What makes a good first episode? This is the question we consider when we watch anime and when we decide whether we’re going to commit our precious time to a new anime. Because, let’s be real here, if the first episode is no good, a lot of us are unlikely to commit to watching another 11 episodes of it.
We know this, and we’ve come up with our own system of rating first episodes. It’s usually pretty reliable in determining if an anime is going to be worth our time or not. Obviously it’s not a fool-proof system, but over our anime lifetime we’ve noticed that a lot of great anime have these things in common on their first episode.
1. No Intro
A lot of really good anime forego the opening intro on the first episode. We prefer it this way, because while intros are awesome and can get you kind of hype for what’s about to happen, it can give away some of the major plot points. When you haven’t met all the characters, have no idea what’s going on in the story and you’re not really invested in the show yet, it can put a damper on things. In some cases, it can even be a huge spoiler. All in all, I’d rather have my intro after the first episode, after I’ve met the characters and formed my own thoughts. Plus, that’s another minute or two to give me some plot, character development and action.
2. World Building
In the first episode, jumping straight into action is great. In a lot of cases though, we need some background information about what’s going on. If there is magic, a kingdom broken up, a war, a secret society, or anything like that, we need to know that information pretty early on. Of course, no one wants to watch an info dump episode, but when it’s done tactfully, it’s a sign that the rest of the anime is about to be good. As a viewer, I want to know how the world works and what I’m getting myself into before the third episode.
There’s also the fact that main characters should be introduced in the first episode and the type of people they are. We invest in the characters, so a good anime usually lets you know right away what kind of person you’re about to spend the next 12-24 episodes with. What I don’t like is when there are characters introduced in the first 1 or 2 episodes, but then they disappear and we never see them again. I hate feeling like I wasted my time focusing on a character and wondering about them and what’s going to happen, only to hit a dead end on the second or third episode.
3. Unexpected Action
Obviously the most important part of any episode of anime is its ability to hold your attention and keep you wanting for more. It’s usually harder to do this in the first anime when you’re not committed to watching it yet, but when it’s done correctly it’s great. After you watch a lot of shows, you start to get a feel for certain elements and can predict what’s going to happen; it’s nice to be surprised when you watch something, instead of feeling like you’re watching a different version of the same story over and over again (although that’s what most anime is, but whatever). When an anime gives you some unexpected action and surprises you (in a good way) during the first episode, that’s a great sign. Everyone likes to watch something that stands out, sticks in their head and has them rewatching it and quoting it and getting excited over it when other people know about it; especially if it’s not as mainstream as other anime.
These are our go-to categories for rating the first episodes of anime. Obviously there are some great anime out there that don’t fall into or meet the stipulations in these categories, and that’s fine. These are just what we notice when we’re watching an episode for the first time. If you look for different things, let us know what they are with a comment down below.
The Otaku Couple