Time Patrol Bon is a sci-fi anime odyssey about the value of human life

A black-haired anime boy in a schoolboy uniform sitting behind a woman wearing goggles, pointing at something off-screen in Time Patrol Bon.
Image: Bones/Netflix

The smallest of actions beget the most profound of consequences

Most time travel stories are either stories of intervention or preservation; following protagonists attempting to either alter the past to correct for something in the future, or doing everything in their power to return to their own time period without drastically altering the past. Time Patrol Bon sits squarely in the middle, which is exactly what makes it a beloved cult classic manga — and a surprisingly prescient adaptation from Netflix.

Based on the manga by Fujiko Fujio, the comic book-writing duo known for creating the beloved Japanese pop culture icon Doraemon, Time Patrol Bon (stylized on Netflix as T.P Bon) follows Bon Namihira, an ordinary junior school student living in present-day Japan. He inadvertently crosses paths with a time-traveler named Ream from the future and learns of the existence of Time Patrol, a technologically advanced organization that travels through time and space rescuing innocent lives while maintaining the course of history.

It’s only after discovering Bon plays a pivotal role in the history of humanity that they choose not to erase him from history to protect the secret of Time Patrol’s existence; instead they offer him an opportunity to join their cause. Accompanied by Buyoyon, a sassy, ghost-like extra-dimensional creature, Bon joins Ream as her apprentice as they travel across history saving lives while growing into his new responsibilities as a Time Patrol agent.

An concerned-looking anime boy staring at a man and woman in futuristic uniforms seated on a pair of futuristic vehicles floating in a living room in Time Patrol Bon.
Image: Bones/Netflix

It’s a fascinating premise, one that naturally begs a question that’s not all that dissimilar from what multiverse stories often broach: What is the value of a single life in the totality of existence? And who, if anyone, should have the authority to decide that? In the case of Time Patrol Bon, that authority is the Time Patrol Research Office, who are dedicated to finding and saving the lives of individuals who will not impact the course of history. In emphasizing the value of good, but otherwise unhistoric people whose lives were cut short on account of tragic accidents, misunderstandings, or overt malice, T.P Bon makes a case for the abiding value of all life in and of itself, as well as the importance of human relationships.

Take the anime’s eighth episode, wherein Bon and Ream are assigned to save one — and only one — kamikaze pilot during the Battle of Okinawa. Torn between his compassion for all human life and his obligation to uphold Time Patrol’s parameters lest he compromise the organization’s mission and very existence, Bon ultimately resolves that saving any life, even if only one life, is a worthwhile and noble endeavor if it can be done. It’s a really profound moment that nails home both Bon maturing into his responsibilities as a member of a Time Patrol, but also the series’ overall humanistic message. To put it another way: Not everything that is faced can be changed, but that’s not an excuse to do nothing. Even the smallest of actions is worth doing if it contributes to lessening the sum of human suffering.

An anime boy and girl in futuristic uniforms sit on two floating futuristic vehicles with a floating yellow creature besides them in Time Patrol Bon.
Image: Bones/Netflix

By his own admission, Bon is an average everyday teenager. He doesn’t have any special powers, isn’t especially physically gifted or academically accomplished, and isn’t even all that popular at his school. From a glance, he barely registers as a footnote in the history of humanity, let alone the grand scheme of existence. If someone like Bon can go on to impact the future of humanity, aside from his role as a member of Time Patrol, then anyone can.

It helps that T.P Bon is helmed by respected animator Masahiro Ando, known for his work as a key animator on 1995’s End of Evangelion and Ghost in the Shell, as well as his own 2007 anime film Sword of the Stranger. Such a resume helps the show be all it wants to be: T.P Bon is an excellent blend of whimsical sci-fi spectacle, drama, and occasional edutainment, with stories featuring Bon and Ream rescuing sailors lost at sea, thwarting prehistoric poachers in the Jurassic period, and even inadvertently inspiring the 16th century legend of Journey to the West. In creating a series that strikes the balance between light-hearted adventure and existential meditation, Ando and studio Bones have delivered not only a faithful and worthy adaptation of Fujiko Fujio’s original manga, but one for the ages.

T.P Bon season 1 is available to stream on Netflix.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *