Anime is a media that often doesn’t get enough credit for its wonderful storytelling, creative worlds, and originality. Some anime has even gone on to become some of the best stories told in history.
This is thanks to some mind-boggling and game-changing plot twists that seemingly change the story for the better.
Although many shows have plenty of juicy reveals, what separates the good from the great are just how impactful the twist is. Here are some of the best plot twists in anime.
Goku Is a Saiyan – Dragon Ball Z
Probably one of the most popular anime in the world, the plot (or lack thereof) was greatly shifted in the first few episodes of Dragon Ball Z.
Goku was always a strange guy with uncanny strength and spirit, but when his brother suddenly appears in a spaceship and tells him that he’s an alien known as a Saiyan, the Dragon Ball series was changed forever.
Dragon Ball was filled with weird concepts like shooting ki blasts, Goku turning into a giant ape, and a turtle hermit who is immortal, but it still managed to stay down to earth (both literally and thematically).
Once it’s revealed that Goku is not of this planet, the shows starts to get very cosmic, with aliens frequently coming to earth to challenge our heroes.
There are even multiple seasons of Dragon Ball Z that take place on other planets (it’s still hilarious when Piccolo realizes he’s an alien. How could he not know?).
When you realize that the start of Dragon Ball is about a boy with a tail and a genius girl trying to find magically balls, you realize how much the show has evolved, since Dragon Ball Super deals with gods, parallel universes, and 5th-dimensional beings.
The Saiyan reveal is when the show truly took the biggest twist.
The Butterfly Effect – Steins;Gate
Steins;Gate is a weird but absolutely fantastic anime and, at first, seems like a slice-of-life anime about a really wacky guy who calls himself a mad scientist. As the plot moves forward, you soon realize that the anime is really about time travel and the effects it can have on individual lives.
Although time travel is explained and explored in multiple ways in popular culture, Steins;Gate is all about the butterfly effect, which is explained by one of the main characters, Kurisu Makise.
Basically, in Steins;Gate, when Okabe time travels, he creates different world lines (basically just parallel universes). Since time travel is done by sending information to the past, whatever direct information that is sent is usually what is changed in the new world line, usually.
Steins;Gate is a much more personal story about how using time travel affects individuals, with Okabe eventually trying to undo some of the positive changes he made to the world for some of his friends, because they negatively affect other people in his life that he cares deeply for.
If you compare the show from the first episode to the last, it becomes very emotional and serious, compared to the more whimsical start it has. If a butterfly flaps its wings, it can indeed create a hurricane somewhere else.
Marineford – One Piece
Although the two-year time skip is probably one of the biggest plot points in One Piece, it doesn’t do a lot to change the overall plot; the characters really just get an appearance change and a huge power boost.
Even though the straw-hat pirates declare war on the world government in the Enies Lobby arc, it isn’t until Marineford that their actions really start to have consequences. So much happens in the arc that it’s impossible just to nail down one event.
A lot is revealed in this arc, including the fact that Ace is actually the son of the former pirate king, Gol D. Roger. Ace is later killed along with his adopted father, Whitebeard, which are the first major character deaths in the series (a series in which death is surprisingly not common).
Whitebeard’s earthquake devil fruit is stolen by Blackbeard (the names in this show aren’t super creative, okay?) through unknown methods and Blackbeard becomes the first and only person to have two devil fruit powers.
The will of D, a huge mystery surrounding many main and secondary characters in the One Piece universe, is heavily mentioned and brought to the viewer’s attention for the first major time.
And with his dying breath, Whitebeard tells the world that the One Piece is in fact, real.
Although it’s pretty obvious from a viewer’s point of view that the One Piece is real, it’s easy to forget that in the world of One Piece, it’s just a legend with barely any proof to back it up.
From this point, One Piece becomes a much more serious and plot-oriented show that becomes a lot more lore heavy. Even as the show grows closer to one thousand episodes, the events of Marineford are still felt.
Check out our review for One Piece Pirate Warriors 4!
The Death of L – Death Note
Death Note is a perfect example of how short animes are usually better than long animes. With just thirty-six episodes, Death Note is an exhilarating cat and mouse game between two young geniuses with conflicting ideas of justice.
Since most of the anime is about Light trying to kill L, and L trying to catch Light, it was surprising when Light actually succeeds in his goal of winning the cat-and-mouse game.
This is not the end of the show though, as the anime continues with Light still pretending to help the investigation to catch the serial killer Kira (which is him) and introduces Near and Mello who decide to succeed L.
While Light and L were constantly neck and neck with each other until Light eventually outsmarted him, with Near and Mello, it feels like Light is always playing defense.
If you talk to anyone who has watched Death Note, they will tell you that the tone of the show feels very different once L dies. Perhaps it’s because the battle between L and Light feels very personal while Light vs Mello and Near feels much less emotional.
Although it was lightly foreshadowed, it was still a huge surprise that the main conflict of the show was settled halfway through. It was the end of one of the best rivalries in anime that really made Death Note special.
The Sibyl System – Psycho-Pass
Psycho-Pass shows how anime can ask really hard-hitting questions when it comes to complex ideas like the concept of free will and how much control we give to artificial intelligence.
