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How do you feel about backstory episodes in anime? Any favorites? Why?

Nov 13, 12:42 AM
Joined: Nov 2016
Posts: 1
For me personally, I've often found that episodes showcasing the reveal of a character's backstory (when done really well) tend to rank among my favorites in any series. I think this is because, to me, having an in-depth, relatable, or at the very least, entertaining cast of characters is more important than anything else if you want the show in question to even have a chance of leaving a memorable impression on its audience. Intriguing characters can carry a show all on their own in the way an intriguing plot often can't, and that's in the best of circumstances. As such, learning about a character's past is not only a great way to humanize and endear him/her/them to the viewers, but best-case scenario, it'll also give those viewers a reason to care about the plot that surrounds that character as a whole if they weren't invested already.

Some of the best backstory episodes that ended up doing this for me were ones that either took every preconceived notion I had about a character and just completely turned them on their head, or merely took some facet of the character's life that had only been hinted at before and expanded on it quite nicely. Whatever the case, I always came away from the episodes feeling like I understood what a character's deal was a lot better, and with that understanding, being more excited than ever to see how the rest of the story would unfold around them as they themselves grew and changed.

With all this in mind, my favorite backstory episodes in anime include (but won't be limited to):
* Episode 22 - "Electra's Betrayal" from "Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water"
* Episode 34 - "The Rose Crest" from "Revolutionary Girl Utena"
* Episodes 147 and 148 - "The Tragic Love Song of Destiny" (Parts 1 and 2) from "InuYasha"
* Episode 4 - "Land of Adults - Natural Right -" from "Kino's Journey" (2003)
* Episode 3 - "Mother" from "Fullmetal Alchemist" (2003)
* Episode 7 - "Showering Sound of Cicadas: Spirits Down the River" from "Sound of the Sky" (This one I like maybe to a lesser extent than the others, but I still thought it was worth mentioning.)
And finally...
* Episode 10 - "I Won't Rely on Anyone Anymore" from "Puella Magi Madoka Magica" (An obvious one, I know, but it definitely fits the bill for the kind(s) of episodes I'm talking about here, as well as the indelible impact they can have.)

So! What are your guys's opinions about character backstory episodes in anime? Do you love them? Hate them? Are you indifferent? If so, why? And are there any in particular that stand out to you? If you couldn't tell, I've been sitting on my thoughts about this topic for a while and am genuinely interested in what others might have to say! ^_^

Modified by Rheanne_Harkness, Nov 13, 2:25 AM
Nov 13, 1:30 AM

Joined: Aug 2016
Posts: 3422
I love anime where it shows the backstory of a character, makes me like/hate that character even more. Makes me feel like I know that character more than I did before.
Nov 13, 1:53 AM

Joined: Dec 2017
Posts: 124
They are important to know the characters better and understand their motives. Represents a fine line between love and hate. I dare to say that One Piece has the best backstory episodes.
Nov 13, 2:23 AM

Joined: Jan 2010
Posts: 4432
Yes, I love them. It's a very important element in story telling imo.
Especially for me that think characters is the most important element of a story.
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Nov 13, 2:31 AM

Joined: Jan 2015
Posts: 63
hate[when it ends up eating the whole episode] sometimes indifferent[2-3min is ok though] ;especially when those episodes comes while the anime is still airing feels like a whole week wasted .

i hate the typical cliche backstories[boho that character had a bad/sad past] like the ones in one piece,naruto,fairy tail

wow don't remember liking a backstory for an anime at the top of my head.guess i'll need to watch more anime.

Nov 13, 4:41 AM

Joined: Nov 2011
Posts: 1413
Yeah, a backstory is usually among the best part of the anime/manga.
Even when it has nothing to do with the plot (?) like Bungou Stray Dogs lol (which is a boring anime imo).
The first reason why I think because a backstory is usually more serious and denser compared to the main story, Rurouni Kenshin is the famous example.
One of the most memorable the backstory is about the main antagonist in Higurashi. Umineko's main culprit backstory is even better, because the theme of the series is "whydunnit".
Modified by Jim_Heart, Nov 13, 4:45 AM
Nov 13, 5:22 AM

Joined: Oct 2008
Posts: 1867
I love backstory episodes, I always look forward to them.
Shingeki no Kyoujin (Mikasa)
Grisaia no Kajitsu (protagonist's sister)
Zetsuen no Tempest (protagonists)
And many others.

