Fanart Friday returns, totally able to explain most "unexpected" plot twists--we totally saw it coming a mile away. (That's a lie, by the way.) Last week, we took a look at our favorite powered forms, but this week we're going in a more cerebral direction--specifically, shows that mess with the audience's heads and expectations. The MIND SCREW is a common storytelling device that we really can't pin down to a science--if it's done badly, it can destroy any credibility you have as a storyteller (hi, M.Night Shyamalan!), and even if it's done well, it can still be incredibly divisive among fans (hello, Hideaki Anno).
Yep, just like how we're doing voice actors every now and then, I'll be dipping into the tropes well once in a while, too. I think it goes without saying that this week's installment also contains a SPOILER WARNING, since some shows like to play it straight and lull you into a false sense of security before applying the screws. Now, let's get started!
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Let's start with a recent title that really deserves a lot of attention: The Stanley Parable. This first-person game starts in an office building, and gives you regular directions. You can either follow those directions, or choose to go your own way... and from there, it very quickly spirals out of control.
While I'd consider Code Geass more of a (fun) train wreck than an actual mind screw, it has some moments that really throw you for a loop--like just before the end of the first series, or finding out just how far Rollo will go to keep Lelouch safe.
Serial Experiments Lain's popularity surprised me--it was a quiet, thoughtful series at a time when most anime being released in the US was large-scale and bombastic, and it was really rewarding for viewers who liked to pay attention to detail.
Holy crap, the artist even got the little girl in the picture! Go Nagai's work has always been pretty f**ked-up overall, but Devilman takes the cake, especially the never-released-in-the-US Amon: Devilman Apocalypse OAVs.
by 葛西 心
Even though it's a goofy comedy, FLCL pulls no punches in its six-episode run. While a lot of its mind-screwery happens in funny ways, sometimes it's still enough to make you do a double-take.
Holy crap, you want mind screws? Let's talk Samurai Flamenco. It starts out as ghetto Power Rangers, reveals that sometimes supervillains are really real, and then takes things even farther than that.
Aside from Shiro and her fleshtone bodysuit, Deadman Wonderland is full of just plain awful things happening all the time, from the very beginning where Ganta's entire class is murdered to some of the just-plain-messed-up "games" the prisoners are forced to play.
Not all mind screws hurt... that much, anyway. Fans were eager for a new season to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and were really thrown a curve when we got eight of the same episode in a row with the Endless Eight. Personally, I really like when creators do things like this and expressly mess with fans, but a lot of people were so raging pissed that Endless Eight has passed from "funny, interesting Groundhog Day thing" into total divisive infamy.
by 宵雫 (deme)
So, I'm not gonna judge any of you who watch and enjoy Pupa--I love horror movies, I sat enraptured through the Evil Dead remake, and I have a strong stomach! But as soon as I got to the end of the third episode I went "NOPE, I'M GOOD" and called it quits. What happened, you ask? Well, just look at this picture--I think it very accurately describes what you're in for!
Honestly, the three-minute episodes are timed to stop at such infuriating points that I'm actually considering just powering through the rest of the episodes, and then washing it all down with some Tonari no Seki-kun so I don't go nuts.
Y'know how I always love getting to switch things around and tell you guys "I can't believe you forgot such-and-such title?" Hell, I don't even like Higurashi: When They Cry (fine, fine, or Higurashi no Naku Koro ni) and that totally nutballs horror-suspense series definitely belongs here!
In what I think is a testament to a great mind screw, Neon Genesis Evangelion still has people talking after all these years. I was having an in-depth conversation with one of the forum mods a couple days ago, and he said that he doesn't like watching media that punches you in the face over and over again. I like that. I like media that fights back, and the combination of a meaningful and introspective TV ending (that lots of people understandably hate) and a gigantic apocalyptic massacre of a movie ending (that lots of people also understandably hate) just makes Evangelion one of my all-time favorites.
And really, 3.33 did its job. You're not supposed to feel comfortable or welcome in Eva. It hates you and wants your head to hurt. Shit's not supposed to make sense right now, it's supposed to make sense ten years later (maybe) after you've let it digest.
Unfortunately, this beautiful piece was not done by Louis C.K. Blast of Tempest really made you question if what you were seeing was real, if characters were hallucinating or talking to someone long-dead or, well... the series basically just kept you guessing constantly, and even after the big reveal, there was still more to find out.
