It is not unusual for anime having some of the craziest stories across various genres, but most popular anime often take place in versions of Japan or the real world slightly altered by some events. These can come in the form of mysterious events that not everyone is aware of, or romance and slice-of-life anime that occur in the exact same version of the world. However, some anime films set the bar high enough that their stories are captivating not only for their narrative, but also for their view of the environment.
In fact, some anime pay so much attention to storytelling that their stories are set in rather interesting versions of Earth. These include worlds with timeline deviations that lead to the supremacy of one nation, to anime where the “real world” is simply an alternate dimension.
8/8 Code Geass (2006)
When exiled Prince Lelouch vi Britannia receives the Geass, he is granted the power of absolute obedience. With this new hypnotic power, Lelouch creates the masked alter-ego Zero, establishes the Order of the Black Knights and starts a rebellion against the worldwide Holy Britannian Empire. While Code Geass anime emphasizes hardcore anime action and Lelouch’s tactical chess play in open warfare, much of which provided Code Geass a solid narrative dealing with its world that bears a striking resemblance to modern Earth.
However, instead of Code Geass like a typical alternate history, the additional media takes this a step further by providing a more in-depth story. IN Code Geass, its ATB (Ascension Throne Britannia) calendar has begun when the Celtic king Alwin I managed to beat back Roman forces and protect united British tribes. Come centuries later, the development and acquisition of the mighty Sakuradite transformed the Holy British Empire into the world’s greatest superpower, threatened only by the Chinese Federation and the United Republic of Europia. Fans of Code Geass who wish to explore their world beyond Lelouch’s conquest can find additional material such as Akito the Exiled a bit of an eye opener to the depth of his world.
While it is Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood which served as the faithful adaptation of Full metal alchemist the story, that is 2003 version of Full metal alchemist which really explored the boundaries of storytelling with IP. Although the anime tried to follow the existing plot of the time as much as possible, it took some liberties with some twists – especially during the parts when the main characters Edward and Alphonse Elric gained access to The Gate. IN FMA lore, The Gate or The Gate of Truth is simply known as God’s Domain and is the main source of alchemical abilities. brotherhood showed that entering The Gate grants users incredible knowledge at an ironic but tough price.
However, in the 2003 anime, it is revealed that outside The Gate is “The Other Side”, which is literally a counterpart to the real world. This means that the region of Amestris i FMA is not an alternate history, but an entirely alternate world. Also, it is explained that everyone in the real world has a dimensional counterpart to Amestris who may be able to use alchemy. As the Ishvalan Civil War rages in Amestris, its equivalent on the other side will be World War II. Compared to other anime with wild alternate versions of Earth, 2003 FMA‘s fairly “normal” alternate world concept remains a shock, especially when a “real world” operates in the same universe, and their world didn’t completely replace Earth.
6/8 Gundam: Reconquista In G (2014)
It’s not unusual for some anime in Gundam series to take place in its own alternate timeline, and Gundam: Reconquista in G takes place in its own independent universe. Called the Regild Century, this was apparently an alternate variant of Gundam the series’ iconic Universal Century timeline, which in this anime ended in a global conflict that led to starvation and the destruction of space colonies. Remnants of humanity now lived in the Amazon and through the Capital Tower orbital elevator managed to get supplies from a distant colony.
Due to the need to keep the Capital Tower elevator safe, people in the Capital Tower nation had been practically forbidden to go near it. Such was their dependence on the lift that they developed a religion around it called SU Cordism. Not only that, the whole thing Recognquista in G the series explores the life of Bellri Zenam and his adventures in the Capital Guard while protecting the space elevator. Compared to others Gundam series where the horrors of war are a constant message, Reconquista in G explores a world struggling to survive just after it, and having to resort to worshiping a life-giving elevator to preserve the unity of humanity is a rather unique approach to the subject.
5/8 Ergo Proxy (2006)
When you think of cyberpunk, you think of huge metropolises where floating cars are as numerous as cybernetic implants – and while this image of Cyberpunk 2077 is reasonably cyberpunk, another view of the subject would be Ergo Proxy. In this 2006 series, Ergo Proxy features the story of Inspector Re-L Mayer as she investigates a series of murders apparently linked to a virus that gives AutoReiv androids self-awareness. This threatens to break a lasting peace between the AutoReivs and their human creators, especially during the discovery of humanoids called “Proxies” who uncover a government conspiracy.
