Friday’s Feature: To Recap or Not To Recap?

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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.

Or wait?

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

Karandi James

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18if Episode 11: Does This Count as Recap?

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Review:

This episode of 18if was both satisfying, in that we are finally see them trying to connect all of these incidents and give us some explanation about Haruto, and also incredibly frustrating. Frustrating because we spend a large part of the run time flashing back through all ten withes we’ve previously encountered.

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While Haruto’s mystery is one I’ve wanted dealt with, and I wouldn’t have minded one flashback through the encounters just to remind me because some of the earlier ones have become hazy, by the third time we cycled through the 10 girls that Haruto saved I was more or less over it and just wanted them to get on and make their point.

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That said, we do get a direction for this show to go with the introduction of Eve. Some cult the Professor is encountering in the real world want Eve to wake up full of love to save the world (yeah, that seems dodgy no matter how you look at it). Lily wants Haruto to kill Eve. The Professor is still in information gathering mode, but is probably going to run out of time given Haruto is working with Lily and heading for Eve by the end of this episode.

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Not that we have any idea what Haruto has decided given pretty much all we know is that he wants out of the dream world and he’s well aware at the moment that he can’t do that on his own. So the overall story is interesting, but this episode was a lot of recap and it felt like it dragged.


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Thanks,

Karandi James.

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Anime Recap Episodes (Or Why I Came Close to Dropping 91 Days)

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If you’ve been following my reviews this season, you will know that I have now had not one, but two anime recap episodes thrown at me. The first came from Cheer Boys (episode 5.5) and the second came from 91 Days (episode 7.5). In both reviews I made it pretty clear that I don’t like recap episodes in general and that these ones were particularly hideous.

But then, I realised just recently I watched the recap episode of Twin Star Exorcists and it didn’t really bother me so I began thinking about why these two anime recap episodes annoyed me so much.

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It came down to two main points.These series haven’t even had 12 episodes so why are we recapping? I know 91 Days kind of threw me with some of the family relations and characters but the recap did nothing to alleviate that, instead focussing on Avilio’s interactions which were already pretty prominent.

Firstly, linked to the first issue – no new material or insight given. Now Cheer Boys attempted some narration over the top of their wonderful reconfiguration of seen footage to let us know that next episode the whole squad would show up so at least they kind of got us interested in what was about to happen next episode. They also tagged the anime recap on after they achieved their first goal or performing at the festival so at least they found a natural spot in the story to pause.

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91 Days didn’t do either of those things. Avilio did orchestrate Nero killing his brother quite well but this has never been stated as a primary goal so there hasn’t been any real break through on the revenge he seems to be craving and there was really nothing new revealed.

Recaps make sense when you have a long series (or you’ve taken a break and are coming back). They make sense when the recap is given a purpose (other than to fill air time). Personally, I prefer it when whole episodes aren’t dedicated to recap and the story finds a better way to remind you of key plot points but if you have to do a recap episode at least do it in an entertaining fashion.

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Which brings me to Twin Star Exorcists episode 14. Notice it isn’t a X.5 episode title. Episode 14 Yukatas, Stars and Wishes is an episode in its own right, admittedly a fairly weak one. If you remove all the flash backs, it’s an episode about out main group of exorcists sitting in the back yard and contemplating their wish for Tanabata. There is little new revealed but the interactions are on occasion fun.

What it really becomes is a framing device for each character to reflect on the journey to where they are. The contrasts between the characters in episode 14, and who they were in each of the flashbacks, gives the audience something to reflect upon as well, while it reminds us about key plot points. So Twin Star Exoricists managed to do an anime recap in a way that didn’t make it feel like they just gave up for the week.

Recapping: It had already had more than 12 episodes which means the story had been running for over 3 months which is a long time to remember some of the finer details and it provided us with new material while it made us reconsider the characters.

Was it a brilliant episode? Not really. But it was watchable and enjoyable enough.

Anime recap done right.

Kurumi is the queen of an anime recap episode.

Another example of an anime recap episode that was done well comes from Kimi ni Todoke. Season 1 goes for 25 episodes without a recap (which given how slow the story is moving is probably a good thing). Then there is a gap before season 2. Enter season 2’s episode 00 which is a recap of season 1. At this point, a recap is warranted to remind us where we are in the story and how things have progressed.



But Kimi ni Todoke does one better than just timing their anime recap appropriately. They have the recap from the view of Kurumi (Sawako’s rival during season 1 for Kazehaya). With this we get insight into a character who before was really played up as an antagonist but is moving into a new role during season 2. It’s a great way to recap and make things feel purposeful.

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So back to the title of my blog. 91 Days started slowly but interesting. It was a really well done opening episode and in honesty, every episode after has been well put together. The story however has been stagnating. Despite lots of things happening, none of it has really been explained in context to the stated goal of our protagonist and while we can see connections, it hasn’t started bringing anything together.

That would be fine (save the reveal for the end) except that we haven’t been given anything else to care about. I don’t care about the in-fighting of the family’s because I haven’t been asked to by the story, and yet that is all we’ve seen for several episodes.

Then we are recapping. Reminding us that yes, Avilio’s family were killed and it was horrible. Reminding us that since then, he made some progress on his revenge (taking out one of his 3 targets) before realising there was another target and since then he has stalled. All the anime recap did at this time did was remind me how little progress has seemingly been made.

I get that some people are going to disagree with me, but 91 Days has not been holding my interest well for awhile and the recap episode nearly did it in. Episode 8 is going to need to be amazing for me to re-engage.

What are your thoughts about recaps? Or 91 Days?


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Karandi James