Because the journey of twelve/twenty-four episodes begins with the first.
A new season of anime is right around the corner. I find this as an opportune time to talk about the first episodes of anime, and its role in the grand scheme of watching anime. Evidently, for a lot of us fans, we use the first episode to gauge whether or not we’re gonna choose to watch something. Others opt to stick to two episodes, even up to the third – but all the same, the practice is interesting. Almost as if the first episode doesn’t count unless it delivers.
How would a first episode deliver? What would it need to show to keep you hooked? There are a lot of layers to this: from shows with solid source materials (owing to an already established opening sequence) to anime originals; from traditional looks to liberties in creative direction; even personal preferences come into play. So long as it has successfully reeled you in, regardless of how or why, the first episode has done its job.
What is constant is that we like what we like. With all that said, here are some of my personal favorite first episodes in anime 😀
I’ve said it before in some capacity, but Hanasaki Iroha (regardless of how it turned out) will always have a special place in my heart. A large part of that is because of how much its first episode made me care. And yeah, truth be told I cared a lot for this show (and tried my earnest to keep liking it despite the odds stacking in my favor, lol). Just a pure flurry of emotions from the get-go. The setup was clear and earnest, and the conflict introduced was fresh and relateable.
We get to see the crossroads that Ohana is faced with as her life takes a couple of unprecedented turns, and yet we see a tiny sliver of her character that makes us believe she can do it somehow. HanaIro’s first episode made me emotionally invested in what is essentially a coming of age story, just based on how they were able to set the stage for it.
One of my favorite ways that an anime opens up is when it throws you into the middle of the fray – with everything already going on and our minds forced to catch-up to what’s happening. We don’t see this a lot, I don’t think, and that may be because it’s just that hard to pull off. DRRR!! makes it work by running a parallel between our own experience, and Ryuugamine Mikado’s experience as people who are entering a new world (or, y’know, Ikebukuro). The sequence of events revolving around Mikado’s first encounters in a new environment brings about a different sort of excitement.
Much like Mikado we begin to anticipate the craziness of DRRR!! – “What’s more to this town that has headless rider roaming the streets?” I’m hard-pressed to emulate my exact feelings of when I watched the first episode DRRR! myself (roughly seven years ago), but I’m positive it’d be something along those lines.
I believe that its important for shows to set the tone for the overall story as early as it can manage. Doing so helps keep the narrative together in one piece, lest some elements seem tacked-on if introduced later in the show. Often times its the drama aspect of a feature that gets criticized if its introduced in a half-baked manner. Cross Game sets the table for its drama right outta the gate, and sticks it to us for basically the entire run of the anime (a whopping 50 episodes).
The events of Cross Game’s first episode serve as a constant reminder for the viewer of what the show’s about, beneath the surface of its baseball-themed facade.
How about you guys?
What are some of your favorite first episodes in anime? 😀
Drop a comment below and lemme know~