Wiki Headlines
We've switched servers and will be updating the old code over the next couple months, meaning that several things might break. Please report issues here.

main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Anachronic Order
aka: Non Linear Story
Ordered by date published, numbered by chronological order.

"We're in the middle of a scene you don't remember in a narrated flashback framed by a flash-forward in a prequel book. There's no way in hell you're finding your way back here."
The Oracle, The Order of the Stick: Start of Darkness

One step further than Back to Front, the story order and the chronological order are not directly related at all. Either the storyline jumps back and forth along the timeline, or portions of the story are re-told along a period of time already covered.

This is very popular in Lit Fic and certain types of art film, along with any character who is Unstuck in Time.

The simplest form of this, covering the same time frame from different perspectives, is equivalent to a Rashomon Plot. One way of doing this is to have a "present" storyline going on as the "past" occasionally pops up and mixes things around, as a variation of How We Got Here. Or a character spends time using a Whole Episode Flashback as a Framing Device. While they are related, there is still a dividing line as one of those storylines has to still be jumbled chronologically.

According to The Other Wiki, this is professionally known as "non-linear" style. Sometimes this is also referred to as Quentinuity.

A sister trope to In Medias Res. Compare Real Time. Don't confuse it with Out of Order, which is where the proper order of the stories are shifted around because of a dodgy schedule.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Haruhi Suzumiya:
    • The novels aren't in chronological order. This was retained when the anime was shown in Japan in meta-random order, and helpfully had Haruhi and Kyon arguing over the number of the next episode in the previews. The English happens to put the episodes in chronological order, except for the first episode, but the special edition DVDs have the original order as well. The opinions about what order is "better" to watch differ. Notably, the series is paced with the anachronic order in mind, and climaxes halfway chronologically.
    • The second season kicked off by inserting the new episodes into the rerun of the first season via chronological order (well, chronological except for the Time Travel). Thus, "Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody", part of season 2, was inserted after the Baseball Episode, "The Boredom of Suzumiya Haruhi". The second season is thus not a sequel of the first season.
  • Boogiepop Phantom includes shifts in both timeframe and perspective.
  • Berserk is the chronicle of Guts' life, though it starts with him being the Black Swordsman, than goes back to his birth and the time he spent under Gambino's care, then flashes forward to the the time he spent with the Band of the Hawks until shortly after the events of the Eclipse, then it picks up again from where the manga began and with the beginning of the new arc, we witness the period Guts spent between Gambino's mercenaries and the Hawks.
  • Even though it's a simple Slice of Life series, Hidamari Sketch's episodes don't take place in chronological order. Luckily, each episode gives a calendar date in its title.
    • The episodes that take place during Nori and Nazuna's first year are in chronological order with each other, but in different places throughout are episodes and half-episodes from the previous year and Sae and Hiro's first year.
  • Baccano! has this in spades. Within each episode there are random time cuts between events in three different years (1930, 1931, and 1932), and occasionally two others (1711 and 2001).
  • Rental Magica is aired out of order, but the show's website shows where each episode is supposed to belong. The DVDs keep the anachronistic airing, though, presumably because it holds the most dramatic tension that way.
  • An episode of Martian Successor Nadesico was told in Anachronic Order when half the cast was having their brains hacked through their nanomachines. Most scene cuts did feature a time-stamp to help alleviate the confusion, but the principle was there.
  • AIR starts out normally, then has several episodes 1000 years in the past explaining the backstory. After that, the story starts over from the beginning, except it focuses around the Chekhov's Gunman.
  • Both the film adaptation and the original novel of Kara no Kyoukai start the story in roughly the middle of the story, September 1998. The first four chapters jump back and forth in time, and the progression is chronological from the fifth to the final, seventh chapter. Then the writer added an extra eight chapter ten years after the novel was published, which is chronologically fourth but ties up the entire story, adding an explicit happy ending. Not as confusing as other, considering that many chapters are standalone "cases."
    • The film of the 5th chapter is also shown in a Anachronic Order, with both large retellings of the same time period as well as small jumps or repetitions.
  • Yami to Boushi to Hon no Tabibito jumps back and forth in chronology but is actually quite comprehensible.
  • Touka Gettan, produced mostly by the same people as Yamibou, is told completely in reverse order.
  • This was accidentally done the first time around for DiC's dub of Sailor Moon. The order was a followed: a full "Queen Beryl" arc, followed by the "Rini/Negamoon" arc up-to the point where the last two of the four Negamoon sisters are healed, then the full "Doom Tree" arc. In repeats, the orders in correct order: full "Queen Beryl" arc, full "Doom Tree" arc, then at that time the unfinished "Rini/Negamoon" arc.
  • The first volume of Phoenix tells the very beginning, the second the very end, in the far future. After that, it more or less alternates between the increasingly-less-distant future and past, converging on the present, which it never reached.
  • Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle is somewhat out of order due to a number of reasons, including time travel. Its always in order from somebody's point of view, but an in-universe observer (such as the cast of XXX Holic) would be incredibly confused (as is anyone trying to make an objective timeline). One point is when we follow two souls through reincarnation, following the events of their next life, as the parents of one of the main characters, and thus explaining something that happened before the story begain but is just happening now and oh dear I've gone and got a headache again.
  • A rare non-Mind Screw example: Axis Powers Hetalia is a mainly yonkoma series about history that doesn't even attempt to be in chronological order. It may be World War II one strip, the Seven Years War the next, then at the height of the Roman Empire in the next. To really understand it one needs either to have paid attention in World History or be skilled at wiki-fu, but the anachronic order doesn't have much to do with that.
    • The anime makes a bit more sense, since each episode is usually centred around a single time period. It's still pretty anachronistic, though.
  • 7 Seeds is told this way, although it's not always noticeable. Team Spring finds a note written by Natsu, from Team Summer B, in a bunker and only later get a chapter that has said Team actually reach the bunker initially. Team Winter's story, which is revealed to take place 15 years earlier, is told and shortly after we take a trip even further back by showing the Team Summer A candidates, which takes place x-years ago, before disaster hits earth.
  • Ga Rei Zero starts off with a Nonindicative First Episode ending with the apparent protagonists being absolutely butchered by a demonic swordswoman, which is followed up by the second and actual team of protagonists facing the same threat, while revealing that the main character and her were friends. The next 8 episodes build up to that point in the story. Additionally, Ga Rei Zero itself is a prequel to Ga-Rei, which is sometimes forgotten.
  • 20th Century Boys has five or so timelines interconnected and two more which take place in virtual reality.
  • Billy Bat. 1940s to Biblical times to the 1950s to feudal Japan.
  • In Not Simple, the story continuously jumps around in time. The beginning is set before the events that lead to the end, followed by the end, followed by the beginning, which then carries on up until near the opening scene, and then finally jumps back sometime near the middle of the story.
  • Hyakujitsu No Bara shows the main characters' childhoods, their time in the Military Academy, and the present day, all jumping back and forth quite a lot. Even the very first scene is set up to look like the story will be told in flashback (being a Train-Station Goodbye), only to immediately jump forward six months to the present time.
  • The Tatami Galaxy goes there within the first episode.
  • Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita, at least in the anime, where the arcs are out of order. It's not really a big deal, being a comedy.
  • Mawaru-Penguindrum has a main plotline told chronologically, but it's full of anachronically ordered flashbacks that constantly re-frame what you just think you knew about the plot so far.
  • In Murasakiiro No Qualia, Hatou's narration is oftentimes like this. She once even apologizes for the confusing order of the events told.
  • Bakemonogatari is the first installment of the series, but takes place after later installments Kizumonogatari and Nekomonogatari Black. The Bakemonogatari and Nisemonogatari anime seasons were in chronological order, though... unlike Second Season, where the second arc is chronologically the first, the first and fourth arcs happen simultaneously, and the third and fifth arcs form one story, which is interrupted by the aforementioned fourth arc. Yeah, it's kind of a complicated series.
  • The Black★Rock Shooter OVA alternates between the fight scenes and the events that led up to them.
  • Except for some of the few recurring characters' introductions, Mushishi can be read in any order. The anime takes chapters randomly from every volume, and it's still just as easy to follow as the manga.

