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The Importance of the First Episode July 17, 2006

Posted by Lupus in Anime, Ramblings.
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The other day, while i was hanging out in the AnimeNano IRC channel (#animenano@irc.rizon.net), I was told that I wasn’t worthy of watching anime. A harsh thing, to say that someone isn’t worthy of enjoying a particular form of entertainment. What did I do to earn this ire? I stopped watching Zegapain after two (2) episodes.

Kaminagi

Kaminagi is cute, I’ll give you that much

Now, before I go any further, I have to make something clear. Even though I’m keeping this anime-centric blog that you’re reading right now, ainme isn’t something I spend a huge amount of time on. I am, dare I say it, not an anime fan. If I ever watch more than 3 episodes a week, it’s because I’m marathoning something.

Yes, I am an anime blogger who only watches anime casually.

What does that have to do with anything? Oh it has a lot to do with everything. For starters, because of my anime watching habits, I only ever consume 3-4 full series a season. What this means is that after downloading the first two or three episodes of each show for a new season, a LOT of shows are going to get dropped. Which show gets dropped and which remains depends entirely on the impact and impression the series has initially made on me.

So back to the story: I was told, as it was, that I wasn’t worthy of watching anime because I drop shows after watching only the first few episodes, that you need to give anime time to develop. I accept this argument – good stories take time to develope (such as the recent Pirates of the Carribean II). But, I do not accept this as an excuse to make bad, uninteresting episodes at the beginning of a show.

First impression lasts. The first impression you get from something, be it a person, a television series, or a book, is going to impact upon the way you see that thing. Which is why it is important to make a good first impression when you’re meeting someone new or going to a job interview.

The same thing applies to anime. If the first impression that you get from a series sucks, you would probably not want to watch the rest of it. I think it is ridiculous to excuse anime from having to make a good first impression by saying “Because this is an anime, you have to give it time to develope.” That’s trash. Do you hire people who look sloppy and are inpunctual when you see them at interviews? Do you say “Oh nah, I’ll give him some time to prove herself”, unless there is some out-standing reason for you to try? If the first few episodes of a show do not grab your interest and have no redeeming features, should you give it special treatment “because it is anime”?

The same thing applies to all forms of entertainment. Firefly, Lost and Prison Break all have great first episodes, which hooks you onto the series and makes you want to watch more. Same with famous movie trilogies – Star Wars, Lord of the Ring, the Matrix… would you have gone and watched Reloaded and Revolution if the original Matrix didn’t rock? The two later movies are trash, but you probably went and watched it anyway because the first movie was so good. The same goes for books – if the first book in a trilogy doesn’t make you want to read more, you wouldn’t go out and waste money on the later books.

Why should anime get special excemption? Sometimes I hear people say “Oh, it’s anime, give it a few more episodes.” I say “Bullshit.” If you don’t like it, stop watching it. Especially to casual viewers, who aren’t dedicated and don’t watch anime as a hobby, there is no reason for them to waste their time on a series which doesn’t grab their attention in the first few episodes.

This is why the first episode is important. It is the hook that brings you into the rest of the series. Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu is a great example of making an impression with the first episode – it did something different with it, something interesting, and it garnered a huge following. Of course the rest of the show needs to be good as well, but many wouldn’t even watch the rest because the first episode didn’t stick. Not everyone are like Lolikitsune, and are dedicated enough to watch anything and everything.

Not being able to grab your attention and hold it within the first four episodes is bad. We should not tolerate it in any form of entertainment, and we shouldn’t accecpt it because it is (somewhat) the norm in anime. There are many great shows that starts off great and remains great, so why should I spend my time watching four episodes of crap to get to the good stuff, when I can watch good stuff straight away?

I will go back and watch Zegapain because Tsubaki recommends it so highly, but I make no garuntees that it wouldn’t be dropped again. Afterall, I watched Neoin because I read raving reviews for it, but I dropped that after 8 episodes.

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Comments»

1. Crayotic Rockwell - July 17, 2006

I have grown to expect less than stellar episodes while an anime sets up it’s cast of regulars before (hopefully) moving into the “real stuff” but your points are valid. Just because it’s the norm, doesn’t mean that it’s actually good business practice.

And even so… while it takes a pretty skilled hand to lay down the foundations for a series and also deliver compelling viewing at hte same time, putting out crap is still putting out crap.

To move away from anime and take Lost for example. First few episodes were good, and then (imo) the rest of the s1 was largely tat along with the first 14 eps of s2.. but then it got pretty darn sweet for the last 10 episodes.

But even if you were to consider those 10 episodes the bestest television ever made (which they aren’t, but for sake of argument), it’s still no excuse for making the viewer/me sit through countless hours of other “blahh.” If someone didn’t have the tenacity or willpower to tough it out, then fair enough.

All they lose is their right to make a critical judgement on the series as a whole. But I think they can still keep their Anime Watching Licence AFIK.

And how many blog posts do you see on Zegapain anyway? For a show so allegedly awesome I’ve hardly heard anything of it.

