Last week I was reading about Japan's first astronaut in space. That got me thinking about the future. And then that got me thinking about anime. A lot of anime gives us a glimpse of what the future might look like one day. Depending on the technology we develop and the choices we make, the future could end up being really cool, or even really scary. Which predicted anime futures are the most exciting? Dangerous? Realistic? Well I’ve collected 10 of my favorite predictions here, so get ready to embrace the (potential) future.
After the atmosphere explodes, the remaining members of mankind are forced to live in isolated domed cities scattered across an arid and inhospitable landscape. In a hasty attempt to preserve humanity, a secret human regeneration project is started. The story takes place in one of the domed cities where humans coexist with androids known as AutoReivs. But the AutoReivs get infected with a virus that causes them to become self-aware, and they start murdering people.
All the while, the government is conducting secret experiments on a mysterious human life form called a “Proxy” which is believed to hold the key to the survival of mankind. The humans in the city are grown in artificial wombs and are only grown to fulfill a particular purpose, ensuring that everyone has a place in society.
The future in Ergo Proxy does not seem like the kind of future I’d want to live in. Sure, it’s cool to coexist with androids, but not when they’re wanting to kill you. Plus you’ve got these weird Proxy things running around (terrifying) and you can’t travel with any sort of ease as the planet is pretty much screwed over. This future is really interesting to read about and watch, but I would definitely not want to live in it.
In the world of Chobits, personal computers are now personal companions, looking and acting like most anyone else. The main character can’t afford his own Persocom, but he finds an abandoned one (named Chi since that’s all she can say in the beginning) which he later discovers might be a “Chobit”, an advanced type of Persocom rumored to have independent thought.
The story explores Chi’s origins and human/Persocom relations. Chi starts to develop feelings for her owner, and her owner struggles with his feelings for her all while teaching her how to speak and act like a normal human/Persocom.
The future imagined in Chobits sounds like a fairly safe, decently realistic near future. The robots in Chobits are designed to help humans and be personal companions. That’s great. None of them are killing people, and nothing bad is happening. It does seem a bit unnatural for humans and androids to develop feelings for one another, but perhaps this will become a normal thing one day in the future.
In the not so distant future of Psycho Pass, we see a world without stress. But without stress comes a surprising amount of stress about not being stressed out. Maybe it’s due to the devices which can instantly measure a person’s mental state, personality, and the probability that they’ll commit a crime? If your Psycho-Pass (ha! That’s where the name comes from) Crime Coefficient Index is deemed too high by the Sibyl System (a “computer” system that makes decisions on these things), someone will come and get you for some much needed psycho-therapy (or much needed psycho-death, depending on how high your Index is).
This is all well and good, but some people in this society are secretly not fans of the Sibyl System. They’re told what they should do for work, they aren’t allowed to do anything that’s stressful, and nobody has any ambition since the Sibyl system decides where you should work and what you should do. Since it wasn’t too long since the Sibyl System was put in place, there are those who remember nostalgic / stressful things like older literature, theater, and philosophy.
In this series there’s a group of people who figure out how to get around the Sibyl System, and that causes all kinds of chaos, because the Dominators (weapons that can only shoot people with a high Crime Coefficient Index) used by the police are unable to do anything. During this period the anime has you question whether it’s good for society to live without stress or not. I’ll let you watch the anime so you can decide for yourself. I wouldn’t want to give too much away.
This series reminds me a little bit of Minority Report, though a somewhat more realistic version of it. Instead of predicting crimes, they’re just removing the “bad” elements of society while reducing stress to zero. Crime is at an all time low, but you really have to wonder if that’s actually a good thing or not. I could see a time in our future when scientists are finally able to get an idea of what a “healthy” brain looks like. Then, everyone who doesn’t fit within that “healthy” brain range will… well… hopefully not anything too bad.
Cowboy Bebop is set in the year 2071 and the entire solar system has been made accessible through hyperspace gates. In 2022, the explosion of an experimental hyperspace gateway messes up the moon pretty bad, resulting in a debris ring and meteor bombardments that end up killing a lot of Earthlings. Many survivors abandon Earth to colonize the inner planets, the asteroid belt, and the moons of Jupiter.
