Pop culture has an eerie track record of predicting the future. In Back to the Future Part II, the movie was off by a year of when the Chicago Cubs would win the World Series. And, there was one instance when Family Guy predicted that Brett Ratner would be accused of sexual harassment. Last, let’s not forget the countless times The Simpsons have made jokes that became reality. As most of you already know, that would be the foretelling of Donald Trump becoming president in an episode that debuted in May of 2000.
However, the prediction of future occurrences goes beyond modern comedy. Some classic literature by the likes of Jules Verne predicted the Internet and space travel generations before they would come to pass. But has anime ever foretold any future events? Well, that’s for our list to find out.
8. Tiger Mask
- Episodes: 105
- Aired: October 2, 1969 – September 30, 1971
In this classic tale of the squared circle, Tiger Mask faces the heels (a wrestling term for the bad guy) of the Tiger’s Den, the organization that trained him to become a wrestler, but when he takes off the mask, he’s just Naoto Date, who uses his money from wrestling to provide for the orphanage that raised him. A little after this anime ended its syndication, an actual Tiger Mask would debut in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Throughout these past 4 decades, 5 wrestlers would don the mask. Then at the start of this decade, some orphanages in Japan were actually received anonymous donations from a man named Naoto Date.
While Tiger Mask did inspire a real wrestler, one instance of how it foretold the future is how Naoto’s story parallels that of WWE wrestler, John Cena. Like Tiger Mask, John Cena made his break out in wrestling as a bad guy. Eventually, he became a face, or a good guy. While many fans enjoy him as a bad guy, the reason why he is popular as a good guy is because he happens to be the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s number one contributor. While people may mock wrestling as a bizarre spectacle, no one can deny the charitable works its champions have contributed. It doesn’t matter if it’s in an anime with Tiger Mask, or real life as it is with John Cena.
7. Cowboy Bebop: Tengoku no Tobira (Cowboy Bebop: The Movie)
- Episodes: 1 (Feature film)
- Aired: September 1, 2001
In the feature film to the hit Cowboy Bebop series, they are after Vincent, their biggest score ever! What makes Vincent an unusual villain is how he parallels to modern day terrorism, mostly in context to ISIS. Beyond the bombings, Vincent uses modern technology to get people to join or at least support his cause, just like how ISIS does. Like many modern terrorists, he doesn’t mind sacrificing himself when the time calls but at the same time, he does find his help to be expandable. While many people can see what the possible motivations are behind these terror attacks, we can unanimously agree that killing innocents no matter what the cause, is totally wrong.
6. Dragon Ball Z
- Episodes: 291
- Aired: April 26, 1989 – January 31, 1996
Dragon Ball Z is known for its jaw dropping fighting and explosive power ups! So in what ways did this groundbreaking hit predict the future? For starters, you need to remember the scouters! While you can get toy scouters at any toy retailer in Japan, but we’re talking about Google Glass! While the Glass isn’t as extravagant as the scouters in DBZ in terms of design, they still have their own unique benefits. In DBZ, not only could they measure power levels, they were used for navigation, and the actual Google Glass has navigational features. There were some studies showing its benefits for individuals of the autism spectrum. However, due to other numerous features such as recording video and taking pictures, they have been a high concern in regards to privacy. While the Glass is more than just a scouter, we can’t help but think the scouter may have played a part in its conception and design.
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 3, 2002 - September 25, 2002
Personal computers in the world of Chobits have taken the forms of androids. There are some that are regular human size, and there are those that are the size of beanie babies. In essence, they are interactive and can respond to you verbally like a real human. Put aside the recent craze of sex androids and look at the big picture. In Japan, there are some shopping centers in Odaiba in Tokyo that use androids (in the form of cute anime girls) as guides at booths to help you find a restaurant or store. In a hotel in Fukushima, they use androids that take the form of dinosaurs to take care of your room reservations. While they remain stationary to where they work, at some point, they’re going to learn how to walk on their own feet like in Chobits. It may not be this year, but most certainly in no time whether they be released by Apple or Compaq.
