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The Best Plot Twists of 2016

by The Anime News Network Editorial Team,

WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Love Live! Sunshine!!, Re:Zero, Magical Girl Raising Project, Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, Yuri!!! on Ice, and Uta no Prince Sama Legend Star.


Best Plot Twist or Moment: The girls of Aqours decide to follow their own path, Love Live! Sunshine!!

Love Live! Sunshine!! surprised me with how openly it addressed the challenge of following its predecessor. The characters’ ongoing struggle to match the success of their role models culminated in a supremely bittersweet moment near the end of the season. As the girls of Aquors made the conscious decision to stop chasing the legacy of μ's and start being true to themselves, it felt as if the school idol torch had finally been passed. A bit sappy, perhaps, but meaningful all the same.


Best Plot Twist or Moment: Emilia has a heart-to-heart talk with Subaru, Re:Zero episode 13.

Re:Zero has a lot of moments which could count here, but none carried more visceral power than this difficult-to-watch scene, where love interest Emilia gently takes protagonist Subaru to task for his behavior. The result is the most epic meltdown I can ever remember seeing an anime protagonist undergo. It is also a potent rebuke of the stereotypical sense of entitlement of “trapped in another world” scenarios, one which practically dares viewers to self-insert, and lies at the heart of what makes Re:Zero my top anime series of the year.


Best Plot Twist or Moment: Swim Swim, Magical Girl Raising Project

Swim Swim outwitting and taking down Ruler despite practically worshipping her both before and after the fact. Swim Swim constantly surprised me with how little empathy she has for both foe and ally—even though her supposed goal is to be a leader.


Best Plot Twist/Moment: The "evil" restaurant owner who wasn't, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable

Diamond is Unbreakable might be my favorite Jojo installment so far, and a lot of why is how it constantly plays with viewer expectations. The best example of this was episode 10, "Let's Go Eat Some Italian Food!" The episode follows all the beats you expect in the revelation of some nefarious stand user, but then it…doesn't go there. Restaurant owner Tonio is a nice guy whose food actually does make people feel better, even if it looks kind of gross in the process. It was Jojo poking fun at itself, and every bit as funny and thrilling as its usual campy action.


Best Plot Twist/Moment: Death and Consequences from Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash

I'm not sure it's my absolute favorite moment (that'd probably be just a list of greatest hits from my top shows), but one moment that really stuck with me was the death of a central character from last winter's Grimgar, and how the show handled that moment. Instead of using character death for cheap dramatic effect, Grimgar actually investigated how that death would affect its main characters - in fact, coming to terms with loss dictated a fair amount of the show's drama from there on out. It's nice to see a show handle something that's often used for a dramatic punchline with such thoughtfulness and respect!


Best Plot Twist or Moment: My name is Yurakutei Yakumo, Shōwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjū

Unsurprisingly, my favorite moment of 2016 comes from my anime of the year, Shōwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjū. Telling its story in form of a prolonged "how we got here" flashback, there was always the certainty of death looming over the first season's every scene. But contrary to his promise in the first episode, Kikuhiko doesn't really tell Konatsu the story of how her father died. This is the story of how Kiku became Yakumo, how he forgot who he was, and what made him fall in love with the art he vowed to preserve. All of this is summed up in one perfectly composed image in episode 13: When Kiku slowly walks on stage for the last time before we return to the present, he resigns himself to his tragic fate as the shinigami, with the spotlight on stage as the only light remaining while the world around him is engulfed in darkness. This isn't the story of Sukeroku's death, but Kiku's, and his walk into the spotlight traps him and his art in an unchanging state destined to end with him. Except that there's going to be a second season, and Kiku's rakugo – and his soul with it – might yet see a chance of reawakening. Which I'm sure will be framed just as perfectly.


Best Plot Twist or Moment:   Yuuri's drunken revolution, Yuri!!! on Ice

The bizarre ending sequence of Yuri!!! on Ice's tenth episode, where our timid ice skating hero becomes a completely different person under the influence of 20+ flutes of champagne, went from a wacky comedy vignette to a mind-blowing twist that changes everything else about Victor and Yuuri's relationship as we know it over the course of two hilarious minutes. It's fun to watch Yuuri unleash Maximum Eros all by itself, but the impact this night had on a then-stagnating Victor was a stroke of genius scripting that made both their relationship and the experience of rewatching the show all the stronger.


Best Plot Twist or Moment:   Otoya breaks, Uta no Prince Sama Legend Star

Hey, who got their plot in my UtaPri?! In its fourth season, the saga of Haruka Nanami's ever-increasing male harem took a turn for the surprisingly story-oriented, and the most shocking moment was when HEAVENS’ Eiichi made the perky red Otoya have an existential breakdown. It didn't last all that long, but I definitely didn't see it coming and it was a major change for the series.

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