Dangerous Sixteenth Birthday
aka: Dangerous Eighteenth Birthday
"The gods are
so using you, Percy. Do you have any idea what's in store for you if you reach your sixteenth birthday? Has Chiron even
told you the prophecy?"
There may be no more unfortunate age to turn than sixteen, especially if you're female, although in all media male examples exist too
. While there are dangers inherent in simply existing, celebrating one's sixteenth birthday is one of the most obvious. Generally, this entails the manifestation of powers
, possibly some ancient conspiracy
or prophecy, and the end of a "normal" life for the character in question. Growing Up Sucks
There are some Real World reasons why 16 is often chosen as The Age At Which Shit Happens. Although the hormonal hell known as puberty actually started a few years earlier, sixteen tends to be when the teenager finally has those changes under control and starts to act (somewhat) more like an adult, which is reflected in how teenagers' bodies sexually mature (on average) by 16; thus, in many cultures, 16 was the effective age of majority. Even though Western culture prefers to wait until 18 to confer legal adulthood, in the U.S. 16 is still the minimum age for a driver's license and many types of employment (both very important milestones of adulthood, independence, and/or general social status). 16 is actually the official age of consent in 29 states (Pennsylvania, despite having it at 16, in practice, has it at 18). On the flipside, in many jurisdictions 16 is the minimum age at which a minor accused of a crime may be tried and punished as an adult rather than through the juvenile justice system. And in Asian media, let's not forget that 16 is four times four
From a media perspective, 16 is also a transition age from works specifically intended for tween/teen consumers towards the mainstream adult audience. Notice, for example, how in the Harry Potter
series each year's installment is noticeably darker and aimed at a higher reading level than the last, with Book 6 marking the point at which the writing style and tone become level with mainstream adult fantasy novels.
Often overlaps with The Hero's Birthday
as the precise
moment at which everything hits the fan.
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Anime and Manga
- Aya Mikage in Ayashi no Ceres, who first manifested the powers of the Tennyo (Celestial Maiden), Ceres, on her 16th birthday. In one of the rare examples of this trope afflicting a male, her twin brother, Aki, also begins exhibiting certain supernatual traits after this date. Essentially the whole of the Mikage family is perpetuating an Ancient Conspiracy based on these events.
- Tiala inherits the Red Stone on her sixteenth birthday in Dragon Quest Legend Of The Hero Abel. She is kidnapped for it the same day.
- Kannazuki no Miko: Kurusugawa Himeko and Himemiya Chikane gain their powers as the priestesses of the sun and moon on their 16th birthday, the same day that Yamato no Orochi first manifests and begins its attempt to destroy the world.
- Yami to Boushi to Hon no Tabibito: A relatively calm use of the trope, Azuma Hatsumi (Eve), who simply disappears from any world she enters upon turning 16.
- Devil Hunter Yohko: The title character comes into her own on her 16th birthday.
- Yumeria: Tomokazu Mikuri finds himself thrust into the (sometimes hilarious) war in the world of dreams starting the night before his sixteenth birthday.
- In another male example, when Yuuto Amakawa of Omamori Himari turns sixteen, the Protective Charm that was sealing his powers and making him invisible to demons stopped working, making them aware of his presence. At the same time arrives his samurai catgirl bodyguard, Himari (followed shortly thereafter by the rest of the Unwanted Harem).
- Pacifica from Scrapped Princess is destined to cause The End of the World as We Know It on her sixteenth birthday.
- In Romeo X Juliet, Juliet discovers on her 16th birthday that she is the long-lost heir to the Capulet family, the former rulers of Neo Verona who were assassinated and usurped by the cruel Montagues.
- When Kanon woke up Poseidon in Saint Seiya, he said it was still not his time to awaken, and took the body of a young Julian Solo to awaken himself in his Sixteenth birthday.
- Ill Girl Shiori of Kanon is only supposed to make to her 16th Birthday if she's very lucky.
- In Shikabane Hime, Oori's 16th birthday is when he has to take over for Keisei.
- Koe de Oshigoto! has an incredibly weird example where Kanna gets asked a favor by her sister on her 16th birthday, and so began her career as an eroge seiyuu.
- Gankutsuou: Albert loses a dear friend on his 16th birthday. Franz is killed by the Count in a duel, which would have originally been Albert's fate had Franz not intervened.
- In Black Bird, Misao becomes a "bride of prophecy" on her 16th birthday.
- Virgin Ripper (meaning a young "reaper", not a serial killer of virgins): A year early, but it's implied that on Hotaru's 15th birthday she allowed herself to die (essentially suicide, and only suicides become reapers) so the "real" Hotaru she was cloned from could get her organs, hence why her soul is different from the other reapers.
- The local villagers in Maomarimo offer their annual "maiden sacrifice" to the marimo spirit on the maiden's 16th birthday. Fortunately for the girls it's a purely symbolic sacrifice that mostly involves spending the night alone in a boat on a lake. Everyone thinks it's just a quaint local custom until the hero, a 16 year old male virgin, takes his twin sister's place and gets turned into a maiden as a result.
