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10 Anime That Prove That You Can Never Judge A Book By Its Cover

Animation studios marketing their series know that they only have a precious few seconds to intrigue and capture an audience. Studios presenting stories that might have only a niche audience have to be especially clever with advertising.

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Anime typically receive a series of PVs to help advertise the series, and some anime are presented with such broad appeal that a lot of people take interest. But those who sit through the series soon find out that its actual content doesn’t quite match up with the initial image. They might be hiding their premises or lead to an unexpectedly complex narrative, so some anime shouldn’t be judged merely by their appearance.


10 School-Live Poses As A Cutesy Slice-Of-Life Series

Yuki In School-Live

Audiences are introduced to School-Live through the perspective of its protagonist, Yuki Takeya, who seems like an average high school girl living her school life. In truth, Yuki is living through a zombie outbreak in a post-apocalyptic landscape that was once her school. The rest of the School Living Club works to protect Yuki’s delicate psyche from the truth, making for an experience much different than what audiences are initially shown. Instead of a cute slice-of-life high school series, School-Live is about surviving the zombie apocalypse.

9 Spice & Wolf Is Impressively Thorough In Its Economics

From the outset, Spice & Wolf seems as if it’d turn into a romance drama since Kraft Lawrence and Holo grow increasingly close through their journey. But while there’s the occasional obvious flirting here and there, Spice & Wolf spends most of its time on the detailed economics and world-building of its fictional locations. The attention to detail on how currency exchange, trading, and travel works in its antiquated time period is both surprising and impressive. Spice & Wolf places Lawrence’s mercantilism center stage and lets the romance slow burn in the background.

8 Higurashi: When They Cry Turned Out Surprisingly Gory

On the surface, Higurashi: When They Cry resembles a school comedy anime with a protagonist who’s presumably destined to have a harem. In reality, Higurashi is an intense, gory thriller anime that revolves around a murder mystery and the supernatural.

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More surprisingly, Higurashi contains a time loop mechanic that presents the same mystery to viewers several times with the intention of helping them solve the mystery. The deaths in this anime are disturbingly graphic, so anyone wanting to watch the series should research it a bit first.

7 Death Parade Hides An Important Message In Its Edgy Premise

main cast posing in death parade opening

The opening song and animation for Death Parade is perhaps the most misleading part of it, but even the edgy Death Games that take center stage distract from the real message of the show. Underneath the gratuitous violence, Death Parade is primarily about connections between others and the fleeting nature of life. Death Parade questions what it means to live, how one might live a fulfilling life, and how to be grateful for the life you have. Audiences get to watch Decim slowly realize what it means to be human.

6 School Days Had An Ending No One Was Expecting

Another anime that poses as a typical school romance drama, School Days takes several turns in its narrative that audiences weren’t expecting. Starting as a love triangle between Makoto Itou, Kotonoha Katsura, and Sekai Saionji, the anime soon displays Makoto engaging in reckless infidelity with several girls at school. The most shocking part is its ending, which resulted in Makoto’s and Sekai’s deaths. This anime is based on a visual novel, so only audiences who read the original could have been prepared for such carnage.

5 Golden Time Spiced Up The Cliched Love Triangle Trope

Golden Time Love Triangle

Appearing to be a run-of-the-mill romance drama, Golden Time employed a cliched narrative in a novel way and presented a somewhat surprising ending. Banri Tada suffers from amnesia due to a previous accident and is essentially starting over his life with no memories of his past. Amnesia is a clichéd trope but the way it’s employed in Golden Time makes Banri’s struggles with himself the main antagonist in the love triangle instead of the girls. Usually, the love interests work against or hold animosity for each other, but Koko and Linda get along just fine.

4 Steins;Gate Delivers A Good Ending Despite Its Hopelessness

Rintaro and Mayushii Surprised in Steins;Gate

While Steins;Gate presents itself with a slice-of-life flair initially, it quickly gives way to murder, time travel, and government conspiracies. Part of Steins;Gate‘s charm lies in the fact that it takes place in a very relatable real-world setting and even employs real-world conspiracy theories in its narrative.

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But what most would expect to end up as a tragedy actually ends up receiving a well-deserved happy ending for Rintaro Okabe and the rest of his lab members. Steins;Gate is a story of perseverance and hope wrapped up in layers of despair.

3 Fruits Basket Turned Out To Be A Compelling Character Drama

Fruits Basket 2-17 featured

High school romance dramas and comedies are overwhelmingly popular tropes, so it’s not surprising that they’re used to draw in audiences. Fruits Basket is another series dressed up as a school romance but goes much further into its large cast of characters than would be expected. Instead of focusing on the drama between the main characters, Fruits Basket dives deep into the complexes of the Sohma family and presents a story that’s primarily about learning to love yourself. This series has more to offer than an ordinary high school drama.

2 Made In Abyss Isn’t Afraid Of Shocking Its Audience

In Episode 10, Riko is crying in agony and is about to die due to poison.

Young Riko’s yearning for adventure and her lost mother understandably compels her to take on the challenge that is the Abyss, where her mother mysteriously vanished. Adventure series with young casts aren’t uncommon but Made in Abyss takes a shockingly realistic approach to Riko and Reg’s travels. While the Abyss is presented as dangerous from the start, it’s not until Riko and Reg become its victims that the Abyss’s deadliness is truly understood by audiences. The Abyss also works its way into the minds of characters and warps their humanity, as seen with Bondrewd.

1 Puella Magi Madoka Magica Reinvented The Magical Girl Genre

madoka crying from madoka magica

Recognized by primarily schoolgirl casts and cute magic, the magical girl genre has been a staple trope in anime for decades. Sailor Moon is likely the most popular instance of magical girls getting a significant upgrade, but Puella Magi Madoka Magica also dared to challenge the status quo. Turning the usual upbeat, pure trappings of typical magical girl anime on its head, Madoka Magica is rife with suffering and despair. Those who are compelled by its adorable opening sequence should research the series a bit before picking it up, as the series turns quite dark in Episode 3.

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