Anime Underground 15 Anime With Unusual Takes On The Afterlife  

Anna Lindwasser
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List Rules Vote up the anime with the strangest versions of the afterlife.

In anime, the story isn't always over when the protagonist's life is. In fact, there are plenty of great anime about life after death. While some of these afterlife anime have traditional heaven and hell set-ups, others get very creative. For example, take Death Parade, where living mannequins force the dead to play a physically and emotionally torturous game designed to draw out their inner nature and help said mannequins judge whether they should be reincarnated or obliterated.

Sound a little too gritty? Try DBZ, where reincarnation happens so frequently that death is basically meaningless, and dead fighters get their very own personal martial arts tournament. Want something trippy? Check out Cat Soup, where a humanoid kitten must retrieve his older sister's soul from a bodhisattva, a quest that somehow involves elephants made entirely out of water.

Whatever your tastes, you're sure to find something on this list of unusual takes on the afterlife that suits them. Vote up the anime that have the whackiest and weirdest takes on life after living. 

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Death Parade is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 15 Anime With Unusual Takes On The Afterlife
Photo:  Madhouse

In Death Paradeliving mannequins called arbiters put humans through rigorous tests to determine whether or not they deserve reincarnation or oblivion. These tests involve significant physical and emotional pain - for example, in the first episode, a young couple have their organs linked with a dartboard, so that each hit to the board pierces their bodies. Arbiters use the dead humans' reactions to those tests, combined with their memories, to decide their fate.

What makes Death Parade truly interesting is the conclusion it comes to. Decim, the arbiter we spend the most time with, ultimately realizes that he cannot actually determine whether a person is good or bad using these methods. In fact, he comes to believe that he might be creating "punishable" traits that weren't there before, by putting humans through extreme and painful experiences. Ultimately, the harsh judgment of a dispassionate, godlike being is deemed unfair and unreasonable. 

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Angel Beats! is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 15 Anime With Unusual Takes On The Afterlife
Photo:  Sentai Filmworks

Angel Beats!an anime that is frequently cited as one of the best shows around, focuses on a form of purgatory. The main characters are dead teenagers who are unwilling or unable to fully accept their own deaths. They attend school in the bizarre Afterlife Academy, which is populated primarily by NPCs, or beings that appear human but lack souls. Few of the actual humans, who do have souls, don't fully understand the rules or purpose of this place, and much of the series is spent finding some answers. 

The students discover that the main objective is to lead fulfilling lives that they were denied in the living world before finally passing on. Angel Beats uses the afterlife to showcase both resistance toward death, and ultimately, acceptance of it.

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Bleach is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 15 Anime With Unusual Takes On The Afterlife
Photo:  Studio Pierrot

Soul Society, the afterlife in Bleachis quite similar to the world of the living. Its primary purpose is to house the souls of the dead until they're ready to be re-incarnated. Lifespans are increased dramatically, residents do not feel hunger, but aside from that, it's basically feudal Japan.

Soul Society also houses Shinigami, whose job is to ensure the safe crossing over of souls. What makes Soul Society so interesting is that its similarity to the living world means that death, one of the most terrifying concepts that humans have to grapple with, is basically stripped of its power. Of course, Bleach makes up for it with plenty of other terrifying threats - the soul-devouring Hollows come to mind.

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Death Note is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 15 Anime With Unusual Takes On The Afterlife
Photo:  Madhouse

While the idea that nothing happens after death is fairly common in the real world, it's pretty rare in anime that involve gods of death. Death Note features Shinigami (gods of death) who add to their own lifespans by killing humans with a magical notebook. The Shinigami hang around in their own realm, watching the human word and being bored out of their minds. However, when humans die, they don't join the Shinigami in their weird realm - they go to a place called "mu." 

Mu is a complex Zen Buddhist concept which, roughly speaking, means "no" or "does not have." In Death Note, it means that there is no afterlife - an unexpected choice for a series featuring Shinigami.

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