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Central Theme: Anime & Manga
  • 20th Century Boys: Childhood fantasies should stay as just that.
  • Accel World - Our emotional flaws have the potential to become our greatest strengths.
  • Afro Samurai - Two in one:
    • What is the real meaning of power?
    • Can revenge ever be justified?
  • Ah! My Goddess: Staying together through thick and thin.
  • AKIRA: The anger and frustration of youth.
  • Angel Beats!!: No matter what tragedies have happened in life, you can always change and move on.
  • Angel Densetsu: Never judging a book by its cover.
  • Ano Natsu De Matteru - Love waits for no one.
  • Attack on Titan - The world is a cruel place, but you can find beauty if you never stop fighting for it.
  • Baccano!: Life is awesome. Whether or not it lasts forever.
  • Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts - Grades are important, but friendships are priceless.
  • Berserk: Despair and what people are willing to give up up to overcome it.
  • Blood+ - Family is made up of people who love each other in spite of their faults, not blood relations.
  • Bokurano: What do you do with the little time left in your life?
  • Busou Renkin: What will you do with the new life given you?
  • Children Who Chase Lost Voices: Ultimately, the living are more important than the dead.
  • Chobits: Is man starting to prefer technology over interaction with real people?
  • Chrono Crusade - According to Word of God, "the idea of time running out." The bonds between people also seems to be a major running theme (Moriyama indicated in an interview that he felt that one of the themes was the relationship of the two main characters, and there's three pairs of siblings that are very important to the plot.)
  • Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai!: Running away from and facing our problems, and also, the challenges of growing up.
  • CLANNAD: Family is the most important thing in life.
  • Code Geass - Do the ends justify the means?
    • Is it always a good idea to know the truth?
  • Cowboy Bebop - You can never outrun your past. Even the Spoof Aesop from episode 10 works into this concept. 'Don't leave things in the fridge', if you're curious.
    • Samurai Champloo, it's Spiritual Successor, has a similar theme. Or maybe it's "sometimes you need to let go of the past". Or some combination of both. There's also a more subtle theme on how foreign influences can effect a society.
    • Cowboy Bebop, The Big O, Karas and Tiger & Bunny all seems to have the same central message - you can live neither by clinging to the past, nor rejecting it to blindly march towards the future. Each explores it in a different way - in Karas it takes form of conflict between tradition and progress; in Tiger & Bunny it's the clash between different brands of heroism with new ones claiming the old to be outdated as well as Barnaby's breakdown once he finds out his memories are fake; in Cowboy Bebop it's contrast between Spike's inability to let go of his revenge, Jet's ability to confront and deal with his, and Faye's problems with amnesia; and in The Big O it's constantly showing that even disconnected from his past, man will still build on his future on it's legacy. Apart from that, some of them have additional central themes they explore:
      • Karas - the relationship between The Cowl archetype and the city he protects.
      • Tiger & Bunny - relationships between co-workers. Overcoming prejuices.
  • Daily Lives of High School Boys - High schoolers are idiots. Reality is full of disappointments.
  • Death Note:
  • Detective Conan: Everyone deserves justice, even someone who doesn't seem to deserve it.
  • Devilman: Difference between accepting your dark side and letting it control you and what happens when humans give up to their worst instincts.
  • Devil Survivor 2: Differences between utopian utilitarism and old-fashioned idealism.
  • The Digimon anime franchise as a whole: as you grow up, challenging times will reveal your true character and who your real friends are.
    • Digimon Tamers: What is the line between fiction and reality? and What is the price of technology?
    • Digimon Savers: What truly makes a man a man?
  • Dorohedoro: Everyone has a bad side. The question is whether you let that be the side in charge.
  • Dragon Ball Z:
    • The series gets a lot of flak for its Sorting Algorithm of Evil, but Self Improvement IS the main theme of the series. "Just because you can blow up a planet, you shouldn't declare yourself perfect; there is always someone out there better, so never stop trying to better yourself."
    • Forgiveness and redemption is also a central theme as seen with all the reformed villains.
  • Fist of the North Star: Does might always make right?
  • Fruits Basket: Change is hard, but necessary.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
  • Fushigi Yuugi: How a journey changes heroes and the people left behind.
  • Get Backers: Paul Wan himself states the centrl theme in volume 2 of the manga "...Money, ststus, ars jewelry, lovers, anything worth having is worth someone else stealing. It's how it is, and how it always will be.. If someone takes something important from you, then be sure you take it back. But don't look for happiness in material goods, cause the thing that truly bonds us with one another is the fact that we've all lost things we'll never recover.
  • Ghost in the Shell - What does it mean to be human?
  • Giant Robo: The Day The Earth Stood Still - Can happiness be achieved without sacrifice? How can a son honor his father's legacy?
  • Getter Robo: The series, as whole, is about humanity's ability to press foward no matter what, exploring both good and bad side of it.
  • Golden Boy: Never underestimating an idealist.
