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Jigsaw Puzzle Plot

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Tommy: You see, Trumpy? The pieces go together!
Tom Servo: If only this movie were so lucky...

Lots of interesting things are going on in the series' Myth Arc: Mind Screws, wild conspiracies, unrevealed Love Dodecahedrons, an Ontological Mystery, and the odd bit of Applied Phlebotinum or two. Sometimes the setting itself is just plain crazy, to boot, and the characters are stuck in a World of Mysteries, World Gone Mad, or World of Weirdness. It's a Long Story, and there's far too much to explain in the series pilot.

Solution: ration out the information about what's going on with an eyedropper, and let the viewers scratch their heads about it until much later on. Welcome to the Jigsaw Puzzle Plot.

At its best (and with a sharp audience that's well-prepared for it), the series can become an interesting intellectual challenge that generates hours and hours of Fan Wank, Epileptic Trees and watercooler discussions, and creates memorable moments as connections between seemingly minor or unrelated details fall into place, revealing illuminating insights (see Wham Episode). At its worst, the series becomes an incomprehensible Mind Screw ruled by The Chris Carter Effect, patched together by the occasional Ass Pull. Some writers may claim some of the latter effect to be intentional; that some mysteries are never solved. However, the fact remains that if you give viewers a mystery, suspects, and clues, then don't tell them whodunnit, don't act surprised if they get pissed at you afterwards.

Anime does this quite frequently, and even series that don't explicitly try for a full Jigsaw Puzzle Plot will frequently hold back explanation of a few scenes in the Pilot until Mr. Exposition has a chance to talk about it without the conversation seeming too forced.

Very common in arc-based mystery or espionage series, where what's going on is supposed to be mysterious. By its nature uses several Driving Questions right at the outset. Expect many reveals. Can often become a Kudzu Plot if the pieces of the puzzle don't quite fit together. A video game that forces the player to go and find the plot pieces is using Story Breadcrumbs.

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Other examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • Elephantmen tells it story from multiple character perspectives and sometimes out of sequence.
  • Grant Morrison writes a lot of these. It's not always a bad thing, though, just seems to be their style. Their run on Batman notably had some elements that didn't seem to make sense until the end.
  • 100 Bullets slowly builds on its background Myth Arc one piece at a time. The Minutemen and the Trust? Those names aren't even mentioned in the first few arcs.
  • The Sandman (1989). Through all the stories the characters mix up slowly and in ways that aren't initially obvious and characters that were initially in two panels as a mention become major players later on.
  • John Byrne's run on She-Hulk worked like this. Small two page snippets would later contribute to the storyline. The Greek Gods arguing about Cupid being able to make someone in love with anybody else and then combining this with a conqueror from the future just arriving, for example.
  • Transformers: More than Meets the Eye is a prime example. At first the plot seems fairly straightforward: a crew of Transformers set off on a quest to find the mysterious Precursors by following an ancient starmap. But soon more and more mysteries and odd events begin appearing and multiple hints are dropped that something bigger is going on. Then the backstories and pasts of the characters and galaxy are slowly told through flashbacks, foreshadowing, subtle dialogue, and background hints (with occasional Word of God to fill in less apparent or important things). As the comic goes on, we learn more about how the crew came to be where they are today, with the foggy implication that the crew has always been linked to each other even before they began their quest. And all of this is told in somewhat Anachronic Order.

