New anime will always follow trends. When Sailor Moon got people’s attention in the 1990s, everyone tried to copy it. Lately, we’ve been in the middle of an unmistakable isekai boom. Trends like these are all about what’s popular to anime fans. But sometimes, real-world themes emerge across new series. Right now, for instance, a lot of anime heroes have a common origin story: escaping a toxic workplace.
It’s a growing trend. And as far as we’re concerned, it’s a good one. Because as anime becomes more mainstream globally and more young fans enter the workforce, it’s a discussion that needs to be had.
Toxic Companies Abroad
In recent and new anime, you may hear a phrase pop up: “black company.” Best translated as “abusive” or “toxic,” this term emerged among IT professionals at the turn of the millennium and has since made its way into common Japanese parlance. To be clear, the term doesn’t just refer to tiring or difficult jobs. Rather, they refer to shady companies—those that shirk the Japanese Labor Standards Act.
Many studies and essays exist on this phenomenon, including how to identify such companies. If they don’t pay minimum wage, deny employees benefits, and/or engage in one or more types of harassment, they might be a bad bet. But because of high expectations and workplace culture, many people sadly believe such abuse is normal.
New anime heroes like Akira of ZOM 100 and Ryota of My Unique Skill Makes Me OP Even at Level 1 find an escape. Just… a weird, almost wish-fulfillment one. In the case of the former, it’s a zombie apocalypse—in other words, even the end of the world is preferable to working conditions at Akira’s old job. For Ryota, he literally gets isekai‘d.
In both cases, our hero still has to put in some elbow grease to survive. (For varying definitions of “surviving.”) But entering into worlds somewhat separated from their old one allows them perspective. And their previous suffering teaches them to prioritize the good things in life. Usually. We’ll come back to Akira because it’s complicated.
The trauma of working at a toxic company is very real and long-lived, as certain new anime show. My New Boss Is Goofy, for all its cute softness, doesn’t shy away from this lesson. Even mid-season, Momose is still suffering from actual PTSD surrounding his boss’s abuse. Fortunately, he’s in a new environment helping him cope.
ZOM 100 also addresses this when Akira encounters his old boss amidst the undead. Multiple episodes are dedicated to him falling back into his old patterns, requiring his friends to snap him out of it. It can be a stressful watch. However, witnessing the characters we love confronting these things is important. Like Momose, Akira, or Ryota, we may think that the abuse being leveled against us is “normal.” But witnessing it in fiction gives us context. And should we (heaven forbid) ever see ourselves in their stories, we’ll know it’s okay—and important—to seek help.
The best thing about all these shows is that they hint at something better. Whether it’s fantasy escapism or simply the promise of a boss who values us, the message is clear: no one deserves to be abused, and a positive environment benefits everyone. While the solution may not be as easy or entertaining as it is in our favorite anime, it’s important to have this conversation on the table.
Need some chill vibes? Try these new anime endings!