Let me begin this post by giving you a full history of my blog and all of the previous posts that have come before this one. Most of them are irrelevant to the current context and I know you clicked here to read this post, but surely you should acknowledge everything that has previously occurred.
Maybe that’s not the best approach when trying to engage an audience. I mean, I previously did a feature on recap episodes and why some of them make me want to drop an anime then and there particularly when viewing week to week.
But even then, I acknowledge that sometimes recap can serve a purpose and be done in an interesting way. The problem is, a lot of anime don’t bother with this. They just cut and paste sequences of previous events together without even really stringing a plot around it. But more and more often, we’re seeing anime try to disguise their recap.
My Hero Academia Season 3 is one such anime that used this method. They gave us a thin plot of the characters training at the pool (good excuse for buff boys in swimsuits I guess) but interspersed those events with characters reminiscing or discussing prior events supported by flash backs. Now, to give credit where it is due, this approach is better than just a series of disconnected scenes or a rehash of the story. At least the recap is given context and the characters are adding their thoughts or feelings about the situation to our understanding of it, and there’s some small amounts of new-material that has varying levels of entertainment strewn amongst it.
What it doesn’t change, is the fact that My Hero Academia felt that despite less than a year had passed since its previous season and the episode count as a whole is under 50, that the audience couldn’t remember what had happened. And maybe for a more obscure show that might be true, but MHA is not obscure. People were talking about it and sharing parts of it well after it finished airing.
However, if they hadn’t done a recap, there may be some people who would complain that they’d forgotten some detail. So how does a show know when to recap and how to go about it?
Realistically, if we have a long gap in-between seasons, recap of some sort is needed. Full Metal Panic Invisible Victory won me over by skipping this step, but a thirteen year gap on a series that never had the sort of popularity of MHA probably warranted some work to get new viewers. Instead, only those who have watched at least the first season and second raid need apply because without that knowledge you aren’t following this story. And if your knowledge is over a decade old, rewatch it and do it quick. The anime is brutal and unforgiving, barely reminding you of character roles as we jump between the school and Mithril and are plunged straight into a conflict that will make zero sense without the back story.
So where My Hero Academia could have foregone the recap, Full Metal Panic probably should have tried something. Then again, if they only ever intended to target the original fans, most of them have probably rewatched the anime many times in the years since it aired and like me, they are probably pretty happy to get dropped straight back into the action. It definitely narrows the target audience but at least it keeps the people in that audience pretty happy.
While it might be hard to say when a recap should occur, it is pretty easy to figure out where they shouldn’t. Any series that is only one cour long should never have a recap episode. Not ever. There is no reason on the planet why a series that is thirteen episodes or less needs to recap. if there are production delays, skip the week, or replay episode one, or something. But don’t try and pretend recaps are episodes in their own right. They really, really aren’t particularly when hastily put together to fill a gap in the schedule.
Record of Grancrest War used a week inbetween seasons to recap and I still have not watched that episode. The interesting thing about that is that a lot of bloggers claim that it made the entire first cour actually make some kind of sense. I wonder if that’s still true now that we’ve seen all the random plot lurches of the second cour occur, but I thought that for once that might be a useful use of recap. If you know your plot has gone off the rails and you are trying to refocus both the writers and the audience as to which direction the story will continue, a recap that crafts the narrative you wanted to see could do wonders. Though, that is admitting your story had fallen apart in the first place.
From where I’m sitting, I’ve come to the conclusion that recap needs to have some thought behind it and effort put into it. I still think Kimi ni Todoke has the best recap episode ever as the special episode before the start of season 2 where the story of season 1 is retold from a different character’s perspective. More anime need to consider what they are giving their audience when they drop half-hearted recap efforts on them and start thinking about how they can use recaps (if they are needed at all) to really re-engage the audience with the story and the characters.
Where do you stand on recap episodes and what do you think of how the returning series of Spring have done with them?
Thanks for reading.
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