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Apocalypse now: 7 anime titles to prepare you for our inevitable dystopian future

Contributed by
Nov 14, 2017

Is the 24-hour news cycle getting you down?

Is every refresh of your social media feed sending you into the depths of despair?

Are you tired?

I’m sure you’re tired.

I’m tired.

We’re all tired, but we can’t allow ourselves to slip into complacency. Yes, it’s difficult to resist and stay vigilant all the time -- and that is why this list exists. I’ve gathered a bunch of titles which will give you a taste of what might be coming in our future thanks to the current political climate. Is it flippant? Maybe, but enjoying a favorite piece of media can cleanse and rejuvenate the soul and better prepare ourselves for the rough times ahead. At the very least, these shows can entertain or even teach us something that might help weather those rough times ahead.

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Psycho-Pass

Psycho-Pass depicts a future where, like Minority Report, criminal behavior can be predicted and stopped before the crime happens. Every single person undergoes continuous extensive psychiatric evaluations, and an AI called the Sibyl System monitors their behavior. Specially trained police officers act as the physical representation of Sibyl. If Sibyl brands an individual as a threat, then officers are free to take down that person by any means necessary. The level of punishment, which ranges from incarceration to instant death, depends on the severity of their psych profile, or “psycho-pass.”

Taking the fate of a suspect out of the hands of police officers and into the authority of a remote computer might sound like a better system than what we have now, but Psycho-Pass shows that even this kind of society isn’t utopian. Hackers manipulate the Sibyl System, and a person’s “psycho-pass” can become tainted without their knowledge. Also, people living under the Sibyl System act like contented sheep, never feeling the exhilarating highs or desperate lows that a human brain can experience during a lifetime. There is no perfect law-enforcement system, and Psycho-Pass argues that empathy has to be at the forefront of any police force.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-blooded Orphans

The Gundam franchise has always offered insightful commentary on the military-industrial complex and how war affects the most vulnerable, but it has never made that struggle quite as visceral as in Iron-Blooded Orphans. Centuries into the future, humanity has spread into the rest of the solar system, setting up space colonies and terraforming Mars. The show focuses on a mercenary group called Tekkadan, which consists of child soldiers. These boys undergo surgical enhancements which allow them to control tanks and mobile suits directly through their nervous systems. These kids are considered expendable and are even called “Human Debris” by the military. The Tekkadan members believe that if they’re going to live harsh, bitterly short lives, it’s better to go out fighting for a cause instead of curling up in a hole and starving to death.

No other recent anime has captured the plight of the common soldier so plainly. Since the public derides the military as an amorphous blob that supports a cruel, uncaring system, it’s easy to forget that the military is made up of mostly young people. The military accepts them as they are, as long as they’re willing to put their lives on the line every single day. It’s not too much of a stretch to imagine a near-future where life becomes so worthless and perfunctory that pre-teen boys are accepted into the military because they're the only ones left.

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Ergo Proxy

The citizens of the domed city of Romdeau live privileged lives protected from Earth’s toxic environment. Humans are grown in artificial wombs and only created when they can serve a particular purpose within the society. Obedient androids cater to their every whim, and the humans of Romdeau want for nothing. Naturally, this blissful utopia hides a dark secret within the bowels of the city. A mysterious virus spreads among the androids, causing them to become sentient and rebel against their human masters. Meanwhile, the authoritarian government is conducting experiments which might save humanity from extinction, or bring about humanity’s downfall once and for all.

The world of Ergo Proxy doesn’t seem that far from the present day. Voice-controlled electronic assistants powered by AI are commonplace now. You can even get a smart fridge that orders more food if it senses that you’re running low. With laws which curtail reproductive rights, having the government completely control childbirth isn’t far off either. Ergo Proxy taps into the real fears humans have about technology taking over completely. If humanity is going to survive, it’s going to either have to work together on a shared future with sentient AI or abandon technology altogether. 