    Fan Works 
  • Aeon Natum Engel tries to recreate a Jigsaw Puzzle Plot where its source material went for more of a Kudzu Plot. (and no, knowing what was going on in canon Eva won't help you that much). Warning: Putting too many pieces together may induce maniacal laughter and/or gibbering.
  • Child of the Storm starts out looking like a fairly bog-standard crossover, before veering into very different territory and laid the foundations for a plot which in the immediate future includes a Gambit Pile Up with around 17 participants, one of which is playing all of the others like a violin. All of this is centred around Harry Potter/Thorson, who spends much of the story wishing that he wasn't caught up in all this and trying very hard not to die. In the more distant future, a Myth Arc of epic proportions seems to be being built. Trying to figure out what will happen next is an exercise in futility, usually because the next chapter adds a new piece which changes the picture enough that even if someone's figured the basic shape of the next piece, there are key details which no one sees coming. Part of the reason this works is because the main character is entirely grounded and thoroughly sick of being caught up in all the schemes going on around him. Another part is that the author is generally accepted to be completely mad, but very good at making it work for him. Even if he is probably making most of it up as he goes along.
  • The Firefly fanfic Forward has gradually hinted a far deeper and more complex plot as the series progresses, revolving around the Academy and their goals regarding creating psychics like River. Hints and clues as to what the Academy is really doing are dropped all throughout the story.
  • An author example is Kalash93. Many of his stories connect together very subtly, and attentive repeat readers will spot the connections. Not all the pieces are together yet, and what is there is not always told in order.
  • Hoofstuck: Like one of its source works, Homestuck, the story jumps around between various times, places, and characters, feeding the reader pieces of information that won't make sense until much later.
  • Mega Man Recut is very layered, and many character facets and an overall plot remain hidden.
  • Half the fun of Bad Future Crusaders is how well this has been done. While most of the focus is put on the now adult Cutie Mark Crusaders each trying to either just live or rekindle old friendships, there is also Babs Seed who is an inspector just trying to uphold the law and do the right thing, an entire plot dedicated to Lightning Dust and her R.E.A.F, and Silver Spoon who's plot alone could be it's own story, all held together with some shady characters who seem to know a lot more than what they let on with some flashbacks and Worldbuilding for good measure.
  • Various details in the sub-series of The Dear Sweetie Belle Continuity connect to paint the larger, darker picture.
  • The Steven Universe fanfic Seeds of Rebellion makes use of Switching P.O.V. and Anachronic Order to slowly piece together the Backstory of how the Crystal Gem Rebellion came to be
  • The plot of Go Away I'm Watching Porn is shrouded in mystery due to the massive Gambit Pile Up existing between The Alliance, the Khaos Brigade, an unknown third party responsible for Issei's Dark and Troubled Past, and an unwilling Issei. As more and more hints are dropped as to what each group is planning and what exactly Issei's past entails, more questions are raised for both the characters and readers.
  • In the My Hero Academia fanfic Switchblade, the mystery of what happened to Izuku during the week he went missing is given in bit pieces, with every Flashback, every piece of research into the original Meta Liberation Army, and seemingly-unrelated events all slowly painting the bigger picture.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Cloverfield uses this big time. You won't get the full story in the movie at all. Looking into the ARG explains somethings and gives a few implications. By the end of both you're left having to figure out how a giant monster, a bunch of big parasite things, a Japanese corporation, the government, and an anti-corporate terrorist who seems to know something about the monster are all tied together.
  • Memento: Protagonist Leonard has amnesia, and the movie is told in reverse chronological order. As the story rewinds, both Leonard and the audience learn more about how he got this way, what happened to his dead wife, and various other smaller details that were initially missing context.
  • Primer's plot and continuity almost completely breaks down about three-quarters of the way through the movie, leaving the reader to piece together what has happened from a series of somewhat disconnected scenes and references; even then, some significant parts of the plot are unsolvable. Justified in that the film is about the first discovery of time travel - and the realization that, once time travel exists, this is what causality would be like.
  • As well as following an Anachronic Order, the story told by the Saw series is not shown linearly. Flashbacks, including the Once More, with Clarity! variety, are used frequently. In Saw IV, Jill Tuck says "John's life defies chronology, linear description." The story itself is like a jigsaw puzzle, which is fitting, considering most of the killers are dubbed "the Jigsaw Killer".
  • The 1972 version of Солярис (Solaris) is an example of what can go wrong when this trope is mixed with adapting from book to film. The film based heavily on a novel which heavily relied on the narrator giving massive Info Dumps to give backstory and explain things. Given that much of the film adaptation is based on the actions that take place in the novel, but is bereft of any narration, this means that things which made sense (or at least slightly more sense) in the novel, went completely unexplained in the film without buildup, exposition, or closure. Many plot revelations and pieces of characterization were changed to something very different, making the film hard to approach even for those who have read the book. The film also adds several scenes not found in the novel at all, which are quite trippy, leading to a film which has disturbingly large chunks of its running time occupied by Big Lipped Alligator Moments. Mind Screw and Gainax Ending do not even begin to express how weird the whole thing is.
  • The Star Wars sequel trilogy is infamous for its half-hearted attempt at this, as it's clear the different directors between films didn't compare notes on how the jigsaw puzzle should be set up. The Force Awakens, directed by J. J. Abrams, introduces several questions about why Rey is so strong with The Force, who her parents are, and the origins of Supreme Leader Snoke. The Last Jedi, directed by Rian Johnson, answers most of those questions but does so in a way that flies in many of the series' standard conventions, which ended being...polarizing, not in the least of which is that he left almost nothing for the final film to answer for. They were so polarizing in fact that The Rise of Skywalker, ultimately again directed by J. J. Abrams, effectively Retcons some of those answers with new ones more in line with series' conventions, which caused another Broken Base over whether the changes were good, bad, or didn't help the film's and the trilogy's other problems.