Mars has become the new central hub of human civilization, and interplanetary crime syndicates have their claws in the government and the Inter-Solar System Police (ISSP), limiting their effectiveness. To combat this, a bounty system similar to that in the Old West is established. These bounty hunters deal with fugitives, terrorists, and other criminals. They are often known as “cowboys”, hence the name of the show.
The future imagined in Cowboy Bebop is really cool. I think space westerns such as Firefly are great, and Cowboy Bebop is no exception. Exploring the frontiers of space and bounty hunting sounds pretty appealing. In reality I might not be so keen on experiencing all this danger and excitement firsthand, but it sure is a joy to watch.
Sword Art Online
Sword Art Online takes place in the near future and focuses on virtual reality MMOs. In the year 2022, Sword Art Online is released. With a virtual reality helmet known as Nerve Gear, players can experience and control their game characters with their minds.
Nerve Gear is hooked up to the user in such a way so that everything experienced in the game feels like it is actually happening. The first half of the series focuses on a group that is trapped inside Sword Art Online and if they die in the game, they die in real life too.
This future sounds amazing. I love a good MMO, and a VR MMO sounds like something I would enjoy immensely. We’re already headed in this direction with the Oculus Rift (can’t wait to get one of these once good games start being developed for it), and this seems like something that could happen in the not too distant future. As long as I don’t get trapped in a game (scary!) this future sounds absolutely fantastic.
The year is 2019 and the location is Tanegashima, an island in Southern Japan. Like many Japanese futures (heck, even presents!) robots are involved. In this series, a group of high schoolers in the robotics club at Central Tanegashima High School decide to see if they can put together and build a giant robot. Small robots are pretty easy to do in 2019, but big ones? That’s still a large challenge, especially for a group of kids.
As the series progresses, you get to see what it takes to build a giant robot in the year 2019. You also get to see some battling miniature robots… kind of a futuristic Battlebots. If stuff like this exists in the future you can bet I’ll be watching it on my Occulus Rift. On top of the big and small robots is also a conspiracy that I won’t get into. You should watch the series if you want to know more about that.
All in all, the life of someone in 2019 as portrayed by this anime seems somewhat realistic to me. Building giant robots isn’t particularly easy, but it’s getting there (you know it will someday if Japan has any say in the issue). There’s a lot more augmented reality going on, and high schoolers still play fighting games on their handhelds. I liked this series because it had a somewhat believable (but not always) view of the future… a future with giant robots appearing sometime in my lifetime. I can dream, anyways.
Neon Genesis Evangelion
In 2000 a global cataclysm destroys most of Antarctica and leads to the deaths of half of all humanity. Thought by the public to have been a meteor impact, the event causes tsunamis, global climate changes, geopolitical unrest, general economic distress, and nuclear war.
Over the next ten years, the organizations known as GEHIRN, SEELE, and NERV achieve a number of impressive scientific achievements, including the creation of giant humanoids known as Evangelions in preparation for the arrival of alien beings known as Angels (which turn out to be responsible for the 2000 incident).
This future sounds terrifying. For the most part, it’s pretty normal (once things settle down post Impact), unless you are one of the characters actually on the show, then your life is pretty messed up. For most of the population, life is relatively unchanged until an Angel shows up, then everything goes to hell.
Living in constant fear of that, plus the huge Evas running around and the collateral damage from them sounds dreadful. Even being one of the kid pilots sounds terrible given the psychological damage they all experience. Don’t get me wrong though – this show is fantastic and I love it to death. I just wouldn’t want to live in it.
In the near future, a revolutionary new psychotherapy treatment called dream therapy has been invented. This is made possible thanks to a device called the “DC Mini”. The DC Mini allows the user to view other people’s dreams. The head of the team working on this treatment begins using the machine illegally to help psychiatric patients outside the research facility, using her alter-ego known as Paprika.