    Audio Play 
  • Big Finish Doctor Who:
    • The whole series is produced in severely anachronic order, due to switching perspective between five different Doctors seemingly at random. The storylines are usually in chronological order from the companions' perspectives, though... which can still be timey-wimey in itself, as seen when Charley (previously an Eighth Doctor companion) starts travelling with Six.
    • Individual stories are often anachronic in addition - for instance, "The Rocket Men" has an interesting device where it starts at a single event, and then cuts between the events leading up to that event and the events resulting from that event, while telling a thematically coherent story with Cliffhangers in all the right places.

    Comic Books 
  • Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen, and, indeed, the flashback episodes of Watchmen in general.
  • The Sin City stories were published in Anachronic Order. A timeline of the main stories (and a few others that can be pinned down relative to them): That Yellow Bastard (with "Just Another Saturday Night" concurrent), A Dame To Kill For (with "Blue Eyes" and The Hard Goodbye concurrent), "Wrong Turn," "Wrong Track," Hell and Back, The Big Fat Kill, Family Values.
  • Atomic Robo frequently jumps around from the titular character's current activities with TeslaDyne and various exploits in the last 80 years, though, helpfully, we're always given dates and locations. Even if that location is "the Vampire Dimension".
  • While the over all plot line in Brian Azzarello's & Eduardo Risso's crime noir series One Hundred Bullets take place in a chronological manner, certain story lines (most notably The Counter Fifth Detective) are presented with events (pertaining to that arc) out of order and the reader left to reconstruct them. The epic back story is also peppered through out the main narrative in a series of flash backs from different points of view.
  • The first year of Priest's run on Black Panther made mad, passionate love to this trope. Figuring out what led to what was half the fun.
    • This was hilariously lampshaded / justified when it was explained that Everett Ross, the character doing most of the narrating, absolutely cannot tell a story straight.
  • And before Black Panther, Christopher Priest's writing in Quantum and Woody had short clips appear in anachronistic order in every single issue.
  • Done intentionally with the three separate plots in American Born Chinese, and is essential to the overall story.
  • The comic Love And Rockets started as an anthology series, but soon settled into (mostly) two regular series: The Palomar series, about a small town in Central America, was told as a series of flashbacks and jumped forward and backwards in time. The other stories, referred to as the Locas series, took place in present-day Los Angeles and were told in straight sequential order. Ironically, after the Human Diastrophism storyline, the Palomar stories started being told in a linear fashion while the Locas stories started jumping around.
  • Empire State is Color-Coded for Your Convenience. The story alternates between sections that are monochromatic red or blue. The blue sections are arranged in chronological order (barring one flashback); the red sections aren't in any particular order, but they all occur chronologically before the first blue section. The two red sections that fall last, chronologically, have spots of blue scattered throughout to signal the transition.
  • Silent Hill: Among the Damned, is in this order. Since Tropes Are Not Good, this only serves to make the story more confusing.
  • The Ultimate Thor miniseries was essentially three stories in one: Thor in Ancient Times, Baron Zemo - who is actually Loki in disguise -'s plots involving Frost Giants in the middle of World War II, and Thor shortly before joining The Ultimates. The mini jumped between all three of these very sporadically.
  • A lot of stuff written by Grant Morrison. For example, the storyline Batman RIP begins with Batman trimuphingly yelling "You're wrong! Batman and Robin will never die!" We don't see who he's talking to and the rest of the story is set six months before, including introducing us to the character Batman was/will be talking to, Le Bossu. Batman RIP ends with Batman disappearing after being seen last in a helicopter which crashes in Gotham river and explodes. His ripped cowl is then found in the water by Dick Grayson, who's the Batman seen in the opening scene, not Bruce. Bruce then is in Final Crisis, which begins a few hours after Batman RIP (and includes a fair amount of Anachronic Order in itself, since the final issue is told in non-linear Flash Back.) A few months into Final Crisis (and therefore after Batman RIP was published), we got Batman RIP: The Missing Chapter, which explains how Bruce got from the exploding helicopter to the JLA headquarters, where he is at the start of Final Crisis.
  • A Warhammer 40,000 comic told three interwoven stories: the identification and indoctrination of a new recruit into a Space Marine chapter, an apparently hopeless battle by veteran Space Marines on another planet, and the awakening of a centuries-old Dreadnought for yet a third battle. In the last few pages it's revealed that the three stories are about the same man. The last page of the first recruit's story has him taking the name he will use during the veteran's story, and the last pages of that has him falling in battle and being enclosed within the Dreadnought.
  • IDW's Transformers comics are told in this fashion. When the first mini-series begins the war has already been going on for sometime. Through flashbacks and other issues and mini-series we slowly shape how the war began, who's responsible, and in general learn more about the universe.
  • The first issue of Sex Criminals begins in the present, then loops back to the past, then to the present again, then the past again, and finally back to the present.
  • Several issues of The Pulse involve heavy use of flashbacks to frame the story.

    Fan Works 
  • Chapters 24 and 25 of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.
  • Metal Gear Solid Fan Fic The Joy of Battle: Historical Espionage Action is told non-linearly with scenes being placed next to one another because of their similarity and several story lines happening in different times. Yet... it all makes sense.
  • Used in the fanfic Kyon Big Damn Hero, in the Anachronic Order Explanation Arc.
  • As a nod to Hetalia, this is used throughout the 1983: Doomsday Stories. The time period jumps between 1983 and 2010, with a further jump to 2031.
  • In the CLANNAD fanfic An End To All Things, Okazaki is stated to have been reborn from a man who tried to take over the world. Or rather, will try to take over the world. As a consequence, he remembers a number of things that haven't actually happened yet, principally the nuking of Hikarigana.
  • The first story published in RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse is Boast Busted, which is actually seventh in chronological ordernote . Then the series became a Shared Universe, with the various authors publishing their own stories, some in order, some taking place before previously written works.
  • "Friendship Is Magic: The Adventures of Spike": The Sneak A Peek chapter posted between the "Canterlot Wedding" and "When A Good Dragon Goes to War" sub-arcs is a preview of things to come that's set what appears to be several years after the latter arc.
  • NGE fanfic "The Second Try" is written in this manner, with the chapters alternating between the Peggy Sue and Post-Third Impact storylines.
    • Interestingly enough the reader can actually read all the Post-Third Impact chapters first followed by the Peggy Sue chapters and the story will make even more sense than it already does.
  • Tears to Shed, one of the stories related Horseshoes and Hand Grenades has most of its chapters (barring the last three) like this. The order goes as follows: Betrayal, Rosencrantz, Skin, Guildenstern, Friendship, Sea Salt, Prediction, Firestarter, Betwixt, Henshin.
  • The myriad stories in The Dear Sweetie Belle Continuity were created/published out of chronological order, though both orders allow the Myth Arc to unfold well.
  • As initially published, Ponies Of Olympus includes a significant Time Skip between Rolling in Beaches and Atlas Strongest Tournament, with other stories to be posted later filling that gap, starting with Somebody to Love (and the next such story, Head of a Dog; Tail of a Lion, taking place before that).
  • Kitsune no Ken: Fist of the Fox: The author's story-notes on his Deviantart account are not posted in the order they would be placed in the story proper. Averted with the actual story on Fanfiction Dot Net, however, where the chapters are in their proper order.
  • The Utena and MawaruPenguindrum crossover fanfic Seinen Kakumei Utena is written in this manner

