Not a lot of TV shows or movies will change your life. Few works of art will transform you or alter your view of the world or give you a new perspective on who you are and what you believe in. And anime is no different.
Between the superficial teenage romances and shurikens, avid fans know that the goal of most anime is more than just to entertain the masses and make a buck. But there are select few anime masterpieces that have changed people’s lives. These shows and movies teach us about our past, to make us aware of the world around us, and to take an in-depth look what’s inside of us.
So, we’re exploring the six anime shows and movies that changed us and the impact they had – and still have – in our lives. These life-changing anime transcend mere entertainment, they make us who we are today.
Attack On Titan
While Attack on Titan may be about humanoid giants eating humans, the series proved to me that anime is not only for kids or about promiscuous octopus tentacles. The series showed me that anime is a medium that explores various themes and genres.
During the summer of my last year of graduate school, I was a cash-strapped student with a Netflix account. With nothing to watch online and not much to fill my time, a popup ad caught my eyes. It was a recommendation for Attack on Titan, which I believed was a cartoon. But it seemed interesting enough, so I gave the anime a shot.
After watching the first few episodes, I was intrigued by the characters. Their fears, sadness, and quest for revenge spoke to me. It showed me that even when everything seems hopeless or that you don’t have the strength to stop yourself from succumbing to despair, you should do everything you can to keep going and reach your goals.
Thanks to Attack on Titan, I’ve discovered a whole new medium of entertainment and I’ve since become an avid anime fan. The series also set me on a path to becoming FANDOM Contributor, which has given me many life-changing opportunities including the chance to travel to Japan and visit the real-life locations of the highest grossing anime in the world, Your Name.
[Zuleika Boekhoudt, FANDOM Contributor]
Dragon Ball Z
Every so often a story becomes so popular, influential, and successful that it transcends its medium and becomes more of a cultural phenomenon than a show that a bunch of people like watching after school or on Saturday nights. Dragon Ball Z is one such story. The anime introduced millions of Western viewers to anime as a medium and changed their lives forever. For me, DBZ instilled the idea that any story can be successful so long as it contains heart and conviction.
To anyone unfamiliar with Dragon Ball Z, the anime may seem cheesy, over the top, and bizarre. These assessments are accurate, but they’re also exactly what makes DBZ so beloved by fans all over the world. This anime is ridiculous and can have massive story hooks that come out of nowhere, but each story beat contains such conviction that it never stops feeling genuine. As a kid, Dragon Ball Z proved to me that only limit to storytelling is the creativity of the writer.
[Lucas DeRuyter, FANDOM Contributor]
Neon Genesis Evangelion
As a young adult, I was not all that different from Shinji Ikari. I was one of those quiet kids who eventually becomes one of those “weird kids”. Like Shinji, I had a fear of getting close to people and getting hurt by them. Of course, unlike Shinji, I didn’t have an evil father who would shove me into a giant robot and ask me to save the world. But Evangelion was an eye-opener in showing me how messed-up we all are. Misato is as lost at being an adult as Shinji is at being a kid. While Asuka and Shinji are opposites in personality, in the end, they’re equally as lonely. Nobody is alone with their problems.
Behind all the cool mechs and utterly bizarre plot twists, Evangelion is a humanist story. You could get lost for hours in the weird details, but the truth of Evangelion is that in the end, we all are struggling with the same problems.
Kids (and even a lot of adults) assume they are the only ones that don’t fit. But we’re all incomplete creatures struggling to find comfort in each other. Shinji’s sad need to be loved by his father is motivated by the same incompleteness that drives SEELE to destroy the world.
Evangelion is the best kind of young adult media: the kind that helps you see your problems are not unique. It asks that you find value in yourself, no matter how tough things get.
[Eric Fuchs, FANDOM Contributor]
Trigun is the story of twin brothers and the barren desert planet that they and the last remaining members of humanity inhabit. When humankind searches the galaxy for a new home after the planet is rendered uninhabitable, a terrible disaster happens. Enter the most charismatic gunslinger in anime history, Vash the Stampede.
This is one of the most influential properties ever to come out of Japan, and despite being 23 years since it premiered, its mark is still all over anime shows today. The fan base for Trigun is also huge. Just look at any anime convention and you’ll see at least one cosplayer wearing a red long coat with spiked blonde hair.
The story of Vash and his brother Knives is one that affects viewers on a visceral and emotional level. For a show that hooks audiences with fun quips and rapid-fire action sequences, the final episodes of Trigun are filled with incredible drama and tragedy. It’s a series full of surprises and entertainment, but also an anime no one will ever forget.
[Andrew Hawkins, FANDOM Contributor]
Mob Psycho 100
Mob Psycho 100 is an incredible anime that resonates deeply with anyone who struggles with their own identity or connecting with their peers. Shigeo Kageyama – the titular Mob – is a fourteen-year-old boy with tremendous psychic powers. As his terrific powers are mostly tied to emotions, he has to numb himself to the world around him and his feelings to protect the people he cares about from himself. This creates the perfect environment to explore themes of waning adolescence, exploitive relationships, and social struggles.
This anime is amazing and impactful because everyone can relate to Shigeo in some capacity. Everyone has been in a situation where they felt distant from their peers and unable to experience something the same way their friends are.
Mob Psycho 100 demonstrates that relationships can exist in a variety of different forms and that we can overcome insecurities if we are willing to put in the time and effort. Mob Psycho 100 is a beautiful and deeply relatable anime that is inspirational to anyone who was ever an awkward kid.
[Lucas DeRuyter, FANDOM Contributor]
Pokémon – oh wow, where do I begin? It’s completely shaped the life I live today with its quick witted humor and led me to spending much of my time on the games and watching the show. I’m struggling to pinpoint exactly where I fell for the show – definitely somewhere between seasons 3 and 5 – to think that season 21 is currently airing in Japan is really quite something! But honestly – it has shaped my life and taught me many valuable lessons along the way.
It’s probably best to talk about the lessons Pokémon teaches you because there are a lot. From dealing with animal poaching (seasons 10 through 13), dealing with bullies and abuse (seasons 10 through 13 also) to showcasing war (season 19) and dealing with death and grief (season 20) Pokémon really has covered it all over the years. And what has it taught me? It’s taught me to never give up, to always pursue your dreams and to always be yourself. Of course that’s helped shape me into the determined person I am today, and I hope that many other children will enjoy the show for years to come as it teaches them about the real world in a fun and entertaining manner.
[Terry Tucker, FANDOM Contributor]