The Power of Smartphones in (Winter 2018) Anime

Most will agree that the visuals and the animation “date” an anime series. Something more subtle and more easily overlooked achieves a similar effect, however.

I’m talking about cellphones. To be more specific, I’m talking about smartphones.

These days, many anime characters can be seen extensively using smartphones one way or another. In a world where many people, including yours truly, are glued to their modern technological miracles, watching characters act in the same way can really resonate with viewers. I know I feel like I can sort of relate, at least.

The use of smartphones are usually not crucial to the plot, admittedly, but the way they are used can provide some insight into a character or enable events to unfold. In other words, they’re typically not the main picture, but perhaps they’re the frame which allows for said picture to shine.

Let’s look at some of the ways smartphones are used in anime series, shall we?

Textual Conversations

This obviously isn’t something new. Back when anime characters were walking around with flip phones, they were exchanging text messages back and forth. But seeing them use LINE and similar apps shows that the series is taking place in a more modern setting.

From Sora yori mo Tooi Basho episode 4.

Such conversations can indicate closeness. After all, having a private talk with someone when they’re not even there through the use of technology shows that they wanted to converse with you. It can get a little romantic if we keep being abstract about this, to be honest.

But it can also introduce a sense of loneliness. These textual messages are being sent and received and read and seen and exchanged precisely because they are not or can not be there in-person to talk with one another.

Makeshift Flashlights

We’re all aware of how scary stories are usually told in anime. A group sits around in the dark and someone holds a flashlight under his or her chin while recounting spooky tales.

These days, however, anime characters can use smartphones in lieu of bulky and inconvenient flashlights as pointed out by infinitezenith. Such is the power of flashlight apps or cranking up the brightness setting up to max! This can be seen in Slow Start episode 6 as the girls try to scare each other during a study session sleepover.

Now with a flesh fang! Teeth are overrated!

On an unrelated note, I almost always keep my brightness setting at the highest possible level. It sure does kill my phone battery quickly, but actually being able to see what’s on the screen is well worth it.

Taking & Sharing Pictures

The backgrounds in anime sure can be pretty. Many anime viewers will take screenshots of such beautiful landscape shots. It turns out anime characters share similar thoughts. A picture is worth a thousand words, they say.

Nadeshiko and Rin exchange such pictures in Yuru Camp episode 5 and get closer as friends as a result despite the fact that they’re nowhere close to one another in terms of location and physical presence.


Online Job Offers

Look no further than “”

From Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens episode 5.

It’s basically like craigslist from what I can tell.

Looking Things Up

A long time ago, you had to ask other people if you wanted to know the answer to questions. Or you had to look things up in a book. But nowadays you can just consult an online search engine as you look up how to properly prepare ginkgo nuts!

From Mitsuboshi Colors episode 7.

Aww, Yui’s clothes matches with that of her phone.

Phone Calls

Last but not least, sometimes anime characters use smartphones to call others. Not that smartphones are all that good at that, I feel. The fact that your bare skin is up against the screen is kind of weird to me. But I digress.

From Cardcaptor Sakura Clear Card-hen episode 4.

Wow, his phone is at 96%?! I guess Eriol-kun doesn’t play mobile games.

This isn’t a comprehensive list by any stretch of the imagination since there are so many shows in which characters use smartphones and so many ways smartphones can be used, but I’ll stop here.

What do you think of the portrayal of smartphones in anime? Questions, comments, and concerns are always welcome!

Thanks for reading!

22 thoughts on “The Power of Smartphones in (Winter 2018) Anime

  1. The bittersweetness of connecting through a smartphone, somehow, is something that can totally get me behind an anime character, or characters. As someone who has told both their two boyfriends that I love them by text… 😣 Yeah, the beautiful illusion of closeness in distance is real, and anime captures the realness of it. That moment in Yuru Camp is my favourite in the show so far, and one of my favourite moments of this whole season.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I wonder what time travellers would make of In Another World With my Smartphone, then?

    Joking aside, you mentioned Slow Start when it clearly should’ve been YuruCamp.

