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From Nen to Mana: The Best Power Systems in Anime

What makes many anime shows so appealing is the way they introduce and normalize people with superpowers. In most cases, all if not the majority of the main characters possess supernatural abilities that they use for various reasons, like saving the world, becoming the best in their field, or simply protecting their lives.

The most interesting part, however, is how anime shows pull out all the stops in creating the most complex and creative power systems. . . Just like the ones included in this list:

Hunter x Hunter – Nen

Hunter x Hunter
Many consider “nen” to be one of the most complex and well-balanced systems.

In the world of Hunter x Hunter, there are incredibly strong people who wield the ability to use “Nen.” Like any other powers in most anime shows, Nen involves manipulating ones life energy to perform supernatural feats, like becoming insanely strong or conjuring any object out of thin air. It’s a pretty balanced system because practically everyone may have the ability to wield the power through practice. However, each user has to rely on their creativity, sacrifices, and experience to become more powerful.

What makes Nen pretty special is the fact that it was explained very well in the anime. How it works, how it differs from one person to another, and how a user’s personality can affect the type of power they’ll possess. Additionally, Nen follows some law of equivalence: an individual who wants to possess great powers must offer the necessary sacrifices. Kurapika, for example, trades his lifeline every time he uses his powers to the fullest extent. Gon, at one point, had to sacrifice more than his life just to obtain the power to defeat Pitou.

Fullmetal Alchemist – Alchemy

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Alchemy follows a specific rule: Equivalent Exchange.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood sits comfortably at the top and has, for many years, been the highest-rated anime in My Anime List. And that’s for a good reason. It has a compelling story and wild action scenes, and it has definitely one of the best power systems out there: alchemy, which allows its users create one thing out of something by transmuting elements and manipulating their properties.

A single rule governs the use of alchemy: the law of Equivalent Exchange. This means a person cannot create anything without bargaining or trading something else off. This is the reason Edward lost two limbs and Al his whole body. This is also the reason many covet the Philosopher Stone, a legendary item that will allow its wielder to disobey the law of Equivalent Exchange and essentially be granted unlimited powers. But the Philosopher Stone, although incredibly powerful, follows the law of Equivalent Exchange, too. After all, it was made of the very lives of hundreds of thousands of people, and its seemingly infinite reserves of power aren’t totally unlimited.

Fire Force – Ignition

Fire Force
Ignition abilities allow their users to manipulate or create fire.

The ignition abilities in Fire Force are certainly not the most powerful in anime, but they’re definitely one of the most creative. Unlike other power systems that are derived from various elements, ignition only revolves around manipulation and creation of fire. There are at least three acceptable types of people who have ignition abilities:

  • First Generation – They have zero control over the fire, so they are either burned to death or forced to wreak havoc the instance they obtain the “power.”
  • Second Generation – They cannot create fire, but they have total control of it. This allows them to manipulate flames and do whatever they want with it. Maki creates tiny sputters and flares to aid her in battles, while Hinawa manipulates the trajectory of bullets from a gunfire.
  • Third Generation – They can create their own fire from certain parts of their body, but they have low control over it. Shinra, for example, makes fire from his feet, which makes him incredibly agile.

In the anime, there’s only one person who happens to be able to create fire and have total control over it. Benimaru, both a second and third generation, is regarded to be the strongest fire soldier in the army. “Fourth Generation” was introduced, too, and those who wield this power are said to be able to manipulate the fire from Hell, granting them unimaginable strength. Shinra, using this power, was able to travel in the speed of light, thereby allowing him to turn back time. His brother, Sho, has the ability to affect the thermal expansion of the whole universe and temporarily stop the flow of time.

Boku no Hero Academia and Bungou Stray Dogs – Quirks and Gifts

Boku no Hero Academia and Bungou Stray Dogs
Quirks and Gifts are pretty similar in many ways.

In Boku no Hero Academia, more than 80% of the world’s population have supernatural abilities, called “quirks.” However, not all quirks are created equal because some are straight-up powerful (like All For One’s ability to steal other people’s quirk) and some that are not as useful (like random horns that protrude out of a person’s head). The beauty of this anime is how it highlights that everyone has the potential to be a hero even though they didn’t win the birth lottery and weren’t born with impressive quirks. Ojiro, for example, only has a tail, but he augments his abilities by training in martial arts.

The world of Bungou Stray Dogs is just as complex. There are few people who have “gifts” and are granted immense powers. Of course, there are people who are gifted with better powers, but it doesn’t mean that they are essentially stronger. Chuuya’s gift of manipulating gravity might look all-powerful, while Tanizaki’s illusions seem to pale in comparison. Even so, the match can still go either way depending on how creative they could be in case a battle ensues.

Black Clover – Magic

Black Clover
Everyone in Black Clover has magic powers . . . except the MC.

Magic that comes from a supernatural force called “mana” isn’t totally new. It’s derived from Malenesian and Polynesian peoples, who believe that unexplainable things are made by supernatural beings. In Black Clover, the concept of magic and mana was fleshed out made distinct by the unspoken rules that govern it. People are born with a finite mana pool in their bodies, so it’s just sheer dumb luck (or perhaps genetics) some individuals have seemingly vast mana reserves. Additionally, the type of magic a person possesses can sometimes be influenced by their personalities. This is most evident in Dante, who is a judge and has Scale Magic. The Royal Vermillion Family, meanwhile, have fiery personalities and all have fire-attribute magics.

Any person can wield just one type of magic, with only two exceptions so far: Charmy, who has Cotton and Food magic, because he’s half-human and half-dwarf; and of course ( !! Manga Spoilers !! ) Yuno, who has Wind and Star Magic, because he is human but is also the reincarnation of an elf. Although people are mostly just given one magic attribute, they are totally free to hone and improve their skills in using it. Spatial Magic is commonly used for teleportation and transportation, but Finral’s brother proved that it can also be used for attacking opponents. Lastly, the stronger the magic you use, the more it exhausts your mana pool. Vanessa’s fate-changing abilities are extraordinary, but she can only use it for a few times, lest she drains her mana reserves.

There Are Other Shows That Surely Has Awesome Power Systems Too!

Of course, this list is incomplete. If you know any other anime shows that has a unique and equivocally creative power system, feel free to drop them in the comments section. Let’s have a discussion on the topic! #

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