  • The Fountain. Indeed, it's not clear if the three versions of the main character are in the same timeline, since at least one may be a fictional version of the real Tom, but he jumps back and forth between similar scenes in each of the three stories as if experiencing deja vu.
  • Perhaps the most severe example is 21 Grams, which takes huge leaps in chronology, with no framing device and no discernible pattern, more or less scene to scene. It takes about half an hour and a carefully-made flowchart of the plot points presented thus far to orient yourself enough to know what's going on in any given scene.
  • Distant Voices Still Lives runs it a close second, though; about all you can say is that scenes in the first half of the film chronologically precede scenes in the second half. Otherwise, the film operates in a kind of free-associative manner, slipping backwards and forwards through the years, mimicing the mechanisms of memory.
  • Used with great success in several of Quentin Tarantino's films.
    • Pulp Fiction begins and ends in the same scene, and we see one character die in a scene before he plays his role in the climax. Pulp Fiction's proper chronological order of events: The prologue to the Gold Watch, the prologue to Vincent Vega and Marcellus Wallace's Wife, The Bonnie Incident, the Restaurant, Vincent Vega and Marcellus Wallace's Wife, the Gold Watch.
    • Reservoir Dogs jumps back and forth between before the robbery and after it.
    • Kill Bill helps us track the timeline by the Bride's list of people to kill. Notably, we see one name crossed off her list in the beginning of the first film who doesn't die until the climax.
    • Jackie Brown is told in a linear fashion, except for the sequence with the money drop, which is told from three perspectives in a manner similar to Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction.
  • The Are You Afraid of the Dark? movie The Tale of the Silver Sight temporarily uses the "same time frame from different perspectives" approach, without The Rashomon or flashbacks.
  • The movie Go follows several different groups of people during the same 24 hour period, with some interaction between the various groups.
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind flips back and forth a bit, changing scenes as you go, and for part of the film you're confused about which part of the relationship is being portrayed. Pay attention to Clementine's hair colour if you're confused.
  • Christopher Nolan loves this trope:
    • His first movie, Following, is told in flashback as the main character relates events to a detective. The flashbacks interlace scenes beginning (approximately) at the beginning, at the 1/3 point, and at the 2/3 point, and each moving forward from there.
    • Memento alternates between two plot streams, one told in normal chronological order, the other in reverse to highlight the character's memory disorder. The jumps back and forth between plots enhance the disorientation caused by the reverse-order plot.
    • The Prestige takes place in three timelines: after Borden has been sentenced for Angier's death, Angier's trip to the United States to see Tesla, and the rivalry between Borden and Angier before Angier's trip. This is done by having Borden (in his jail cell) read Angier's journal (from the trip), which was also when Angier was deciphering Borden's journal (which described the buildup of their rivalry).
    • Batman Begins, The Dark Knight Rises, Inception and Insomnia all use parts of non-linear narrative to an extent, just not as great an extent as the aforementioned three. The only film not to use any at all is The Dark Knight.
  • Premonition with Sandra Bullock scrambles a week out of order for the viewers and the main character.
  • Citizen Kane starts with the title character's death, gives us a brief newsreel outline of his life, then fills in the details of his life with a series of flashbacks. The flashbacks are not in chronological order; their order depends on the order in which a reporter interviews people.
  • Rendition follows two different subplots at the same time, but doesn't reveal till the very end that they take place at different times in the story.
  • The movie version of Speed Racer jumps back and forth in time constantly.
  • The storylines of the Ju-on series, as well as the US remake series, The Grudge, are told in this fashion.
  • Vantage Point shows the same 20 minutes over and over from a different perspective.
  • The Akira Kurosawa classic IKIRU (Japanese for "to live") spends it's first half being very straight forward and chronological with the main character learning that he has a terminal illness and trying to find a way to make some kind of meaning out of his life. When he lands on the idea of spear heading a movement to turn a hazardous landfill into a play ground the movie shifts narrative style. The latter half takes place at his funeral as various people recount stories about the man's last days and how he badgered other departments into working on the idea and cutting through the usual bureaucratic system to get the job done.
  • Five Hundred Days Of Summer was presented in this way.
  • The movie Shorts is so named because the larger story is broken up into five shorter stories, which follow a normal causal sequence, but are shown out of order.
  • The opening scene of Trick 'r Treat is, chronologically, the very last event in the film. After this scene, it tells three stories that are more or less set simultaneously, before backing up to the beginning with another story, set during a time skip. It ends just before the opening scene.
  • Two For The Road intercuts five different timelines to show a couple (Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney) as they first meet, get married, drift apart, and reconcile. The juxtapositions produced by this juggling make the story quite poignant.
  • Primer — made even more confusing because the plot itself is about time travel, so it's all a bit hazy chronologically.
  • Mr. Nobody — Not only does it jump backwards and forwards at different ages of the main character, but is also jumps sideways to alternate timelines.
  • A Few Good Men cuts around a bit early on.
  • vBadTiming skips around the events of the main characters' disastrous relationship and its aftermath, often to juxtapose its sweet beginnings with its grim end.
  • Steven Soderbergh uses this trope occasionally
    • The Limey uses it within some scenes, shifting back and forth between moments, often with the sound from the next moment taking over just before the jump.
    • The Girlfriend Experience cuts back and forth between a number of storylines within the life of the two main characters. Some of the storylines are single conversations, while others span days or weeks
  • The Brave Little Toaster sequels Goes to Mars and To the Rescue. To the Rescue is the last film in the trilogy released, but Goes to Mars is the last film story-wise.
  • The film 11:14 shows the convergence of events around that time of night in an anachronic order, with each segment centering on one particular character's involvement in said events.
  • Mulholland Dr.: In the real life sequence later in the movie, several scenes are stitched together in an anachronistic order.
  • Toto the Hero is set in the current day, but jumps back and forth in flashbacks.
  • Man of Steel starts out with the destruction of Krypton, then jumps ahead to Clark in his thirties, followed by various flashbacks of his life. Of course, the Superman mythos have become so ingrained in pop culture that audience members will probably understand the flashbacks easily. The flashbacks also help the film's overall pacing since the audience isn't treated to a big info dump at the beginning of the movie.