When the idea of the anime isn't original or interesting (to me). When the plot development or subplot isn't compelling or interesting. And when the character development or relationship building is boring.
I especially love when an anime series's prequel comes out after the 1st season has already finished airing. Or when half of an anime is its backstory (Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, Grisaia no Kajitsu and others)

I rate anime on visuals, plot, Backstory and end. So backstory to me is paramount, preferably not scenes here and there, but entire episodes dedicated to the backstory.
Nov 13, 12:18 PM

Joined: May 2009
Posts: 5879
I like backstory episodes, as part of my enjoyment of the general trope of humanizing and fleshing out characters.
Nov 13, 5:37 PM

Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 19
I'm very indifferent, leaning on the 'I don't care side' most of the time. That's cause I value plot over characters, and they obviously have to go hand in hand, but I really like characters that are established already. I mean, I love them being fleshed out and learning more about them, but not learning something that changes your perspective on them/shows their character development/sets them up for character development and such. I want them to be fleshed out in the present time of the story, just get to know them better, nothing of the aforementioned stuff. But I do occasionally like backstories and well, since most anime is character driven, they are pretty enjyoable to watch. I'll check the titles I've watched and list my favourites:

Sailor Moon S - Episode 106: The Bond of Destiny: Uranus' Distant Past
Higurashi no Naku Koro ni - Episodes 16-18: Eye Opening Chapter, Part 1: First Love, Part 2: Responsibility, Part 3: Oni's Blood Line
Kuroko's Basketball - Episodes 13-16: A Day With Blue Skies, ...Sorry, We No Longer, What is Victory?
Saiunkoku Monogatari - Episode 20: Flowers Blooming from Dead Trees

That's about it for me, I guess. Not a big fan of backstories, but I do enjoy them every now and then.
Nov 13, 5:41 PM

Joined: Oct 2013
Posts: 1594
As long as it's the backstory of someone who's actually relevant to the plot, I'm fine with them.
Nov 13, 5:47 PM

Joined: Mar 2016
Posts: 18
Backstory adds to a story, it shines light on a characters, well....origin story, who they were before they were who they are now, I really like those kinds of episodes, as it also just makes you like the character more.
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Nov 13, 6:08 PM

Joined: Apr 2015
Posts: 188
I hate backstory as it makes me felt the author has ran out of idea to progressing the plot forward, so he can only do backward n introduce new character from the past...

The only exception probably is Homura back story from Madoka Magica, where the backstory is necessary to complete the plot.
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Nov 13, 7:18 PM

Joined: Jun 2010
Posts: 733
I absolutely love backstories in anime, but that might be partly because I'm a huge slice of life fan and they are usually done well in those kinds of series and don't seem like a random insert.

I will always have a place in my anime-loving heart for the backstories in Nana, especially the ones at the beginning that show both Nana Komatsu's and Nana Osaki's pasts before deciding to move to Tokyo. They served as a very effective way of showing both womens' differences in personalities and values, which set the stage for their actions later in the series.
I also loved Takumi's backstory in the manga, which sadly has not been adapted into anime. It changed my opinion on him quite a bit and helped me understand his background and attachment to Reira better. It also kind of helped to justify what he has done and how he has acted in the series, as well as his priorities. I mean... yes, he is still kind of an ass in a lot of situations but his backstory definitely humanized and added dimension to him. I really hope the second season of Nana comes out someday so anime-only fans can experience it and understand this really hated character a little better. And if they make another season or more and don't include it... well, damn, I'd be really disappointed.

My other favorite character backstory is Shimada's from Sangatsu no Lion. Probably my favorite part of the whole series, to be honest. It added to his characterization greatly and is part of what made me love him as a character. He is just a modest guy with insecurities he fights through the best he can, and I really admire that in him.
Modified by Leruki, Nov 13, 8:47 PM
Nov 13, 7:19 PM

Joined: May 2013
Posts: 232
I love them as long as we don't get one flashback for every character that appear, like in Naruto. That's kinda annoying.
Nov 13, 7:28 PM

Joined: Jul 2017
Posts: 3271
I like it when it's done...only when the timing is right. Like if it's done during the middle on an epic encounter, then it just becomes a drag and I find myself wanting to get a move on with things (like in Gintama, Ping Pong the Animation). Or, if it's done when it really has no use anymore, like with KnY always put backstories after whatever baddy died then it's just useless empathy

But otherwise, it can be pretty good at helping to understand the character, most notably in Kono Oto Tomare or Fruits Basket did it really well (like Hanajima's backstory dayumm)
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Nov 13, 10:22 PM

Joined: Sep 2019
Posts: 472
I love those episodes so much.. I'm watching Inuyasha right now and it takes care of establishing background of almost all characters so well, in a gradual manner too. I tend to enjoy those episodes a lot more than the episodes that are eventful.

