10 Interesting ‘Powers’ in Anime (2000 – 2010)
While I appreciate a good, no-frills drama as much as the next person, there’s something about ‘superpowers’ that just clicks with animated series. Not to knock on the recent surge of live action comic book adaptations from Hollywood or anything, but when you want to walk with the supernatural, you tread a very fine line between believable and laughable when you try to bring fantasy with reality.
So how has anime been doing in the past decade or so as far as powers go? Anime powerups are prevalent, everyone seems to be able to shoot lasers from their eyes (mecha or not). But what about the really interesting stuff?
Potential spoilers ahead!
Series: To Aru Majutsu no Index.
A power also used by other characters in various series, Accelerator stands out as the big-boss of vector manipulation. Why? His ability to make lightning-quick calculations lets him do practically anything he wants with this power, provided he can extend his touch to the entity he wants to affect.
So what is vector manipulation? In Accelerator’s case, he can change the vector values of anything he touches. He can shift the air around him, reverse a person’s blood flow, reflect any incoming blows or by redirecting them as he makes contact. His name, Accelerator, is pretty applicable; by modifying velocities, he can make objects accelerate to supersonic speeds and use them as projectile weapons. He also has some power over gravity and can, with some creativity, exert a degree of mind control over a subject by modifying the electric impulses to and from the target’s brain.
After awakening, Accelerator is no longer limited by touch, and thus is able to change subjective and intangible vectors, almost to the degree of reality-warping.
Series: Higashi no Eden.
Characters: Selecao Agents.
Mirai Nikki has a pretty cool cell-phone power, but I’d eschew its passive future-predicting abilities for the more active Selecao cell phone. In Higashi no Eden, Selecao agents people are given cell phones linked to a balance 10 billion yen to “change Japan” in some fashion. While having a boatload of funds is great, it’s even better when your phone can also make anything happen. Juiz, the mysterious Selecao phone operator, is able to make anything happen on request for a Selecao agent, provided they have enough funds remaining on their account. How exactly a request like “make me King of Japan” or something converts to Japanese yen, I’m unsure. But it definitely creates some pressure on the individual agents — not only do they have to ration their funds, they have to impede each others conflicting goals while still furthering their own. But hey, with one of these phone’s you’d officially have money and power. What’s not to like?
Well, I guess being assassinated when you run out of money is a bit of a drag.
Series: Angelic Layer.
Characters: Wizard (Mihara Ohjiro).
It’s just a barrier that reflects all incoming blows. Everyone seems to have their own spin on the ‘defensive wall.’
But I was pretty impressed with the way Ohjiro managed to implement it on a tiny battle doll, as well as how opponents were forced to deal with it. It’s simply static electricity; using Wizard’s speed, Ohjiro is able to gather static and discharge it as the opponent strikes. While it requires a stretch of the imagination, it provided for an interesting challenge to the protagonist, Misaki. She manages to bypass the field by fraying one of her dolls wire extensions and grounding herself before attacking.
Pretty cool idea for very suave character.
Power of Absolute Obedience
Series: Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion.
Characters: Lelouch Lamperouge.
Ocular powers are pretty common these days, but here’s one of the more interesting ones, especially since the narrative was partly built on it: Lelouch’s Geass, the Power of Absolute Obedience. By making eye contact, Lelouch can issue a command to an individual that they must follow. While this glorified form of hypnosis sounds great on its own, it also have more functionality than it originally seems. Lelouch was able to use his power on Suzaku with the very subjective order to “live.” Similar to ideas prevalent in the movie Inception, the order to “live” became a defining feature of Suzaku’s character, even overriding his own personal wants and beliefs. In this way, the Power of Absolute Obedience could be used to bolster a target to his or her peak abilities if given the correct instruction.
Definitely takes a bit of creativity, since a person can only be Geass’d once (barring Jeremiah’s canceller). That and you better watch what you say around other people.
Series: Death Note.
This is a pretty interesting power bound by a number of rules, but the main idea of the Death Note is that its users can cause a person to die by writing the name, a time of death and cause of death in the Death Note while picturing the target’s face mentally. That is pretty cool and opens up the cat-and-mouse series of the notebook’s namesake. It even allows the user to partially manipulate the target’s actions leading up till the moment of death, though not nearly to the degree of the Power of Obedience. Still, nice to have in a pinch!
It’s hard ignore the allure of a power like this, especially because the mundane procedure required to activate this power are completely doable by anyone. Obviously, there is no magical notebook of death, but the fact that real people in the news are being arrested or punished for fashioning their own personal notebooks as Death Notes is both amusing and terrifying. Rightly so, since they could pass for hit lists, even if they were just diaries full of cruel intent for others. Death Notes are like amped up Burn Books, minus all the glitter and photo cut-outs.
Series: Card Captor Sakura.
Characters: Clow Reed, Kinomoto Sakura.