  • Older Than Feudalism: The Bible is in a few different anachronic orders, depending on the tradition in which they were set. One of the major principles of Judaism is Ein Mukdam Umeuchar Batorah, which means don't assume things happen in the order they're written. This provides some very easy answers to some of the most famous challenges to the text.
    • The Chronological Bible at least attempts to put the stories in chroniological order; as you might expect if you've read enough of the regular order, this results in a lot of jumping back and forth between passages as they describe the same events, as well as the Psalms being scattered throughout, having been written by people such as Moses, the sons of Korah, David, Asaph, Solomon, Heman, and, according to some traditions, Hezekiah!
  • In the novel and film Slaughterhouse-Five, events from a man's life are shown out of order, ranging from imprisonment in a German POW camp, through the fifties, and into being the guest of aliens towards the end of time. The main character has become Unstuck in Time, allowing him to live all the moments of his life at the same time.
  • Likewise, the book Galápagos, also by Kurt Vonnegut. The plot moves forward through time, but only on average. A large part of the book consists of flashbacks and flashforwards ranging from a couple months to a million years.
  • Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks alternates chapters between "past" and "present" events, with the "past" chapters being told in reverse order, so that the story diverges rapidly in space and time as a rather unorthodox form of backstory exposition. And then there's the flashbacks in both plot threads to complicate matters. It also has a prologue and epilogue that are quite difficult to pin down in the timeline at all. (Possibly the first "Culture" novel written, Banks notes that he shelved it for decades because its original incarnation was lumbered with an impenetrable multi-thread storyline which required the reader to think in higher dimensions.)
  • The Tiger's Wife covers three storylines - one taking place in the early twentieth century, one throughout the twentieth century, and one in the present day - and jumps between them at random. In addition, there are detailed backstories given for many minor characters, which often take the story even further back in time, and the present-day storyline is itself told in anachronic order.
  • David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest starts at the end and then moves forward, ish. The years are named after products, so it's initially very difficult to figure out which time the characters are in, and there are many other brilliantly clever devices which take the reader all over the place.
  • Stephen King's novel IT jumps back-and-forth between two time periods (the 50s and the 80s), but follows each of these two periods chronologically. (That is, if we don't count normal flashbacks which also appear within each of the two narrative threads.) Not so in the Film.
  • Steven Brust's Dragaera novels about Vlad Taltos are written out of chronological order, with the original intention that they should each be able to stand alone. Some individual novels are told out of order. Jhereg alternates between two timelines, while Tiassa has three timelines that have whole books in between them. Brust wrote Tiassa with the specific intention of making it impossible to place the novels in chronological order.
  • The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin starts at the midpoint of the story, with the protagonist Shevek boarding a spaceship. The odd-numbered chapters follow Shevek from that point onwards, while the even-numbered chapters fill in his life before that point, in order, with the last even-numbered chapter covering the events just before chapter one. This structure reflects Shevek's calling as a theoretical physicist trying to reconcile his culture's contradictory sequential and cyclic views of time.
  • The novels in Alastair Reynolds's Revelation Space universe mostly do this to some degree—the catch is that, because of the way relativity works, it's actually unavoidable.
  • A lot of big influential Hispanic writers were fond of using this one, probably ever since Julio Cortázar wrote his book Rayuela, which has effectively two stories in one book: one which is found reading the book from front to back, another reading the book in the order given by the author. Gabriel García Márquez also used the Anachronic Order in quite a bit of his stories.
  • Seen in The Time Traveler's Wife. It would be hard to make the scenes strictly chronological anyway, since the two protagonists are living them in different orders. (And Henry lives a number of them twice.)
  • Joseph Heller uses this extensively in the novel Catch-22. There was never an official time line and any made by someone else would have taken lots of work and still wouldn't have been accurate. Heller reportedly tried to make a time line after he had written the book "to make sure everything was in order" and found he had made a significant contradiction at one point, but decided to leave it in since fixing it would be a hassle, nobody would notice it unless they tried to create a time line for everything, and "it added a little something".
  • Orson Scott Card's Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus is told with chapters alternating between historical fiction of Christopher Columbus and far future science fiction about the Pastwatch project. Eventually the two plot lines merge due to Time Travel.
  • The various threads of Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion series appear to take place in separate time streams. For instance, the Elric and Corum series have two Intercontinuity Crossovers where Elric and Corum meet each other, but time is apparently moving in opposite directions from their point of view, meaning that in each instance one is familiar with the other while the other is not.
    • Erekose is the most obvious example of this trope, as not only do his stories jump around between different time streams; but he himself has lived anachronically since leaving his John Daker incarnation.
    • Elric is particularly prone to anachronic crossovers with other Eternal Champion incarnations; and they other incarnations are more likely to recall him, than he is to recall them. It's strongly implied that Elric is, if not the first incarnation of the Champion (that appears to be Erekose) at least the earliest in "real-world" chronology.
    • All the Jerry Cornelius stories (except the first, The Final Programme) are anachronic.
  • The Star Trek novel Imzadi combines multiple nested flashbacks with time travel, then lampshades it with section titles, starting with "The End" and progressing at random.
  • In the infamous Gravity's Rainbow chapters can begin anywhere in time, and always cut to dreams sequences, flashbacks, flashforwards and other tangents before returning to where they started.
  • The main story of Illuminatus! takes place in a pretty linear fashion, across a few months in the spring of 197X, but takes detours along the way to a few years in the future, ancient Atlantis, and everywhere in between.
  • A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean is a elegiac mishmash of memories, one scene leading to another by the way they are connected in the narrator's mind, not in chronological order. It's a deft rendering of how memory works in reality, but it makes for tough reading until you understand the trick. The movie chose not to try to replicate the effect, perhaps wisely.
  • Katherine Kerr's Deverry series. The date of each section in order, is, 1045, 1052, 643, 1058, 698, 1062, 773, 1063, 790-797, 1063, 833-845, 1063, 1096, 718-915, 918, 980, 1096, 843, 1098, 1112, 1116, 1063, 1116 - and that's just the first half of the series.
  • Diana Wynne Jones is fond of this trope:
    • Hexwood starts off by telling the very beginning and part of the very end of the story. Then it jumps right to the beginning... which we find out later was All Just a Dream, after being shown the real beginning of the story about halfway through. We are also informed that events have been run through a few times just to get what the ending the Reality Warper desires, and it is actually implied that the rest of the characters are themselves experiencing things in anachronic order for a good part of the novel.
    • Chronologically, the third book in The Dalemark Quartet comes first.
    • Fire and Hemlock begins with Polly at 19 getting ready to return to uni, then flashes back through her memories from age ten to age fifteen before coming back round to ninteen again.
  • Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain novels are presented as edited pieces of his rambles about his history, ordered thematically rather than chronologically. The first three books are in chronological order, the fourth is a prequel, the fifth takes place between books two and three, and the six takes place in the Warhammer 40,000 universe's "present day" long after the events of the rest. Book seven is between books four and one, eight is between three and six, and we haven't even gotten to the various short stories yet.
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunts Ghosts novel First & Only, flashbacks are interspaced throughout the novel — and the flashbacks are not in chronological order, either. It ends on a flashback, with a Chaos witch revealing to Gaunt information that caused him to take an action that determined much of the plot of the book.
  • Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler jumps back and forth between the childhood and adult lives of the family of the story.
  • The English Patient is more or less set at the end of World War II, but devotes many chapters and extended flashbacks to the characters' backstories.
  • Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko jumps between the main character before WWII, the main character as a child, the main character's mother, and current time.
  • The Diane Duane Star Trek novel Spock's World does this, with chapters alternating between the main story (our favorite Power Trio trying to keep Vulcan from seceding from the Federation) and another story that's the history of the planet Vulcan since cave-Vulcans first emerged.
  • The protagonist in Chuck Palahniuk's "Survivor" is speaking the entire story into the flight recorder of the plane he has hijacked. His narration unfolds two time lines. One is his time after being one of the few survivors of a suicide cult while the other time line covers his indoctrination. The disjointed narrative is highlighted be the page and chapter count of the book running backwards running down to the point when the plane will run out of fuel.
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany is in chronological order of chapter topics, but the lengthy digressions can go years forward or backward in the timeline. At times the author seems to expect the reader to be confused, providing the same information over again when it's necessary to understand two different events.
  • The Wheel of Time series does this out of necessity in order to cover the journeys of its many characters, most of whom are in different places at any given time. While a given event is never shown twice, it is not uncommon to have a character do something in one book, to have another character react to that event several books later. And occasionally you'll see people reacting to something secondhand, to have a chapter come along later from the point of view of someone who was there, describing the event as it happened. Book Ten, Crossroads of Twilight, takes place almost entirely over the span of time covered by Book Nine, Winter's Heart.
  • The Doctor Who short story collection Short Trips: Time Signature. While all the Short Trips books jump from Doctor to Doctor, Time Signature has an over-reaching Arc running through the stories, and isn't assembled in that order either. In the opening story, the Third Doctor meets an elderly composer who was once the companion to a future incarnation, and we then jump to the First Doctor finding the music that will haunt the composer's life, the Sixth meeting him for the first time, the Eighth dealing with his death, and so on.
  • Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe works this way. Often, there will be a present-day chapter in which Ninnie tells a story, as she knows it, then a chapter with the entire story.
  • This trope and Neologisms are the reason why many people give up to the Brazilian you-must-read-book The Devil to Pay in the Backlands, in which the first person narrator tells his own history in the way it comes to mind, and justifies himself, because "to tell anything right and straight, it must be a thing of little value".
  • Atlanta Nights seems to feature this, but given all the continuity errors it's really hard to say.
  • Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian stories are not in sequence. It starts with him on the throne, when most are of adventures in his wilder youth.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia are each linear stories, but are written in non-chronological order, and many fans of the book insist that they can only be appreciated that way because of the setup and payoffs; for instance, there are frequently allusions to past and future events that happened from earlier to later books, and The Magician's Nephew, the second-to-last, is a prequel. Huge gaps of Narnia Time transpire between each and every book.
  • The chapters of Last Dragon are in chronological order, but the events within the chapters are rather jumbled up.
  • The Good Negress by A.J. Verdelle is told somewhat like this. The events are more or less in chronological order(i.e. it may go to something that happened in October, then skip back to July, then back to November), but there are frequent flashbacks to when Denise was back in the South with her grandmother, and there are frequent time skips.
  • Lanark by Alastair Gray starts with Book Three, then One, Two, and Four. The book numbers are in chronological order (i.e. Book One takes places first chronologically), but the sequence is not.
  • Abused to no end by P. Howard, especially in his more lighthearted novels. more often than not, the first thing we find out about the protagonist's actions, is the impact they had on the whole plot, or the impressions they left on the witnesses. And I don't mean they are told through flashbacks. Several chapters will end with secondary or tertiarry characters discovering that their current most pressing issue was mysteriously solved, under very unusual circumstances, followed by several chapters retelling everything from the hero's point of view. Then the next plot twist comes in, and events seem to be told in chronological order again, until the situations is resolved again, in a seemingly anticlimactic fashion.
  • Used, abused, and made sweet love to by Hal Duncan's The Book of All Hours duology, entirely justified by the main characters all being "unkin" (people with time- and space-bending magical powers) in a multiverse where spacetime is described not-inaccurately as being like a crumpled-up piece of vellum, each crinkle and fold being a new reality. The characters (and thus the story) ignore the general order of causality as they will.
  • Maurice Leblanc's Arsčne Lupin stories are published in no particular order, so one tale might take place when he is a well-established thief, and another will be about him during his early years, perhaps even before he has settled on the Lupin name.
  • Common in the later entries of the Mithgar series - the first chapter will feature the heroes in the middle of a quest, then a lot of chapters jumping back and forth between what they're doing "now", how they met, what they were like as children, and relevant world events throughout the whole era, before finally settling in a time period and continuing forward towards the climax. Each chapter comes with a time-and-place heading to help you keep track of how it all fits together.
  • Rudyard Kipling does this in The Jungle Books. "Kaa's Hunting" (second story in The Jungle Book) takes place between the first and second halves of "Mowgli's Brothers" (the first story). The third story, "Tiger! Tiger!" picks up from the end of "Mowgli's Brothers", and the remaining stories in the book are unconnected. In The Second Jungle Book the first story "How Fear Came" seems to take place after "Kaa's Hunting" and before the end of "Mowgli's Brothers" from the first book. The remaining Mowgli stories follow on chronologically from the end of "Tiger! Tiger!", but all except the last two are sandwiched between non-series stories. Just to complicate things further, "In the Rukh", the first Mowgli story to be written, which is the last chronologically, doesn't even appear in The Jungle Books. However, they are all assembled in chronological order in All the Mowgli Stories.
  • Kim Newman's Dark Future series the Demon Download cycle are all separate stories and the order in which they were published (Route 666 (short story), Demon Download, Krokodil Tears, Comeback Tour) is out of the internal chronological order. By internal chronology, they should be read Route 666, Krokodil Tears, Demon Download and then Comeback Tour. Word of God in the afterword to Comeback Tour states that although this is the correct chronological order, it doesn't matter so long as you read the first three before Comeback Tour.
  • My Sister's Keeper jumps between time-lines according to whose point of view the chapter follows.
  • The Night Circus can be split into two narratives. The main one takes up most of the novel and is chronological, while the secondary one takes place several years in the future. The climax of the novel occurs when the two narratives meet.
  • Samuel R. Delany's short novel Empire Star (1966) uses/abuses this trope to an amazing degree. The story involves several different time travellers, and, while it follows one character, at the end, you realize that there is no "proper" order for the whole story. Any ordering would have been arbitrary, and you have to put the events together for yourself.
  • Most of the Magic: The Gathering novel Test Of Metal is told through Tezzeret's flashbacks, mixed in with chapters that take place in the present. Some chapters even swap the perspective of the flashbacks and tell the story from Jace or Baltrice's perspective. Mix in a lot of weirdness with characters who can manipulate time, and here we are.
  • Will of the Empress is the first book in the third subseries of Circle of Magic, The Circle Reforged. It takes place concurrently with the second book, Melting Stones. Both frequently reference events that are only depicted in the third book, Battle Magic.
  • Connie Willis's two-part World War II novel Blackout / All Clear makes extensive use of this trope, to an extreme level even for a time travel story. The three main protagonists, plus a few other characters, have each traveled to the same general time period and region from separate points in both chronological time and their personal timelines. Successive chapters in the first half are not necessarily in order either by absolute chronology or any particular character's personal timeline, and even once the main plotline settles into a more-or-less linear order in terms of the characters' personal timelines, there continue to be out-of-chronology chapters interspersed here and there. If the chapters didn't all begin with a datestamp, the reader would be hard pressed to tell where they figure into the chronology. There are several chapters for which the reader doesn't even know who the viewpoint character is until much later in the story, and many of these take place later in real time than most of the story; these are eventually revealed to be one of Polly's earlier trips to a later point in the war and Michael's activities between the point when he leaves the main story and when Polly sees him die. One sequence actually takes place during Willis's first time-travel story "Fire Watch", but from the point of view of one of this novel's main characters. Fortunately, it really does all make sense by the end.
  • The Horatio Hornblower series. The first published books depict Horatio in the middle of his career, from ordinary captain (The Happy Return / Beat to Quarters) to titled nobility (Lord Hornblower). Then it jumps back to the very start with Mr. Midshipman Hornblower and Lieutenant Hornblower, to the very end with Admiral, returns to the middle with Atropos, and back to the early days again with Hotspur and Crisis. And that's not counting the short stories.
  • Liar skips around before and after Zach's death.
  • While the main stories in Relativity are in chronological order, the side stories are not. Also, several of the main stories contain multiple flashbacks, which may or may not follow their own chronological sequence, depending on the story.
  • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, the third Hercule Poirot novel, is set after Poirot has retired to the country to grow vegetable marrows, The Big Four, the fourth, is the huge case that convinces him to do so. Most, but not all, of the subsequent novels are set somewhere before this. (This combines with Comic-Book Time to suggest that Roger Ackroyd must be set around 20 years after its publication date, since The Labours of Hercules refer both to the upcoming retirement and the Second World War.)