You are right about how such episodes humanize characters and make them endearing to us, give us a reason to care about the plot and so on. This is why I love every character from Inuyasha. I don't feel dislike even towards Naraku. And, I wait for those episodes where we get to see more background of every character..:)
Nov 14, 12:20 AM

Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 727
I love them especially if it's something relatable like ishigami's backstory in kaguya sama or really well done backstories like nanachi from made in abyss or gintoki form gintama.
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Nov 14, 12:40 AM

Joined: Jul 2016
Posts: 307
I like backstory episodes because to me at least they tend to be a nice break from the main storyline.I just find it really fascinating to find out about a time in the character's life that was different from the present.
Nov 14, 3:19 AM
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Joined: Nov 2016
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I love backstories there are just a simple way to convey a character's motivation or sometimes they can give us a different perspective into the story. Some of my favourites are the golden age arc in berserk, beatrice's backstory in umineko and kikyo and robin's backstories in inuyasha and one piece
Nov 14, 6:32 AM

Joined: Jun 2016
Posts: 286
The backstory episodes from the third season of hajime no ippo were really well done and I enjoyed the change of pace and style they had. And that's coming from someone who doesn't like the anti-american sentiment a lot of anime have.
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Nov 14, 7:56 AM

Joined: Apr 2019
Posts: 51
Good characters will carry the show for me no matter if it's bad or good. So naturally developing characters in your show is something I will always support. Even better if instead of a 5 minute flashback they take an entire episode to develop a character and their past/backstory.
Nov 14, 8:28 AM

Joined: May 2018
Posts: 165
I really like them because I get to know the characters more and get a little bit of explanation why some characters are the way they are. Backstories affect me a lot and how I feel about certain characters.

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Nov 14, 12:22 PM

Joined: Apr 2019
Posts: 705
There are too many good ones out there to list but I'll mention a stand out backstory episode: ep 12 Mushishi (Ginko). Easily the best episode of the series.
Nov 19, 9:34 AM

Joined: Sep 2016
Posts: 58
Elfen Lied!!! it was simple,connected to the story still,sad,happy and cute
Nov 19, 9:40 AM

Joined: Sep 2014
Posts: 2151
Im not really a fan of them, either they happen directly before an "accident" happens which gives it away or they happen after and are necessary because the character got too little developement prior. I guess they can make sense when well developed characters get one to change our perception of them completely.

somebody said Homura and yes thats a great example done right.

The episodes themself are usually well done though and I guess my problem is when anime are worse then their backstory episodes because then they stand out and dont save the current plot anyway.
Modified by Comander-07, Nov 19, 9:44 AM
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It is for Madoka alone." - Homura
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Nov 19, 10:01 AM

Joined: Jul 2013
Posts: 544
Not a fan of those for some reason. Random flashbacks are one thing, but when an entire episode is dedicated to backstory I feel like it interrupts the flow of main plot. I'd rather characters just talk about past, as in dialogues.
Nov 19, 11:50 AM

Joined: May 2019
Posts: 177
Kiritsugus backstory in EP18 and EP19 of Fate/Zero and Homuras backstory in EP 10 of Madoka Magica are the first ones that come to mind when thinking about good flashback episodes.
Nov 19, 12:00 PM
Joined: Jun 2019
Posts: 1
Gintama(2015) backstory gintoki kill shoyo my foverite backstory
Nov 19, 12:09 PM

Joined: Sep 2018
Posts: 2
Hiei’s backstory from Yu Yu Hakusho is hands down a favorite.
Nov 19, 12:11 PM
Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 349
I really like it if they put it there after they fleshed out a character already and we have the urge to know even more about that character. Sometimes as others said, if the timing is not right, I don't like it as much, but as long as it keeps me entertaining though, showing something we didn't know yet, I don't mind it.
Nov 19, 12:28 PM

Joined: Dec 2018
Posts: 1108
Bungou Stray Dogs season 3 episode 6, Herurisu / Portrait of a Father. I have never been hit by the pain train so fast and out of nowhere. If it's done right backstory is a very useful tool in story telling. I know this one doesn't fully count as a backstory episode but idc.

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Nov 19, 12:45 PM

Joined: May 2017
Posts: 26
I usually love backstory episodes (and chapters) simply because they flesh out particular characters and explain their motivations. Not only in anime and manga, but in other media like movies, series, games and books aswell. Most of the time they also tend to be among my favourite episodes and chapters when looking back after finishing the whole thing.

The only ones I dont like are terribly timed backstory episodes (mostly during confrontations with the villian) which take the watcher out of the mood and these "flashback as deathflag" kinds of backstories, were they just show the backstory of a character, villians and side characters alike, to create empathy when they are about to get killed off, when you couldnt care less about them because they barely appeared. Its even worse when the author tries to redeem a villian who commited several terrible acts and killed a companion of the protagonist.
Nov 19, 5:46 PM

Joined: Nov 2008
Posts: 6859
Takuto's backstory in Full Moon is still my favorite one. It's crucial to the plot, could not have been revealed at a better time, and it's absolutely heart-breaking and shocking. It's also what literally saves the life of the main character.

Nov 19, 5:48 PM

Joined: Oct 2019
Posts: 86

holy hell there were some good ones