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Three of the Best Anime That Remember the Lives Lost in War

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While many understand that war is brutal in nature, the full weight of the sacrifices that people have made in war are rarely depicted in modern media. The psychological impacts of war on both soldiers and those who knew them are uncommonly explored in-depth in the numerous war-themed TV shows and movies that are set on the front lines. Fortunately, there are some anime that delves deep into the psychological consequences of war and its aftermath, which are not often represented.

Inner challenges such as survivor’s guilt, the hard suppression of emotions, the weight of protecting and taking lives, along with the struggle of the grieving process that people who have lost a loved one in combat face. These are some of the invisible battles that civilians who have been affected by war, soldiers that are currently serving, and military veterans of today could be fighting. For those who have never experienced war, acknowledging the challenges and remembering the veterans of today, and those who gave their lives for something greater than themselves, can be enough to support them. These are some of the best anime that remember the lives lost in war.

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Violet Evergarden

Produced by Kyoto Animation, Violet Evergarden is the heartbreaking story, adapted from a light novel series following a young military veteran named Violet who struggles with trauma, survivor’s guilt, and the grief revolving around her loved one who sacrificed himself in battle for her. Violet has a very limited understanding of emotions and feelings due to her reclusive childhood as an orphan trained to be a child soldier. Many veterans of war may be able to relate to her inability to express herself, as soldiers commonly have to learn how to suppress their emotions in order to think and act logically. Failing this could mean life or death on the battlefield. Violet was raised to be nothing more than a weapon meant for war — in a story where the war is now over, and being a soldier and following orders was all she knew.

Violet Evergarden places a lot of emphasis on how the aftermath of war affects military veterans. What happens to military veterans sent home after the war ends? How do veterans cope with loss and the emotions surrounding war? These are the questions that Violet Evergarden explores in-depth. Including the loss of purpose and the confusion about how to handle the memories of war. The show also does an incredible job of portraying post-traumatic stress disorder to the point where Violet has shut down memories of her deceased Major and instead searches to find him. The longing to see her beloved Major again and the slow realization that he’s no longer here with her typically has viewers new to the series reaching for that next tissue.

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Based on the original light novel series by Asato Asato, Eighty-Six is a twenty-three-episode war drama revolving around racial discrimination and racial injustice. The Eighty-Six are forced to fight on the front lines in a seemingly endless war defending the Alba–the very people stripped away their identity and rights as humans and condemned them to genocide. Millions of Eighty-Six lose their lives throughout this war. Shin, the leader of the Spearhead Squadron, bears the burden and guilt of hundreds of soldiers lost in war. The Eighty-Six are not permitted to be buried, to have gravestones — or even names as they aren’t seen as humans in the Republic of San Magnolia due to them having different skin, eyes, and hair color than the pale-skinned, silver-eyed, and silver-haired Alba. As a result, Shin makes an effort to memorialize the victims in his own way — by surviving and carrying on pieces of their spider-like tanks (called Juggernauts) as remembrance.

Along with Spearhead Squadron, the series also features the young Major Vladilena Milizé, referred to as Lena. Lena quickly experiences how heavy the full weight of leadership really is — the full understanding that each soldier under her command is a life full of personality, friends, memories, and dreams. Eighty-Six explores themes such as wanting to be remembered and honoring the fallen, along with survivor’s guilt, PTSD, and why, despite living in a world of extreme racial discrimination, racial injustice, and certain death, the Eighty-Six battle on.

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Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt

While the Gundam franchise is known for being set in the military war drama scene, the Gundam title that best captures the horrific nature of war within a short period of time is Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt. Adapted from the manga series written and illustrated by mangaka Yasuo Ohtagaki, Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt is a standalone 4-episode ONA series set during the One Year War in an early alternate Universal Century timeline. Based on real-life’s World War II, the One Year War started when the Principality of Zeon was denied its independence by the Earth Federation. As a result, the Principality of Zeon launched a series of war crimes against the Earth Federation which included unleashing poison gas amongst masses of people and the use of nuclear weapons.

Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt dives right into the chaotic madness of war, while strongly humanizing both opposing forces on the battlefield. There are moments when the soldiers reminiscence about their lives before enlisting in the war, some used to be athletes and lost their homes, others joined the war efforts in order to gain citizenship, and some joined for the sake of their family’s freedom. The bulk of the soldiers are just simply fighting to defend their homeland or simply because they don’t want to be killed by the opposition. The story serves as a reminder that regardless of which side a soldier is on, they all have different reasons for fighting in war that are important to them. In this way, every soldier shares a common similarity even though their approaches to pursuing justice may differ.

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