When you watch anime or read manga, you’re probably expecting some sort of fantastical escapism. But, did you know that some series are rooted in the real world? While not pure historical accounts, here are some of the most well-known anime and manga based on true events.
1. Vinland Saga
Vinland Saga takes place during a time when England had control over Denmark. Makoto Yukimura’s draws from historical accounts from this era using The Flateyjarbók, The Saga of the Greenlanders, and The Saga of Eric the Red.
The manga takes the stories of King Cnut the Great’s rise to power and combines it with explorer Thorfinn Karlefni’s attempts to create a settlement in the Vinland.
Barefoot Gen is based on Keiji Nakazawa’s own experiences as a Hiroshima survivor. Keiji was six when Hiroshima was destroyed by an atomic bomb and lost most of his family in the bombing.
After Keiji’s mother died in 1966, he started to revisit the events of Hiroshima in a series of stories. Barefoot Gen is Keiji’s most well-known on the international stage and has been adapted into two anime movies and three live-action movies.
Based very loosely on the gang-rape and murder of Junko Furuta. 17-sai follows the events of Sachiko, who is kidnapped by a gang of delinquents and forced to be a sex slave. The series diverges greatly from the tragic, real-life events towards the end.
4. Welcome to the NHK
Tatsuhiko Takimoto revealed in an afterword that Welcome to the NHK is based on an “active story.” Tatsuhiko was battling depression and living as a hikikomori as he wrote the series.
Sadly, a new afterword for Welcome to the NHK was created in 2005 which Tatsuhiko used to reveal that he has been “completely unable to write a new story” and was reduced to living on the royalties from Welcome to the NHK.
Manga duo Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata took their experiences writing Death Note for Weekly Shonen Jump to create Bakuman. While the comedy is played up, the hard work and long hours of being a mangaka are on full display.
6. The Rose of Versailles
The Rose of Versailles is a romanticized take on the French Revolution. All of the main players, like Marie Antoinette and the Taking of the Bastille, are all here, but there is a shoujo air about things.
Riyoko Ikeda originally wanted the series to be a biography on Marie Antoinette, but readers loved Oscar François de Jarjayes so much that Oscar would become the main character.
Vagabond is based on the life of Miyamoto Musashi, who was an expert swordsman and ronin. It is believed that Miyamoto won all 60 of his duals and created the Niten Ichi-ryū school of swordsmanship.
Takehiko Inoue focuses on Miyamoto’s young life and chronicles his journey towards enlightenment. Vagabond takes frequent hiatuses so Takehiko can research about Miyamoto’s mysterious life.
8. Grave of the Fireflies
Akiyuki Nosaka was fifteen during the firebombing of Kobe during World War II. Akiyuki based Grave of the Fireflies before, during, and after the bombing. Studio Ghibli adapted the story into a movie as a way to “dispel the mindset” of children being war heroes and survivors in tales set during times of war.
Grave of the Fireflies was written as an apology to Akiyuki’s adopted sister Keiko, who died of malnutrition after the firebombing.
What’s your favorite anime based on true events? Do let me know about it in the comments below.