Like any medium that relies on narratives, there are a lot of anime that are exactly like what they first appear to be, especially for well-established genres like shonen anime. But sometimes, a good twist is exactly what a story needs. For some anime, what starts out as mundane and predictable can quickly turn into a gripping narrative if the right amount of tension is introduced at just the right time.
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Betraying the audience’s expectations is a risky plot twist that can quickly make or break a show for someone, but some of the best anime out there make use of such a twist. What began as (or was presented as) a lighthearted narrative only to become more dramatic and serious than expected has produced some truly memorable anime.
10 School-Live! Is Actually About A Zombie Apocalypse
This anime frames itself through the viewpoint of Yuki Takeya, a cheerful high school girl who has fun every day with her fellow classmates Kurumi Ebisuzawa and Yuuri Wakasa in the School Living Club. The first episode of this show presents itself as a typical slice-of-life school anime, but that image is shattered by the end of the episode. The truth is that the world of School-Live! has been overrun with zombies and the School Living Club is doing everything it can to survive. It turns out that Yuki has been traumatized by the zombie apocalypse and hallucinates that life is still normal.
9 Puella Magi Madoka Magica Contains Faustian-Level Bargains
If someone offered to grant any wish in the world in exchange for becoming a magical girl who fights witches and keeps humanity safe, there’d likely be a fair number of girls who might sign up for it, especially considering this position is reserved specifically for girls aged between 13 and 14, before they have the wisdom of adulthood to guide them in making decisions. That’s exactly what the mysterious Kyubey offers Madoka Kaname at the outset of Madoka Magica. But it turns out that there’s a lot of fine print that Kyubey doesn’t make explicit when offering these magical contracts and being a magical girl isn’t all it’s cracked up to be when it comes at the cost of human souls.
8 Magical Girl Raising Project Turns Into A Survival Game
This anime has a sweet and simple premise: players who play the Magical Girl Raising Project app game on their phones have a 1 in 10,000 chance of becoming a real-life magical girl. Players are given Magical Candies by protecting people and doing good deeds, and their magical girl avatars have specific skills and abilities that set them apart from others.
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One day, middle schooler Koyuki Himekawa is approached in the game and given the opportunity to become the magical girl Snow White. But what seems like a dream come true spirals into a life-or-death survival game when the game’s mascot, Fav, announces that he’s going to reduce the number of magical girls in half.
7 Orange Revolves Around Mysterious Letters From The Future
When 16-year-old Naho Takamiya receives a cryptic letter from herself 10 years in the future, she’s shocked to find that the events in the letter described accurately detail her first day of school. The letter warns her not to spend time with the new transfer student, Kakeru Naruse, or he will eventually die in an accident. Naho isn’t sure what to make of it until she indeed falls in love with Kakeru, just as the letter from her future self claimed. The show swaps between perspectives of the adult Naho and her younger self and focuses on using parallel timelines to save Kakeru from an untimely death.
6 Happy Sugar Life Takes An Extreme Stance On Love
The title, “Happy Sugar Life,” and the series’ promotional images are pretty misleading when considering the series’ actual content. Happy Sugar Life is a psychological thriller that juxtaposes a sense of innocence and devotion against what some people will do to protect their happiness. The themes in this anime are heavy and it certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. But those who enjoy this genre of entertainment will find a satisfying thriller rife with psychological terror and mystery. Satou Matsuzaka will do anything to protect her love and happiness with Shio – even commit murder.
5 Made In Abyss Takes Advantage Of Human Curiosity
In the center of the fictional town of Orth sits a massive hole known as the Abyss that stretches deep into the Earth. No one in Orth knows exactly what’s down there outside of the terrifying creatures that occupy the upper levels, but a lot of them are obsessed with figuring it out. Riko is an orphan at the Belchero Orphanage whose mother was known as a Lyza the Annihilator, a high-ranking White Whistle Cave Raider who dedicated herself to the mysteries of the Abyss, vanishing as a result. Riko is convinced that her mother is still down there when she receives a cryptic keepsake that floated up from the Abyss’s depths and she’ll stop at nothing to find her.
4 School Days Masquerades As A Love-Triangle Drama
Originally a visual novel, this anime follows the life of high schooler Makoto Itou, who inadvertently gets caught up in his infatuation with classmate Kotonoha Katsura. He reaches out to Sekai Saionji, another female classmate for advice, and she agrees to help Makoto court Kotonoha.
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What begins as an innocuous game of Cupid quickly spirals into a hot and heavy situation when Makoto cannot decide between pursuing Kotonoha and Sekai, leading both of them on. School Days has cemented itself as a cult classic of sorts and its beginnings certainly belie the outcome of Makoto’s girl problems.
3 Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni Involves An Endless Time Loop
Localized as Higurashi: When They Cry, this series follows Keiichi Maebara as he settles into his new mountain village home of Hinamizawa. The small-town vibes of Hinamizawa agree with him and he’s glad to have left behind the big city for a quiet life where he gets to play fun club activities every day with his classmates. But there’s a deadly secret in Hinamizawa’s past – a murder mystery that has yet to be solved and a string of equally mysterious murders that have occurred every year since. Villagers claim it’s Lord Oyashiro’s curse, but does Lord Oyashiro really exist?
2 Steins;Gate Challenges Its Protagonist To Overcome Fate
Life for Rintaro Okabe is quiet and peaceful. He’s got his best friends Mayuri Shiina and Daru Hashida to play along with his “mad scientist” persona, Hououin Kyouma, and the trio often spends time at his hideout, the Future Gadget Laboratory, where Okabe fancies he’ll make scientific history. Surprisingly, the trio does accidentally manage to create a time travel device using junk parts… but their discovery attracts the attention of SERN, a villainous organization that’s bent on using time travel to start World War III. Okabe gets stuck in the middle of this conflict and needs to cleverly overcome SERN or risk losing everything he loves.
1 Fruits Basket Addresses Family Trauma
Fruits Basket starts off as a typical fantasy slice-of-life romance drama but eventually gives way to examining dysfunction within family units. Tohru Honda finds herself homeless after the untimely passing of her mother and resorts to living on her own in a tent to avoid becoming a burden to anyone. Unbeknownst to Tohru, she’d set up camp on the wealthy Sohma family’s estate, and the Sohmas offer her to stay with them instead. As Tohru gets closer to the Sohmas, she learns many family secrets and burdens that have haunted the Sohma family for decades. At the same time, she has to deal with her own healing after losing her mother.
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About The Author
(57 Articles Published)
Brittanie Maldonado is a Staff Writer for CBR, and a long-time gamer/cartoon-lover based in the US. She studied English and Comparative Literature at the School of General Studies at Columbia University in the City of New York, so she loves evaluating and analyzing different types of media. She’s worked in fast food, retail, and corporate roles, but she is happiest when expressing herself through writing. Brittanie has a deep love and appreciation for the Japanese language and culture, and she brings this cultural perspective to the forefront when assessing various Japanese media. If she’s not researching or writing, she’s probably gaming or catching up on her backlogged anime watchlist.
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