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From the New World (Shin Sekai Yori)

From the New World is the dystopian equivalent of the frog in the pot, completely unaware that it’s slowly getting boiled to death. Saki Watanabe lives a perfectly idyllic life in a rural village. It’s the far future, and most humans are born with innate psychic abilities. These powers manifest at an early age, and Saki goes to a special school to learn how to control them. As Saki makes friends at the school, she discovers that not all is well. Troublesome students disappear without a trace, as do those who cannot control their abilities. Saki and her friends eventually uncover a conspiracy that suppresses those with abilities as well as ostracizes those who don’t. If it weren’t for Saki’s natural curiosity, she would never have figured out what happened to her missing classmates.

In today’s political climate, it's crucial that we pay attention to everything that goes on around us. It’s also essential that we listen to other people, especially to those who have different experiences than we do. It’s only by being aware of what’s happening that we’re able to understand our environment and push for change fully.

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Wolf’s Rain

Wolf’s Rain looks like a werewolf story, but it unfolds more like a fairy tale. Ecological devastation is spreading all over Earth, and the world is on its last legs. Humanity has destroyed the last remnants of nature in a desperate bid to survive. Humans hunted wolves to extinction, but a few still exist, placing glamours over themselves to appear human. This small wolf pack goes on a journey to discover Paradise, which has been promised to the wolves once the world ends. On the way, they seek the Lunar Flower Maiden, who is the key to reawakening Paradise for the wolves.

It’s not hard to notice that the environment is collapsing all around us. Delaware-sized chunks of ice break off glaciers, and the temperature wildly fluctuates due to climate change. It seems like the world is headed for destruction whether we do anything or not. Climate change is a gigantic issue, and it can feel pretty easy to give trying to fix it, but if the wolves of Wolf’s Rain are willing to go on an arduous journey to reignite Earth as a living planet, then there should be some hope among us humans as well. 

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Roujin Z

In the middle of Japan’s elder care crisis, Kiyuro Takazawa is the first patient to utilize a new kind of hospital bed. The bed can tend to him without requiring human intervention. Takazawa is well cared for, but his former nurse worries about what will happen when he starts yearning for human interaction. Inevitably, the bed’s AI goes haywire, takes Takazawa out of his hospital room, and rampages through the city Godzilla-like, all because the old man wants to go to the beach.

Originally, Roujin Z was a sly commentary on how poorly Japan treated its elderly, shutting them away in old folks’ homes instead of allowing them to continue living with their families. But it now seems like the best anime to watch if you’re frustrated with how the government is handling the health care crisis. Who doesn’t love the image of a bed-ridden senior man taking matters into his own hands and wreaking havoc with his computerized bed because he still wants to assert that he exists, that he is human, and that he deserves dignity and respect?

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Neon Genesis Evangelion

And sometimes you just want to watch the world burn. The world is in ecological crisis after a mysterious incident called the Second Impact destroyed most of the world’s population. Gigantic creatures called Angels have arrived on Earth to finish off the rest of humanity, and the only thing that can combat these creatures are biomechanical machines known as Evas. Shinji Ikari is summoned by his estranged father to pilot one of the Evas and protect what’s left of the human population. Shinji, being a teenager, is emotionally ill-equipped to take on this much responsibility, and he spends much of the series questioning his abilities and also his very existence.

A bleakness pervades through Evangelion, and while it has some very funny, very human, and very relatable moments, for the most part, the show takes the viewer on a long, slow road to despair. The main characters are relatable but not very likeable, and any likeable characters are destined to get killed off because this is the apocalypse, so death is commonplace. Evangelion is the show to watch when you want to wallow in the helplessness and misery, and you want to witness the hopelessness of people who are facing impossible odds. Evangelion’s characters don’t give up. They fight to the very end. They bicker with each other and complain about their circumstances, but they still struggle to make things better. They don’t always succeed, but at the very least Evangelion shows that perseverance gets stuff done, for better or worse.

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