Recap Episodes: 2 Examples of Awesome (Macross Frontier 15 & Nadesico 14)

Recap episodes are generally unwelcome. I haven’t met anyone who looks forward to them. I remember the awful recap episodes in Kare Kano that all but ruined the anime for me. When my friends and I re-watch anime (Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann recently), we skip the recap episode(s) entirely. These here are two recap episodes that I’d dare not miss. Not only there was an obvious effort to make the episode not only a recapitulation of the narrative so far, they really added something special and particular to the respective franchise or series.

Macross Frontier episode 15

A summary and opinions in Crusader’s post:

That was one of the best recap episodes I have ever seen, where the usually route is to just give a run down of the events things were made much more interesting by having Grace and her cabal do all the talking. While the events are the same ones we have all seen, there were a good deal of interesting plot threads presented this time around.

The key mechanism here is that Grace O’Connor, a character that had just been revealed as a villain, further reveals herself and the nature of her villainy by narrating how she/they influenced or controlled events in the narrative from the beginning.

[…]it was a superbly done AMV coupled with an interesting set of narrators. Adding in the last couple scenes mitigated the recap factor, and added some significant development for both contenders for Alto-hime’s hand, as well as introducing Mr. Briler as a real character.

The use of Sheryl’s ‘Welcome to my Fan Club’s Night’ is very good. It’s a song that reflects her power as diva pop-idol and reminds us – as a recap episode should, that she exists in the narrative this way. This allows the narrative to move on with Ranka’s rise, and Sheryl’s own fall from Grace [NICE PUN! I deeply apologize, I couldn’t help myself].

The scene above have influenced some to make hyperbolic claims of the episode being the best recap ever. The episode sets up the love triangle in full. In SDF Macross, the rivalry between Minmei and Misa didn’t really materialize until the very end, it was more like fits, starts, and memories. Here not only it is expressed overtly, it was a battle befitting two idol singers. Macross 7 had its share of song battles, but here it’s truly winsome (never mind that Alto acted like a complete loser). Innovating on the recapping methods plus adding new content that either establishes narrative drivers/conflicts and being awesomely entertaining is what elevated this episode. But in terms of sheer innovation, I think the crown belongs to Martian Successor Nadesico.

Martian Successor Nadesico episode 14

Granted, MSN innovates a whole lot – part of it being a send-up and homage of the space opera/mecha genre of anime. Each episode is packed with exposition done in lively and entertaining ways. A key device in MSN is the use of a fictional anime-within-the-anime show called Gekigangar 3.

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The Awesome anime-within-the-anime GEKIGANGAR 3

In many episodes, what’s going on in the particular episode either reflects a conflict within Tenkawa Akito, or foreshadows something in the narrative. I had wondered openly before whether anime heroes would be anime fans like us. If they weren’t, I’d have half a mind to question my own hobby. Akito is a serious Gekigangar fanboy, the kind I can relate with. The novelty in the recap episode is that instead of Akito or the other characters in the Nadesico watching Gekigangar 3, we’re thrown into some kind of warp wherein the characters of Gekigangar 3 are watching an anime called Nadesico.

The Gekigangar Team kicks back and watches animu. The title? NADESICO!

The Gekigangar Team kicks back and watches animu. The title? NADESICO!

This allows the episode to provide both recapitulation of both narrative events and exposition regarding the overall setting, which is quite rich.

The Gekigangar Team ends up watching a recap episode

The Gekigangar Team ends up watching a recap episode

Here are your hosts! Yuri and Ruri

Here are your hosts! Yuri and Ruri

A big part of the fun in this show is the slices of frantic life in its well-developed setting, as can be seen below:

ert

You can really see the great advances in technolgy we've made, and Nergal Heavy Industries spares no expense for the well-being of their Human Capital.

Then it gets really fun. The antagonists of Gekigangar 3 are also watching the Nadesico anime!

Prince Akara tries a new show from his usual harem anime fare.

