Analyzing the 3 Episode Rule

Hey guys, Justin here, and welcome to the Otaku Mind. Well we’re now a quarter of the way into the spring anime season and I’m pretty sure you all have picked which anime you’ll be watching from the spring lineup. When choosing to watch new anime, there’s a rule that a majority of people myself included like to follow, and that rule is the 3-episode rule. It’s a pretty basic and easy to follow rule. An anime has three episodes to pull you in and if it doesn’t pull you in by the third episode then you drop it and move on. It’s a good rule that helps you pick out which anime you want to watch but I want to take a closer look at this rule and see if we should follow it or not. Join me, as we analyze the 3-episode rule.

Why 3 episodes

Let’s ask the major question I’m sure you’re wondering at home, why 3 episodes? Why not 1, 2, 4, or 5? Well, to borrow a saying from my good friend Kino from Kino’s Journey, 3 days is all you need to get a feel for a place and I think this line of thinking can be applied to anime. 3 episodes is all you really need to get a feel for the anime. The average movie is about 90 minutes. In those 90 minutes we get a story, plot, information about the characters, a goal, conflict, a climax, moral (sometimes), and a resolution. If a good movie can get all that out in 90 minutes then 3 episodes of an anime should be able to accomplish that as well seeing as how 3 episodes is about 90 minutes. One or two episodes isn’t enough time to get a good feel for the anime and if your 4 or 5 episodes in then you’re too deep into the anime to stop watching and might as well see it all the way to the end and hope for the best.

Another example is to think of the first 3 episodes of an anime like a comic strip. Take this comic strip of Garfield for example:

A daily comic strip only has about 3 panels to tell a joke or story. In the first panel we get introduced to the characters, the situation they’re in, and the setup for the joke. In the second panel we see the execution of the joke aka the climax. In the final panel we see the resolution of the joke. The end. Now let’s apply this line of thinking to an anime and think of the 3 episodes as a comic strip. For this example, I’m going to select an anime I’m in the middle of watching right now and that anime is SAO: Alternative. In the first episode (or panel) we get introduced to our characters and what they’re doing. In the second episode, we dive deeper into our main character LLENN by finding out that in real life she’s a tall girl who is self-conscious about height and as a result she had a hard time making friends. Despite her height, we find out that she likes cute things, is a huge fan of this singer, goes to college, and only plays GGO because she gets to be a petite cute girl which is what she wanted to be. The episode also introduces us to her first online friend. In the third (or final panel) we see where the story will be heading, and the story will be focusing on LLENN entering GGO’s squad jam tournament and trying to win at the request of her friend who couldn’t join due to real life circumstances. Within the first three episodes of this anime we get introduced to our characters, the story, plot, conflict, and the goal. Even though we haven’t gotten to the climax we will down the line. The first two episodes introduce the characters and the situation, while the third episode gets us prepared for what’s about to go down or shows us what the first two episodes were building up to.

Do you have to watch 3 episodes before deciding to drop or keep on watching an anime

No, I don’t think so. There are many exceptions. Like for example, some animes actually manage to get all their story and setting out in the first episode. A good example of this is Persona 5 the Animation. In the first episode we get introduced to our main character, the situation he’s in, why he’s in this situation, what he plans on doing, how everyone treats him because of his situation, and ultimately seeing him unlock his persona. The anime knew how to get you hooked on the first episode and seeing how this was based on a popular game, they knew they had a good size audience to work with right off the bat. There are also times when you don’t need to watch 3 episodes to decide if this is an anime you don’t want to watch. Sometimes watching an episode or two is all you need to see. A good example for me is this season’s anime Last Period, an anime based on a mobile game. I actually decided to drop the anime after the second episode because of how lazy and self-aware the anime was. One character literally warns the viewers don’t pay to win. The game is a free mobile app and the anime just told you not to fall for their trap. Even if it was a joke, it’s a bad one because they pretty much discouraged everyone not to pay for anything in the game. Also, having a character break the fourth wall and point out the anime’s shortcomings, clichés, and problems doesn’t make it funny. Especially when it’s done almost every other scene. But then there are times when you need those 3 episodes to decide if this is an anime for you. Another example for me is Golden Kamuy. I was on the fence about this anime up until the third episode but when I got done watching the third episode I decided to continue watching the series because of the relationship and partnership between the two main characters, the story, the potential villains, and how the anime actually dives into the customs and beliefs of the Ainu with our character being totally open to their customs and respecting them. The anime does a good job diving into these customs and beliefs while also offering us a good laugh in the process.

What if you get pass 3 episodes and decide that this anime isn’t for you

At this point you have two options. Like I said before if you’re 4 or 5 episodes in then you might as well finish the series and just hope that as the anime goes on it gets better or just power through it believing that the ending will make up for the slump. If not, then drop the anime. Nobody’s forcing you to watch it (hopefully) and in the end it’s your choice. You know what you like and don’t like. My only upside to this is that I can actually get a good blog out of animes I think our bad and rant about them. There are times when 3 episodes isn’t enough time to get a good feel for the anime and times when the first 3 episodes can be bad but get better after the first episode. For example, at first I hated Cross Ange. The first 3 episodes were bad in my opinion, but I decided to power through, keep watching, and I’m glad I did. To my shock the anime actually got better as Ange went from being this pampered princess who you just wanted to punch to a badass girl. The story also got better with some decent twists, a dark villain, and a satisfying ending.


So, is the 3 episode rule a good tool for deciding which new anime to watch? Yes. Is it an absolute rule? No. You don’t have to follow this rule if you don’t want to. You know what you like and don’t like so it should be easy to pick out which new anime you want to watch. But if you see an anime that’s outside your comfort zone and catches your interests then I do recommend the 3 episode rule to help you decide if this is an anime you want to watch or not. In the end the 3 episode rule is just a tool to help you manage which anime you watch during a new season better. You don’t have to follow it but if there’s a lot of new anime that catches your interest then this is a rule to help you out. Thanks for reading, let me know what your thoughts are on this rule, and I’ll see you next time on Project Nitsuj.

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