First Impressions are important. I have a personal rule that I don’t drop a show until after the six episode when most series will fully start to take shape, but then again I run an anime blog. For most people, if they aren’t even remotely intrigued, enchanted, or otherwise charmed by the first episode, they don’t go back. It is crucial for the success of an anime series to get those hooks in you in 30 minutes or less, otherwise a large portion of those giving it a try won’t go back for episode two.
In essence, most anime series have good first episodes or else they wouldn’t be as popular. However, here are a few that we think really did an amazing job.
The whole premise of the show is neatly laid out in front of you within minutes of the first episode. Their teacher is a weird alien that blasted a hole in the moon, and a classroom full of reject students at an academically elite is tasked with killing them. Why? Because the alien requested it. The twist is that he’s a pretty awesome teacher that you know will change the student’s lives, much in the same vein as Great Teacher Onizuka. However, what will hook many is that first scene where the students whip out their guns and start a hail of bullets on their new Sensei. That combined with the light humor throughout the episode makes it a real joy to watch. It is this same mix of action and humor that carries throughout much of the series, with a bit of character drama thrown in.
If you watch about half of the first episode and aren’t into the school life/slice of life sort of genre, you probably won’t continue. However, the true intrigue occurs at the very end of the first episode, and it is enough to tempt you into the next. Throughout the first episode of School Live, you follow the chipper, innocent, moe main character as she goes about her perky normal school day with her club mates who live at the school. However, at the end you find out that all her happy school life events were all just a delusion to cope with the fact that this fragile little girl is trapped in the school with a few others during the zombie apocalypse.
I actually went back and watched this first episode again for fun because the other characters leave a lot of subtle clues that her day was all just in her head.
In the complete opposite of School Live, Elfen Lied starts off with a bang of brutality. You follow a naked woman in a mask as she just rips apart armed guards and comic relief assistants in a brutal killing spree and escape. The rest of the episode, however, is rather low-key as she gets damaged by a headshot and reverts to her childlike Nyu personality. When she is found by Kohta and Yuka, you just want to keep watching to see what will happen because you know it’s going to be bad.
Attack on Titan
You have to admit, the first scene of Attack on Titan probably had you hooked. It starts with innocent townsfolk looking on in horror as this giant human-like monstrosity towers over their wall. Then you get that beautiful and addictive OP, afterwards expecting carnage, but it rewinds a step to the previous peaceful village life. Once the titans start attacking at the end, you need to see what happens next.
Ouran High School Host Club
The most notable reverse harem in the anime world has a way of making you fall in love with them. In the first episode it takes the time to introduce each major character to the host club, an otherwise dislikeable trope, but does it in such a way that it is impactful, humorous, and still contributes to the plot. What is truly a joy about Ouran High School Host Club will always be the symbolic and sometimes meta sort of humor that the series has and that is present right from the get-go.
Overall as a series, Death Parade has a few issues, but those issues certainly aren’t present in the first episode or when examined on an episode-to-episode basis. The interesting part of the first episode of Death Parade is that it could be a completely self-contained story in itself. You could drop it after the first episode and still have a complete story. Yet, it is the aspects of this episode, like that awesome OP and the emotion that is involved with a simple game of darts that makes you want to see what happens in that second episode.
As a romance series, Toradora needed to make you fall in love from the first episode, and it did. Ryuuji and Taiga are two characters that just beg to be loved for very relatable reasons. Ryuuji is a nice guy that just looks mean and Taiga looks pretty but has a bad attitude – those key aspects are established in the first episode. The silliness in which it establishes this premise does so perfectly, making it so that if you are a fan of romance anime, you know this is a series for you.
Kill la Kill
Most people find the first episode of Kill la Kill very entertaining, and it is. It basically goes from zero to balls to the wall action in about four minutes while also establishing the central conflict of the series. The episode wraps up the amazing high octane fight leaving you ready to find out what is next. The part you don’t know is that after the first episode, the series has that same rapid energy throughout that constantly begs you to watch every episode that follows.
You like plot twists? You’d probably like Code Geass. While it likes to twist the plot like a wet dish rag throughout the series, it does it more than your standard anime in the first episode alone. While the first episode is very much a set up for the rest of the plot, it does so with flair. It’s got its twists, it’s got its establishing, and it’s got its action. All of it is melded together perfectly with that one teasing, tempting smile at the end that says you are in for one hell of a ride.
Eden of the East
Oh, hey, there’s this naked guy in front of the White House… Wait, what? While the initial interest generated in Eden of the East falls off by the end, this series is animated proof that if you do something weird enough in a way that it seems super normal, people will want to watch.
From the New World
Do you find yourself continuing to watch an anime because it presented something mysterious in the first episode? From the New World kind of over does it with this. It presents so many questions from the present world to the history of that world and how people got to be living in the post-apocalypse with psychic powers, you kind of need some answers by the end. Though the series is often slow to give those answers, if you’re interested in mysteries, From the New World presents a lot of them, and often answers them in excruciating detail.
Sword Art Online
Oh, goodness. If Sword Art Online stayed as good as its first episode and didn’t devolve into a gamer fantasy harem show, maybe I would have liked it. For as much hate as the later half of the first season received, even the haters can admit that the show presented a world of possibilities – rather literally. It introduced you to the world of VR gaming that we wish existed and not the subpar VR gaming we have. It introduced you to an MMO where you could take a sword in hand, party up, and conquer the world. Then it introduced you to the plot and with one fell colorful swoop on that random wolf, it solidified the main character’s will to survive. That last moment of the episode was chill-inducing, and that chill made you want more.
Some anime series like to go from 0 to 100 in their intensity through an action sequence. Death Note, however, did things a little differently. It went from normal apathetic student to “I will become a god of this world” in 30 minutes. There isn’t a lot that happens in the first episode of Death Note aside from setting up the whole series. Light is introduced, the death note is found, and then Ryuk shows up and shinigami-splains the whole thing. However, that is intriguing enough, but it is the final declaration of Light that makes you need to keep watching.
These are just our picks for the best first episodes. What anime series had you hooked by the short and curlies from episode one? Let us know in the comments section below.
Founder of Recommend Me Anime. Combine 5 years of freelance writing with 15 years of anime fandom, and the result is a site that is (hopefully) more interesting to browse than your average news and episode recap anime site.