Marth's Anime Blog


Time Travel in Anime: Summer 2016 Edition


This season's anime really makes me want to talk about time travel again. I wrote a post about it a while back, but who remembers that? If you want to hear more about my view of time travel, check that post out (holy crap I wrote that post 4 years ago). I've transferred the post over to this blog so it doesn't disappear when my old server goes down. Marth on Time Travel

(slight spoilers for Orange up to episode 5)
While we don't know all of the details of how Orange is handling time travel yet, episode 5 gave us a multiverse interpretation of time travel. In a sense, you could think of story as following the events of two separate timelines, the one that future Naho has experienced and the one where Naho has received the letter.

There's nothing wrong with this really. Splitting the "future" and the "past" into separate timelines makes it easier to switch between the stories without having to worry about having to keep track of what changed in the future. Since the future Naho is effectively throwing a wrench in present Naho's life, this is a good way show a type of interaction between the two versions of Naho.

However, that brings us to the topic of the letters themselves. It's not too new...the D-Mails of Steins;Gate were a similar concept. But I think that the letters themselves are a meaningless gesture from the perspective of future Naho unless the future changes immediately following her actions (like the D-Mails). If she's truly sending the letters into a separate timeline that will progress forward independently of hers, how can she know whether she succeeded? It's not like the past Naho can send a letter back.

The series is not done yet, so we can't know for sure that the two timelines are completely independent, but if the future does change to keep Kakeru alive, I feel like it'll be a cop-out happy ending if future Naho gets to keep her happy life with Suwa and her child.

Which brings me to...the problem. You may think differently on the issue, but I find the "inevitability" in Orange's time travel interpretation annoying. We've seen Naho fail some objectives, but she's been largely successful at following her future counterpart's instructions. So why have the events outlined in the letters remained accurate? Why hasn't history taken a wild turn in another direction because Naho is trying to "fix" things with Kakeru?

A common trope in time travel series is that history "wants" to happen, which I've always found restrictive. I personally would think that the moment the letters reach the past, the future should have been radically different.

(slight spoilers for Time Travel Shoujo up to episode 4)
Yeah, yeah...why am I watching this series? While it's been a weird series, I have to say that episode 4 really got me thinking about the nature of time travel. In this episode, Mari travels back in time to meet Alessandro Volta, but is surprised to meet his father. But wait, it's not the father she knows, but rather a past version of her father that happened to travel back to the same time.

In a normal time travel scenario, there's no real issue for two time travelers to meet, but Mari's father reveals that he has is in that time to save Volta by fixing a mistake that he had made in a previous time leap. Why is this weird? Mari's father has traveled back from a future in which Volta died early, but Mari has traveled back from a future in which Volta survived, which makes it seem like two futures exist in the same timeline.

When I first watched the episode, I ruled this out as an impossible paradox, but it's actually more interesting than it first appears. Sure, Mari's father's future is different, but the second he travels to the past, he has changed the future...the new future just hasn't unfolded yet.

So, there's only one future in the timeline, and the existence of a Mari who knows that Volta survived means that Volta's survival was set in stone. Pretty fun to think about! Though it does raise the question of why Mari has never been able to change the past...let's not think about that too much.



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