Trends in Modern Anime: The Three Episode Rule

So we all know about this rule, right?  Watching a series for three episodes before deciding whether to continue with a show or not.  Usually by that time, a watcher will know the basics of the premise, the characters, and where the story is headed.  I usually wait three episodes before making my numerous first impressions posts.  Well, if you have noticed in your seasonal anime watching, the creators of these anime have noticed the three-episode rule as well.  It has affected a lot of newer series in more ways than you think.

From a production stand point, the three-episode rule has done more than you think it has.  Creators use the first three episodes of a series to do as much as they can to bring you into the series.  From the best production values that the series is going to offer until the last set of episodes.  Afterward, the fourth episode is a resting episode for the creators that is also a big set up episode.  In no way, it is going to be very production heavy. You can see this in Izetta: The Last Witch, Yuri on Ice, Drifters, Sound! Euphonium 2, and so many others.  Not wanting to lose the first episode grip, some production studios double the length of their first episodes and make them a mini movie as well, but the three-episode rule is still in place.  Content wise this doesn’t affect shows at all, but it does structure wise.

Since creators have started using, living, and breathing the three-episode rule as well, an anime series’ structure in the beginning is always going to be predictable.  No matter what kind of show an anime is going to be.  The first three episodes will set up the characters, premise, and everything, and the fourth episode will be a set up episode for the rest of the series.  Uniformity.  Of course, this is only structurally speaking.  Considering that the content is always going to be different from series to series, this doesn’t mean that the characters, story, or genre of each series are going to be the same.

This post isn’t supposed to be for or against the three episodes in anyway.  That is always up to the viewer and the reader.  I just wrote this to make you aware that this is a thing that is happening in the anime industry.  If anything, this shows that the gap between creator and watcher is incredibly thin.  You can decide for yourself whether this is good or not, but I think it is.  Since creators have originally started out as watchers and make content based on what has influenced them, it’s only natural that this would happen eventually.

16 Comments Add yours

  1. Karandi says:

    We do get some pretty terrible episode 4’s these days. That said, some shows don’t even wait three episodes before the quality starts to take a dive.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Scott says:

      Yeah, it’s pretty sad that it happens like that sometimes.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Arria Cross says:

      Ahahaha! That is so true. I must confess, though, that I don’t always watch 3 episodes. I’m a very moody watcher so sometimes, I can’t even take the first episode. I’ll just drop it for the moment and move to another show. When I’m in a better mood, I might take it up again but no guarantees.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Karandi says:

        I’ve definitely dropped some shows after episode 1 (sometimes during). Occult;Nine was one I did that to this season and though I may go back when it is done (assuming I hear enough positives about it to bother) I’m not really regretting that drop decision.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Mark King says:

    Yeah, I do abide with the 3-episode rule a few times to see if I want to continue or not. Sometimes I do it and avoid some garbage but then there were shows I went beyond 3 episodes and said, “I’ve made a mistake. Help.”

    But yeah, it sucks that sometimes the quality can go down after 3 eps.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve heard of the Three-Episode-Rule and see producers use with most newer anime produced. Personally, I don’t ever abide by it and I always watch an anime all the way through before I make any judgements. A show can start out terrible, but there is always a chance for redemption if the proper build-up and finishers are in place. I will never “judge a book by its cover” or even by the first few chapters, as the Three-Episode Rule seems to do. I find that watching an entire series, even of something I greatly dislike, provides me with a lot more legitimacy to hate a certain anime than others who only have three episodes of experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. D.T. Nova says:

    I’ve never really gone by the three-episode rule.
    Three was an arbitrary number before creators started taking the rule into account, and now that they do there’s a higher chance of a show having a promising beginning but becoming a disappointment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Scott says:

      Yeah, the world of anime is crazy sometimes.

      Like

  5. Cat says:

    I think if you aren’t into something, then you aren’t. Usually I try to watch at least half of the episodes to see if I like it or not, but some shows I can’t go beyond the first episode tbh xD

    Like

    1. Scott says:

      Yeah, I try to watch a whole series before judging it as well, but yeah.

      I’ve had those experiences too. Some series I can’t watch more then two minutes while others I drop half way through because they weren’t what I thought they were.

      Like

  6. remyfool says:

    It’s an interesting trend for sure. Thank you pointing it out and for sharing your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Scott says:

      You’re welcome.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. pokeninja90 says:

    I’m pretty picky when it comes to my anime, so I usually binge watch a series or I ignore it completely. But, I have noticed the three episode trend. Though I tend to just speed through most shows, that way I don’t have time to get bored…

    This was a great post, I really enjoyed reading it! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Scott says:

      Thank you so much 😃

      Liked by 1 person

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