Top 20 Best Time Travel Anime Series & Movies

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Here’s a question: what’s your favorite time travel anime? Are there even enough good titles in this sci-fi subgenre?

It isn’t filled to the brim each season unlike with the case of isekai titles, but it’s not impossible to find some great ones.

If you’re in the mood for some mind-boggling twists and turns (or even minor time travel elements in an otherwise typical anime) check out my list below.

And fair warning: spoilers ahead(in some cases). Some titles here have time travel itself as a key turning point or surprise in the series, so if you don’t want to know any more just skim the titles and pick one that interests you!

20. Nobunaga Concerto

Nobunaga Concerto anime screenshot

I’m going to start with Nobunaga Concerto, an anime that does have time travel — but is also more of an isekai.

This is why I’m including it on my list but, but not the highest for sure. So what’s it all about?

As you may have already guessed, it involves Oda Nobunaga. Arguably one of the most popular Japanese historical figures.

He was a brutal leader, but he was also brilliant and a key figure in the reunification of Japan.

But Nobunaga isn’t the OP. In Nobunaga Concerto, he meets Saburou who mysteriously time travels from the 21st century and looks like him.

Saburou was just an ordinary high school kid, but now he must replace Nobunaga, who wishes to relax in his final years.


19. Natsu-iro no Sunadokei (Sandglass of Summer Colors)

Natsu-iro no Sunadokei screenshot

This is an old anime. Like, really old.

But while its character design, animation, and overall quality haven’t stood the test of time, it is a worthwhile show that involves more time travel than Nobunaga Concerto.

Sandglass of Summer Colors is an adaptation of a video game, a visual novel (VN) from Princess Soft that was released way back in 2002.

Also, it only has two episodes; it’s an OVA. Still, it’s an intriguing show.

Yes it once again involves a teenage boy, this time named Kotaro Makimura.

But here, the time travel comes in the form of Kotaro waking up to the next school year, and then going back and forth to specific days of his summer vacation.

Through this he learns some very crazy news about his girlfriend Kaho Serizawa. It gets deep.


18. Buddy Complex

Buddy Complex anime screenshot

In 2014, Sunrise released an action-heavy mecha title that surprisingly wasn’t another entry to their sprawling Gundam franchise.

It’s called Buddy Complex, and it does enough to distinguish itself from other similar titles with its appealing trio, plot, and solid execution.

Buddy Complex starts with the main hero Aoba Watase nearly getting killed in the hands of a massive robot from the future.

Hina Yumihara saves him, and also takes him 70 years into the future for him to learn all about the fighting robots and possibly prevent his demise.

Can he go back to his actual timeline? Or is he stuck in this future of warring military forces?


17. Doraemon

Doraemon anime screen

Yes, Doraemon is indeed a time-travel anime — and quite a good one at that.

Some argue that the time travel aspect is a mere gimmick here. But I honestly love what the anime has done with it.

The story isn’t about a dystopian future and someone who wants to save it by going back to the past.

No, it’s about Sewashi Nobi from the 22nd century sending a cat robot to improve the life of his grandfather Nobita Nobi — and that’s wonderful.

With 1,700 episodes, Doraemon has proven that this subgenre can be wholesome for kids.

Likewise, who doesn’t want a four-dimensional pouch that can bring out all sorts of gadgets of different sizes?


16. Punch Line

Punch Line anime screenshot

Punch Line was MAPPA’s third original anime after Garo: The Animation and Zankyou no Terror, the latter being one of my all-time favorites.

No, Punch Line wasn’t a modern classic in my eyes at all.

It didn’t have the serious or ambitious tone of those previous shows.

However, Punch Line was a creative risk that needs commending — and even a reappraisal from anime fans.

It’s silly but fully aware of it.

How silly? It involves spirits, nose bleeding, panty shots.

Also, the OP has to avoid looking at panties as he travels through time as a spirit. Otherwise a meteor immediately kills all life on Earth. So that’s fun.


15. InuYasha

InuYasha anime screenshot

I’ve got another entry here from Sunrise Studio.

InuYasha was one of the biggest shounen titles before series like Naruto, Bleach, and Fairy Tail took over — and it does have time travel.

Kagome Higurashi goes back hundreds of years to feudal Japan. The difference is instead of meeting a general, he meets a white-haired guy who also has dog ears.

Also, both Kagome and Inuyasha can travel between modern Japan and feudal Japan with relative ease.

And I suggest InuYasha just because it’s one of the best shounen series of all time. Time travel or not.


14. Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara (Iroduku: The World in Colors)

Iroduku: The World in Colors anime

I have a soft spot for original anime. It takes a lot of guts to push through with a story you don’t know will work out.

It doesn’t have a built-in fan base unlike with adaptations of manga, LNs, and video games.

But Iroduku: The World in Colors was more than just an original anime.

It was a visually imaginative and wonderfully animated series, and it was clear that P.A. Works didn’t just do this half-heartedly.

Think of it as a blend of sci-fi, fantasy, and school drama.

A grandmother sends her emotionally distant granddaughter 60 years back to the past, but she doesn’t say why.

And now that she’s back to 2018(present when released) the young girl named Hitomi Tsukishiro learns all about self-discovery and human connection. Go see it.


13. Charlotte

Charlotte anime screenshot

Look, I get it — Angel Beats was a great anime series.

That was a show that managed to make me love all the students in just 13 episodes.

Plus, I’m confident that most viewers won’t ever forget the ending.

Since then, people have been clamoring for something like it from Jun Maeda.

Well Charlotte came into the fray, but it wasn’t exactly as good as Angel Beats or Clannad.

Still, Charlotte certainly has its moments as a school drama with time travel (among other powers).

Also this is an anime original, and I think the best moments outweigh the pacing and plot issues by the end.


12. Zipang

Zipang anime screenshot

I don’t blame you if you haven’t heard of Zipang.

Despite being released two full years later than Naruto, Zipang somehow sports a more old-school design.

Then again, it’s a fitting choice given the military and historical setting.

Simply put, it’s about a Japanese missile destroyer (a navy warship) called Mirai that gets itself into a storm, but it was no ordinary storm.

Once Mirai gets away from the storm, its crew realizes that they’ve all time-traveled to 1942 — back to the Second World War.

Exciting, right?

Here’s the more interesting part: They must try their best not to change history. But can the crew keep themselves in the background when people are dying left and right?


11. Natsu no Arashi (Summer Storm!)

Natsu no Arashi anime screenshot

Interestingly enough, I didn’t catch this until last year — a full decade since its release.

But hey, this is an excellent example of “better late than never” because this is a fine mix of time travel and comedy.

Natsu no Arashi is about, again, a male teenager who meets a beautiful girl.

But Sayoko Arashiyama is far from an ordinary teenager.

She may not even be a teenager as Hajime Yasaka finds a photo of her in her 60s.

What’s going on? And why does Sayoko still look young?

Check out Natsu no Arashi. It’s made by Shaft so expect some visual delights.


10. Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (When They Cry)

When They Cry anime screenshot

We’re getting closer to the highest ranking so let’s be really careful now. I did warn about spoilers, so be prepared.

When They Cry deceives its audience by portraying itself as another generic anime with a guy OP and a bunch of cute girls.

Only for it to actually be a murder mystery with a time loop to boot.

Also, it may even be the only horror and time travel anime out there.

One minute you’re seeing kids playing together, all smiles. The next, they’re splattered with blood and having edgy expressions.


9. Orange

Orange anime screenshot

Admittedly I hate what happened to the anime adaptation here (although the movie Orange: Future was way better in terms of animation quality and consistency).

I read the manga, and it had moments that could’ve catapulted the anime as a classic.

But the anime did not meet or exceed expectations.

Orange was just above average. But still good enough to warrant a spot here.

If you think the anime was good and made you cry and laugh, consider the gorgeous and much more emotional manga too.


8. Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu (Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World)

ReZERO Starting Life in Another World

I think Re:Zero is a fine isekai and time travel anime.

It could’ve been like any typical isekai after all the hype for Sword Art Online. But it etched its own place in history.

Re:Zero makes you think that it’s just another guy getting transported to a fantasy world. But the time loop aspect elevates the series to new heights of dread and sheer desperation for Subaru.

It’s not just an escape to a better world with waifu material like Emilia and Rem, it’s overall a really engaging show. And I’m definitely excited for season 2.


7. Kimi no Na wa. (Your Name.)

Kimi no Na wa. anime

Yup, this is big spoiler territory.

I sure hope that you’ve already watched the critically acclaimed movie, which also broke records around the world — or that you’ve read the novel of the same name.


Because time travel is what made audiences gasp in the middle of the movie. Kimi no Na wa is seemingly just about two people living in different regions… but what viewers didn’t know was that they also lived in different periods.

I still remember the shock everyone had in the cinemas (because I saw this twice in theaters).

