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.
Friday’s Feature – Recap Episodes (Or Why I Came Close to Dropping 91 Days)
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?
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19 thoughts on “Friday’s Feature: To Recap or Not To Recap?”
I usually hate recap episodes, but I with there was one for Tokyo G. or ones that have had years between season since my memory is not that great. Then there was that season of Fairy Tail that had so much recap in each episode that made me quit watching.
Tokyo Ghoul needs something because they are just assuming we’ve all read the source material which isn’t true. With season 2 and 3 of the anime not actually lining up it is making it really hard to follow.
I admit I was rather disappointed with recap for MHA this season. Season 2’s recap was better and felt more natural, Season’s 3 felt awkward and unnecessary. But recaps in general are just a fall back to save money. In the day when TV was coming to be and there was no way to rewatch episodes right away I can see why recaps were more necessary. But nowadays with home release and streaming service reacaps render themselves unnecessary but yet they still are around.
I honestly hate re-cap episodes… I get they can save money to a degree by re-using scenes and give the animators a break but I can’t stand them. They seem like a waste of time where they could just ‘skip’ a week or some thing.
Hakyuu Houshin Engi had a ‘14.5’ episode and I just skipped through the whole thing realizing it was just re-capping everything that happened from before. There was some nice narratation but it ultimately contributed nothing to my experience. It threw me off from what I remembered the next episode!
So I guess when executed correctly, they can be a life saver. When done poorly or seem some what inserted, it’s just annoying to me.
Maybe it’s because I’ve dealt with Detective Conan and Reborn (which have absurdly long amounts of recap at episode beginnings – at least a good 5 – 6 minutes, I think it was at their worst), but even though I can see the point of recaps at times (for instance, DC is heavy on tiny details to solve mysteries), I just don’t like dealing with them much.
MHA’s recap was probably unnecessary, although it did give a chance for fanservice as you say and it does give pointers on who and what to watch for the future, but I can’t speak for the other ones.
My favourite recap, since other people brought it up, is ep 10.5 of Kekkai Sensen/Blood Blockade Battlefront. I still think integrating everything into a radio show (including OP and ED) the way it did was really cool.
I think just a few minutes of recap is good enough. We are not that forgetful! An entire ep is unnecessary.
There was only ever one good recap episode, and that would be the recap episode in Kill la Kill that took less than a minute.
I’ve never enjoyed recap episodes…
I just can’t justify their existence!
(It makes rewatches and binge watches feel like crap!)
… then again, I have a fairly good memory, so I guess there are some ppl who might need a refresher?
There might be people who need a refresher but it is a very rare viewer who says they enjoyed watching recap.
The all time BEST recap ep is the one re:Creators inserted into a season break… Told from one characters viewpoint, allowing her to insert herself as a Mary Stu (which is funny because she already was one of the heroines of the story), and giving extra background information.
MHA’s recap isn’t designed for returning viewers – it’s for first time viewers. Better to moderately annoy the existing base rather than forcing any new viewers to sit through almost forty episodes.
Why would any new viewer want to jump in at episode forty? No matter how good a recap is it isn’t going to get you up to speed on all the character relationships, motives and growth. If that’s the plan they’d be better off doing like an hour special before the new season begins and even then, jumping into something at season three is not ideal.
Almost never. I agree with the big tinge l time gaps earning a recap though. WIXOSS did its recap well since it also moved the story forward. Also that 91 days recap was dumb.
WIXOSS definitely got it right with enough new material and set up to make it feel warranted.
Recap eps annoy me in general. If you feel something that happened a while back is important to a current episode, spend like 2 minutes at the start recapping before the OP.
The length of time spent recapping is definitely a factor. One or two mins at the start of an episode is fine, though usually redundant, but a whole episode is just uncalled for.