FEATURE: Here's Some Anime To Get You In The Elden Ring Spirit!
These shows will comfort you on your journey, Tarnished
Hello everyone, and welcome to Why It Works. This week features one of the most anticipated game releases of the last ten years as From Software’s Elden Ring is at last unleashed on the world. Featuring the direction of Dark Souls’ creator Hidetaka Miyazaki and complemented by story concepts from George R. R. Martin, Elden Ring promises to be a masterpiece of dark fantasy — and to consume my life for the next month or so.
Ever since the original Demon’s Souls, I’ve been eagerly awaiting each new release in the Soulsborne meta-franchise. From the intricate, interconnected map of Dark Souls to the gothic horror of Bloodborne all the way through Sekiro’s blisteringly fast parry system, From Software’s games combine challenging but resolutely fair gameplay with beautiful worlds and intriguingly obscured narratives. Each new Soulsborne game makes a promise with the player: Learn my systems and respect my temper, and you will not just uncover my secrets, but also find unexpected strength within yourself. I’ve been making that compact since I first reached the Boletarian Palace and I’ll keep making it as long as we receive games like these.
Simply playing Elden Ring doesn’t seem sufficient to ring in this month of punishing action/horror. As such, I have accumulated a list of properly Elden Ring-esque anime to get all of you in the right mindset for the trials to come. Some of these choices are obvious, as Dark Souls itself draws heavily from various anime traditions, while others are a bit off the beaten path. Regardless, they all contain fragments of that ineffable Soulsborne magic and will surely help prepare you for the horrors ahead. Without further ado, let’s highlight some anime that embody the Elden Ring spirit!
Image via Netflix
First off, some anime aren’t just “Dark Souls reminiscent,” but share many similarities with the Soulsborne universe. Chief among these stands Berserk, a towering work of dark fantasy that has inspired countless imitators over the years. From its modeling of armor and monster designs to its resolutely bleak worldbuilding, Berserk is a clear predecessor to Elden Ring, while post-Berserk inheritors like Claymore might be considered Elden Ring’s siblings. Similarly, Go Nagai’s Devilman casts such an oversized shadow over fantasy/horror that its influence on Elden Ring is all but assured — and if you’d like an easy entry into Devilman, Masaaki Yuasa’s Devilman Crybaby is a great place to start.
Alright, so it’s not hard to find anime that evoke the suffocating weight of Dark Souls-ian fantasy. But along with that powerful atmosphere, Soulsborne games are also defined by a uniquely cavalier attitude toward death, a promise they’ve been fulfilling ever since Dark Souls’ “You Will Die” marketing campaign. Souls games demand you stop being so precious about death, and many anime are happy to agree. In shows like Fate/Zero or Juni Taisen, we can see that death is frequently sudden and pointless, arriving without warning and exiting without farewell. And of course, death is always cheap in the world of Gundam, with Mobile Suit GUNDAM Iron Blooded Orphans providing an appropriately bloody introduction to the franchise.
The primacy of death doesn’t mean Soulsborne games are all gruesome and glum. Rather, these games encourage you to come to peace with loss and accept that death isn’t truly a failure, but simply the opportunity to try a new approach. Eventually, those who endure the trials of Souls games can even come to see the humor in death. Isn’t there something inherently hilarious about surviving 50 grueling trials only to open a chest and discover it’s a Mimic that eats you? For an anime that pushes past the horror of death and straight into its comedic potential, I highly recommend the absurd quasi-horror vehicle Another.
Of course, people wouldn’t play these games so avidly if they were pure lessons in punishment. In Soulsborne games, every grand challenge results in an equally grand victory, a sense of achievement based not in prizes or upgrades, but in the fundamental fact that a challenge you thought was beyond you is now second nature and you are stronger than you thought you were. Anime can’t replicate that — frankly, storytelling in general cannot replicate that, as the gratification of personal achievement is a spice unique to games among all the art forms. On the other hand, anime can certainly do its best to offer cathartic, fist-pumping moments of victory, as well as explosive battles against seemingly unstoppable odds. I’m sure you’re well-acquainted with big hits like Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba and Attack on Titan, but if you haven’t checked out Blood Blockade Battlefront or Gurren Lagann, make sure to check them out and get your blood properly boiling in time for battle.
Alright, we’re nearing the end of the article, and so I’d say it's past time to admit it: You don’t want to fight the horrible monsters of Elden Ring, you want to date them. No no, don’t worry, we’ve all been there, and anime is ready to answer your prayers. You can start off at the shallow end of the pool with Actually, I Am and then see when you’re ready to embrace more unabashedly monster-coveting properties like MONSTER MUSUME EVERYDAY LIFE WITH MONSTER GIRLS. Ever since Quelagg and Priscilla awakened something in a fair number of Chosen Undead, the Soulsborne and monster-dating community have possessed a clear connection, so I wish you well wherever your darker journeys take you.
That about covers my suggestions, and it’s about time too, as I’ve got some more Elden Ring to be playing. Good luck to all you fellow Tarnished, and let me know your own favorite Soulsborn-ian shows in the comments!
Nick Creamer has been writing about cartoons for too many years now and is always ready to cry about Madoka. You can find more of his work at his blog Wrong Every Time, or follow him on Twitter.
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