There’s no old maxim in the anime community that it takes a full 3 episodes to be able to truly appreciate a show and determine if it’s worth your time. Or 25% of a single cour season. I’m not sure if this rule applies to other forms of media or not but I’ve only heard it in anime.
It seems pretty arbitrary to me. I mean most of the information you can get from those 3 first episodes, you can just as easily pick up from the first one. In fact just the first half of episode 1 will let you know pretty much all the basics.
Unlike American sitcoms, anime rarely have true pilot episodes. What I mean is that the tone, direction, characters and budget is unlikely to drastically change between episodes 1 and 2. If anything, those type of changes come between seasons. So the value of looking past the first episode is considerably lessened.
You can pretty much immediately pick up on the majority of the production values? Sure there may be a horrible or exceptional voice actor hiding in the cast but how often does that change our entire impression of a show? As for the narrative assets they tend to be rather easy to pick up as well. If settings and characters are immediately introduced to us in voiceover, you can bet this one will be full of exposition and enjoy spelling things out. Doesn’t mean it’s clear though. If after spending a half an hour with a character you can’t describe them without resorting to physical traits, character definition and development is probably not going to be a priority. You get the gist.
A story can change and evolve but it is built up on basic foundations which will guide the form the storytelling takes, if not the actual story itself. If you don’t like the narrative style in the first 10 minutes, watching an entire season will get pretty grating.
But those are all superficial you say…Looks and style are only skin deep, the real beauty is on the inside… What makes a great story isn’t pretty colours and cool voices, it’s characters and plot (or lack thereof). Ok ok, I guess you have sort of a point there. You can forgive a lot or the opportunity of seeing something that blows your mind right open.
Still you should have a handle on the story after the first episode. It’s almost 30 an hour. If you were watching a movie you would know if it’s good by now. But the set up is always slower…you need to let the action start… There could be an awesome twist! Sure, but also not really. I’m not saying series don’t get better over the course of a season. But if the establishing narrative is bad in the beginning, it’s going to be bad later on as well. As for twists, those either need to be exposed early on so the audience can follow (School Live) or are saved for the end (,every other show or movie with a twist.) What kind of series would go for some huge plot changing surprise at episode 3?…you know…besides Madoka?
Here’s the thing though. Even though Madoka did throw in an unquestionably shocking event that completely subverted the expectations set up by the plot, it didn’t become ba completely different show. It was always a little forbidding and gloomy. If you don’t like the characters and found the first set up episodes tedious, that twist isn’t going to change much for you.
Even if you are the type that’s interested in plot above all else, and would therefore be most likely to have your opinion of a show completely change based on these sort of things, 3 is still completely arbitrary. What if the twist comes at the beginning of episode 4?
What I’m saying is that I don’t adhere to the 3″episode rule. 3 episodes of standard anime is a little under an hour and a half, that’s a commitment. You could watch an entire older movie (before people forgot about editing and movies started to last forever). I don’t get why it’s the cutoff.
As someone who is pathologically unable to drop shows, three episodes might as well be a series long commitment. In fact the very few series I have dropped were either shows with 100s of episodes that I simply couldn’t see myself ever finishing or shows I realized were not for me in the first few minutes… Did I miss out? Possibly. I know I’ve read Loving reviews dedicated to those shows.
But you can’t watch it all and if I’m going to draw a line I rather do so before investing too much time into it. This is why I dropped B project before ever seeing the ED…. So here’s my rule of thumb, if at the end of the first episode I don’t really feel like watching the next one right away, it goes off the list. I realize that depending on my mood that day, I could end up skipping shows that would have become my very favourites but so be it. I’m just not patient enough to stick around for 3 whole episodes.
What about you. Do you have a sampling ritual? Maybe you never drop anime, just leave it on indefinite standby. Do you know where the 3 episode rule comes from? Is it like the 5 second rule!??