The End is the Beginning is the End

Reincarnation for 400.

In my quest for ways in which to fill my free time, I’ve spent a lot of time reading… but I’ve also spent a good chunk of time sprinting through large chunks of anime at a time. This is how I ended up following Angel Beats again (stalled after three episodes, then watched four through ten in one go), and it is also how I ended up decided to give UraBoku another go. Conclusion: better than it was… but still not really all that fascinating. Or entertaining, exactly… but I guess homoerotic bishounen tied up with thorny vines is enough to get me to maintain my focus. Or something like that.

In watching UraBoku, though, I found myself thinking of the multitude of anime which utilize the reincarnation trope, and, more specifically, how they do so. Its actually a decently common trope, although I don’t think its one of the ones we think of most readily when considering tropes. But just off the top of my head, its easy to think of multiple examples – Sailor Moon, Please Save My Earth, Mirage of Blaze (which I was expecting UraBoku to be like), Inu-Yasha, Shurato, Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne, Ayashi no Ceres… the list goes on. And while these are all different shows, they do definitely have one major thing in common as far as reincarnation is concerned (other than angst angst angst!) – we meet up with the people after they’ve been re-born, and we generally don’t get clued into the fact that they are reborn until after the beginning of the show.

Which made me wonder – why is it that we never meet them in the previous life, watch them die, and then see them in the present-day?

The matter of time doesn’t quite hold water here – yes, anime series are often given limited runtimes, but manga doesn’t get the same constraints necessarily (and if time does become a problem, generally it is after the fact and the manga-ka must rush to tie everything together decently). So a manga-ka could start off in the past and then move to the present.

Another obvious reason is the fact that if we, the readers, see what happens in the past life, then it no longer holds an element of surprise for the reincarnated individual to figure it all out. But I don’t think that knowing robs us of an interesting experience; surely watching the character work it all out and their reactions and thoughts about it can work in an entertaining manner. And Yukio Mishima’s Sea of Fertility tetralogy demonstrates that even showing the character figuring out the previous life isn’t at all necessary – the drama can be about the people around them who knew them as they were previously, and know that they are a reincarnated person even if the person themself doesn’t work it out.

But, hey – its just flat-out easier to have us discover the past life simultaneously with the character. I get that.

Even so, I’d be very interested to see a show take the reincarnation trope in this other direction; that is, to start off in the previous life and go from there. I just think it’d be a refreshing change of pace. And that there’d still be plenty of room for all that angst angst angst. But maybe someone can float some suggestions my way of manga or anime that do start with the past…?

Anyway, unrelated, but I just wanted to share a link to some of the funniest Sailor Moon fanart ever. Lots of pictures of Usagi merrily rampaging in cities. I found it while hunting for a picture for this post.

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9 Responses to The End is the Beginning is the End

  1. Baka-Raptor says:

    Denpa teki na Kanojo comes to mind. You later find out it’s not reincarnation, but whatever. It’s awesome.

  2. Landon says:

    Don’t know of any anime series that start in the previous life then work up to the “current” one. Wouldn’t be surprised if there was one, though.

    It’s also interesting to see that almost every series that deals with reincarnation is one with women as the target audience. You never see a series about a bunch of manly men who fought together in their past life and then found each other in the next life to resume their fight against evil. Could be that the notion is too “romantic” for hot-blooded shounen series and the like. Again, wouldn’t be surprised if the gimmick’s been used before, but it’d be nowhere near as prevalent.

    • adaywithoutme says:

      Actually… I think Saint Seiya may’ve involved reincarnation, although I haven’t seen much of it and what I did see of it was probably about six or seven years ago. But, even if it did, it certainly is far outweighed by shows with a primarily female audience.

  3. glothelegend says:

    This is the second post I’ve seen today that mentioned Sailor Moon…. I think I might actually watch that shitty piece of shit (it wasn’t really that bad I guess I’ve watched some as a young’n).

    Podcast will happen. I sent you an email, all times ET….maybe I should have used military time?

    • adaywithoutme says:

      Of course you should’ve used military time. Nautical twilight time also works as well.

  4. Yumeka says:

    My guess is that the reason the reincarnation trope is common in anime is because of the affluence of Buddhist beliefs in Japan.

    And thanks for the link to the Sailor Moon fan art. It was indeed funny XD

    • adaywithoutme says:

      I just loved all those pictures of Usagi crunching the city, especially given that most fanart for Sailor Moon is all flowery and feathery and wispy and sparkly, etc.

  5. Crusader says:

    I have no suggestions when it comes to a different take on the reincarnation front. Still thanks for the fanart link, I am going on a trip through memory lane and made right at Sailor Moon.

    My 2 cents on reincarnation is that it is more prevalent in works directed at a female audience because when use in the context of two lovers, their love will transcend time and be truly undying or serves as a second cycle of recrimination and conflict for the round 2 otherwise known as their reincarnated selves.

    In the case of works meant for males, I guess reincarnation holds less since evil is to be defeated one and preferable once and for all. Even if the hero is not reborn the titular evil might in some cases.

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