2. bj0rN`- - July 17, 2006

Ok~ We just got to agree… The first episodes DOES play an important role in getting viewers to be interested. Heck, if a 1st episode does suck, I would do the same and drop it. I’ll usually go back to watch it under 3 conditions:

1) I got nothing else better to do.
2) Its highly recommended by many.
3) Reading reviews got me a tiny bit interested.

Well, all I can say is, screw whoever who said that you’re not worthy. I mean, different have their own sense of taste. You need not force others to watch it just because you like it. Heck, if that’s the case, perhaps loli hentais would have been spreaded all over by now.

As for Zegapain, it’s really worth to watch in my view. If you think it’s lacking of post, perhaps I’ll start to post some since I just setted up a new website too.

3. tj han - July 17, 2006

I think he meant that in jest though.

4. cuteproxy - July 17, 2006

You stopped watching after two episodes? I stopped watching after the first episode! I’m worse! =p

I’ve watched a lot of mecha anime, so I know what I like and what I don’t like. Don’t be afraid to drop series that don’t interest you. But I do make an about-face sometimes, when somebody can convince me to re-watch a series that I dropped. Take Kimi Ga Nozomu Eien. I dropped it after the first episode, but now it’s qeued on my long waiting list of anime to be watched. =)

5. sethjohnson - July 17, 2006

I stopped watching Fate/Stay Night after ten minutes.

I probably don’t qualify as a casual viewer, but there are probably close to as many shows I’ve dropped after one episode as there are shows I’ve watched to completion (that count comes in a little over 100, I think).

Once upon a time, I had a rabid Once Started Must Complete mentality with games / books / etc, even if I had to keep coming back to the thing for several months (or years. haha. I still haven’t finished reading Quicksilver), but eventually I got sick of forcing myself to continue reading things that were just boring me out of my mind for no good reason.

I will drop a show at one episode, three episodes, halfway through, three quarters of the way through…pretty much anytime it irritates or bores me enough that I don’t want to continue. The only way I pick things back up is severe boredom or really solid recommendations from people with tastes similar to mine.

6. Lupus - July 17, 2006

Crayotic: I couldn’t agree more. I’m not going to sit through hours of “blah” just to watch some good bits. There probably aren’t many posts on Zegapain because a lot of people dropped it really early like I did.

bj0rN`-: So you recommend Zegapain too? It’s moved up a few spots on my to watch list now.

TJ: Yeah, I think so too. But it inspired me to write this article, and I gotta give credit where credit is due. It made the article easier to write too =P

Cuteproxy: Zegapain is queued on my long waiting list too. I’ve never seen Kimi Ga Nozomu Eien, but I’ve heard a lot about it. I’m never afraid of dropping shows, I simply don’t have time to watch so many anyway.

Seth: Yea, it’s just silly to force yourself to watch something you don’t enjoy. I’ve dropped many shows too. There are shows that I’ve downloaded a batch torrent of, watched 2 episodes and promptly deleted. It’s a great waste of bandwidth, but there’s really not much point keeping something that you won’t watch anyway.

7. lolikitsune - July 21, 2006

Naruto still has the best first episode ever. It’s indisputable. It’s fact.

Death to the naysayers.

8. TedFox - July 21, 2006

Every season there are so many anime series, we can’t possibly catch all.

My opinion is that if you don’t like a series after 3 eps, you probably won’t like it anymore.

Everybody has their own preference for anime, and if one likes it, doesn’t mean another will too. If 3 episodes isn’t even to catch your attention, you’re better off looking for another series.

I’m slowly adapting from a “must complete” mentality, to trying out more series. Forcing yourself to watch a series to complete it is just unbearable now.

9. Lupus - July 23, 2006

Lolikit: I’ve never seen Naruto anime. If you can compare it to the manga, which is better (not including fillers of course)?

Tedfox: I have seen anime that gets better as the story progresses. To take a very recent example, Suzumiya didn’t get good for me until around episode 10. Obviously it wasn’t bad either, but it was good enough that I would continue to watch it, but not good enough that I would love it.

10. arthurius - November 15, 2006

You know, I agree with you, as a person. I f you don’t like the first few episodes of an anime, never watch it. One one has the right to tell you that you are not worthy watching one if you did that. Animes are meant to watch in the first place, whether your an anime otaku or not. I too, even as an anime collector (who spends about $50 a month on anime) never wastes anything that doesn’t satisfy me. All people have their different kinds of tastes. And if you’re a high level collector like me, you’ll have to watch every anime that comes out. But that doesn’t mean i’ll watch all the episodes of every anime. The first few episodes really matters in an anime (because you’ll just waste time and money if you watch the entire series). But there is one rule that shouldn’t be forgotten as an anime collector: “never judge the anime by its first episode.” Trust me, some animes DO get better after episode 1. In short, watch 3 episodes before labelling it “ugly.” That’s the least # of episodes to be watched before criticizing it.

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