- Disaster Movie pokes fun at this. Will has a sweet sixteen party the same day the world ends, even though he is 25.
- The Slasher Movies Sweet Sixteen and My Super Psycho Sweet 16 (no relation).
- In Teen Witch, the main character acquires her powers on her sixteenth birthday.
- In My Soul to Take, the Riverton Ripper returns from the grave on the collective sixteenth birthday of the seven teenagers born on the day he died.
- While a character is celebrating their sixteenth birthday in Demons 2, they get attacked and forcibly transformed into a monster by a demon, and become the film's main antagonist.
- In the movie Beautiful Creatures, when a female Caster turns 16, her nature chooses to focus completely on its light or dark aspects. The main character is rather upset by this, because she feels it should be her conscious choice.
- In the Disney Channel movie The Thirteenth Year, the main character discovers that he was adopted and his birth mother was a mermaid when he starts gradually changing into a merman after his thirteenth birthday.
- Another Disney Channel movie, 16 Wishes, features the main character inadvertently setting up a dangerous 16th birthday for herself.
- Subversion in Sleeping Beauty: "The princess shall indeed grow in grace and beauty, beloved by all who know her. But... before the sun sets on her 16th birthday, she shall prick her finger, on the spindle of a spinning wheel - AND DIE!" So her 16th birthday isn't the most dangerous day, it's just the last day for the curse to take effect.
- This is what happens when you turn 15 in the Gone series. Anybody 15 and up disappears when the FAYZ is formed, and if you turn 15 while inside the FAYZ then you disappear as well. Although the kids learn how to stay there by the end of the first book.
- In the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, there is a prophecy known to apply to whichever child of the three major gods next reaches their sixteenth birthday. This leads to several fake-outs regarding who the child is. At first Percy, as the son of Poseidon, is the only candidate, until Thalia, a daughter of Zeus who had been turned into a tree, is re-transformed. However, the day before Thalia's birthday, she joins the Hunt of Artemis, meaning that she will never age and thus will not turn sixteen. After, the prophecy is more-or-less a race to see if the Titans can kill Percy and sway the other other candidate, Nico di Angelo, son of Hades, to their side, or if they can cross their fingers and hope he screws up - badly - at decision-time. In the end, however, while Percy makes the decision, it boils down to deciding whether or not to give someone a knife, and his sixteenth birthday ends up only as a time marker. The one who takes the "dangerous" part of the prophecy ends up being someone entirely different.
- Horrors of the Dancing Gods: Both Lampshaded and Averted: The heroine quizzes the MacGuffin Girl about her birthday before she realizes that the girl (who has been kept in hiding for nearly her entire life) probably doesn't even know her real birthdate anyway.
- Deltora Quest (and it's anime adaptation) has Lief beginning his quest to find the seven gems to free Deltora on his sixteenth birthday.
- Every one of the main characters in the Mindwarp series are explicitly stated to have manifested powers on their 16th birthday. Including silver blood. Which, if they had been born with, would have been rather hard not to be aware of.
- Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms: A force known as "The Tradition" attempts to make people play out their lives as if they were stories, and one of the big turning points of The Tradition's power is one's sixteenth birthday. As a Princess in one of the books reflects, if you're plain, everyone will forget your birthday and you will be miserable; if you are beautiful everyone you meet will celebrate with you. How the birthday goes can determine your life's path.
- Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising series. A variation occurs in book 2 The Dark is Rising, when Will Stanton gains his powers as an Old One (and faces supernatural foes) around the time of his 11th birthday.
- In Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series, people get the pretty operation at 16 (though it is mentioned to the later in some cities). Of course the operation gives you brain lesions that leave you bubbleheaded. It is also mentioned by Tally that it was said "they could make the operation work on 15-years-old now, waiting until sixteen was just a tradition".
- In the book XVI by Julia Karr, sixteen is when girls get their 'XVI' tattoo and can legally have sex. Of course, that's not necessarily a good thing...
- Sixteen is the age of marriage in the world of A Brother's Price. Men are rare, so they get married right on their birthdays or soon after. For women marriage can happen at any age, even before birth - because a man marries every sister in a family - but the age of consummation for them, too, is sixteen. This birthday is more dangerous for men, who have to leave home to live with new families.
- The evil sorcerer kidnaps all his maidens the night before their sixteenth birthday (or betrothal, if that came first) in Mercedes Lackey's Firebird.
- In the The Caster Chronicles, Casters (At least in Lena's family) get claimed Light or Dark on their sixteenth birthday.
- Discussed but ultimately discarded in Jack Chalker's Nightmares of the Dancing Gods as a sign of the generally high level of Genre Savviness endemic to the setting.