  • Great Teacher Onizuka: Teachers and students are not meant to be enemies.
  • Guilty Crown - How filthy can one's hands get while fighting for the greater good? At what point does a hero become the villain?
    • Also explores trust vs. betrayal, despair vs. courage, and strength vs. weakness.
  • GUN×SWORD: Which is more important: world peace, universal contentment, and the common good, or the freedom of the individual to pursue happiness according to his or her individual dreams and desires?
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Keep moving forward and go do things that are impossible.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya: Every day is an adventure as long as you are with friends.
  • The Devil is a Part-Timer! - Can true evil even hope to thrive in the current day and age?
  • Hell Girl: Is it possible to hate someone so much that you would sacrifice everything you are and everything you will become to destroy them?
  • Higurashi: When They Cry: Don't ever distrust your friends. No matter what you're going through, The Power of Friendship can save you.
  • Hyouka - What constitutes as a "rose-colored life"? Is our current situation fine? Is there something we want more?
  • InuYasha: Choices. Everyone sooner or later must make one.
  • Jewelpet (first season): One must learn to let go of their childhood ideals and remember that reality is never simple.
    • Jewelpet Twinkle: You can have a strong will and help people even if you're the shiest person in the world.
    • Jewelpet Sunshine: High school is the best time of one's life.
    • Jewelpet Kira Deco: Learning to let go of past grievances is the key to maturing.
  • Jojos Bizarre Adventure: There is nothing more powerful than the will to keep going, even in the face of impossible obstacles.
  • Katekyo Hitman Reborn!: Reaching out to family and friends can bring the best out of each other.
  • Kidou Tenshi Angelic Layer: Not everything has to be Serious Business.
  • Kiki's Delivery Service - Growing up isn't so bad; in fact, it can be wonderful.
  • Kindaichi Case Files: The central theme varies between volumes but the main one that stretches around the entire series is no matter how someone has wronged you in the most horrific way possible, murder is never the solution.
  • Kino's Journey - Is there any underlying point to the stories, any unifying concept? Perhaps. It could be seen as an extended lesson in the law of unintended consequences.
    • H. L. Mencken said, there is always an easy solution to every human problem: neat, plausible, and wrong. That is really the theme of this series. Each place that Kino visits, there was a problem which was solved by adoption of a solution which was neat and plausible and far too simplistic. And in each case we eventually learn why the chosen solution was wrong.
  • Kokoro Connect - Hiding and accepting our flaws, and The Power Of Trust.
  • K-On! - Work hard, play harder.
  • Kotoura-san:
  • Love Hina - Can you hold onto your childhood dream even as you grow up?
  • Lyrical Nanoha: As Erica Friedman notes, the entire Nanoha-verse is the story of creating one's family for one's self. Family is something beyond just the community one is born into; it is something one forms and gathers out of love as one moves through life. Beyond that, individual seasons have their own central themes:
  • Magic Knight Rayearth: No person, no matter how strong, can do everything by themselves.
  • Monster - Can any human being be considered a monster, beyond redemption? Is it wrong to take a life, even to save others? It explores these questions right to the logical conclusion, then leaves it to the viewer to figure it out.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: War Is Hell. There are good people on both sides of a conflict. People can't just sit on the sidelines during war. Tyranny and hatred must be fought by compassion. There can be no real peace without understanding. Many of the series both in the Universal Century and Alternate Universes tackle most of these themes.
  • My Bride Is a Mermaid: Loneliness.
  • Naruto - It starts out seeming like a straight To Be a Master series but later two major themes emerge: "No matter how much pain you endure, things will get better if you don't turn your back on the world" and "Your family's legacy will always be a part of you". With the second in mind it also deals heavily with the Cycle of Revenge, which can only be broken through the first theme. Most evil characters have had terrible pasts and wish to either get revenge, run away, or restart the world from scratch, and Naruto redeems them because too has had a terrible past but his drive and love have seen him through to brighter days. Oh and he is well on his way to being a master after all because of it.
  • Narutaru: What happens when people abuse power given to them.
  • Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind - It is better to try to understand what we do not know about rather than to fight against it.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion is a 26 episode critique of the Otaku lifestyle and deconstruction of the conventions of Humongous Mecha anime, while ironically setting new conventions to replace the old.
    • Responsibility and how people deal with it.
    • Love is also a major theme; all the characters are motivated by a desire to love, and be loved in return.
    • Interpersonal relationships in general, how people unavoidably hurt each-other through them and why one still shouldn't try to run away from them. This includes the above mentioned themes of responsibility and love.
  • Oishinbo: Trying new things, broadening your horizons, and going out of your comfort zone. Also, appreciating one's own culture and traditions without being held back by it.
  • One Piece: Hereditary doesn't matter and family is who you choose.
    • It isn't a crime to exist, not even if the world wants you dead, for someone out there cares about you. Or, if you want to simplify it, "No one is born in this world to be alone."
    • What is Justice?