Maybe it was unfair of me to dismiss Shin Sekai Yori as another sleepy, me-too slice-of-life series. Almost everything I've heard about it has been overwhelmingly positive, with just a hint of warning in there, because apparently when things go bad, they go bad.
On the other hand, my first impressions of Paranoia Agent were pretty spot-on. This is another series that doesn't want you to get comfortable, and the overwhelming sense of tension and dread keeps up throughout the entire series.
by ultmte READER SUBMISSION!
The term "mind screw" is pretty expressive, but it's rare to see one applied with literal screws. In Medaka Box, Kumagawa Misogi is a force of nature who's teased throughout the anime as someone very important to Medaka's past, and finding out just what on Earth he did is a shock in such a normally-pleasant series.
Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle is another series that starts off as one thing--in this case an adventure with a lot of urgency and emotion--and soon enough changes into a trippy ride down the rabbit hole. All the Alice in Wonderland-themed art really makes sense, without even counting CLAMP's hilarious version of Wonderland.
Really, it's a common thread here that a title will look like one thing--in Mother/Earthbound's case, a lighthearted and silly sci-fi RPG--and be much darker under the surface. Sure, Earthbound is about four plucky kids with psychic powers taking on aliens, but it's total nightmare fuel, and you would never guess it.
Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem, on the other hand, wears all that on its sleeve. It does the same thing Amnesia currently does, dragging you from one awful room to another and forcing you to think outside the box to come out on top... or just hide. That's fine, too.
Future Diary just... yeah. I dunno, it came too close after I finished Death Note for me to take any real interest (I know, they're actually pretty different!), but it's one that's on the to-watch/to-read list... after Tsuritama this time.
The Metal Gear series as a whole likes to mess with the audience (my favorite twist is in my favorite game, Snake Eater), but fans really got the brunt of it in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, which only let you play as Snake for the first handful of hours before switching to Raiden, and going completely bonkers with the story. There was a lot of bitching then, even from me, but with the amount of times I've played and replayed the game over and over again, that bitching has become meaningless. It also kinda firmly cemented my hard-and-fast "gameplay > story" rule.
So real talk: why is Kumagawa so popular? I'm not talking about fans, because fans will like who they like, but in-universe, so many characters absolutely adore this total freakin' lunatic.
When Silent Hill first came out, survival horror games were 100% following in Resident Evil's footsteps. While it shared a few small similarities with Capcom's creepshow, Silent Hill has always preyed on small fears, like something moving just outside of your field of vision, in addition to big, brutal scares.
Being a magical girl series aimed at a primarily male audience, Puella Magi Madoka Magica had one hell of a hook. Now, "dark" magical girl series are actually nothing new, but few took things as far as Madoka, from an early-series shock death to the ridiculous paradox at the end of the series. I really want to see Rebellion.
Y'know what I like most about Mawaru Penguindrum? The soundtrack. Don't get me wrong, the rest of the show is awesome too--the characters, the weird dreamlike quality of it all--but it's that soundtrack that always sticks with me.
A lot of Satoshi Kon's works are mind screws, but Perfect Blue is the one I always have the fondest memories of. It's a pretty straightforward stalker/suspense story, but as things slowly get worse and worse, you wonder if our heroine's going to come out of it all okay. The answer is, well... sorta? If you haven't seen it, check it out. I consider it the pinnacle of anime mind screws.
And that's everything for this week! There's no way I could have included everything--what are your favorite brain-straining mind screws? Sound off in the comments!
Like I say every week, your work is always welcome here on Fanart Friday. Just PM me a link to your art, and I'll make sure to include it in a future installment! Here are the next three upcoming themes for Fanart Friday:
-Next week, on MARCH 21st, Fanart Friday celebrates two and a half years with the now-traditional RECAP EPISODE! As is standard operating procedure, I WON'T BE TAKING ANY REQUESTS FOR THIS THEME, BUT ALL SUBMISSIONS ARE WELCOME!
-Then, on MARCH 28th, we celebrate that unusually perfect partner with a look at MAGICAL GIRLFRIENDS AND BOYFRIENDS! Yep, another trope!
-On APRIL 4th, we're succumbing to sequelitis as we talk about SEQUELS AND FOLLOW-UP TITLES! No reboots or remakes, so think of it like this: Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball GT count because they're sequels to the original Dragon Ball, but Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood doesn't count because it's a retelling of the same story (up to a certain point).
Thanks again for coming by to check out Fanart Friday! Have a great weekend and a safe St. Patrick's Day, and I hope you drop by again next week!