- In "The Hunger Games" trilogy, a person in the districts can volunteer for "Tesserae," which means extra food rations and privileges in return for an extra entry in the draw to be reaped for the Games. Since many people are obliged to go this route to avoid their family starving, it's not quite as "voluntary" as it's painted. When she goes to off the Games, Katniss warns her sister Primrose against volunteering (this conversation is intended to show Katniss does not expect to survive, since Prim is well under the appropriate age at the time)
Live Action TV
- Evie Garland of Out of This World finds out on her sixteenth birthday that she's half alien on her father's side and possesses the ability to freeze time.
- Sabrina the Teenage Witch is first able to use her witch powers on her sixteenth birthday. Before that, she wouldn't be even allowed to know about them.
- In Reaper, the 21st birthday is the dangerous one. The sixteenth never comes into play.
- In Young Dracula, a vampire gains their full powers at age sixteen. Powers start semi-developing before that point, but on a vampire's sixteenth birthday they are locked in a room with the family's blood mirror and merge with a demonized reflection of themselves in said mirror, after which they are meant to lose all traces of humanity and become evil.
- If one or both your parents made a deal with a demon called Azazel and 10 years later you're 6 months old, life will suck, but won't be half as bad as the year you turn 23. In Sammy's case, it gets even worse...
Role Playing Games
- In Survival of the Fittest, the day of the school trip (when the abductions took place) is that of Jacob Starr's sixteenth birthday.
- In Final Fantasy IX, a Summoner's sixteenth birthday makes them into an easy power source for the forces of evil.
- Dragon Quest III opens with the hero's 16th birthday — the hero can be male or female. Since their father didn't finish his journey to vanquish the evil Baramos, the king has been waiting for the hero to come of age so that they can take up his quest.
- Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army features a major character, Kaya Daidouji. Kaya is the daughter of the very wealthy Daidouji family, and despite her upbringing she is very kind towards her friends and servants. But, apparently when the girls of the family turn sixteen, a demon possesses them until they die. This troubles Kaya and so she contacts Raidou and his boss, Narumi, to help her. She quickly de-evolves into Distressed Damsel when some weird army guards in red kidnap her, thus setting Raidou on his quest.
- In Tales of Symphonia, Colette receives the Oracle sending her on her Journey of Regeneration on her sixteenth birthday. The Journey is supposed to end in her sacrificing herself for the sake of the world.
- In Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, on Link's 16th birthday a strange mark appeared on his left hand, the triforce, and thus the adventure begins!
- Tsukihime has one example: Ciel's incarnation as Roa's 17th host manifested when she turned sixteen.
- Inversion: in Clock Tower 3, the heroine is sent Off to Boarding School on her fifteenth birthday to prevent her grandfather from using her blood in an ancient ritual which will only work while she is fifteen. Therefore, her sixteenth birthday would actually be one of the safest days of her life.
- In Overlord: Dark Legends, Lord Gromgard was given a gauntlet as a birthday present, which gives him access to a room where his evil potential is unlocked.
- In the ninth and tenth Fire Emblem games, the branded can safely hide among the Beorc until their aging process slows down at the age of sixteen.
- Mass Effect: If you choose the "Colonist" background for your character, Shepard is sixteen years old when his/her home colony of Mindoir is attacked by slavers and his/her parents killed.
- In Dark Stalkers, this is true for Hsienko (and her sister Meiling) in the third game. The girls that formed our favorite Jiang-shi were reincarnated and given normal lives, but as they turn sixteen, they find themselves back into the Majigen and as Jiang-shi. For worse, they don't remember their past lives, and thus they're utterly lost as to what's going on...
- 16 is the minimal starting age for Fallout character.
- In Blue Yonder, Jared has been superheroing for years — at least long enough to be quite used to being the Distressed Dude — but he is sixteen when the Cape Busters capture his parents, and then his sister, and come after him.
- Mara from La Mouette Noire was 18 when she set out on her first adventure.
- In No Rest for the Wicked, November is sixteen when she sets out on her quest.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender , the Avatar is located at a young age and usually informed when they're sixteen. However, Aang was informed when he was twelve because the Fire Nation was coming close to an attack. Zuko is sixteen when he finally finds the Avatar, after years of search.
- In Sequel Series, The Legend of Korra, the titular Korra also discovered her identity as the Avatar early. She began earthbending and even firebending on her own as a child, making the usual reveal an Avatar gets a moot point and ulitmately subverting this trope much like Aang did - both of them were supposed to have a dangerous sixteenth birthday, but circumstances prevented it.
- We do get to see Aang's predecessor Roku play it straight during a flashback in the first series.
- Teen Titans: Raven has a dangerous unnamed birthday when she was destined to become her demon father Trigon's portal to Earth. In fact the comics the show was based on had entire groups of Titans gaining powers/powerups at sixteen.
- 16 is voting age in Brazil.
- As noted above, 16 is the minimum age for a full driver's license in the United States, although some states will issue learners' permits at 15 and other states impose special restrictions on drivers until they are 18 (such as having an adult in the car after dark).
- SoCalization aside, 16 is the age of consent in the majority of U.S. states, and in many other countries including the UK and Canada, and most of Australia.