Central Theme / Anime and Manga

Remember, a Central Theme is not the same as An Aesop; a theme is a question, idea, topic or concept that the text explores, while an Aesop is a conclusion the author reaches about the theme or a lesson they wish to impart to the reader. As such, you should avoid phrasing your examples as conclusions.
  • 20th Century Boys: Should childhood fantasies remain as fantasies?
  • Accel World: Can 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!!: The difficulty of moving on after tragic circumstances.
  • Angel Densetsu: What can be known about something at first glance?
  • Attack on Titan:
    • Cruelty and beauty in the world.
    • Freedom/Confinement.
    • Whether the ends justify the means.
    • Whether comfort and power are worth risking complacency and apathy.
  • Baccano!: The appreciation of life regardless of its length.
  • Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts: The conflict between internal values: how important are grades? How important is friendship?
  • Beck: The price of success, and whether it is ultimately worth it. The beginnings of greatness.
  • Berserk: Despair and what people are willing to give up to overcome it.
  • Blood+: The role of blood relations vs love in defining family.
  • 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: In honoring the dead, do we risk neglecting the living?
  • 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.)
  • CLANNAD: The importance of family.
  • Claymore: Love's role - not only romantic, but the love between parent and child, siblings, friends, comrades in arms, mentor and student, etc., in other words, any manner of social bonding- in defining humanity.
  • Code Geass - Do the ends justify the means?
    • Is it always a good idea to know the truth?
  • Cowboy Bebop: Is it possible to 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 "is it possible 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 Aesop- 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 prejudices. The causes and consequences of prejudice.
  • Cross Ange: The conflict between the desire to protect oneself and the need to open up to others. Can someone ultimately be responsible for another person's future?
  • Daily Lives of High School Boys: Explores society's desire for maturity and the amusing circumstances that get in the way.
  • Death Note:
  • Detective Conan: Who deserves justice?
  • 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: The role of discovering one's true character and true companions when coming of age.
    • 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. Is there a point where one can stop trying to better oneself? (Once they can blow up a planet, for example?)
    • Forgiveness and redemption is also a central theme as seen with all the reformed villains.
  • Eureka Seven: Can love overcome war?
  • Fist of the North Star: Does might always make right?
  • Fruits Basket: The necessity and difficulty of change.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
  • Fushigi Yuugi: How a journey changes heroes and the people left behind.
  • Get Backers: Paul Wan himself states the central 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 good and bad consequences of humanity's ability to press foward no matter what.
  • Golden Boy: Is there a place for idealism in today's world?
  • Great Teacher Onizuka: Can teachers and students cooperate?
  • 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.
  • Gungrave: Can Undying Loyalty and a bond of friendship last in a crime-ridden universe?
  • 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:
  • Haruhi Suzumiya: In a mundane world, what does it mean to have adventures?
  • 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: Is it ever wise to distrust one's friends?
  • Hyouka - What constitutes as a "rose-colored life"? Is our current situation fine? Is there something we want more?
  • InuYasha: How long can you put off making a choice?
  • Jewelpet (first season): Weighing one's childhood ideals vs the complexity of adult reality.
    • Jewelpet Twinkle: Does shyness necessarily preclude someone from having a strong will or helping others?
    • Jewelpet Sunshine: Is high school the best time of one's life?
    • Jewelpet Kira Deco: Letting go of past grievances. Coming of age.
  • Jojos Bizarre Adventure: What does it take to tap into the power of one's will to keep going, even in the face of impossible obstacles?
  • Katekyo Hitman Reborn!: The conflict between remaining insular and reaching out to family and friends.
  • Kidou Tenshi Angelic Layer: Does everything have to be Serious Business?
  • Kikis Delivery Service : Is growing up necessarily a negative experience?
  • Kindaichi Case Files: The central theme varies between volumes but the main one that stretches around the entire series is, is murder ever a wise solution when someone has wronged you?
  • Kinos 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!: Is having fun such a bad thing?
  • Kotoura-san:
  • Koufuku Graffiti: Sharing the experience of food with others
  • Lone Wolf and Cub: The special bond between father and son.
  • Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions:
    • Running away from and facing our problems.
    • Also, the challenges of having to grow up.
  • 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 oneself. What makes a family? The community one is born into? Beyond that, individual seasons have their own central themes:
  • Magic Knight Rayearth: Is it possible to be so strong as to not need others at all?
  • 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. Is either side of a conflict truly good or evil? Is is possible to just sit on the sidelines during war? Is it possible to fight tyranny and hatred with compassion? Can there be 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.
  • My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU:
    • Is there such a thing as a truly honest person? What are the effects of lying in society?
    • The difficulty of solving problems instead of avoiding them
    • Also explores the complicated inner workings of relationships and social acceptance in general.
  • Naruto: It starts out seeming like a straight To Be a Master series but later two major themes emerge: How much pain can a person endure without turning their back on the world? and Will your family's legacy ever stop being a part of you? With the second in mind it also deals heavily with the Cycle of Revenge. 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 he 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 - Is it better to try to understand what we do not know, or 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 what happens when one tries to run away from them. This includes the above mentioned themes of responsibility and love.
    • You Are Better Than You Think You Are
    • The consequences of playing God and tampering with nature.
    • Is a father's love something that can be earned?
    • The emotional problems people deal with vs the external forces seeking to destroy them.
  • 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 and family: who you're born to vs who you choose.
    • Whether it's a crime merely to exist, and whether or not someone "is born in this world to be alone."
    • What is justice?
    • Journey vs Destination
    • Inherited Will
  • 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.
  • The Pet Girl of Sakurasou - Always seek to better yourself, and never give up, even when you fail.
  • 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 One Half: 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 To 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. You may be done with the past, but the past isn't done with you.
    • Also redemption, and the restraint and resolve it takes to maintain it.
  • 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.
  • Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: The future is not set in stone.
  • 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".
  • Simoun: Growing up, faith, and love.
  • 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: Can virtual reality change the way we experience love and friendship?
  • 'Tokyo Mew Mew: Can there be a justification for a terrible act?
  • Toradora!: Love can be right under our noses.
  • Towa no Quon: The role of emotions in making us human.
  • Trigun The plausibility of true pacifism 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: Coming to terms with the darkness residing in mankind.
  • 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.
  • Vinland Saga: If you don't want violence then don't commit violence. Actual Pacifism or none.
  • Waiting in the Summer: Love waits for no-one.
  • 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 N.H.K.:
    • The ease of succumbing to feelings of loneliness and worthlessness.
    • What makes the difference between simply surviving, and living?
  • Wolfs Rain: Will evil always exist?
  • YuYu Hakusho: Beings of different races (humans, demons/youki, and other spiritual beings) are capable of both acts of kindness and cruelty. In turn, acts of compassion and acts of cruelty have the capacity to change a person or being to become better or worse.
  • Zetman: If there are no easy solutions is real heroism possible?