  • P.C. Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath wherein there's a fully fleshed-out fantasy world with its own ecosystem, magic, and theology. The main character, Jame, is (mostly) aware of how the world works, but doesn't explain any of it until relevant. Furthermore, she has only vague memories of ten years that passed where she didn't age. What she knows of the world is largely revealed by the second book. How the world actually works is still being revealed as of the fourth book.
  • The Discworld mostly averts this practice, as every book is stand-alone, and even in the case where it isn't — like Lords and Ladies — most of the stuff you need to know is mentioned a second time. However some pieces of character development can only be understood correctly if you read every book where the character in question turns up, and find a lot of things were already mentioned. A major contender for this is Death, who shows up in every book but two, but if you only read the books where he or his granddaughter Susan star in you will never grasp the full depth of his character. It works the same with Sam Vimes, as the "beast" that is inside of him is elaborated on in every book for brief amounts of time, only to be given a starring role of sorts in Night Watch (and even then this subplot is continued afterwards). Another major character is Carrot, who on the surface is a Nice Guy who genuinely wants all people to live in peace and harmony, but in truth there is a massive complexity behind his simpleness which a reader may only begin to understand by reading all of the watch books and the short story "Theater of Cruelty".
  • The Dresden Files. We're gradually learning things about Harry, his universe, and the main Plot that surrounds him.
  • The short novel Empire Star by Samuel R. Delany is a deliberately crafted jigsaw, designed so the reader isn't even aware they're seeing pieces of a puzzle, until the end, when Delany offers a few last missing key pieces, and then suggests that the reader can now assemble the whole story in their mind. Learning that you're dealing with Anachronic Order and time travel changes everything.
  • Harry Potter, to the point where half the final book is made up of scenes where some object briefly mentioned earlier in the series becomes extremely important. In essence, it's a book of Plot Coupons being cashed in.
  • Gone: The conceit of this books series is that a small town is surrounded by a giant dome, and all adults are teleported out of it. The teen characters find out more and more about the powerful forces that created this little isolated world while fighting to stay alive.
  • The Fall Of Hyperion is a continuous downward spiral into a labyrinthine web of conspiracies within conspiracies on a cosmic scale.
  • Shea and Wilson's Illuminatus! trilogy is essentially a jigsaw puzzle with ten thousand widely scattered pieces in at least three different boxes. And even then you can't be sure you've got all the pieces, or if you break it all up and start over again, you're going to get an entirely different picture. And the person next to you who is also reading the book will assemble an entirely different picture. And you're both equally right.
  • Each chapter of In Conquest Born is a vignette about a different aspect of the Forever War that forms the basis of its story, sometimes with little indication of how it ties into the overarching plot. Only after all the pieces are laid out does the whole picture start to emerge.
  • The Kingkiller Chronicle is full of mysteries, only some of which are resolved (the third book is forthcoming). Right off the bat, the series's framing device raises many questions about how the narrator came to be in his current situation after the events of the main plot. Fan theories abound: for instance, there's a hypothesis about the hidden identity of one character based on some wordplay in a song.
