Image source: アニメ「セントールの悩み」公式‏ on Twitter

With all amazing plot twists from many different anime series in 2017, one plot twist in A Centaur’s Life stands out from the rest. And not because it’s startling, but because of how it fundamentally changes the entire series.

In the world of A Centaur’s Life humanity took a different path of evolution. Now humanity consists of multiple types of people including centaurs, goatfolk, snakefolk, merfolk, draconid, and many more. The series follows the daily life of the high school girls Himeno Kimihara (a centaur), Nozomi Gokuraku (a draconid), and Kyouko Naraku (a goatfolk). Each episode is divided into two stories and follows the girls as they go to school, talk about romance, receive government propaganda, and acclimate to a well-regimented life.

“Slice-of-life” and “propaganda” aren’t two words you’d expect to see in the same sentence—especially with modern anime. A Centaur’s Life some how manages this, though. But, not by indoctrinating the viewers with propaganda. Instead it shows us a world where social constructs are ingrained into people from a young age and questions us about or own society. It’s not what you’d expect from a series featuring some cute character designs. In fact, Anime Now!’s description of the series is, “An adorable teenage centaur girl deals with fairly normal life problems alongside her other supernatural friends.” So, is there an actual moment in the series were we see this shift in the theme? Surprisingly, it’s in the very first episode of the series.

A Centaur’s Life Is Far More Than Just Cute Monster Girls Doing Cute Things

Image source: アニメ「セントールの悩み」公式‏ on Twitter

It’s actually a very quick moment in the first episode and occurs at the beginning of the second story featured in the episode. At first we’re treated to a little lesson about the evolutionary history of this world. It’s fascinating in and of itself. However, when we stop to consider exactly what’s being told to us, we quickly realize the characters are receiving thinly veiled propaganda about equality—not that equality is bad, but it’s suggested if anyone is caught making or doing anything that’s “speciesist” will be taken to a government center for sensitivity training. What makes this scene so critical to the entire series, though, comes from one major fact: it questions our views about social constructs. In other words, in less than 20 minutes A Centaur’s Life goes from being a slice-of-life series to hard social commentary. And that’s just the first episode.

The Twisted World of Enforced Equality in A Centaur’s Life

Image source: アニメ「セントールの悩み」公式‏ on Twitter

Yet, what’s so great about this plot twist is it’s not overt. Again, it’s a quick moment and hidden within a biology lesson. That’s the genius of it. Not all plot twists need to be grand displays of character betrayal or some large event within a story. A plot twist can literally be a shift in tone. And that’s really good for this series. Consider, watching mythical creatures live a life similar to ours isn’t all that attention grabbing. Yes, there are slight differences in how they go about certain things, such as a wonderful discussion about reproductive organs in the fourth episode. But, a lot of the humor could end up being observational and “what if” situations. Like, what if a centaur is a fashion model or what if a snake-girl went on a date with a cat-man? It’s fun, but loses its distinctiveness fairly quickly and has us wanting something a bit more substantive.

Let’s Overthink the Evolutionary Biology of A Centaur’s Life

While it’s certainly possible for A Centaur’s Life to touch on serious subject matters as a slice-of-life series, it doesn’t fit with the tone of the genre. In other words, we prefer our slice-of-life to poke fun at our daily lives, not tackle difficult social issues. So, in order to broach the more series subject matters in each episode we need to have a shift in tone. If we don’t have that shift the heavier stories comes out of the blue. Yet, if that shift comes to late it defies our expectations of the series. Thus, it has to be done early, subtly, and can’t be a traditional plot twist. So, the first episode becomes the ideal place for it as it prepares us for much heavier topics of discussion that appear all throughout the series.

This is why we don’t bat an eye later in the series when topics like racism of tribalism pop up. We’ve been told Himeno and her friends will be used to analyze our society and question our social constructs and mores; that the series will eschew observational humor and in its place observers how humanity acts a whole in the first episode. Subjects from how we raise our children to ideas about schooling, and even things like interacting with foreign cultures.

Image source: アニメ「セントールの悩み」公式‏ on Twitter

For instance, the ninth episode goes into a long exploration of A Centaur’s Life version of the holocaust and the idea of tribalism. Yet, with this series it’s far easier to grasp the concept because we have clear visual cues of the physical characteristics of the people in question. That’s not to say   physical cues weren’t involved in the real holocaust, just that A Centaur’s Life accentuates it through horns, horse bodies, wings, tails, and so on. It’s not an easy watch to say the least, but the episode raises interesting issues surrounding tribalism and how it affects us. However, without that initial plot twist in the first the episode the topics in the ninth episode could have felt out of place in humorous and cute series.

The Most Human Aspect of A Centaur’s Life Is Man’s Inhumanity Towards Man

The plot twist in A Centaur’s Life isn’t flashy to say the least. In fact, it’s underplayed. But, it serves its purpose exceptionally well: informing the audiences this isn’t just a slice-of-life series and defying our expectations of the series. And with it appearing in the first episode it really is one of the best plot twists of 2017.

A Centaur’s Life is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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