What Anime Can Teach Superhero Fiction

Most superhero fiction endeavors to diversify origin stories so that a variety of character types and superpowers exist within their universe. Just within the MCU, we find: physical/genetic experimentation, alien physiology, random mutation and, with The Hand, what appears to be magic. That’s a lot of origins, and it’s confusing if you have little background in the comic universe. it’s a complicated world. But you have to have multiple unique backgrounds for different characters and superpowers, right? Wrong. It’s not difficult to accomplish character and power variety with simple, unifying world building. Anime does it all the time. Hunter x Hunter and A Certain Magical Index both pull this off with great effect.

Hunter x Hunter portrays superpowers in a much more Eastern, Dragon Ball-ish manner with the concept of Nen, a Chi style life force energy that can be mastered to gain superpowers. However, unlike the simpler Dragon Ball concept, Hunter x Hunter makes Nen the basis for an interesting variety of powers. Different personality types have distinct types of powers that do unique things. Hunter x Hunter categorizes people into six broad types of powers. From there, characters end up with varied powers, within the same universal concept, including super strength, prophecy and shape shifting.

kurapika kurta's nen
Kurapika using nen to create and manipulate chain weaponry in Hunter x Hunter (2011)


A more recent anime, A Certain Magical Index, tackles super powers in a more complicated manner. Index divides superpowers into two categories: magical and esper (psychic). Esper powers are based upon both created in universe and real scientific principle. The in-universe principle is personal reality in which any person can develop a power unique to him or her trough science. Magic is then explained as invoking a god to recreate what Espers are able to do naturally. This device allows magical power to co-exist in universe. Index is able to portray a variety of powers and powers levels, from god-level characters to normal humans able to make up for lack of powers.

Char with gun
Amata Kihara using a anti-tank rifle against a magic user in A Certain Magical Index Season 2


Both of these Anime are instructive examples of streamlined mythology that still offer considerable room for creativity. Comic book writers could take note for successful world building.


Conlan Murphy
Conlan Murphy
A semi-existant Scotts-American weeb and sci-fi fanboy living in Kansas, I’m capable of both random and complicated thoughts about the world and it’s people, mostly uselessly random. Hoping to provide an interesting progressive perspective. An avid rare pair shipper and Shinji Ikari Defense Squad commando in training.