  • The Malazan Book of the Fallen has three major Rotating Arcs, a larger number of subplots, no clear individual protagonist among its cast even for most individual books, and much less the whole ten-book series, and takes place across several continents. The complexity is only increased by the fact that it starts in media res and doles out actual exposition sparingly, leaving the reader to figure most things out by context. It does, however, eventually converge into a single central Myth Arc about the Crippled God.
  • Otherland, a Post-Cyberpunk novel series by Tad Williams, takes an achingly long time to introduce all of the elements of its Kudzu Plot to readers, and even at the end, forces people to fill in some of the blanks themselves.
  • Rant by Chuck Palahniuk is told from several different viewpoints all at once (often contradicting each other) by way of having the side characters interviewed after the fact. SEVERAL different ways of putting this puzzle together are possible.
  • William Faulkner's short story A Rose for Emily comprises five parts which are mostly out of order. For those who don't pick apart and reassemble the events, whether Emily killed her beau, and why, is a perplexing matter. The fact that the narrator (implied to be the townspeople) has a severely limited understanding of Emily's personal life and occasionally relies on conjecture to guess at her actions doesn't help much, either.
  • The Maze Runner: Features a large Ontological Mystery where Thomas and the other teenage boys who find themselves trapped in a place known as The Maze work to break themselves free, fighting against WICKED, the organization of dubious intent that trapped them there. As they work to free themselves, they slowly uncover more information about WICKED's motives and the state of the outside world. The end of the story in the first three books, wraps up relatively little, but two prequel books help fill in a lot of the gaps after the fact.
  • Brandon Sanderson loves this trope and is shown in both The Stormlight Archive and in Mistborn: The Original Trilogy. Reading the Mistborn books twice will reveal just how much of the more left-field twists of Mistborn: The Hero of Ages (the final book in the trilogy) were foreshadowed with the puzzle-pieces hidden in plain sight.
    • The vast majority of Sanderson's works are in fact connected. The Cosmere is all one giant Jigsaw Puzzle Plot behind the scenes of the individual, mostly-standalone stories.
  • In A Series of Unfortunate Events, both the book and the tv show, the Baudelaire orphans bounce from guardian to guardian avoiding the evil Count Olaf, while also slowly uncovering the history of a secret organization called VFD, of which many adults in the story are a part.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire. It's surprising how much one can learn about the backstory and the Myth Arc from reading between the lines and putting together minor details... or by going to The Other Wiki and having it explained to you.
  • The Last Dragon Chronicles is a children's fantasy book series that introduces the Pennykettle family and their ability to sculpt clay dragons that come to life. As the series goes on, the story reveals more about the origins of these powers and of dragons in general, and by the end, the story includes interdimensional aliens, time travel, and three separate parallel universes.
  • The Warrior Cats arcs Power of Three and Omen of the Stars. They gradually revealed the significance and origins of the Three, as well as The Dark Forest and their plans, etc.
  • The Newbery award-winning novel The Westing Game's title puzzle/scavenger game is just one Mind Screw after another.
  • The Wheel of Time. To understand the plot isn't difficult, despite the number of main characters. The confusing part is truly understanding everyone's reactions. It requires a great deal of knowledge about both the plot and most characters' personalities and roles.
  • The works of Gene Wolfe also count, in particular Peace and The Book of the New Sun, the latter in particular. Michael Swanwick and Neil Gaiman have both written tips on how to approach Wolfe's work for the uninitiated.