The world in Paprika is pretty similar to that imagined in the movie Inception. You’ve got people diving into other people’s dreams, influencing and messing with them. The device can be used for fun, but it can also be used for therapy. Once it gets into the wrong hands – then you’ve got trouble. And that’s what happens in this anime.
I’m not quite sure how I feel about this technology. I mean, it would be awesome to have my dreams recorded so I could watch them later and really remember what happened, and I’m sure this information could be used to help people struggling with nightmares or people with deep seeded psychological issues.
On the other hand, it sounds terrifying for someone to be able to invade my dreams without my consent or be somehow manipulated by this process. Also, my dreams are my dreams and I wouldn’t want anyone I didn’t trust just eavesdropping on them either.
This series doesn’t actually take place in the future at all! In fact, it’s set in the past: Summer, 2010. So how did this series make the “future” list? Time travel. In the series, Rintarou Okabe, “the mad scientist,” discovers that the microwave they’ve been working on is actually a time machine with the ability to send text messages to the past.
A group called SERN (yeah, suspiciously similar to CERN) has been researching time travel as well. In fact, they have tried to send people back in time from the future already, though this has resulted in a lot of blobby, disfigured, and very dead time-traveler messes. More on SERN in a minute. Later, Kurisu (another member of this very casual mad scientist group) figures out how to change their time machine to send someone’s memories back in time, which would allow someone to time travel without dying. Smart girl!
But wait, this post is about the future! Throughout the series, we get glimpses and hints of the future from people in the future who either come to visit or send messages back in time. The actions that Okabe and friends take have a great affect on what happens in the future. If xyz dies, the world will be ruled by SERN due to their time travel abilities. If zyx dies, then World War III will start because someone will have stolen the information needed to build a time machine (and then have sold it to the Russians). Every little action, even ones that seemed inconsequential in the beginning of the series had bigger and bigger future results, especially as Okabe kept traveling back, changing things a little at a time.
While the future in this series is very important, they don’t show much of it. It’s just hints, for the most part. Still, I thought they did a really good job with time travel. It didn’t feel too ridiculous, and I found myself thinking how little actions could affect the future in a big way. A butterfly effect, essentially. The lesson here: if you have a time machine, please don’t mess up the future and keep hopping around until you fix it, okay? Also make sure you can send text messages through time. It’s very helpful if your future self can let you know when you screwed up. Let’s hope future cell carriers don’t charge too much for inter-time texts.
Ghost in the Shell
In the year 2029, the world has become interconnected via a vast electronic network. It’s the internet on steroids. That same network also becomes a battlefield for Tokyo’s Section Nine security force, which has been charged with apprehending a dangerous hacker known only as the Puppet Master.
Computer technology has advanced to the point that many members of the public possess “cyberbrains”. This technology allows them to connect their biological brain with various networks. The level of cyberization ranges from simple interfaces to almost complete replacement of the brain with cybernetic parts, such as in cases of severe trauma.
This can also be combined with various levels of prostheses, with a fully prosthetic body allowing a person to become a cyborg. On the downside, this opens up the brain to attacks from hackers. These hackers can then affect the actions of the person which is really, really scary.
This is another future that sounds like it has the potential to be very cool, other than the fact I would be afraid of getting my brain hacked. Today, it’s not very common to get your computer hacked, but even if that does happen, you just reinstall everything or get a new computer or whatever.
But in this case, it would be your brain getting hacked and that can do a lot more damage to you and your life than getting your computer hacked. You can’t exactly reinstall your brain or get a new one, and who knows how much damage a hacker could do controlling you before you could fix the problem? I dunno, this future, if done right, could be cool – but the potential risks to your brain would make me a bit uneasy I think.
Which Future Do You Choose?
So anime has predicted our futures. Some are more realistic than others, but it’s hard to say that none of them are totally impossible. Personally, a VR MMO world sounds pretty fun to me (Blizzard, get working on that, would you?), though the ability to travel through time seems to have its benefits (and pitfalls)… how about you, though? Which one of these (or combination) would you choose for your own life?