    Live-Action TV 
  • Damages has entire seasons in anachronic order.
  • The Nine was based on revealing the whole season out of order. The main characters start the pilot just after being held hostage together. What happened during their captivity is revealed as they moved forward and during brief flashbacks in each episode.
  • The episode "Sunday" of Stargate Atlantis unfolds in this manner, as does 'Tabula Rasa'.
  • The flashbacks and flashforwards of LOST. The order we see them in has nothing to do with when they actually happened; it's up to the audience to slowly piece together what happened to everyone before they got to the Island (and, from the fourth season on, what's going to happen to those who leave).
  • While episodes are always broadcast in chronological order, individual episodes of How I Met Your Mother make such extensive use of flashbacks and flashforwards that all of the episodes invoke this trope to varying degrees.
  • The Firefly episode "Out of Gas" is told in anachronistic order, flashing between Mal and Zoe gathering Serenity's crew, a badly wounded Mal all alone on the ship, and the ship being badly damaged.
  • Kamen Rider Kiva keeps switching from 2008 to 1986.
  • The Doctor Who episode "Blink", written by Steven Moffat. Most of the episode was told in the present, alongside events that happened in the twenties (Kathy Nightingale), sixties (the Doctor, Martha and DI Shipton) and (offscreen) eighties (Kathy again), warning about things in the present, all inside of a Stable Time Loop. From the viewpoint of the main character (the Tenth Doctor), he doesn't meet the episode's guest lead (Sally) until a year after the main action, despite relaying a message from the late 1960s.
    • Another Moffat episode, "The Big Bang" features the Doctor travelling back in time through his personal timeline three times. The Cold Opening is also set several minutes (from the audience's perspective, really it's 1900 years after the opening titles. Similar cold openings occurred in "The Girl in the Fireplace", "Love & Monsters" and "Silence in the Library".
    • We see River Song as a month-old baby in her fifth appearance, "A Good Man Goes to War" (2011), and dying in her first appearance "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead" (2008). In simple terms, her timeline is opposite to the Doctor's. Except when it isn't. In fact, "The Impossible Astronaut" has three Rivers at once, with one of them witnessing the other's actions, which is seen from the other River's POV in "The Wedding of River Song".
    • A less heavily timey-wimey example: "A Town Called Mercy" (2012) is implied to take place right at the end of the seven-week-anniversary vacation the Doctor took Amy and Rory on at one point in "The Power of Three" (2012).
    • For an example in the Classic series, the Doctor's encounters with the Daleks during the black-and-white era are out-of-order - the Doctor's first meeting with them ("The Daleks") is supposed to be his last meeting with them chronologically (although this began as a Hand Wave to explain how he can meet them again before they were all wiped out). Other meetings are more ambiguous in order but can be Fan Wanked enjoyably - for instance, the dead Dalek shell in "The Space Museum" likely originated from "The Daleks' Master Plan", at the end of which the Doctor made all Daleks on the planet evacuate their shells, leaving them standing. "The Chase" likely is a retaliation for "The Daleks' Master Plan" (as a Dalek explains it was for "interfering with our master plan!"). And the Daleks from "Power of the Daleks" definitely originate from after "The Evil of the Daleks" as they recognise the Doctor's new body, which he had just regenerated into that episode. The Doctor's timeline goes: "The Daleks", "The Dalek Invasion of Earth", "The Chase", "The Daleks' Master Plan", "The Power of the Daleks" and "The Evil of the Daleks", wheras the Dalek timeline may go something like: "The Dalek Invasion of Earth", "The Daleks' Master Plan", "The Chase", "The Evil of the Daleks", "The Power of the Daleks" and finally "The Daleks".
    • The debut of the Ninth Doctor in "Rose" skips past the Eighth Doctor introduced in 1996. Audiences do not see Eight regenerate until 17 years later, during the show's 50th anniversary. But his regeneration introduces a War Doctor fitting in between the Eighth and Ninth Doctors, and his story focuses on the Time War that had been a past event first mentioned in 2005. The one story with the War Doctor is at the end of his life, when he's quite old. He regenerates near the end into the Ninth Doctor, who will eventually end up where he was during "Rose", knotting together all loose ends.
    • The Expanded Universe book The Eye of Heaven starts with the chronologically earliest event in the book, then skips around in order to obscure details to the reader - in particular, one passenger on the ship is mentioned by Leela and the Doctor both before and after she executes her plan, but not shown to us until the end.
  • The Event: Not only does the series continually switch among the main characters to tell the story from their perspectives, but it often shows events in reverse order before making its way back to the present.
  • The Good Guys uses this purely as a story telling device with no pretensions toward being avant-garde.
  • In Once Upon a Time, the story is told by interspersing scenes set in present day Storybrooke with Flashbacks to the fairy tale world from which it came. Moreover, the flashbacks are not in any particular order, but rather relate to which character is in the limelight for that episode.
  • The Grand Finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation uses this, with the omnipotent Q forcing Picard to jump three different time frames, the modern period, a point just before the beginning of the series and a point about 25 years in the future. Picard had to examine a Negative Space Wedgie from three different perspectives and utilize the different time frames to his advantage in order to solve the problem. Almost lampshaded this trope by Q, it was a test done to see if Picard could open his mind enough to follow the story.
  • Arrow has two ongoing timelines: one in the present, and one made of up flashbacks to the island to show how Oliver Queen became a badass.
  • Horatio Hornblower, "Mutiny"/"Retribution": The second instalment can be considered a true two-parter. "Mutiny" is fully told in How We Got Here mode, but "Retribution" resumes the story where it was left, showing us some In Medias Res scenes with badly injured lieutenants Bush and Kennedy who lie in a prison infirmary. The other lieutenants are tried for life, and the narrative keeps jumping back and forth. The lieutenants continue giving an account of their mission which is shown in Flash Backs, and it's interspersed with their questioning at the court, the testimonies of the crew and the judges' private discussions.
  • The Red Dwarf episode "White Hole" uses this to great comedic effect. A white hole is screwing with time every which way imaginable, creating a conversation with repeated sections, the ending placed in the middle, Cat repeating his opening question just to mess with the group, and the whole thing starting over again once they’re done.
    • Another episode, "Thanks for the Memory," opens with the guys on a planetoid celebrating Rimmer’s "death-day." After a brief conversation between Rimmer and Lister, we cut to the next morning: Lister and Cat both have a broken foot, they’ve lost almost a whole week of memory, and the ship’s black box is missing. They spend the rest of the episode piecing together what happened.