  • WHO dunnit (1995), appropriate to its Mystery Fiction theme, has a backstory spanning the previous 34 years that must be pieced together by listening to all of the other characters and connecting together what they have to say, and they have a lot to say. Some information will not make sense until you know of certain aspects about them, such as Walter, Victoria's father, changing his name to Butler to conceal his identity from her. This machine is a particularly unusual case in that almost all other pinball machines have either an Excuse Plot or no plot at all.

  • The Magnus Archives is an example of this, with all of its five seasons having been fully planned out before the show began. On the surface, each episode is an isolated, one-off horror story (framed as a statement read by the archivist of the Magnus Institute), but every single episode ties back into the series-long Myth Arc, a centuries-spanning Secret War involving eldritch gods and their human devotees. This means that every episode contains seemingly innocuous details that are brought up again tens or even hundreds of episodes later as critical plot points (for example, the Monster of the Week of the very first episode is revealed to be the driving force behind the Unknowing, the apocalyptic ritual of one of the eldritch gods in episode 119).

  • Ruby Quest; by the end, you still don't have all the pieces. Apparently more could have been gotten if certain actions had been taken. Or more could have been missed, or course. Word of God answered quite a few things, though.

    Visual Novels 
  • As a whole, any Visual Novels that fall under the Multiple Route Mystery tag on VNDB lands here, for better or worse. As for some specific examples:
  • The Ace Attorney games love this trope, especially the 'Phoenix Arc'. Each game has its own self contained story arc, as does each case, making you figure out the entire plot as the trials progress. The Phoenix Arc comprises three games, a total of 14 cases with a recurring cast of characters, with ALL the mysteries and past problems of Phoenix, Maya and Mia as well as a healthy dose of Edgeworth's and Gumshoe's slowly being revealed, connected, explained and resolved.
  • The story of Hope's Peak Academy in Danganronpa is... labyrinthine, since among other things, it's spread out across different mediums. Want to know how the first game happened? Read the light novel Danganronpa Zero, which serves as the only means of foreshadowing for a certain character who doesn't appear until late into Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair. What happened to Makoto's family and the world outside Hope's Peak? Play the video game Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls to find out. How does it all end? Watch the animé Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School, which itself is split into two sides set at different points in time.
  • Remarkably, two different ones in Daughter for Dessert:
    • The first half of the story is dominated by the protagonist and Amanda learning how to process their mutual attraction.
    • The second half is about Amanda wanting to know more about her mother, with Cecilia giving Amanda information that the protagonist withheld from her.
  • In Double Homework, especially toward the middle of the story, there are lots of hints as to what’s really going on with the summer school class.
  • Fate/stay night has three routes focusing on different enemies, with different plans that were barely referenced in the earlier ones.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry constructs a typical jigsaw, with the added twist that in each route it offers false explanations for what's going on, only to debunk them in later arcs. Some are obviously bogus. Alien invasion!? In fact, the final arc features a literal puzzle where you have to piece the TIPS (basically, hints and backstories) together.
  • Many visual novels written by Kotaro Uchikoshi play with this trope, especially the "multiple route" aspect, even turning it into a game mechanic:
    • In Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, the Golden Ending is unlocked by completing a specific other route first. This is actually in-character: in the story, Junpei has to be guided through multiple alternate futures, in order to send and receive information telepathically to someone else.
    • The sequel, Virtue's Last Reward, has multiple mysteries and their answers scattered through its routes. Again, completing certain routes is necessary to unlock other ones, with a twist — namely that the player character can time travel and is also experiencing all of the routes you do, and uses the knowledge obtained to solve mysteries in-character.
    • The third game in the series, Zero Time Dilemma, consists of "story fragments" (each a 90-minute interval from the characters' perspective). When each fragment is completed, it's placed in the global timeline of the game, showing what route and what time the fragment took place, and the player is rewarded with more fragments to complete.
    • AI: The Somnium Files functions similarly to Virtue's Last Reward, though with fewer routes. However, it also has a Meta Twist specifically about Uchikoshi's tendency for big twists; Date is frequently hinted to be subconsciously remembering the other routes, as in the Zero Escape series, but in reality he's just remembering information he knew from before his Laser-Guided Amnesia.
    • Ever17 is similar to Virtue's Last Reward in this regard, except you're actually an observer from another dimension with the power to control people to explore branches — and the other characters know this, and deliberately stage some of the scenes you experience, to have you use this power to help them.
    • Remember11: Its plot is so convoluted and divided over 33 (!) routes that it is said even the author was losing track by the end. If you don't get any bad ends, it's a fairly coherent story with most of the unanswered questions being possible to figure out, if not easy. But the more bad ends you get, the more material you have to work with such as why everything is happening, who everyone is and everything else. When you have the most information about the story is when you truly realize you have no idea what just happened, and you never will know for sure. At least one of the routes has one of the protagonists possessed by the player, roaring with rage at being in a world that makes so little sense. In fact, an accepted interpretation of the game is that the plot itself is a Mind Screw created by the mastermind to entrap and torment the player. Why? Because to the characters in the game, the player is a scary demon who enters from another dimension to control their minds!
