Image source: ソウタイセカイ 前後編好評配信中 on Twitter

The short anime series The Relative Worlds is like the movies The Terminator (1984) and The One (2001) rolled into one.

One day, normal high schooler Shin Hazama is attacked by an android, only to be saved by a parallel universe version of himself. Normal Shin soon learns that in the parallel world of his counterpart, his cousin Kotori Izumi is a brutal dictator. Parallel universe Shin has come to our world to kill our world’s Kotori. At the same time, Parallel Kotori has sent one of her android agents into our world to protect our world’s version of herself and kill either version of Shin. Thus, the cousins find themselves in a life-or-death battle destined to change the course of both realities.

In large part, The Relative Worlds plays like an homage to the sci-fi classic The Terminator. It has what you’d expect from such a story, complete with human-shaped death machines hunting innocent and unprepared individuals. The twist is it has two “come with me if you want to live” moments—one for each of the cousins Shin Hazama and Kotori Izumi. And it’s not just Shin running from and being hunted by an unstoppable robot, it’s both of them. This is made even more complicated by the fact that their own protectors are also each other’s hunters.

It’s ingenious, really, because it puts into conflict two characters who are on friendly terms, but are being pulled along by the machinations of people far beyond their reach.

The line isn’t the only area where The Relative Worlds is similar to The Terminator, though. One of the most obvious similarities comes from two killer robots. Granted, the human characters have some control over the robots, but killer robots always make things more entertaining. But, it’s one other factor that made the series feel like we are also watching something akin to The Terminator. This is the notion we can change the future by altering the past. Although in The Relative Worlds isn’t about messing with time lines, but rather our actions and their effects on parallel universes. So, seeing how two universes affected each other in the anime series kept me interested throughout, especially the few moments we actually see how the universes interact with each other.

The effect on parallel universes in The Relative Worlds also brings to mind the movie The One. In that movie, we see Jet Li play two versions of the character Gabriel Yulaw, one evil and one good. The added twist is if the evil Gabriel were able to kill every parallel universe version of himself, he would become the most powerful mortal being ever. The Relative Worlds doesn’t go to this extreme, but uses the idea our deaths have consequences in the parallel universes in an impactful way; if you die, then your counterpart also dies. This notion gives the story even more urgency and tension throughout the two episodes. Then add on how parallel universe Shin and Kotori are trying to kill each other while the normal universe Shin and Kotori are just friendly cousins. Just thinking about the implications killing the parallel universe versions of themselves could have had on the psyche of the normal universe Shin and Kotori is mind-boggling.

Consider, Shin and Kotori have a stable relationship with each other in the normal universe. But, when they are told their counterpart is the enemy, what are they to do? It’s not as if going along with the plan is the moral choice either, since Shin is explicitly told that if one dies, then their counterpart in the parallel world also dies. This is a question that isn’t easy for the characters, let alone the viewers, to answer. So, by addressing this question, we’re actually left with a sense of, “What should the characters do” when watching the series.

For as short as The Relative Worlds is, it’s an interesting watch. The idea of parallel worlds and their effects on each other is fascinating and seeing Shin and Kaori navigate that is great fun. And the idea the death of a person affects both universes made the action scenes a gripping and intense experience. Add in a few killer robots and you have a short anime series that’s incredibly entertaining to watch.

The Relative Worlds is available on Hulu.

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