4. Kidou Senshi Gundam (Mobile Suit Gundam)
- Episodes: 43
- Aired: April 7, 1979 – January 26, 1980
Though the mecha genre existed prior to Gundam, Gundam expanded it in a manner of using it for warfare. Thanks to Gundam, it paved way for other warfare related mecha anime such as Votoms and Macross. While the idea of using giant robots may seem absurd and is not used in any nation’s armed forces, private tech companies in both the US and Japan have invested in using giant robots for a unique event back in 2017. Representing the US was the Iron Glory as it took on the Kuratas from Japan. While the Iron Glory lost the first round, America made a come back with another mech, the Eagle Prime. Thanks to Gundam, not only did it pave way for the mech genre, it paved way for engineers to make their own mechs for combat. Maybe with Donald Trump’s proposed Space Force, it could happen.
3. Macross Plus
- Episodes: 4
- Aired: August 25, 1994 – June 25, 1995
In this side story to the Macross saga, it foretells two unique future events. In this anime, the biggest hit in the Galaxy isn’t Lynn Minmay, but Sharon Apple. And who is Sharon Apple? She’s an AI hologram singer! Sound familiar? Well, this technology first came into popularity in reality when it was used to bring back hip hop icon, Tupac Shakur. And now, one of Japan’s biggest gaming idols is Hatsune Miku, who does live concerts as a hologram! Will hologram singers be the norm in the future? We can’t say for certain, but seeing a hologram David Bowie would be nice. And what else did this anime predict? A space force proclaimed by President Donald Trump!
- Episodes: 1 (feature film)
- Aired: July 16, 1988
As most of you already know, the 2020 Olympics is set to take place in Tokyo. So do you want to hear something really crazy? This movie, which takes place in 2019, actually has the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as a plot point! And if you refer to the air date, this movie made its premiere in 1988! Though the real life Tokyo portrayed in this movie is not as the dystopian Neo Tokyo, beyond the 2020 Olympics, numerous other themes of Akira still parallel with what is going on with modern Japanese society.
One major plot point to point out is the country’s history of militarism due to World War II. While the military in Akira is reformed to a full-scale beyond beyond a defense force, there are those within the Japanese government, especially the present administration of Shinzo Abe, who want to reform the military as portrayed in Akira. Another issue that is still relevant is education, especially in context to underprivileged youth who have no parents, which has been recently highlighted in the Japanese media. While Japan is reputably one of the safest countries in the world, there are some communities that still have problems how to deal with juvenile delinquency that goes on to this very day.
1. Koukaku Kidoutai (Ghost in the Shell)
- Episodes: 1 (movie)
- Aired: Nov 18, 1995
Many can’t deny that Ghost in the Shell, even when its original manga debuted at the end of the 1980s, was certainly ahead of its time and for excellent reasons. It largely deals with identity in a world that is reliant on technology, most emphatically the Internet. By the end of the film, the Major is still herself, but also not herself now that her consciousness has changes to something different. While the movie excellently demonstrates some of the potential dangers with new technologies, the ending shows that they are also a new beginning. It offers an optimistic outlook that if people use what they have and not abuse them, then everything will be alright. The Major tells Batou that she will always be with him and if the Internet exists for one thing, it is most certainly there to connect people around the world, and the ending excellently conveys that.
Beyond that, it shows that not only regular citizens are capable of abusing the Internet, so are world governments. A few years ago, there was the Edward Snowden incident who told the American public that the government was spying on them. And with drones also now becoming part of modern warfare, the themes of Ghost in the Shell are relevant now more than ever. While the Internet is part of our lives on every scale, just one wrong step, things can go wrong.
Here we are in the present upon the uploading of this list. Who’s to say what’s next? Cars like in Mach GoGoGo? Space travel like Gatchaman? Or are we all going to have to face an alien invasion in the far future? Or is man still going to be his own worst enemy? It’s crazy to see what was only fiction a generation ago is now becoming reality. But is a space force really necessary? Or the use of mechs? Was someone like Trump destined to become president? Who truly knows but maybe with the recent innovations going on thanks to the likes of geniuses from Steve Wozniak to Elon Musk, anything is possible. A lot of the themes in regards to government, military, and technology portrayed in anime are still frighteningly and engagingly relevant. Can society still not advance even after 30 years when pop culture warned us that long ago? Or can mankind exceed its potential? Whatever your thoughts are, please share them in the comments.