    • It's the Journey That Counts
  • Outlaw Star - Summed up in the opening dialogues of each episode, and the series as a whole in the second episode and in the great Toonami promo Dreams. In short, there's a whole universe of possibilities, opportunity, and adventure waiting for you to fulfill your dreams. You can't let your fear stop you from pursuing those dreams. Going on this journey, to fulfill childhood dreams, is a necessary part of becoming an adult.
    ''A boy has the right to dream. There are endless possibilities stretched out before him. What awaits him down the path, he will then have to choose. The boy doesn’t always know. At some point the boy becomes an adult and learns what he is able to become. Joy and sadness forever will accompany this. He is confronted with a choice. When this happens as he bids his past farewell in his heart. Once a boy becomes an adult he can no longer go back to being a boy. The boy is now a man. Only one thing can be said, “A boy has the right to dream.” For those endless possibilities are stretched out before him. We must always remember, all men where once boys…"
    • In addition to that, there is also the theme of freedom, of being independent from any larger group or entity, which is what it means to be an outlaw within the universe of the show. Gene Starwind and his crew's loyalty are only to each other as they deal with both planetary governments and pirate guilds.
  • Paranoia Agent - You can't be a child forever.
  • Planetes: Love (Tanabe) versus ambition (Hachimaki). (More pronounced in the manga than the anime.)
  • Please Save My Earth: What happened in the past informs our decisions, and that's it; history only repeats itself if we let it. (Or as xkcd put it: "the past is just practice".)
  • Pokémon: Striving to be the best in whatever one does.
  • Popotan: Parting from friends is a natural part of life, but friendships can still live on in memories. Quite similar to the above mentioned Sonic X, in that regard.
  • Pretty Sammy: Hiding our true feelings is bad and the Power of Love/Friendship.
  • Princess Mononoke - Can there be peace between man and nature?
  • Princess Tutu - You can control your own destiny, no matter your situation.
  • Psycho-Pass - How far will we go to prevent crime and keep society in order?
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Altruism is about paying the price, not reaping the rewards.
  • Ranma ½: Duality. The face one shows to the world and the other kept hidden.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena: Is it possible to be both an archetypal prince and female at the same time? Can someone like Utena who wants to be a "prince" also yearn for her own prince without contradicting herself?
  • Rinne no Lagrange: Growing up.
  • Robotics;Notes - Family, and loved ones who are like family. There is nothing more important.
  • Rosario + Vampire has a few. True Companions are a great thing to have when going through the bad times. Nothing is always what it seems. Love can still be strong even if it is only platonic. Love is also about putting others above your own needs.
  • Rurouni Kenshin: Atoning for past mistakes.
  • Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo - Always seek to better yourself, and never give up, even when you fail.
  • Sailor Moon: Evil may never die but neither do the ones who fight it, believe in the power of love and friendship to overcome all odds.
  • School Days: The things, terrible things, people will do for love.
  • School Rumble: Your life can be changed by someone you never expected.
  • Serial Experiments Lain is at is core, an exploration of the impact of the information age on the human soul. At a time when the internet was only just getting off, it foretold a future where Everything is Connected. It explores the concept of a Technological singularity, "Close the World, Open the Next".
  • Sonic X - While there is no real overarching theme, in the first season one message conveyed seems to be that friendship can last forever, even if two friends are apart.
  • Steins;Gate - What are you willing to do for the people you love? What are you prepared to sacrifice?
  • Sword Art Online - Friendship and love transcend virtual reality.
  • Toradora! - Love can be right under our noses.
  • Towa No Quon: It is our emotions that make us human.
  • Trigun is about the plausibility of true pacifism, especially in a very harsh and inhospitable world. This is best exemplified by the analogy in the anime of a butterfly caught in a spider's web: the Plants, a race of engineered Winged Humanoids represent the butterflies, as they are enslaved by the humans in order to make the planet habitable. Knives' plan is to wipe out the humans/spiders and save the Plants/butterflies, whereas Vash's hope is to come up with an alternative that allows everyone to coexist.
  • Umi Monogatari: Everyone has some darkness in them. That's normal, and throwing it away makes things worse—it's best to accept it.
  • Un-Go - When truth collides with good of the society, which is more important?
  • Voices of a Distant Star - Does physical distance matter for two people in love? What if she's in another city? Country? Continent? Star System? Einstein said "The great distances between the stars is nothing compared to the infinite distance between human hearts", and this movie tries to prove him dead wrong.
  • Wedding Peach: The reconciliation of the good and evil that resides in everyone.
    • Transformation, destruction and creation.
    • The failure and breakdown of systems of authority.
  • Welcome to the NHK: It's easy to feel lonely and worthless but it doesn't have to be that way.
    • Just surviving and actually living aren't the same thing, and to do the former is as good as being dead.
  • Wolf's Rain: Evil will always exist.
  • Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru - Optimism vs cynicism. Can a bitter soul still do good?
  • Zetman: If there are no easy solutions is real heroism possible?
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