is a paradoxical adventure of a high school girl who gets blasted into the past by a fiery explosion. Hara Hara Hall (Time Warp Trouble) is another Rumic World time traveling tale, one which involves hungry, scruffy, kimono-clad men searching for food in Manpuku High School. Takahashi also included some time travel in Lum*Urusei Yatsura. Introduced toward the end of the series, the character Inaba is a bunny-suited caretaker of the Doors of Fate*. The Doors of Fate offer an amusing adventure and interesting glimpses into possible futures for the cast.
There are also a few famous time travel series which have never made it to animation. Sora wa Akai Kawa no Hotori (The Sky Can Be Found by the Red River) is a romantic shojo adventure about a modern-day girl and a Hittite prince. The prince's evil step-mother wants her son, the sixth in line, to rule. To kill the other princes, she needs a virgin sacrifice. The evil queen employs dark magic to drag Yuri (long u) more than 3000 years into the past. Packed with suspense, action and romance, this 28-volume series is seasoned artist Chie Shinohara's most successful series.
Chieko Hosokawa's Oke (long o) no Monsho (second o long) (The Crest of Royalty, a.k.a. Daughter of the Nile) is one of the longest shojo manga of all time. Carol is a young historian from a wealthy family which sponsors a dig in Egypt. When a pharaoh's mummy is stolen and a seal within the tomb is broken, the pharaoh's sister is awakened to exact revenge for disturbing her brother's peace. After killing Carol's father, the sister drags Carol into the past where her knowledge, intelligence and pale features cause her trouble until it is decided she's the legendary Daughter of the Nile. Whoever has the Daughter of the Nile will control Egypt. Thus this historic fantasy becomes an epic which has kept its readers entranced for more than twenty years.
Sending modern day characters into the past isn't the only way to bring history to life. You can also bring people from the past into the future. This is the premise of Jiku (long u) Tantei Genshi-kun (Time Detective Genshi-kun, a.k.a. Flint the Time Detective in the U.S.). Thanks to a villainess hunting for magical creatures called time shifters, caveboy Flint and his dad get fossilized. Their fossil is dug up by a pair of 25th century school students. They take the fossil to their uncle at the Bureau of Time and Space where Flint is unfossilized and becomes a Time Detective, on the hunt for the very woman who fossilized him in the first place. For thirty-nine episodes, Flint and his friends have many time traveling adventures in an effort to protect time and space.
Flint wasn't the first anime prehistoric boy to travel through time. In the Tatsunoko classic Dokachin, the title character and his family get pulled into modern times because of a time machine experiment. Their amazement toward and involvement with their modern surroundings provide the content of the series' amusing adventures. After all, when the leading character is simple-minded, super strong and can talk with animals, there's a lot to work with. Despite the wonder of the modern world, Dokachin and his family always want to return to their simple way of life in the past.
Ojarumaru is a similarly themed series in which the child of a Heian Period (794-1185) nobleman time slips into modern-day Japan. The amusing tales of Ojarumaru dealing with our time have made this recent kids show a sensational, award-winning family hit.
Hard-core sci-fi fans will appreciate the twisted time traveling tale of the classic Time Stranger. Jiro escapes his oppressed life in the future by slipping into the past with a stolen time machine. When Jiro is brought down into modern-day Japan by the time cop chasing him, he steals a vehicle and keeps going, dragging the vehicle's occupants into the past with him. This lusciously animated film grows more complicated as the historic and cosmic ramifications of their time travel compound the further back they go.
On the more fanciful side is Time Stranger Kyoko, the recently completed manga series of Kamikaze Kaito (long o) Jeanne (Divine Wind Thief Jeanne) author Arina Tanemura. In a legendary yet modern setting, Kyoko is the Princess of the World. Her sister is in an enchanted slumber which can only be broken by uniting twelve mystical stones with those who have the power to control them. Similar to a Chinese legend, Kyoko sets out to find these strangers and convince them to help her. She begins the adventure with the Stone of Time, which lets her travel through time, and two cute, devoted bodyguards.
Taking characters from one time and transplanting them into another provides a different, more immediate impact than stories simply set in the future or the past. The recent Time Machine movie remake may have been a flop, but the original film and book remain engaging classics. And this sampling of anime and manga time-travel stories is a clear indication of the entertainment potential of the concept. Drama, comedy, action, romance, exploring the future, examining the past- these stories have it all, if you take the time to try them.
*Please check the terminology with the Viz translation.