Remember back in elementary school when your teachers and parents tried to get you to learn about famous historical figures by showing you cartoons? What are some of the ones you remember?
I personally remember seeing Liberty’s Kids–an animated show about the Revolutionary War–on TV once in a while. In that show, you could see famous figures like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams taking part in epic stories while still attempting to teach you something.
The Peabody’s Improbable History segment within The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show had a similar goal, with its protagonists–an intelligent, bespectacled dog named Peabody and a kid learning about history named Sherman–going back in time and learning about historical figures.
This season’s Time Travel Girl (Time Travel Shōjo: Mari Waka to 8-nin no Kagakusha-tachi) anime seems to be doing the same thing in Japan with the adventures of high school girls Mari and Waka. However, while American cartoons seem to try to portray “good” historical figures like Thomas Edison and Abraham Lincoln as nice, genuine, and/or bumbling old men, Time Travel Girl seems to be trying to keep up with the times and go another route: Turn all historical figures into hot guys.
It’s not like I’m just making this up! Just look at the website: The top of the character page literally says, “Cute and hunky characters!” It’s obvious that they’re trying to play up history’s most respectable scientists and inventors as dreamboats. How do they compare to the figures they’re based on, though?
In episode one, Mari encounters William Gilbert, an astronomer who was born in England in 1544. He is known for possibly coining the word “electricity,” as well as for his studies relating to magnetism. He also worked as a doctor, with his most prominent patient being Queen Elizabeth I.
In the anime, he is portrayed as a suave gentleman who even goes so far as to give medical care and shelter to Mari when she is warped into his era.
Sure, he might be a bit old, but he’s very handsome and charming nonetheless—not to mention that there’s a crowd that likes the mature, fatherly type. You might say that Gilbert has almost a sort of a magnetic attractiveness.
(Many science puns are to follow in this article and I do not regret this decision.)
[Editor’s note: I do.]
The third episode of Time Travel Girl introduces Benjamin Franklin. If you went to school in the United States, you probably know the drill by now: He’s a founding father of the country and also an inventor from the 1700’s. One of the greatest tales about him (though it has been debated as to its legitimacy) is the one about how Franklin conducted electricity by attaching a key to a kite during a thunderstorm–a scene which is recreated in the anime.
Despite it being stated very clearly in the show that he is someone who owns at least one slave, he is a gentleman as well as a lady’s man. In the episode, he hits on Mari multiple times and doesn’t hesitate to compliment her beauty. The way he’s drawn also makes him look very attractive. Wow, they managed to make this father of America quite the pimp! Even when Mari gets back to her own time, she sees a picture of Franklin in a textbook similar to the authentic one above and says, “He was hotter in real life.” Well played, Mari.
I have to say, I’ve never thought of Benjamin Franklin as a particularly hunky guy, but his anime counterpart is quite dashing–he’s even voiced by Shinichirō Miki, the voice of such heartthrobs as Toshizō Hijikata from Hakuoki and Roy Mustang from Fullmetal Alchemist. The funniest thing about this character, though, is that Benjamin Franklin really was a playboy. When he would leave his wife and go to Europe for business, he wouldn’t hesitate to hit on any woman that came into his field of vision.
Alessandro Volta was an Italian scientist who lived in the 18th and 19th centuries. He’s most famous for his invention of the Voltaic pile–one of the very first models of the battery with a continuous charge.
In the anime, he’s not exactly a gentleman to Mari–He is more focused on his science than being polite to her and isn’t very willing to help her look for her missing father. Despite this, his dedication to his work is admirable. Strangely enough, Volta is most likely the scientist with the fewest physical differences from his real counterpart–with his only real improvements being less wrinkles and more hair.
OK, so maybe British scientist Michael Faraday was kind of a looker in real life too. As a scientist who lived from 1791 to 1867, Faraday did even more studies relating to electromagnetism and even discovered benzene, a chemical compound which is used in the production of nylon fibers and rubber, among other items.
In the anime, a complete opposite to Volta, Faraday is a kind man who doesn’t like conflict. Even when Mari and Waka appear out of nowhere in his world, he immediately offers them guidance without any suspicion and even gives them a demonstration of the experiments that are his life’s work. As a true English gentleman, when Waka is down in the dumps, he goes so far as to make her a delicious breakfast to cheer her up.
Adding to his attractive appearance, the show actually managed to get rock star and voice actor Showtarō Morikubo to play Faraday. Morikubo is known as an actor for his roles as Shikamaru in Naruto and Yosuke Hanamura in Persona 4.
Samuel Morse was an American painter and inventor who is known for his co-development of the Morse code, an aural cipher that can be decoded through a series of flashes or clicks.
When Mari gets thrown back into the 19th century, she finds someone a bit more handsome than the Morse seen in the portrait above… and he even has a smooth and sexy voice (Psychic Squad and Black Butler actor Kōji Yusa, to be exact)! The way this bright-eyed dreamer grieves over his beloved wife Lucretia’s death in the snow adds a layer of fuzzy feelings to the character.
Sadly, the real life Morse is that he might not have been the sympathetic character that the anime shows him to be–he was not only against Catholicism and immigration, but an advocate for slavery as well, once being quoted as saying, “The mere holding of slaves […] is a condition having per se nothing of moral character in it, any more than the being a parent, or employer, or ruler.” Whoops.
Alexander Graham Bell is in this anime too! Bell was a Scottish inventor who patented the first telephone in the United States in 1876. Living from 1847 to 1922, Bell ran his own telephone company called the “Bell Telephone Company.”
Despite a majority of the photos of Bell portraying him as an old man, Time Travel Girl decided to make his anime counterpart a bit younger and sharper. His voice actor Tomoaki Maeno (Log Horizon’s Naotsugu, Yona of the Dawn’s Son Hak) also fits that new image for Bell–after all, he’s only 34 years old and is very popular among women for his good looks.
Heinrich Hertz was a German physicist who lived from 1857 to 1894. During his fairly short life, he was the first person to prove the existence of electromagnetic waves. The measurement used to calculate frequency “hertz” was named after him.
In the anime, despite being ill, he always seems to have a wrinkle-free face and a flawless head of hair and trimmed beard. The casting of Akira Ishida–a veteran voice actor known for such beloved characters as Byakuya in Danganronpa and Zelos in Slayers–definitely helps push Hertz up a notch on the scale of attractiveness.
Finally, there’s this guy: Thomas Edison, an inventor born in the United States of America who lived from 1847 to 1931. He is known for inventing the phonograph and the long-lasting light bulb as well as many other things.
Sure, he looks nice in his real life photo too, but even ignoring his voice actor Wataru Hatano (Fairy Tail’s Gajeel, Magi: Adventure of Sinbad’s Mystras), Edison looks very smart with his stylish haircut and mischievous eyes.
Perhaps with its hunky reimaginings of famous scientists, Time Travel Girl has come upon a new way to teach history. After all, who says learning can’t be sexy?
August 25, 2016 00:00 AM