    Also, you can see a part of a character’s personality in their case, stickers/decals and/or background on the gadget of choice (whether that be a tablet, laptop or a smartphone) so it’s interesting to examine them…but like Marina, I kind of miss phone charms too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hmmmmm. By then they’d be using cyborg implants or something and will laugh at our dependency on a small rectangular device. Maybe?

      Ahh thank you. It’s been fixed!

      Those are all quite nice, indeed. I think Japan liked them, too, since apparently some people stuck with flipphones even after smartphones became mainstream.


      1. Actually, I seem to remember from somewhere that despite Japan’s electronics powerhouse status in the past, they’ve always been behind on phones. It might be the fact Silicon Valley and other places have kind of taken over in that department…

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Smartphones in anime, let alone any form of animation or live action movie certainly reflects the time period. I’d bet you in 10-15 years, many of these series will become unintentional period pieces regardless of the quality of the story. One can say that about any kind of ubiquitous technology. I remember watching 90s anime where you see payphones everywhere.

    It gets funnier for me for movies and shows that take place in the future. In Evangelion, Shinji has a cassette player which could make him look like an unintentional hipster in the real 2015. As much as I liked Voices of a Distant Star, I have to admit that my cell phone looks more futuristic than the ones used in that short film. A live action version is Bicentennial Man. Seriously, that movie starts out in the year 2005. Where’s my freaking android?!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I always like seeing how technology is integrated into stories because it does date shows (even sci-fi ones) as we see new technologies and ideas. Smartphones are part of life for so many people so it is great to see them so swiftly incorporated into the stories we view and share.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve been enjoying the use of smart phones in anime because they so easily convey the way people communicate with one another these days. I particularly enjoyed the LINE conversations in Tsukigakirei, and now Yuru Camp. Like facial expressions, things like stickers and photos exchanged by text have their own connotations. I do miss the prevalence of cell phone charms, though, and have ever since I first moved on to a smartphone.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Mmm Tsukigakirei was particularly good with that. I sort of regret not going as deep as I should have for this post when it comes to pictures, haha.

      Yeah, the charms were just so…charming.

      I’ll see myself out.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I notice a lot with anime characters’ smartphones when it comes to their personalities – like, whether or not they have a cute phone case or a keychain hanging from it. I remember liking how, in Garo: Vanishing Line, the main girl’s phone screen was cracked. My phone screen is perpetually broken, and I feel like that’s the case with most young people, so I thought that was a nice touch.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ohh, yes, I love seeing that, too! Still want to make a post on that topic one day but I’ll have to revisit a lot of series to take pics…

      Mmm that was a good call for Garo. Cracked phone screens are a passage almost!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Well….the funny thing is I didn’t get my own smartphone until early last year. Before that I used a old mobile phone, that was just that : a phone, you know, to make calls with and stuff 😂
    The best use I have seen of a smartphone was in Eden of the East. was more than a smartphone I guess as it could things that erm…were really smart. But I also became an integral part of the story itself. I loved that series by the way. It was truly awesome.
    But yeah..phones are such an integral part of society these days that I don’t think you will ever be able to erase them..and anime makes erm again..pretty smart use of them.
    Loved this post Remy, really fun topic 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I still don’t have a smart phone, actually. The only mobile phone I have is older than many of my colleagues at work and is only operational while plugged in (the accu’s shot). I’ll need a new one soon, but I don’t really want a smart phone. All I want is phone, with a minimum of apps and little internet connection.

      I remember watching White Album; the anime’s from 2009, but it plays in the 80ies, and at one point a character receives an answering machine for a present (rather expensive then, which had subtle implications that she made more money than he did, which is a sort of low-burn male pride thing) so he can keep in touch with his high-scheduled idol girl friend. Talk about dating the setting via plot…

      How long ago was it that anime was full of flip phones? I’m getting old…

      Liked by 2 people

      1. sometimes really feels like I am getting old too..either that or time is just passing way too fast, that might also be the case one can never know for sure 😊
        I have to say that I hardly use my smartphone. Mostly for checking in with my blog, or sending a quick app to one of my friends….or…horror of horrors, making a call😱😱

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Mmm a romantic at heart. I can appreciate it.

        Wow that’s something else. That is so different from today. I don’t even have a home phone number anymore.

        Hmmm. Good question. I think Saki (2009) and Steins;Gate (2011) had flip phones.


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