2021 offers us problems we only wish we’d had years ago — like too much anime to watch, and easy ways to get it. With watch time at a premium, it’s more pressing than ever to find shows we know we’ll like. And according to some, you can gauge quality by the length of an anime premiere.
One fan has noted a seeming correlation between how long you’re watching on that first day and how good the show will be. Do they have a point, or is it just a matter of correlation?
In short, they claim that series which either aired the first two episodes together on premiere night, or who aired an hour-long first episode, have been consistently good over the last ten years. Examples offered include Fate/Zero and Fate/stay night -Unlimited Blade Works-, The Rising of the Shield Hero, Re:ZERO, and Sound! Euphonium.
The theory goes as far as to assume that The Detective Is Already Dead will be the same when it premieres next month.
Toaru has a point. A lot of these shows are just fantastic, and have gone on to be modern classics. But what’s the connection?
A Running Start
You’ve probably noticed it, too: when you have that hour-long running start, you’re drawn in. You can be drawn in by half-hour anime premieres, of course. (We remember THE PROMISED NEVERLAND.) But as enticing as that first cliffhanger is, it can be just as enticing to broach the first cliffhanger and clear the jump into the show proper.
Longer premieres carry us more than halfway through the old “three episode rule.” We have time to see the show in all its glory and see the rides it’s taking us for. Think, for example, how DECA-DENCE would be if watching the first two episodes back to back.
But that’s more a matter of our perception; and in an age of streaming and binge-watching, we can watch a lot of things back to back and not get that same feeling. So perhaps we should turn this idea on its head.
Cause and Effect
Instead of asking why long premieres herald good anime, ask instead: why do well-made shows front-load their premieres? Or, perhaps, why can they?
Anime is made on a deadline, as we all know. Some of us may even remember waiting on the Kill la Kill finale to be finished so it could stream. A studio than can afford to lead with an hour of its series can probably also afford to maintain that quality all season.
From a writing standpoint, it could mean a few things. A fearlessness about the story’s ability to hold up immediately, perhaps. Or, so much story that a half-hour intro wouldn’t get us all the way there.
Of course, there’s always subjectivity to take into account. Is Umamusume: Pretty Derby worth being treated as highly as Sound! Euphonium? How many of these are slightly tinged by the tweeter’s own taste?
The truth is probably closer to this: many, many well-made series can afford to run two episodes on the first night. And many of those well-made series do turn out to be good. Is it a flawless tell? Doubtful. But if nothing else, it’s gotten us thinking. What about you? Are you convinced?