  • The Evillious Chronicles by mothy. No one knew this until Chrono Story was released. He began with the Story of Evil, which took place roughly in the middle of the saga, and expanded outward (the Seven Deadly Sins Series taking place over the entire story, and the Original Sin Story and Clockwork Lullaby Series taking place respectively at the beginning and end.)
  • The story of Blue Oyster Cult's Concept Album Imaginos is told in this manner due to Executive Meddling; the album was not released with the intended track order. It would be confusing enough if it were in something approaching a sensible order, since it already contains time travel and a number of other sci-fi elements; the disjointed track order just pushes it into Mind Screw territory.
  • David Bowie's Rock Opera 1. Outside uses anachronic order for both the short story in the liner notes and the songs/spoken transitions on the album.

  • Doctor Who:
    • The audio drama Creatures of Beauty is a typical example of the Tarantino-non-linear style. Flip-Flop however, is bizarre in that it comes on two discs, and the story was written so that you can listen to the discs in either order.
    • Flip-Flop can be heard in either order because the cliffhanger at the end of the White Disc leads into the start of the Black Disc, and the cliffhanger at the end of the Black Disc leads into the start of the White Disc. It is bizarre because there are two Doctors, two Mels, two of (almost) everyone else, and two overlapping timelines with bidirectional time travel in each which makes unravelling the order of events a mindblowing exercise.
    • "The Rocket Men" begins with Ian, Barbara and Vicki being held hostage on a cruise spaceship by a bunch of Jetpack-equipped Space Pirates. The storytelling then flips back and forth between Ian recounting the events leading up to that event, and the events resulting from it, keeping all the tension spots and Cliffhangers in the right place.

  • Paula Vogel's controversial play How I Learned To Drive. This trope is common with "memory plays."
  • In the play Death of a Salesman the past and the present are jumbled together (and frequently overlap) in order to illustrate Willie Loman's crumbling sanity.
  • Deus Ex Quanta by Gene Doucette uses this technique to add further twists to its MindScrewy plot.
  • Stop Kiss by Diana Son revolves around a kiss between two women. Every other scene shows the events leading up to the kiss, while the rest show its aftermath, so that the kiss itself is the very last thing the audience sees.
  • Jason Robert Brown's The Last Five Years follows two characters who fall in love, get married and divorce. The man and woman alternate solos; Cathy's songs move Back to Front, while Jamie's are in normal (chronological) order. The only time they interact directly is right in the middle, when they get married.
  • The musical Merrily We Roll Along is told backwards, starting in 1981 and ending in 1958. It can be pretty hard to get your bearings at first.