  • Long Live the Queen has a fairly straightforward story on a single playthrough, but figuring out all the politics of the land of Nova that cause the events to happen can require multiple playthroughs and complex inferences from combinations of events — which goes to emphasize the overall theme, that being a princess is pretty terrifying and Elodie is way out of her depth.
  • Lux-Pain to the point that IGN gave it a low rating because they didn't understand the story. The game makes sense if you play at least two to three times (and a game like this only takes at least 24 hours to beat) and read between the lines and choose different dialogue choices as well as reading the information that the game gives you at the beginning concerning character information, place location, SILENT, and the overall mission that the game doesn't bother to explain in the first five minutes. That's All There in the Manual. Otherwise, this story makes perfect sense.
  • Shall We Date?: Wizardess Heart groups its multiple story routes into arcs and scatters the significant details of each arc across three separate routes. Although each individual route mostly stands on its own, the player can only get the whole story such as, for example, what motivates Luca Orlem to be the antagonist of Elias and Yukiya's routes in the "Tower of Sorrow" arc, or why Klaus speaks so derisively of legendary magical beast tamer Serge Durandal in his own route in the "Spring of Unicorns" arc — by playing through all three routes of the arc.
  • Each love interest's path in Steam Prison reveals different details about the setting, what's going on in the world and what's happening around Cyrus in particular, while dropping glancing references to other plot elements that go unexplained on that particular route. The only way to resolve all of the dangling plot threads - including but not limited to the mystery of who killed the heroine's parents and why, what becomes of various significant supporting characters, what's up with the mysterious medicine the HOUNDS distribute, and the bigger picture of how the setting functions and how it became the way it is in the first place — is to play through every possible path. More than once, since there are quite a few extra scenes from the perspectives of the other characters which are only unlocked on a second pass through a given branch of the story.
  • Steins;Gate does this. Since the story revolves around Time Travel and a conspiracy, it's only to be expected. A lot of stuff is thrown at you in the first episode, and nothing becomes clear until the last episode when all of the pieces are neatly placed together. Chaos;Head and Robotics;Notes are similar in this aspect.
  • Subarashiki Hibi tells the events of the story from multiple character's viewpoints (Many of them Unreliable Narrators) across different chapters, each time revealing a little more about the setting and what's really going on behind all the bizarre events.
  • Tsukihime has five routes, each focused on different aspects of the story.
  • In Umineko: When They Cry, the constant retelling of the main story gives you, bit by bit, clues to solve the mystery. Unlike Higurashi, while the author gives just enough clues to figure out the solutions yourself, don't expect any answer to be given directly: even after the series has ended, a number of explanations remain largely Fanon. Not at all coincidentally, the main aesop of the series is to believe in your own truth without denying those of other people. Also, the manga adaptation gives numerous additional clues or clarifications (mostly in Episode 8).
  • In the otome eroge Under the Moon, there are many aspects of the heroine's background that are unknown even to her, which can only be pieced together through accounts from other characters scattered across multiple story routes.
  • YU-NO from 1996 is the Trope Codifier of the Multiple Route Mystery structure widely used in the visual novel medium.note  During the main game, the plot splits into several routes, all of which have an independent plot to a minor degree but raise and only partially answer many mysteries in the overall scheme. After completing the main routes the player is allowed to enter the final route, which (after some meandering plot developments) finally answers almost all mysteries introduced earlier.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY heads to this during Season 3, while getting Darker and Edgier. While some things have been explained from Episode 6 of Season 3 forward, a lot is still to be explained about Salem's intentions and ambitions, the Seasonal Maidens' identities and others. Lots of fan theories have sparked since then.
  • The Machinima series, Smash King is very much inspired by anime, so it's no surprise that this series falls under this trope. The story thrusts you into the middle of Bowser's daily life as a trophy without much preamble, while he's gathering teammates for the upcoming Smash King tourney, and many mysteries such as why Mario and Lucario want revenge against Bowser, Bowser's past, the Twilight Realm, the goals behind Snake's trio, Ridley, and so on are thrust upon the viewer with information slowly drip fed about all of them leaving you questioning and trying to figure out what's going on for a long time before you start getting large bouts of answers. The series rewards the viewers who try to analyze every little detail said by the characters as the mysteries slowly get pieced together over time.
  • TOME (at least the remake) plays this trope very straight. Most people's original complaints with the series based on the first episode were that they had no idea what was going on. For most of the series you are left with nothing but questions as new characters pop out of nowhere and things happen seemingly without substance or reason. Every time a question is answered, it leaves more questions. The series puts together some of the bigger pieces by the time it reaches the end, but a lot of answers to little questions aren't understood right away without rewatching the entire thing.