The world of Psycho-Pass can present itself as a utopian future, but it’s clear from the get-go that it’s much more of a dystopia. The world is governed by a computer called the Sibyl System, which determines a person’s schooling, job, and basically, if they have a right to live.
The Sibyl System is always monitoring everyone’s mental health to see if they have the potential to be a criminal, and if anyone has a bad mental health day, they’re either jailed or killed.
This system is presented as a biased method of constructing society, but it’s immediately proven to be extremely flawed.
The ideals and rules the characters follow are misguided, however, as the Sibyl System is actually made up of human minds of people who were asymptomatic criminals.
Not only does this show how differently the world of Psycho-Pass is run and should be viewed, we now get a different perspective on other villains from the series as their plights to fight the system are much more relatable.
The system is not an unbiased method of guiding society, but a calculated assassin who carefully picks its targets and ruins the lives of our protagonists.
The Philosopher’s Stone – Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood
One of the best anime of all time, Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood starts off as two brothers searching for the legendary philosopher’s stone, which can bypass the laws of alchemy and help restore their broken bodies.
Since the early episodes are so focused on the philosopher’s stone, it’s pretty surprising when Ed and Al discover that the stones are made using human lives, and they abandon their search for it.
The plot then shifts to uncovering and stopping a nationwide conspiracy that involves the entire military.
This also cements one of the core themes of the show, how using different methodologies and changing your perspective is much better than trying to fix your problems with the same attitude and school of thought.
For a world that revolves around the use of alchemy, it often shows the viewers how alchemy really isn’t the solution, and this twist was one of the first, harsh reveals on how this is true.
Just watching how drastically the story evolves throughout the sixty-four episode anime is one of the greatest journeys on television.
All Might’s Secret – My Hero Academia
My Hero is a great anime because it walks its own path and doesn’t always follow typical western superhero tropes; the main character doesn’t have dead parents, real superhero usually aren’t all that, and the story takes place in Japan and not New York City like every comic book.
This anime throws us for a loop when you find out the world’s strongest hero is actually a frail and skinny boy, and not the macho persona he appears to be to the public.
All Might was badly hurt in a fight and can only be in his buff form for a very limited time, which continuously shortens as the show goes on.
This is like finding out that Superman really is just Clark Kent, but if Clark was just a lanky nerd. This twist subverts viewers’ expectations of what a superhero show, and what a superhero should be since we are so used to the classic formula being molded to our consciousness.
Since All Might is a lot of characters’ inspiration, it feels weird that his legend wasn’t all that it was made up to be. He doesn’t always have a lot of screen time and when he does, it’s usually just giving exposition on his students.
Want to see what awesome character from the series you might be? Take this quiz!
Tsukasa Shishiō – Dr. Stone
One of the things that makes Dr. Stone so fun to watch is that it’s both educational and exciting at the same time. It’s science presented in a fun and natural way through an apocalyptic world that keeps it light tone-wise.
Viewers are immediately thrown for a loop when Tsukasa Shisiō is introduced. What starts out as a fun and educational anime, turns into an epic battle of wit and philosophical difference.
Senku, the main character, wants to rebuild the world as it was using science, whereas Tsukasa wants the world to stay primitive, saying that science and technology corrupted people in the old world.
Senku has to gain a following through his knowledge of science and the old world, all while also fighting off Tsukasa and his followers.
The twist is so meaningful because the show pretty much switches genres from edutainment to thriller that strangely still teaches the view a lot. Not many anime, or entertainment, in general, can say that the genre of their show changes.
Time Travel – Your Name
The concept of body and gender-swapping isn’t a very common plot point, but when it’s done, it’s usually done pretty well. Enter Your Name, a Japanese animated film about two teens who swap bodies and fall in love with each other.
Your Name is not only one of the best Japanese movies of all time, but maybe just one of the best movies in film making. This is thanks to the emotional impact the twist has on the film.
Not only are the two main characters swapping bodies, but they are also traveling through time, as Mitsuha (the main girl) lives three years in the past but is dead in present-day thanks to a meteor destroying her town.
Taki (the main boy) than struggles to swap bodies with Mitsuha again so he can save her and the town since he knows what befalls them. The film emotionally displays just how desperate he is to save the girl he loves.
This twist is what gave the movie a lot of its emotional impact as the first half of the film is a cute back and forth about two teenagers falling in love, then it turns into the two main characters trying to be reunited when faced with utter despair.
Eren’s Secret – Attack on Titan
I’ll personally never forget my absolute shock when Erin gets eaten just a few episodes into Attack on Titan. It felt very much like the anime version of Game of Thrones, with the main character being killed off quite quickly.
Attack on Titan is a harsh story about how even if you have dreams and fight for freedom, you’re probably just going to die before those dreams are obtained, and Erin dying really cemented this fact.
Until he didn’t die! Eren was actually revealed to be able to transform into a titan and also revert back into a human! Looking back, it’s hard to think about what the series would be like without this massive twist.
If you’ve seen this anime, then you know how integral it is to the plot, but honestly, it deserves to be on this list just for how surprising and well-timed it is.
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