Anime That Appeal to Our Humanity

How can anime impact the viewer on a deeper level?


We, as humans, are naturally attracted to what “looks” good. Whether it be a movie’s use of CGI, or the beautiful animation of shows like One-Punch Man, we are intrigued by that which captures the attention of our eyes. To compound this, we also like the pieces of entertainment that pull us away from our real lives and draw us into a world of fantasy, and supernatural.

All of these are valid reasons to like something. Each element is a central piece to a creator’s art. However, sometimes shows, especially anime, can come across as just “fun,” or “entertainment.” But what if a show wants to be more? How can it impact the viewer on a deeper level?

The answer? By appealing to our humanity.

Now, I’m not going to try to explain how “humanity” can be incorporated into different shows. After all, I’m no director or producer. Instead, below you’ll find a short list of animes, each with a supernatural/fantasy premise, that were elevated by their inclusion of human elements and depiction of humanity.

So without further ado, let’s begin!

*Disclaimer: Some of the shows listed are intended for a mature audience. As such, the clips/PVs embed with them may contain content not suitable for those too young. Viewer discretion is advised.*


Death Parade

Anime Appealing to Our Humanity - Death Parade

This series by Madhouse, which aired during the Winter 2015 season, is centered around a bar called Quindecim where attendants who have died play games to judge whether they will go to heaven or hell. Guests arrive in pairs and share some kind of prior connection in the world.

The first episode alone makes it clear this show is about humanity. The games these guests play bring out the dark, and/or light, side of human nature. The series is presented in an episodic structure with a different pair of people coming to the bar almost every episode. There’s more though. While it isn’t obvious at first, an overall arc is established that’s centered on Quindecim’s bartender, Decim, and his temporary guest. Their “conflict” is all about discovering, and rediscovering humanity, and it’s an emotionally satisfying journey that elevates this show past it’s engaging supernatural premise.

Available to Stream on: Funimation


Erased

Anime Appealing to Our Humanity - ERASED

While it has yet to be completed, Erased will probably go down as one of the best anime series of 2016. Satoru Fujinuma has a “special” ability; when something bad is about to happen, he is sent back in time a few minutes to stop it from occurring. When he’s accused of murder though, he’s sent back in time almost 20 years, where he realizes he must prevent a series of kidnappings that connects to the tragedy that has him on the run in the present.

The element of time-travel on its own is fascinating. However, while it can make for an interesting series, it can’t be anything more without a decent story and fleshed out characters, and that’s where this series shines. Watching Satoru’s attitude towards things, namely his mother, change through his trip to the past, connects on a more human level. The exploration of characters in both the past and present help grounds the show in real, human themes.

Available to Stream on: Crunchyroll


Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash

Anime Appealing to Our Humanity - Grimgar

If you’ve read my editorial, ‘Why Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash is One of the Best Shows this Season’, then you already know why it’s on this list. Although it has yet to finish, Grimgar has shown to be a slice-of-life show within a fantasy setting.

When a bunch of characters suddenly find themselves in the fantasy world of Grimgar, they must learn to survive, not just by fighting, but by adjusting to an environment unknown to them. Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash spends its time less on fancy battles, and more on personal moments. Its attention to detail, and the decision to flesh out the characters and illustrate their very human struggles, elevates this show’s material past the standard stuck-in-a-fantasy-world premise.

Available to Stream on: Funimation


Angel Beats!

Anime Appealing to Our Humanity - Angel Beats

“Oh, the feels!” is probably a common sentiment amongst those who have watched Jun Maeda’s heavy hitting show, Angel Beats! This is a show all about characterization, and that’s why it lands on this list.

Otonashi awakens only to learn he is now in the afterlife. He must join the Afterlife Battlefront with other high schoolers stuck in the afterlife to defeat an evil girl named Tenshi. Along the way, he begins to understand just what the afterlife is and what it means for everyone there.

Because I’m trying to avoid spoilers, I won’t go into the specifics of what Otonashi learns, but I will say it’s very character-central. Instead of just relying on the supernatural ‘afterlife’ premise to produce cheap emotional beats, it delves into the psychology of these characters and the reasons they have landed in the afterlife. Everything hits hard and feels earned.

