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Sekaikei Genre

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"I don't know why, I have no idea, but quite possibly the single most important thing in the history of the universe is that I get you sorted out right now."
The Doctor to Amy Pond, Doctor Who, "Flesh and Stone"

Sekaikei (sekai meaning "world", and kei meaning "type") is a Japanese term that is not clearly defined, spread primarily through the Internet but with some professional interest (there've even been academic lectures). The simple definition of a Sekaikei story is the existence of a close relationship between two people, which turns out to be the sole driving force of the events, up to and including having all other happenings in the world at large depending on said relationship's fate, whether metaphorically or literally. The term "World-type" is related to the character-centric perspective of the world that comes out of such a story.

It can go something like this:

  1. Starts with very normal regular life. Then the central character becomes aware of a profound danger to the world at large.
  2. Said character meets another character who is also aware of the incoming apocalypse and may strive to prevent it.
  3. A relationship forms. There may be little description of how exactly the fate of the couple is related to the troubles of the world at large, but it is clear that the relationship between characters, rather than what they are actually doing, is their primary leverage to define what happens to all their surroundings.
  4. In the climax of the story, the characters are forced to choose between settling things on either the micro-level of the relationship itself, or the macro-level of how it affects the world at large. Typically, both are exclusive.
  5. A Bittersweet Ending generally follows. If the world is chosen, the conclusion often involves a Heroic Sacrifice on the part of one or both of the Star-Crossed Lovers, or them being separated and unable to ever meet each other again. If the romance is chosen, we may have the couple being the only survivors of an apocalypse. Taking a Third Option is, however, also a common subversion.

One thing often notably absent from the sekaikei setup is the society/community as a buffering force between the individuals on the micro-level and the uncaring world on the macro-level. The origins of such authorial neglect have been traced to the catastrophes of 1995 (the year most often cited as the origin of the genre) in Japan, namely, the Great Hanshin earthquake and the Tokyo subway sarin attack, which are said to have shattered the pop-cultural belief (which has never been that strong after World War II, anyway) in the ability of the Japanese society to shield the individual from destructive outside forces.

Of note is the fact that the concept is notoriously difficult to turn into trope terms, as it is fairly controversial amongst anime fans and quite frankly ill-defined. Even the term itself is a little bit nuts: they have to write the word in different systems in the middle of the phrase. "Sekai" is written with katakana while "Kei" is written with a Chinese character. Some say this kind of spelling in itself metafictionally represents how everything else, including literary theory, is actually revolving around the couple at the heart of the plot.

Compare Save This Person, Save the World, in which the world hinges on the shoulders of one person, and The Needs of the Many, when the Sadistic Choice is between said person or the world.

Not to be confused with Isekai or Iyashikei.


Anima & Manga

  • Attack on Titan: This is apparent in Eren and Mikasa’s relationship as they seem to be at the center of every major turning point throughout the story.
    Kawakubo: The story of Eren and Mikasa can be read from that of sekaikei. It’s difficult to explain, but he [Isayama] felt that he had to decide on his stance, or rather, make his stance clear, in order to draw a manga on his own intentions towards the sekaikei.
  • Clover: Suu has an ambiguous ability that can reshape the world in multiple ways, and it soon becomes clear that she doesn't need to be escorted by a highly-trained and augmented ex-soldier because she's a target (although she is) but because of a long-ago connection between them. The plot isn't really about getting her to her destination, but about how the journey will affect what happens when she reaches it.
  • Devilman: Proving this trope to be Older Than They Think, this 1973 anime revolves around Ryo taking any means he deems necessary to ensure his Childhood Friend and the only person he loves, Akira Fudo, will survive the impending apocalypse which he himself has instigated, as he is literally Satan incarnate. It does not end well. Anno and Sadamoto have even freely admitted that Evangelion was basically Devilman with a mecha bent.
    Sadamoto: It might not be an exaggeration to say that, if you add Ideon and Devilman together and divide by two, you get Evangelion.
  • Eureka Seven's plot all centers around the relationship between Renton and Eureka. The story focuses heavily on their romance and how they both grow and mature as people. Their relationship ends up being a central part of the plot, as their relationship has to prove to the world that humans and Coralians can co-exist in some capacity.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: It's believed to be a prototype of this concept. The characters can be said to draw the strength to face any given Angel from a specific relationship with others; in the end, when Shinji briefly reaches Reality Warper status, the fate of the world is dependent not on any specific relationship of his, but rather on what he wishes to become of the world in which some people hurt him, while others encouraged him not to give up.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Therei's magic dependent on Emotional Powers, and the relationship between Madoka and Homura—either Star-Crossed Lovers or star-crossed close friends depending on your perspective—eventually has cosmological implications. By the time of The Movie's conclusion, both characters have taken a stab at rewriting the laws of reality for the greater good, tragically pushing their partner away in the process.
  • Saikano: It deconstructs the living hell out of this setup. Chise is an ultimate weapon in a war and how she decides to fight (if at all) depends on her boyfriend, Shuuji.
  • Sailor Moon: The forbidden love between Usagi and Mamoru was the reason their old world collapsed. In their reincarnation, this is reversed; their love becomes the sustaining force that helps her save the present world. However, at one point in R, it appears that their relationship will doom the world again - the actual situation is more complicated.

Video Games

Alternative Title(s): Sekaikei