Prince Akara tries a new show from his usual harem anime fare.

Agents of the Kyo'akk Empire of the Dark String Universe are quick to learn their animu.

Agents of the Kyo'akk Empire of the Dark String Universe are quick to learn their animu.

nadesico-gekigangar-3-lets-go-with-hot-blooded-anime

Part of what makes MSN seem so damn smart are all these homages and subversions it pulls on traditions and tropes. I mentioned how the Akito’s narrative is influenced by the episode of Gekigangar 3 he was watching at the time. In this episode we see the roles reversed: The characters of Gekigangar 3 are taking hints from the Nadesico anime episode they’ve just watched.

Prince Akara implemented the Nadesico's own Distortion Field as his trump card.

Prince Akara implemented the Nadesico's own Distortion Field as his trump card.

But the good guys also developed their own tricks based on the Nadesico episode they watched!

But the good guys also developed their own tricks based on the Nadesico episode they watched!

Since this is traditional super robot anime, it’s quite a foregone conclusion that the good guys win. Definitely a feel-good end that also punctuates the somewhat self-congratulatory cleverness (deserved imo) throughout the episode.

An image reminding me of my distant youth.

An image reminding me of my distant youth.

If there’s one thing that I’ve read that people nitpick on about MSN episode 15, is that the Nadesico anime that the Gekigangar characters watched isn’t ‘canon’ in the MSN narrative. I mean, the actual show wherein Yuriko and Ruri did hosting duties. Well, I think it can’t possibly be canon – it’s really just a conceptual conceit that’s done quite well, and has elevated the recap episode into a different class.

What other anime was creative with their recap episode(s)? There aren’t a lot of these recently, but if they do so with the creativity like how these two titles did it, I wouldn’t mind at all.

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
This entry was posted in comparative, fanboy, Macross Frontier and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Recap Episodes: 2 Examples of Awesome (Macross Frontier 15 & Nadesico 14)

  1. I’m surprised you skipped the G-L one since it’s considered a great one.

    Nadesico definitely has a great one. My personal favorite is from Serial Experiments Lain, but I am planning to do a post on my favorite recap eps in the future so I’ll talk about that then.

    Somehow, I had it in my mind that memory mahjong was a recap ep… I guess I had it wrong >_<

  2. otou-san says:

    Wow that served to remind me just how much I need to watch Nadesico again. Going to have to replace my sold-off VHSs now. Really is the best recap ever.

    I don’t remember Lain even having one, but that’s not surprising since I don’t remember breakfast.

  3. Lain actually only had half an episode for recap. It was a big trippy blur with an awesome guitar solo playing over it.

  4. Turambar says:

    I never really had much of a problem with recap episodes as long as the entire 25 minutes does not compose of clips. Give me a good reason why the characters or the narrator is going over past events and I’m content.

  5. ghostlightning says:

    @ 21stcenturydigitalboy

    Episode 8 of Gurren Lagann was a recap episode as a compromise to censorship if I’m not mistaken. I just got the uncensored episode which I don’t think will have any recapitulation at all.

    @ otou-san

    Yeah Nadesico is brilliant and full of goodies for the nerd who has the taste for them.

    @ Turabar

    What would be examples that fulfill your requirements then?

  6. vendredi says:

    Not sure if you’ve seen either series I cite here, so I’ll try to avoid spoilers as I can.

    People may disagree with me here but I felt Ergo Proxy’s recap episode, #11, was well executed. Recycled footage is kept to a minimum, and also with the added effect of replaced faces, so the entire thing feels like a dream sequence. The overall feel you get is that Vincent is coming to grips with the implications of the revelations made in previous episodes.

    I contrast this with something like Wolf’s Rain episode #15, which is simply all recycled footage from the first few episodes with a sort of running commentary by Tsumi. This sort of recap episode is far less interesting to watch; it feels like Tsumi is recounting a story to the viewer.