Available to Stream on: Crunchyroll


When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace

Anime Appealing to Our Humanity - When Supernatural Battles

For a show that has ‘Supernatural Battles’ in its title, there’s a surprising lack of said battles throughout the show’s run. Don’t get me wrong, they do happen, but far less than one might think. Actually, from the get-go, this show is never about powers, but instead about friendship and relationships.

When the members of a literature club receive supernatural powers, they don’t quite know what to do with them. This leads to 12 episodes about teenagers learning more about each other than they do about their own powers. It’s a slice-of-life that is dependent upon character relations and interactions, and the result is a heartfelt exploration of friendship. This happens to be a personal favorite of mine.

Available to Stream on: Crunchyroll


Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches

Anime Appealing to Our Humanity - Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches

Yamada, a delinquent in high school, one day falls from a flight of stairs and lands on Urara Shiraishi, accidentally kissing her, which causes them to body swap. After they figure that out, they encounter other “witches” in the school, each with their own power.

This could have easily been a fan-service laden, kissing everywhere type of show. But it’s not (There is definitely fanservice, but it’s not the focus). The beauty of Yamada is that it’s heartfelt, and the romance it builds is real. Each girl is not just some harem place-holder but an actual character with actual reasons for what they do and why they have their “witch powers.” Instead of using completely conventional anime tropes, relationships feel deeper, and more human.

Available to Stream on: Crunchyroll


Ga-Rei-Zero

Anime Appealing to Our Humanity - Ga-Rei-Zero

Ga-Rei-Zero is a whole lot of fun. The anime prequel to Hajime Segawa’s hit manga, Ga-Rei, is filled with sword fighting, dragons, and other supernatural elements. And while this makes it enjoyable, the show’s true theme lies in the relationship between its two main characters, Yomi and Kagura.

There isn’t much to say about the shows premise or setup since the beginning of the anime is a flash forward to the end. There is a tag line throughout the series though, that while may sound cliché, perfectly illustrates its central conflict: “Will you kill someone you love because of love?” It’s a poignant question that becomes an important element of the show.

The strength of Ga-Rei-Zero is in the friendship and sisterhood portrayed between Yomi and Kagura. It’s beautiful, heart-wrenching, and heart-warming. It’s a human relationship that is the true heart of the show, and the reason it lands on this list.

Available to Stream on: Funimation


Tokyo Ghoul √A

Anime Appealing to Our Humanity - Tokyo Ghoul √A

Some people may not agree with my selection here. Many may think the second season of Tokyo Ghoul is inferior to the first, and if I’m putting A on here, then why not the first season. Well, that’s because I think the second season is more of a character study than the first. Let me explain.

Without going into detail, Tokyo Ghoul from the beginning has always served as a parallel to our own society. The ghoul-inspector relationship, and Kaneki’s own struggle with being part Ghoul can be painted as social commentary, and as an exploration of what it means to be human.

The second season incorporates all the social commentary of the first, but widens its effective scope. While Kaneki himself, and his struggle, becomes less of a focus, the rest of the characters are explored. The second season is quieter and it lends itself to more of a character study. We see the effects of the fallout from the first season, as well as go in depth with the members of the CCG. All of this helps viewers become more invested in the characters and their motivations, and makes the second season feel more “human.”

Available to Stream on: Funimation


Let me know what you think of these entries! Do you agree? Do you disagree? Do you have any additions? Any you might remove? This isn’t all-inclusive, so there are definitely other shows that match the criteria of this list. Of course, everything is subjective, so there’s bound to be more!


 

Image Credits: Hulu

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About the Author

Zach Breland

Just a guy who has many different interests, ranging from basketball, to cooking, to video games (Avid PS Vita Supporter). But I love to discuss anything anime/manga related, so contact me if you want to do that, or talk about anything else that's on your mind.

You can find me, and more of my writing, at thegeekmedium.com, as well as on here occasionally.

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