The Difference Between a Good and Bad 1st Anime Episode

This season I did something that I normally never do. I watched every show that is available for legal streaming. Normally I just watch what I’m interested in and wait and see if there is buzz around a show I neglected. Not this time around. I sweated, I cringed and toiled and even gave a few shows a second chance just to be nice. Considering I rarely ever do this sort of thing, it’s no surprise I haven’t really thought about the topic I’m going to talk about. The different between a good and bad 1st Anime episode.

Now most people don’t really go into Anime with high expectations anymore. That’s just the way it is. The markets been to over saturated with mediocre material that we tend to be more forgiving. And the fact that everything is so accessible we end up using the “okay” shows to take up our free time. I know what I just said kinda relates to anime as a whole, but it’s still something that affects how we ultimately go into a show to begin with. So lets delve into my continuing high expectations of anime and see what makes a good, bad, and even mediocre 1st anime episode.

Mediocrity Is Bad, But For Different Reasons

So at first I was only going to talk about the distinct differences between good and bad 1st anime episodes. Then I realized that a lot of the shows I watched weren’t necessarily bad, but they didn’t grab me like I feel a good how should, neither does it push me away like an inherently bad episode. It leaves me floating in some sort of anime limbo where I don’t feel anything. Sure there was nothing really wrong about the show but it didn’t keep me engaged enough to warrant another episode. I’ll spare you my long laundry list of dropped shows on this justification alone, but believe me when I say there are many.

MFR ON YOUTUBE (latest video)
Help us reach 5K Subs!

Honestly I wouldn’t really remember these shows if it wasn’t for MyAnimeList keeping a log of my dropped shows. I don’t really want to spend much time on this because mediocrity is almost the worst thing to talk about and has more of a grey zone than when talking about good and bad shows. Mostly I wanted to bring this up because I was feeling this a lot this season and had to acknowledge that, anyway moving on.

What A Good 1st Anime Episode Can Do

So keep in mind that “good 1st episode” doesn’t necessarily mean  “good show”. Sometimes a show will pour everything it has into the 1st episode of a series and that’s all it will have. This is a topic for a whole other time. Now we’re only focusing on why and when a 1st anime episode is good.

“Amount of context” is probably the biggest factor when determining whether you want to continue watching something. A first episode needs to know that it’s the first episode. That means it needs to know that there are other episodes that will follow. And that means that it needs to know what information the viewer needs to get them through this episode and what they can save for later. All you really need for the first episode is to focus on the main hook of your series and why we should care. This comes first even before characters. Characters can grow and change through a show as they experience the events unfold. Now if your hook is something special about the characters then its a given that you would focus on that. If not leave them aside and make sure that your characters have enough footing to start moving and its stable enough to where the viewer can follow them. Of course I’m not contrasting this yet but everything will make sense when you relate it to having a bad 1st anime episode.

A Bad 1st Anime Episode Could Spell Disaster

This is where you take all the things I’ve said in the previous paragraphs and call me out on talking about a subject that is mostly subjective. Well what isn’t? So before you form too much of an opinion hear me out. I’m trying my best to keep this as far from a “I just don’t like what the show is” argument as possible.

Oddly enough the “amount of context” is the catalyst for both good and bad 1st episodes. Shouldn’t have been much of a shocker that doing something good would make a show good and doing something bad would make it bad. The reasoning why it’s so detrimental for a bad 1st episode will be similar as to why it’s so important for a good 1st episode. If you have a show that feels like it needs to throw every cool idea at you at once, you’re going to feel some overload. Shows that don’t take their time building things don’t show confidence in their work. If anything they put too much stock into one aspect and hand-fist it in because its their catch. Or conversely they hold back whats really important and special about the show too much and doesn’t make you want to get invested. It’s definitely a tight rope to walk.

Having first episodes that focus a lot on context generally means that the story is going to be too complicated to begin with, or that they couldn’t think of a creative way to weave it into the story naturally. Bad 1st anime episodes love to use the “exposition robot”, which basically is just a character (sometimes many) divulging into a back cover description of how the world works. Often unprompted and not having any significance with whats going on at hand. Its downright lazy. Some people may forgive this but I’m too “worn” to take it anymore. So for those shows, I’ll just put aside and wait to hear how the rest of the show turns out.

Is There Anything To Take Away Here?

Ultimately a first anime episode can either be a big divergence or right on the nose of what the rest of the series will be. The downside is that if you see a bad first episode and you’re inclined to drop the show, you might miss out on something special, and no one wants that. In a perfect world we wouldn’t have to worry about this and the only thing we would consider when watching something would be taste. But the anime world isn’t perfect yet. So for now try your best to judge for yourself if a show is worth giving a second chance, and I will too. Just don’t come crying to me when I call a show shitty after only seeing the first episode. You don’t eat a bite out of a shit sandwich and keep eating to see how the rest tastes. Because shit tastes bad, and so does bad 1st anime episodes.

Logan Peterson
Logan Peterson
My names Logan and I love writing about Anime. Other art is guchi too. When I'm not writing gonzo reviews I'm writing books. *If interested look up The Dream Sequence on Amazon.* I usually write more editorial stuff than just plain reviews. I like my writing to be more big picture. I feel consumer reviews are a thing of the past and more personal reviews are the most valuable nowadays.