    Web Original 
  • There's a sci-fi game called Vanished where we're supposedly getting contacted from the future. The world has supposedly undergone a huge environmental disaster and everybody's trying to figure out what's going on. Oh, and we've got about a few thousand teenagers helping and... we've got a lot of the puzzle pieces figured out.
  • Whateley Universe. It took years to find out what really happened to Cavalier and Skybolt, and now even some of the main characters are struggling to figure out who Hekate's Master really is. And that's after well over a hundred novels, novellas, and short stories. And now Chaka has gotten a mystical prophecy no one in-story can figure out, so the puzzle pieces are getting waved in our faces.
  • Worm introduces several mysteries as part of the central plot that gradually unfold over the course of the story, most notably the nature of parahuman powers, the origins of the Endbringers, everything about Cauldron, and the impending apocalypse.

    Web Videos 
  • The Mechakara saga on Atop the Fourth Wall. Lewis has stated that every appearance of Mechakara contains some kind of clue to his identity or his ultimate goal against him.
  • Everyman HYBRID has literal jigsaw pieces scattered across the internet.
  • KateModern is a mild example, successfully building up and maintaining various mysteries.
  • The series lonelygirl15 is notably reticent to explain any more than about half of what's going on at any given time.
  • Marble Hornets, to the point of Mind Screw.

    Western Animation 
  • Similar to The Venture Brothers, Adventure Time is fairly straightforward for the most part. However at the same time there are many subtle storylines and hints of backstory hidden beneath the surface that can be found if you look hard enough. Reading into Word of God from the creators and rewatching old episodes after major plot twists will reveal all sorts of things for you to put together. If the reveal that Ooo is set After the End or Ice King's origin and his connection to Marceline surprise you, look back at some old episodes to see how facts like this have been dangled in front of you since the first season.
  • The Gravity Falls Myth Arc about discovering the identity of the author certainly can be considered this, as the audience only learns who it is about halfway through the second season .
  • The Hollow: The show opens on three teens waking up in a fantasy/sci-fi world with no memory of how they got there. As they run through various obstacles, they slowly piece together the fact that they are inside a video game.
  • Over the Garden Wall: Brothers Wirt and Greg find themselves lost in a fantastical woodland fantasy world called The Unknown. The plot steadily reveals information about the show's Big Bad, The Beast, and also revealing that the brothers got to The Unknown from the Real World.
  • Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: Unlike most previous Scooby-Doo series this adds a Myth Arc to the standard Monster of the Week format. There are several ongoing mysteries such as the treasure of Crystal Cove and the identity of Mr. E that are gradually solved. It takes until the last few episodes to reveal all the pieces.
  • 12 oz. Mouse is one of the crowning achievements in narrative complexity. Between the incredibly complicated plot and the... interesting animation, most people watch it without noticing that there's any plot at all. Seriously. Any discussion of the show immediately turns into "there's no point to it" versus "what the hell are you talking about?"
  • While the overall plot of The Venture Bros. is fairly straightforward, some character arcs are very subtle. For example, put together Hank always trying to imitate Brock, Rusty fawning over Dean on the twins' birthday, and Hank's general dominance over Dean physically and emotionally, and you have a metric truckload of daddy issues.

Alternative Title(s): Jigsaw Plot, Multiple Route Mystery