    Overall, I think what makes or breaks a good recap episode is how much time it actually takes to consider the implications of recent plot points. Both the Macross recap episode as well as the Ergo Proxy recap episode could work without flashback footage – a little awkwardly, perhaps, but neither is dependent on a blow-by-blow recap of events that the Wolf’s Rain recap requires.

    I think the common element here, like you mention, is that these episodes serve to allow the characters (and possibly the viewer) to “catch their breath” (and in an anime like Ergo Proxy, you need to do so often) and to let the implications of previous plot revelations sink in. (i.e. the oh shit” moment when both girls reflect in Alto’s eyes)

    • ghostlightning says:

      Good points. I haven’t seen Ergo Proxy but I know that Wolf’s Rain ep.

      Ideally, slice of life change of pace can make excellent opportunities for the viewers to catch their breath. Hence, the Macross Frontier hospital scene and the sing-off. Characterizations are played out yes, but the necessary investments were made in them.

      I somehow imagine that the macro plot points were recapitulated in the Grace conversation, but there was no recapitulation on the love front because the establishment of the rivalry is very recent. Instead, it’s underscored delightfully by the sing-off. Alto’s ‘oh shit’ moment indeed.

  7. It’s hard to come up with a recap episode that can compete with Nadesico 14. The only example I can recall from what I’ve seen recently is a recap late in the progress of Utena, which frames the recap elements within a conversation that is (gradually to revealed to be) a major plot event in and of itself. It’s not as good as Nadesico 14, though.

    • ghostlightning says:

      I’m on a collision course with Utena, it’s just a matter of time before I get to seeking it out. An innovation on its recap episode is yet another incentive.

      I’m quite surprised actually (unless I’ve forgotten already) that Legend of the Galactic Heroes has never used one, perhaps due to providing regular recaps at the top of the episode.

      Another reason that makes me feel how compact it actually feels despite the sprawling narrative told in 110 episodes.

  8. rollchan says:

    heya, ever watched Patlaybor? 😛

  9. Turambar says:

    @ghostlightning

    It’s not anime related, but my favorite recap episode comes from Stargate SG-1, season 6, episode 17. A fairly good reason for going over past events (the US Air Force disclosing the existence of the stargate to foreign heads of states), as well as advancement of subplots within the recap episode itself (attempting to keep the stargate program in USAF hands, etc) made for a much more worthwhile viewing than other recaps that I remember.

  10. ETERNAL says:

    A recap episode that’s actually good? All right, I’m definitely looking forward to this one ;P

  11. ghostlightning says:

    @ Turambar

    I’m not familiar with the show, but I can tell from the elements you shared that there is some clever stuff going on. Interesting indeed.

    @ Rollchan

    No.

    @ ETERNAL

    I hope I didn’t spoil anything for you!

  12. Quen says:

    I adored the Gurren Lagann re-cap episode, but episode 15 of Macross F doesn’t even register as a recap episode in my memory, which must be a good sign that it was a excellent example of a well done recap.

    • ghostlightning says:

      Indeed! It registered as a recap to me because I dreaded all recap episodes prior to my seeing it. After I saw it I talked about it on IRC where I met people who told me about Nadesico’s, which is truly brilliant.

  13. The all-time best “recap episode” has to be Gintama 25, even if it’s cheating since they never even got around to actually “recapping” anything.

    For an actual, honest recap episode where the entire episode is literally recap and recap only, I have to go with Gurren Lagann 16. Though I haven’t seen Nadesico, and episode 14 sounds like a really creative concept.

    And while Frontier 15 wasn’t completely recap, the actual recap segment was very well done. I’d be pretty much just repeating the points you brought up above, so I’ll leave it at that.

    • ghostlightning says:

      Thanks for referring Gintama, I know far too little of it and will look it up soon.

      The examples I used (though more accurate for Nadesico) really work because they’re tied so thoroughly to the very concept of the series: Nadesico’s ‘postmodern’ meta-referencing and pastiches, and then Macross Frontier’s music/video centric-ness.

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