These past few years in Japan, the “Time Loop” genre has been thriving. No, I’m not talking about a grand sci-fi tale that starts in the prehistoric era and ends in the distant future, I mean a story where the hero has to re-live the same few hours over and over again.
The pioneer title of this genre is Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer, an anime movie which was released in 1984. In this movie, the protagonist Ataru Moroboshi and his classmates are busy preparing for the culture festival the following day. Only… the following day never comes. The original movie was well received by both anime fans and movie critics alike, propelling the director, Mamoru Oshii, to international fame.
Now, 30 years later, time loop stories are back in a new package! The 2004 manga All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka was picked up by a Hollywood director, and last year an American version called Edge of Tomorrow (starring Tom Cruise) came out on the big screen.
The plot is that earth is under attack by mysterious alien forces, and the hero, a young inexperienced soldier, is thrown into battle against them. However, each time he’s killed in combat, he wakes up again on the previous day. Although he continues to be wiped out by powerful enemies, he gradually accrues experience, and slowly becomes a veteran soldier.
The movie was a hit all over the world, and interest in the original novel was also revitalized. Following that, a manga adaption was created by Takeshi Obata, the well-known artist behind Death Note. This also proved to be a hit, making All You Need Is Kill a success on a variety of media!
Other examples of time loop stories include the 2011 anime Puella Magi Madoka Magica and the 2013 manga Repeat after me by Manabu Yamamoto. It seems that you really can’t go wrong with a time loop plot!
Once the protagonist has grasped that the day will endlessly repeat, he does all kinds of experiments to change the course of events that take place. However, the interesting part is that after doing something radically different, the results also change in unexpected ways.
In one sense, it’s like a video game. Even if you get a Game Over screen, you can reset and try something different. Young audiences who have been raised on video games instinctively understand this idea, so it’s no surprise that these stories are popular among them. It looks like we can definitely expect more of them in the future!
Think about it: If you could re-live the same day over and over, what would you do?
Article: Korosuke Narasaki
Translator: Andrew L.
Editor’s note: I think this concept was also popular in the west. The movie “Groundhog Day”, released in 1993, was also based on a time-loop story, and it’s well known as a cult classic today.
Personally, I can definitely see how this idea appeals to many people, especially gamers. I would love to do a new game+ with my life, or to re-do days that haven’t gone so well!