The Afterlife in Anime
The Afterlife in Anime
As we are talking about the afterlife, we will be looking at examples of character deaths and other concepts that may spoil key moments the following anime: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Soul Eater, Death Parade and Fullmetal Alchemist. Please continue reading at your own discretion.
Much like any other medium of art, anime handles an assortment of different ideas and concepts that we cannot grasp in a physical mindset or do not have the ability to understand. One such concept that has always been in the forefront of human thought is the afterlife. While there are many different beliefs in many different parts of the world, anime is unique in that it has so many different interpretations. Today, I’ll be diving into a few examples of the afterlife and looking at some of the similarities/ differences between them.
To start, I’ll look at one of my personal favorites, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. For those who haven’t seen it, I would definitely recommend it. Within JoJo, many of JoJo’s ideas of the afterlife are either taken from reality or are unique to its universe. For one, it is implied in certain parts of the show that there is, in fact, a Heaven in the JoJo universe. Specifically, at the end of part 3, in which, after the deaths of both Abdul and Iggy, Polnareff sees their souls ascend to the clouds, but questions if he was seeing things. Even further, Part 4: Diamond is Unbreakable delves even further into the concept of the afterlife, with the majority of the show dealing with either souls of the departed or ghosts. As for the former, these departed souls can be seen in the third opening of the show, titled Great Days, as well as being seen at different times throughout the entirety of the part. On the other hand, Ghosts are the driving force between the whole entire second half of the show. Reimi Sugimoto and her dog Arnold, murdered after the secretive killer Yoshikage Kira entered her house one night. This kicks off a series of events which leads Josuke, Jotaro and a whole slew of characters to try and find this mysterious killer and avenge the murder of Reimi and bring peace back to Morioh. In terms of the ghosts, they are seen as two different groups in the show. Ghosts are either those that haven’t fulfilled everything they wanted to, or those who have committed evil deeds in their lifetime.
Next, we’ll look at Soul Eater, another great anime. In this show, it’s quite uncertain if there is necessarily a specific place that is the afterlife. However, as implied with the title, one aspect of the afterlife that is shown is the fact that everyone has a soul. In fact, the Kishin, people who have eaten many souls of the good, actually end up mutating into somewhat of a “demon”, being able to give off a madness wavelength and corrupting their own soul in the process. Not only are souls extremely prevalent throughout the show, but there is also an oni that appears within Soul’s heart. Oni are yōkai from Japanese Folklore that are commonly seen as a demon, ogre or devil. While this doesn’t guarantee the fact that there’s a Hell within the Soul Eater universe, it does show that there are malevolent entities that are associated with some kind of afterlife. Of course, there’s the fact that the headmaster of DWMA is Death. Yes, you read that correctly. The headmaster is DEATH HIMSELF. Anyways, as seen in a lot of cultures, Death is draped in black and uses a scythe as a weapon. While, at least here in America, he’s called the Grim Reaper, this does further show that there must be some type of afterlife, as the combinations of the oni and Death prove the existence of some type of life after death.
You didn’t think that I would forget Death Parade, right? Death Parade is an anime in which the souls of people who die in special ways (such as murder, a car accident or other ways), arrive to a place called Quindecim, in which two souls play each other in a game. From the point of view of the souls, they are playing for their lives. However, in the point of view of the Arbiters, they’re judging the souls. For what exactly? They’re judging whether they may reincarnate or if they’re sent down to the Void. As you probably already know, reincarnation is the process in which your soul gets to begin life anew in a new body, but with no memory of your previous lives. The Void, however, is a unique concept to Death Parade. The Void is a place that, as the name implies, is “void” of anything. You essentially just fall into nothing for eternity. While this is somewhat of a gross oversimplification of the show and its concepts, there are actually many different symbols that can be seen throughout that refer to the fact that there are many different beliefs behind the main idea of reincarnation. For example, there’s the fact that they don’t call it reincarnation or the Void. In the show, they refer to the two as Heaven and Hell. The reasoning, as explained in the show, is that it’s easier for humans to grasp the concepts of Heaven and Hell. Beyond that, there’s actually a further reference to Hell in the show. Quindecim is actually the latin word for the number 15. In Japanese (Romanji), 15 is translated to "juugo-kai", which, to some, sounds similar to "jigoku", translating to Hell.
Lastly, we will look at Fullmetal Alchemist. Unlike most other shows that I’ve talked about here, Fullmetal Alchemist is its own beast in terms of the afterlife. Specifically, there’s the Gate. In the show, the Gate is seen as the source of alchemical knowledge and the entrance to God's domain, in which no mortal can tread. Pay attention to the fact that I said mortals, as in living people. This doesn’t necessarily apply to those who have passed on. In the 2003 adaption, the Gate is actually seen as a means for reincarnation. This is explained by the fact that babies have a strong connection to the Gate, & the Gate Children are still in the process of reincarnating. In other iterations, there is an entity that lies behind the Gate called the Eye of God. As seen by the name, the Eye of God can actually be seen as a literal God in this universe, as it has the ability to grant power and actually lies on God’s domain.
While there are plenty of other examples of the afterlife, I feel like these few more than exemplify the many representations of the afterlife in anime. No matter what is said about the afterlife, I will always find all these different interpretations very interesting and hope to see more of what others think of it. Until next time!