There is nothing quite like the audiovisual spectacle of a Makoto Shinkai film on the big screen. And the ending is so rewarding if you’ve watched Five Centimeters Per Second.


6. Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei (The Tatami Galaxy)

Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei anime

Masaaki Yuasa needs no introduction after Devilman Crybaby garnered rave reviews from fans and critics all over the world, in part because it was available on Netflix.

But even before that, I was a huge fan of Yuasa’s directorial prowess.

He’s a man with impeccable skill, ensuring that both substance and style are way above the competition.

The Tatami Galaxy features rapid conversations (so you have to read fast if you prefer subtitles like me) and there’s so much going on when this is all about a young man’s life (and love life).

Watch him go through some sort of Groundhog Day, but in a much more artistic, magical manner.

It’s a rewarding experience across space and time (and tatami), I promise you that.


5. Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica (Puella Magi Madoka Magica)

Puella Magi Madoka Magica anime screenshot

At this point, I’m not sure which of my top picks have time travel as one of its biggest turning points.

This one has a certain episode in the latter half that completely turns it from an impressive series to arguably one of the best anime of all time.

You may not agree that it’s a “deconstruction” of the magical girl genre. But it’s clear evidence that Gen Urobuchi could change the game if he had the right team.

Also, this original anime looks breathtaking.

It’s dark, it’s exciting, it’s inspirational.

Shaft had a classic in their hands and they didn’t waste the opportunity.


4. Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya)

Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya anime screenshot

As one of Kyoto Animation’s first big hits, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya took the relatively small 2006 global anime community by storm.

It was hilarious, had a stellar set of characters, had a viral opening song, and had episodes that didn’t line up chronologically.

And yet the order of events didn’t ruin the story at all.

The nonlinear structure enabled a new way of looking at the character dynamics. And it made rewatches (in the chronological order) more rewarding.

Once you’ve watched the series (and bless you if you’ve seen the Endless Eight arc) go ahead and enjoy The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya.


3. Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time)

Girl Who Leapt Through Time anime screenshot

Like Masaaki Yuasa and Makoto Shinkai, Mamoru Hosoda is one of the best anime directors today.

And he’s done many more amazing films besides this one: Summer Wars, Wolf Children, and The Boy and the Beast, just to name a few.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time works as well as it does because of how it didn’t just use time travel as a gimmick.

It thought of how to shape the character and the story as a whole, creating tension and developing emotional impact in the latter half.

Plus I think many of us can relate to Makoto Shonno. Spending the last year of high school knowing that life is about to change, and yet you’re unsure of your own future.

It’s thrilling, hilarious, and has a heart at its core.


2. Boku dake ga Inai Machi (ERASED)

Boku dake ga Inai Machi anime screenshot

Am I making a controversial choice by putting this so high on my list?

Not really.

Sure, not everyone was a fan of the adaptation. And I admit that the suspense thriller aspect to it was a bit heavy-handed.

But like with how I feel about Zankyou no Terror, ERASED has highs that are so high, they easily make up for the lows.

It’s an imperfect masterpiece in my eyes.

The first episode was a 10/10 with how it easily grabbed my attention by the end with the change in aspect ratio, signifying the drastic change in time… it’s really interesting.

ERASED has a killer OP from none other than Asian Kung-Fu Generation, and I still think that the birthday scene of Kayo is one of the most heart-wrenching yet simultaneously heartwarming moments in anime.

Also, (big spoiler ahead) I dislike that some fans think the show was bad just because the guy didn’t end up with the girl he saved(and attempted to save again and again) in the past.

Look, you don’t just get to marry someone because you saved their life. You save someone because it’s the right thing to do, not because you expect something in return.


1. Steins;Gate

Steins;Gate anime screenshot

Is there even any other anime that could be at the No. 1 spot?

It’s the first show that comes to mind if you ask most anime fans what the best time travel anime is. And for good reason.

Furthermore, Steins;Gate isn’t just lauded as the top time travel series ever.

It’s also in the running as possible the best anime in general, usually in competition with FMA: Brotherhood.

Steins;Gate is both an outstanding gateway show to anime and one that becomes rewarding once you’ve consumed a ton of anime.

Some claim that it’s overrated, but one thing’s for sure: It set the standard for what a time travel anime could achieve in terms of sheer brilliance and entertainment.

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R. Romero

Millennial introvert on the lookout for slice-of-life anime, world cinema, and European music. Follow on Twitter @notspencer08