    Video Games 
  • The Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series is in chronological order until the second case of the second game, Justice for All, which is set a few months before the first case of that game. The series takes anachronology a step further in the third game, Trials and Tribulations: the first and fourth cases are set five and six years before the second, respectively.
    • Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney goes completely crazy with the concept. After the first day of trials in the fourth case of the game, you are taken seven years back to the trial that got Phoenix disbarred. Then, you play a game in which you investigate witnesses and locations from both seven years ago and the present day from Phoenix's point of view, requiring you to jump back and forth between both time periods several times.
    • Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth has, so far, the biggest anachronic order yet. The chronological order of cases is 4th, 2nd, 3rd, 1st, 5th. Admittedly, the 4th case is a flashback case that takes place years ago, but it gets weird with the others; at the end of case 3, for instance, the person who committed the murder in case 1 shows up.
    • The third case of Ace Attorney Investigations 2, The Inherited Turnabout, has you jumping between playing as Gregory Edgeworth in 2001 and playing as Miles Edgeworth in 2019. You'll be making an eighteen year time jump now and then.
    • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies takes it even further by having one case take place in the middle of another. It Makes Sense in Context. The actual order of the cases is 2, DLC Case, 3, First part of 4, 1, Second part of 4, 5.
  • The Legend of Zelda only just now released an official timeline to accompany The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, confirming fan theories that the earliest games are actually at the end of one timeline (of 3! No one saw that coming) with the sequels going backwards - except for the direct sequels like Majora's Mask and Phantom Hourglass. The Angry Video Game Nerd had a field day with the absurdities involved. He points out how we eventually ended up with the original story, then a sequel to the story, a prequel to the story, a prequel to the prequel, a sequel to the prequel, and a sequel to the prequel's prequel! Word of God asserted that there is a timeline, however; both Shigeru Miyamoto and Eiji Aonuma had stated before that there was a master document, but we had to wait 25 years to get it.
    • What makes this perhaps the ultimate example is that use of time travel has created three parallel time lines, and they have felt free to alternate between timelines when releasing new games. Skyward Sword takes place at the earliest point in the timeline, before the split happens.
  • The World in Conflict campaign starts in the middle of the story, then suddenly goes to the beginning of the war after a cliffhanger, then returns to the time after the cliffhanger to wrap it all up.
  • Suikoden chronologically starts with IV (IS 302-07 of the in-universe calendar), the first game of the series with Suikoden Tactics occuring during Suikoden IV., followed by Suikoden V (IS 449), Suikoden I (IS 455-57), Suikoden Card Stories (IS 459), Suikoden II (IS 460) and then Suikoden III (IS 475).
  • The continuity of the Metroid series was straightforward in the first four games (including Metroid Fusion). Then came the Metroid Prime trilogy, which was set between Metroid/Zero Mission and Metroid II. There's also Metroid Prime Hunters, a DS game set after the original Metroid Prime, but before Metroid Prime 2. Finally, Metroid: Other M takes place between Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion, with flashbacks to events prior to Super, while doing its absolute damndest to retcon the Prime games to settle an in-company grudge match.
  • Fire Emblem: The series currently has six different canons, which can sometimes play this trope straight. The Fire Emblem Elibe canon, consisting of the sixth and seventh games, goes back-to-front - Blazing Sword (FE 7) followed by Binding Blade (FE 6). Then there's Fire Emblem Akaneia and Fire Emblem Jugdral. The Jugdral canon takes place earliest, in the Jugdral continent, with Genealogy of the Holy War (FE 4) spanning decades and generations. Tharcia 776 (FE 5) takes place near the end the time skip between chapters five and six. The Akaneia canon (the original) takes place centuries later in the continent of Akaneia/Archanea. The Archanea War Chronicles, a game broadcast by Satellaview (and thus not counted as part of the overall series) takes place earliest, along with the four bonus chapters in New Mystery of the Emblem: Heroes of Light and Darkness (FE 12), which serve as a remake. Then go The Dark Dragon and the Sword of Light (FE 1), Mystery of the Emblem Book 1 (the first half of FE 3) and Shadow Dragon (FE 11), which all tell the same story. While this is going on, Fire Emblem Gaiden (FE 2) is going on in the distant continent of Valentia. This is followed by Book 2 of Mystery of the Emblem and the main story of Heroes of Light and Darkness, which tell the same story. Fire Emblem Awakening (FE 13) takes place in Archanea and Valentia in the distant future.
  • The timeline of the Devil May Cry series jumps around quite a bit. It's easy to tell that in chronological order it would be 3-1-4-2. As for the manga and anime...
  • The game Magical Tetris Challenge had Mickey Mouse's story going last and Donald Duck's going first, with Goofy and Minnie's stories occuring near-simultaneously with Donald's (specifically, Goofy's story starts some time before he meets Donald (the dialogue shared between those two is exactly the same as in Donald's story, even when you defeat Donald as Goofy), while Minnie's starts after meeting Donald).
  • The timeline of the Street Fighter series currently goes like this: SF I , SF Alpha/SF Alpha 2, SF Alpha 3, the SF II series, SF IV, SF III/SF III 2nd Impact, SF III 3rd Strike. The events of the first Final Fight is set sometime after the events of SF I, but before SF Alpha.
  • Currently, the latest Star Ocean game is The Last Hope, and is, chronologically, the first Star Ocean game. After the poorly received twist ending of Till the End of Time (currently the last chronologically), they couldn't easily go forward, so they had to go back.
  • The Lufia series' chronological order is 2, 4, 1 and 3, although the fourth is a sidestory.
  • Tribes: Vengeance jumps between "The Past" and "The Present" levels arbitrarily, with the former detailing the story of Victoria and Daniel's doomed love and the latter, the story of their daughter Julia, set some 20 years apart.
  • Eternal Darkness. OK so, Alex is in the year 2000 exploring a mansion, discovering stories about the adventures of a lot of other people. So we start playing Alex, then switch to someone she's reading about, then back again and so on until Alex's own 'chapter' at the end. The stories she reads are out of chronological order too, although for each location in the game, we play the characters who visited that location in order. The whole structure allows for mostly conventional storytelling (eg. the Amiens chapters are seen in order: 814AD, 1485AD, 1916AD) and passing on items optionally obtained in one chapter to the next in the arc, while also mixing up styles by moving back and forth in time (the Amiens chapters are broken up with other locations in other times). The mansion itself is an exception, as Alex finds things in the present that hint at events we'll be seeing later in the past.
    Which adds to the overall Mind Screw aspect of Eternal Darkness when you realize (for example) that Paul (1485AD) and Roberto (1450AD) both acquired spells that were first discovered by Edwin (1983AD). By reading about Edwin in the Tome of Eternal Darkness.
    • This becomes Fridge Brilliance when, in the secret ending, it's revealed that Mantorok has been messing around with time.
  • Pokémon games seem to be like this. Pokémon Diamond and Pearl and Platinum seem to take place at the same time as (or possibly shortly after) the earlier Pokémon Gold and Silver and Crystal versions (events from Gold, Silver, and Crystal are referenced in Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum, such as the Red Gyarados event being shown on TV at the beginning of the game and Professor Elm's research on Pokémon eggs being mentioned by a character), which were stated to take place three years after the original Pokémon games. Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire and Emerald never stated when they take place relative to when Pokémon Red and Blue took place. But the remakes of said original games are believed by many to be set at the same time as Ruby and Sapphire due to comments made by characters and perhaps more importantly trading between these games is described as trading with different countries as oppose to through time.
  • Castlevania: Each game has a very specific date, ranging from the late 11th century to the early 21st century, and, after the first sequel, there has yet to be two consecutive games closer to each other than a century. For reference, the first game took place in 1691. And, although we have two games that serve as an epilogue to the overall plot, with a hint to a new storyline starting, we still don't have the climax.
  • Radiant Silvergun starts you off on Stage 3, then after that you have the option to go to Stage 2 (events prior to Stage 3) or Stage 4 (in chronological order). Then the game continues to stages 5 and 6, culminating with what is numbered as the first stage in the game.
  • The chronological order of the Metal Gear series is: Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (set in 1964), Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops (1970), Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (1974), Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (1975 and 1984), Metal Gear (1995), Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (1999), Metal Gear Solid (2005), Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2007 and 2009), followed by Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (2014), and then Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (2018).
  • The Samurai Shodown chronology follows this order: V, VI, I, III, IV, II, 64, Warriors' Rage (arcade), Edge of Destiny, and Warriors' Rage (PS).
  • The Ninja Gaiden franchise has a somewhat loose continuity between its various incarnations beginning with Ninja Gaiden Shadow for the Game Boy, followed by the Xbox version of Ninja Gaiden, Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword for the Nintendo DS, the Xbox360 version of Ninja Gaiden 2, the NES Ninja Gaiden, Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom for the NES, and Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos for the NES (where Ryu loses the Dragon Sword at the end, establishing III as a prequel). It is unknown where the original arcade game fits in the canon (if it does) or the Sega games for that matter.
  • The Seiken Densetsu timeline seems to be, from earliest to latest: Dawn of Mana, Children Of Mana, Heroes of Mana, Seiken Densetsu 3, Sword of Mana/Final Fantasy Adventure, Secret of Mana, Legend of Mana. Friends Of Mana takes place in Mi'Diel instead of Fa'Diehl, so it might not fit in the timeline anywhere...
  • The final level of Braid (being the first chronologically) progresses from future to present, and then you rewind time and it flows forward. The game hinges on manipulating time in various ways.
  • Sam & Max: Freelance Police episode "The Tomb of Sammun-Mak" takes place in a (centuries-old) film the characters are watching, with 4 reels. You start out in Reel 3, and have to constantly take information from each reel to solve puzzles in earlier reels. A walkthrough puts the optimum timeline at 3, 1, 3, 2, 3, 1, 4.
  • The first week of Cross Channel plays a trick on the reader. In order to give the illusion that everything is normal, it mixes up backstory between scenes happening in the present. For example, Taichi greeting Tomoki at the door wearing a kimono with an internal monologue that despite what he tells Tomoki, it's only the second time he's worn it. The next scene has a scene with his neighbor Yuusa while Taichi is apparently still wearing the kimono, but that was actually the first time he wore it. This is only in the first week, however. After, these flashbacks always have different lighting and coloring. The also show more detail such as how Taichi accidentally ruins every one of these relationships.
  • The Hitman games do this in a very interesting way, across two games, no less. Hitman: Contracts, a fully fledged game built around the flashbacks of the main character(so already in anachronic order) turns out to be the ending of the third level of Hitman: Blood Money, the fourth installment of the series.
  • The first 3 games in the Kingdom Hearts series are in chronological order. Then we got an interquel (that starts near the end of the first game and ends at the start of the third) and a prequel set 10 years before the series began. The order goes like this: Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep - Kingdom Hearts - Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days/Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories (which happen more or less simultaneously, Days beginning slightly before Chain of Memories does, and ending long after it) - Kingdom Hearts II - Kingdom Hearts Coded (which leads into the epilogue of KH2) - Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance.
  • It can happen unintentionally in World of Warcraft. Quest lines force players to do them in order, but some quest lines are follow-ups to quest lines in lower level areas; due to the freedom in the game, there is nothing to stop players from doing the follow-up quest line first.
    • Why is John J. Keeshan impressed that you're still alive in the Burning Steppes? You obviously skipped the Redridge Mountains.
    • Why is the Lich King suddenly interested in turning you to the Scourge in Zul'Drak? You would've known if you did Grizzly Hills.
    • It's made worse with Cataclysm as most of Azeroth has been updated in the world changing event, but Outland and Northrend are time-locked to The Burning Crusade and Lich King events; so new players start in a world ravaged by Deathwing, and go back in time when visiting Outland or Northrend. And draenei and blood elves, despite the updates to their starting monologues, start at the beginning of the Burning Crusade story - then emigrate to post-Cataclysm Azeroth before returning to the conflicts in Outlands and Northrend later on. It could be said that players visiting the Exodar and Silvermoon City are also time travelling. Better not to think about it too much.
      • Lampshaded in Warlords of Draenor. Outland is now only accessible by traveling into the past.
    • Death Knights get the most confusing treatment. Their starting area takes place just before the events of Lich King, then they leave to gain allegiance to their respective faction, emerging into a post-Cataclysm Azeroth (the allegiance quest still acts as if Lich King is just starting up) then they go to Outland (which takes place BEFORE their starting area), then to Northrend for the Lich King story, and that's where it starts to make sense.
      • Death Knights and their starting experience are bound to get a bit more confusing once Warlords of Draenor is released later in 2014. While the Alliance DK experience is mostly unchanged it seems like the Horde are going to get hit with this hard. As noted above the events of the starting area are suppose to be just prior to the start of the Northrend war in Wot LK. At the end of the intro Horde players must report to the Warchief. Originally it would have been Thrall. Post-Cataclysm it's Garrosh, post-Pandaria it's Vol'jin. In all three cases the timeline for a DK is pre-Wrath>Burning Crusade>Wrath. This doesn't include the brief stops in what's suppose to be post-Cata (and soon to be post-Pandaria) Azeroth prior to the events of Burning Crusade (which is suppose to be BEFORE Wrath/Cata). Just try not to think about it too much.
  • Calling is played this way. Shin dies in the first chapter and then Rin meets him in the next one.
  • The true ending of Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors loves this as the entire story is simultaneously taking place both in the present and 9 years ago. In fact, everything that happens on the bottom screen is in the past, including the narration of the present day events. To add to the Mind Screw, the events of the present are only possible because they were perceived in the past, which in turn is only possible because of how the past is perceived by the central character in the present.
  • The first Sonic Adventure works on the principle of "many stories happening at once" principle. The game starts with Sonic as the playable character, then as other characters are met, their story lines can be played out, some of which start before the start of Sonic's. To add to the Mind Screw, some battles are fought in the same location but use a different character, including one situation where you were beaten (possibly) twice before! Oh, and character upgrades earned for a character show on the model after they had been earned, which may or may not fit the chronological order.
    • Sonic Adventure 2 has shades of this. The two concurrent plots (Knuckles could be considered a third) have overlaps but don't begin simultaneously - for starters, the opening of the Hero Story is set after the fourth mission on the Dark Story.
    • Sonic Battle does this as well. Although Rouge's story is chronologically first, it's the third one played.
    • Sonic games tend to come out in chronological order, but there are notable exceptions:
      • Sonic CD (1993) came out between Sonic 2 (1992) and Sonic 3 (1994), but takes place either before Sonic 2 or after Sonic & Knuckles (1994).
      • Tails Adventure (1995): While rarely considered canon, it was clearly meant to be a prequel to Sonic 2 (1992).
      • Sonic Battle was released concurrently with Sonic Heroes (2004), but can only possibly take place after Shadow the Hedgehog (2005).
      • Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Its two parts came out in 2010 and 2012 respectively, but it takes place right after Sonic & Knuckles (1994).
  • The Quest Fantasy games jump all over the timeline. Hell, more of the games take place before the first one than otherwise.

