The case of the disposable first episode

April 9, 2009

One of the things that I've seen repeatedly in anime is what I call 'disposable first episodes'. The purest form of the disposable first episode is where nothing in the first episode is ever seen again; it takes place in a location that the story never revisits, involves characters (apart from the protagonists) that we never see again, and the events are never referred to or affect anything.

(The most recent pure form disposable first episode that I can remember is the first episode of D.Gray-Man.)

One common pattern I've seen is that a disposable first episode will be used in a shonen action series where the real start of the story has the protagonists looking wimpy or otherwise uninteresting. Here, the disposable first episode serves to have the protagonists show off and exhibit their trademark powers (which they may not use again for many episodes), instead of just having them look unimpressive for quite a while in the main story.

(I can see the appeal of this to the creators; it gives the audience some action to get them interested or to pacify them so that they don't get bored when you start in on the slower bits, like the character backgrounds.)

This was brought to mind by the first episode of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, which at least felt like a partial disposable first episode in that it seemed like it was there mostly to run us past a lot of important characters doing their trademark thing in their typical way. Personally, I prefer more leisurely introductions.

Comments on this page:

From at 2009-04-10 01:04:58:

What about Haruhi 00? Does it belong to this category, or not?

By cks at 2009-04-10 01:45:16:

On the surface Haruhi 00 matches the pattern, but I don't think of it as one; we're seeing things that we'll only understand the significance of later (or only if you watch it again). It's also the anchor point for the story to expand from; in way, a lot of subsequent episodes give context to more and more things we see in Haruhi 00.

But I'll admit that I can't point to anything in specific about Haruhi 00 that makes it not belong in the category (except that I would very definitely not skip it if I watched Haruhi again).

(At this point I wave my hands and mumble about the episode's impact on the experience of watching the rest of the show. DFEs have little to no impact, while I think that Haruhi 00 has a significant impact.)

Written on 09 April 2009.
« Narrative momentum: what I learned from Naruto and One Piece
My overall view of Toradora! (and some thoughts) »

Page tools: View Source, View Normal, Add Comment.
Login: Password:
Atom Syndication: Recent Comments.

Last modified: Thu Apr 9 01:03:11 2009
This dinky wiki is brought to you by the Insane Hackers Guild, Python sub-branch.