What might be interesting in Ergo Proxyits version of cyberpunk is its post-apocalyptic premise. In the anime, an ecological disaster that occurred thousands of years ago transformed Earth into an inhospitable planet, forcing everyone to live in city-wide “domes” where the AutoReivs became assistants to humanity. Seeing advanced technology interfere with humanity’s struggle for sheer survival is a quite potentially accurate, yet incredibly harrowing view of the future.
4/8 Gurren Lagann (2007)
Despite the wacky mecha action highlighted in the Gurren Lagann, the wild adventures of Simon and Team Gurren aren’t just to set up over-the-top action sequences. In fact, the backdrop of a desolate and conquered land is worthy of dissection (no pun intended). The history about Gurren Lagann takes place on an earth conquered by the Spiral King, Lordgenome. To force submission, his forces ensured that the remnants of humanity lived only in underground villages, where diggers such as protagonist Simon are tasked with further expanding their territories underground.
Throughout the anime, Team Gurren is allowed to not only slowly pose as a credible threat to Lordgenome, but also expand on how life on Earth affected the greater cosmos. It is eventually revealed that humanity has advanced greatly through advanced technology and the mythical Spiral Force, a supernatural cosmic force. However, Team Gurren’s exploration would also reveal a conspiracy that would explain the Lordgenome’s insistence on subjugating humanity, putting Earth at the center of a universal-level conflict.
3/8 BlazBlue: Alter Memory (2013)
Although primarily a video game franchise, fans of fighting games from Arc System Works will be pleased to hear that BlazBlue: Alter Memory is a decent retelling of the first two (2) titles on BlazBlue franchise, viz Accident trigger and Continuum shift. The story begins near the end of 2199 AD, when vigilantes have begun flocking to the 13th Hierarchical City of Kagutsuchi following sightings of the SS-class rebel Ragna the Bloodedge, who is rumored to have the highest bounty in human history. While the world off BlazBlue itself is largely set in a post-apocalyptic landscape that combines elements of sci-fi, fantasy and the wild west, and its rather odd take on aesthetics stems from a rather complex backstory.
Back in 2100 to 2110, the appearance of an entity known as the Black Beast triggered the Great Dark War that nearly wiped out human civilization. While the six heroes managed to defeat the beast, they also helped humanity form the magical formulas that united science with sorcery. This resulted in a society using mass-produced magic through grimoires, which unfortunately created a socio-economic divide. Much worse is the Ikaruga Civil War which ended in the destruction of the dissident Ikaruga Federation who simply wanted equality among humans who can use the magic formulas. This war resulted in stricter measures for using grimoires in everyday life, resulting in the present becoming more risky and wilder BlazBlue world.
2/8 Fire Force (2019)
When the Great Catastrophe almost ravaged the world in flames, some of humanity’s sole survivors managed to seek refuge in what was left of the Holy Sol Empire. In the present day, the Empire established the Fire Force Brigade to combat increasing incidences of spontaneous human combustions that leave monstrous Infernals in their wake, with protagonist Shinra Kusakabe joining other pyrokinetics in the organization to protect what’s left of humanity.
Outside of the fact that Fire strength was stated as a prequel to Soul Eater the series serves as the premise for the anime itself as an interesting enough standalone universe. Before it was called the Sacred Sun Empire, the setting was about Fire strength was known as the Tokyo Empire, one of humanity’s last bastions made stable by Haijima Industries’ perpetual thermal facility Amaterasu, and the Holy Sol Temple established by Tokyo Emperor Raffles I. Despite the rather simple premise, the post-apocalyptic premise of Fire strength is quite unique in its fire-centric theme.
1/8 Ghost In The Shell (1995)
Anyone who hears the term “cyberpunk anime” will almost immediately remember it Ghost in the shell, primarily for its creative take on the visuals and a fairly grounded approach to both its sci-fi concepts and the multifaceted look of a post-cyberpunk Japan. Designed more like a police procedural than an anime with a deep narrative, Ghost in the shell shows the adventures of cyborg major Matoko Kusanagi and Public Security Section 9 as they tackle various cybercrimes: be it political scandals, sketchy corporations and elusive cybercriminals who exploit the blurred lines between naturalism and transhumanism.
What is perhaps interesting about the world of Ghost in the shell is how it allows the stories to immerse the world for the viewers and not the other way around. As a cyborg, Major is always confronted with conflicts about remaining “human” in a completely artificial body. Beyond this internal conflict is having to deal with a society where many people have cyber brains that enhance their brain functions, ghost diving to experience cyberspace in a physical sense, and even having to deal with sci-fi killers with a knack for philosophy.
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