When we watch a new show, quite often it’s the first episode that makes us decide whether to continue to watch or to just scrap it altogether. You could give it two or three more episodes, just to see if things pick up, but why waste time? Our lives are getting busier than ever, and sometimes you really want to be drawn in within minutes. A lot of anime take a while to get off the ground, but there are some shows that will grab the audience right from the word ‘go’.
A lot of long-running shows take a long time to get interesting. You’ve got to get through flashbacks and side-plots and a lot of other exposition before anything intense happens. This isn’t true with Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. If you want epic fights straight from the start, FMA:B is the place to go. Episode one is a full-on introduction of our main cast, as they hunt down and arrest a ‘criminal’. This criminal warns the characters of their impending doom and professes his hatred for their corrupt government, and they brush him off. Later, this warning becomes very important. Straightaway, we’re thrown into the action, introduced to the main characters, and a very intense plot gets set up for us. The opening scene has some pretty strong foreshadowing, and the promises this episode makes are definitely fulfilled. Top marks for FMA:B’s first episode.
Going away from the shounen, a great example of immersing viewers in the world from the start is Death Parade. It gets talked about a lot, and for good reason. When we enter the world of Quindecim, we’re as clueless as the characters as to what’s going on. We’re thrown in with them as they play a game that their life depends on. In one episode, we see a married couple go into turmoil, hate each other, fear each other, and accuse each other – all over a game of darts in Quindecim. It drip feeds you, bit by bit. Then all is explained to you in the second episode – the exact same story told from the perspective of someone who knows what’s happening. Death Parade really knew how to make you care about all the characters, and it only took a single episode to do that.
We’ve had action, we’ve had the psychological, but what about romance? All romance fans will know it’s incredibly hard to find a gratifying romance anime – one where the characters actually get romantic (instead of incessant denial). Even harder to find one that has a first episode that leaves you hopeful for a decent plot. In Say I love you, you get a kiss in the first episode of all things. Although Say I love you is slow to start, it gives an impression of protagonist Mei’s character – she’s hesitant, quiet, and very shy. It portrays her mood and her view on life perfectly, and the clever use of music backs it up. We don’t hear much of the sound track, but when that intense piano music kicks in, you know drama is about to go down. It’s much more peaceful than the others on this list, but that is its strength. Say I love you has a strong first episode, leaving you with lots of drama yet promising for more.
There’s definitely room for a bit of horror. Well, horror is a loose definition of Gakkou Gurashi. There isn’t much you can say about the first episode of this show without giving away the massive spoiler – the mother of all plot twists that happens at the end of the first episode and destroys every expectation you had for it. Yuki is an adorable pink-haired high-schooler who lives in her school, with her group of kooky friends. They all eat, sleep and have their lessons there in this mysterious building which can provide every resource they need to survive. But what Yuki doesn’t realise is her school life is far from the perfect world she has created in her mind. It’s a complete cluster of emotions and ideas in the first episode, and if you love a good bit of dramatic irony, give this a watch now.
The decision to carry on watching a show can be made entirely using the first episode. Well, for those of us who are too impatient to give it more of a chance. Of course there’s much more than what we mentioned above – the first episode can make or break a show, and these ones made it.