In contrast to the Death Note’s power to destroy, you have The Create, one of the Clow Cards from Cardcaptor Sakura. In its corporeal form, The Create is a storybook that is able to turn the writer’s thoughts into reality. As an added plus, it can also offer inspiration to the writer, allowing the user to more accurately depict their creations in the text.
I don’t think I really need to explain how powerful this is, but the fact that it has to be written is the real draw. For those familiar with the game Scribblenauts, it requires a certain degree of ingenuity to make anything meaningful out of words. Within the scope of CCS, there’s also the actual creation of objects — there are no restrictions about what can be brought to life provided that the magician is powerful enough (and we’re talking about Sakura here). These things are not illusions. They are real. This card can, for a time, literally give life from nothing. The only drawback is that the card can only be used during the night, but once summoned, they are permanent until the user wills its creations away or they are otherwise destroyed.
Characters: Okabe Rintarou, others by association.
Yeah yeah, time travel, clairvoyance, time manipulation. They’re all pretty common literary devices these days. But as Mirai Nikki, Higashi Eden and Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children have shown us, everything is twice as good when you can harness superpowers using your cell phone. Well, Steins;Gate doesn’t really have any of those time-bending qualities as the central part of its narrative. The main focus of Steins;Gate is the ability to send text messages to the past, receivable by anyone.
Pretty cool, if you ask me. It’s not as cliché and straightforward as raw time travel (which is present in Steins;Gate, yes). There are some caveats … you have to send a text message, so you’re limited to a certain block of time where cell phones were actually around. Some creativity ensues when you want to communicate with something like, say, a pager (remember those?).
I’d love to have this kind of power, since I could sit back and observe reality change without actually having to move my own lazy butt around timelines. Practically speaking, I could always just keep sending texts to cancel what had just happened, assuming that that causality actually dictated that the people in the past always would respond to my texts in the same way.
Uh, I’ll save those thoughts for a later discussion, though.
Characters: Yakumo Yukari.
This power is so vague that is has to be good. While vector manipulation seems to have limits within space-time, a boundary is just a figurative limitation on … anything. You have some practical uses of the power, like altering the boundary of your (or another object’s) existence to ‘teleport’ anywhere in an instant, before restoring the original boundaries. But then you also have intangible boundaries, like the ‘boundary of my dislike for this person.’ Interpreted that way, you could change how anybody felt about anything, giving you power exceeding the Power of Obedience.
You could do anything with this, really. You could raise the boundaries of your grades, shrink the boundaries of national debt, extend the boundaries of your credit line … go nuts! The world is your oyster. Maybe you could restrict the boundaries of infinity and find a way to divide a chaos dunk by the verboten jam.
Characters: Uchiha Clan.
Alright, so I ripped on Sasuke and his eyelasers but it is a pretty neat power. By fixing one’s gaze at a location, jet black flames from hell will flare up out of nowhere and consume anything in its path. According to Naruto lore, the flames are supposedly as hot as the sun and are unavoidable (despite being avoided several times during the series by various characters). The flames cannot be extinguished unless the user wills them away (or is otherwise incapacitated), and burns for days if left alone.
There’s no visible ‘eye beam’ for this technique — it’s instant. As soon as the user focuses on a target, flames are going up. My only real issue with having a power like this is … well, can anyone honestly keep their vision entirely fixated at certain points for any amount of time? I can almost guarantee that if I had this power I’d be burning things left and right (literally) as my peripheral vision distracted me from my focus. And if I take my mind off of what I’m doing for just an instant, I’m potentially igniting an unwanted target with the power of the sun. That’s not something I think I’d want to take lightly.
Series: Shakugan no Shana
Characters: Sakai Yuji, Various.
This power is really important within the context of the Shakugan no Shana series. It’s one of those things that seems to draw in an immeasurable number of evils, like The One Ring from LotR. The difference is that the Reiji Maigo actually has defined benefits. The One Ring doesn’t really seem to do much except drive you mad or turn you invisible to everything except the evil that is trying to track you.
The Reiji Maigo is a treasure tool in the SnS lore that basically restores you to ‘full power’ at the stroke of midnight. It’s the elixir, full restore, whatever you wanna call it. And it’s completely wasted on the main character of SnS, who is a wussy guy with no actual powers to use. He’s kind of just a battery for a majority of the series, but everyone wants the precious treasure so they can go off on wild killing sprees without running out of chakra like a certain aforementioned eyelaser-bearing Uchiha.
What’s cool is that the Reiji Maigo is a bottomless bag of Power of Existence (the ‘chakra’ of the SnS series) so it will restore a person to their own personal maximum level of PoE. This has such a far-reaching connotation that a bulk of the final story arc banked on trying to empty a bottomless bag into another bottomless bag. Again, divide by zero and add the limit of a chaos dunk as it approaches the verboten jam.