     Web Comics 
  • Gunnerkrigg Court, "Chapter 11: Dobranoc, Gamma" begins near the chronological end. The scenes leading up to that point are interspersed with Flash Backs to Zimmy and Gamma before the start of the story. Fortunately, there are narration boxes to help the reader figure out the chronological order of events.
  • Just Another Escape, Almost the basis of the comic, to the point of the past, present and future being colored and drawn in different ways to better differentiate them. All of the story arcs are events shown in a non-chronological order, over what seems to be a (mostly) 3 year span.
  • As mentioned in the quote above, lampshaded in the Troperiffic (and aptly titled) Start of Darkness prequel book for The Order of the Stick. The scene in question is part of Eugene Greenhilt's complicated explanation of his Blood Oath against Xykon to his son, Roy.
  • Homestuck is made of this stuff. Flashbacks, flashforwards, flashforwards inside flashbacks, different timelines, timeline-jumping shenanigans that are MindScrews when seen from either perspective, timeline-jumping shenanigans containing flashforwards containing cuts to different timelines...
    • The main characters are introduced out of order, going backward in time for each character after Rose, and the perspectives jump around every few pages to progress each character and give the readers information. For example, time was skipped chronologically to Act 1 when John opens Dave's present and reads the letter, which makes him reconsider following gC's commands.
    • The trolls have their Pesterchum chats with the main characters in a different order chronologically. This confuses both parties at times and creates miniature time loops.
      • The troll intermission especially - Hussie was frequently skipping over large tracts of time just to speed things along, but just as frequently revisiting things that happened during those time periods - such that we're still experiencing parts of the troll's adventures.
    • The MC Intermission is full of these because of the fact that each of the Felt can use a different time-based power.
    • Dream bubbles complicate things even further. Long story short, anyone who is dead (or just has a dead dreamself) can enter one, including people from alternate timelines or universes. They also seem to have no regard for when the people come from, allowing characters travelling through space in a meteor at one point in time, people living on earth at another point in time, and a couple of ghosts who came into existence either millenia ago or just a few hours ago all to exist within the same dreambubble at the same time and interact.
  • O Human Star starts with Al's death, jumps forward 16 years, and then goes back and forth between the present day and flashbacks to when Al and Brendan first met. * MS Paint Masterpieces has A few climactic fight sequences (Mega Man Vs. Dr. Wily, Mega Man Vs. Spike Man, Atlas VS. Crash Man) that are skipped over to be recapped later.
  • Harbourmaster jumps back and forth in time to tell stories about the various members of the ensemble cast.
  • Played for Laughs in this Cyanide and Happiness strip.
  • Yume-Hime. The first storyline starts in 2010, with a second beginning in 2002.

    Web Original 
  • Sailor Nothing does this with chapters 8 and 9, both centering around the same event. Chapter 8 is a stream-of-consciousness recollection of the previous few days, while chapter 9 is a more organized series of flashbacks with a Framing Device set after-the-fact.
  • Due to the format of the RP (and Loads and Loads of Characters) Survival of the Fittest fits this trope. There are simply so many individuals and intersecting storylines that the only logical way to follow it is to pick a single character and read every thread they feature in. Then go back and pick another character, and so on and so forth...
  • The Global Guardians PBEM Universe featured the stories of hundreds of characters, set from about 1922 to the present day, all being told simultaneously. Without a scorecard it was impossible to tell what order in which to read the stories. On top of it, there was the Legacy Campaign (about the sidekicks and children of heroes who were active in the 1960s and 1970s), where the action bounced between the 60s/70s and modern day without warning.
  • Similar to above examples, The Series premiered with its cast of Loads and Loads of Characters with no explanation or backstory for how the eclectic crew had come together aboard the ship. Starting from the end of Season 1, occasional episodes go on to tell the cast's origin stories in flashback - particularly anachronic because sometimes episodes about crewmen who joined chronologically later on are premiered before those about those who joined earlier.
  • Since the Whateley Universe is written by over a dozen different authors, it's not really surprising the stories aren't all in chronological order.
  • Marble Hornets uses this (via Scrapbook Story) to terrifying effect. The first season is split between the events surrounding the original student film (which are themselves out of order) and the way these events begin to creep into Jay's life in the present. Season two is split between the present and the events of the seven month real-time gap between seasons, with at least one jump back to the student film.
  • One Hundred Yard Stare appears to use this due to the short clips it appears as though some of the events in the series are given out of order
  • Fine Structure jumps back and forth by entire eras from time to time.
  • Mind My Gap has two stories working in tandem with each other. "The Open Horizon" set in the past and "Diddybob's Travels" in the present". You need to switch constantly between the two to get a coherent idea of events and even then there's so much overlap and time jump around that it's difficult to determine what happened when and with who and at the same time as which. For a series with a clearly numbered chapter list, it certainly is difficult to order its events.
  • Porkchop 'n Flatscreen! has Episodes 3 and 4 set between Episodes 1 and 2. This mainly serves to show the origins of Bobby's crush on Mina Kim.

     Web Video 
  • H+ jumps back and forth anywhere from seven years before to four years after the virus, using the back and forth to build on the main mystery of the series.
  • The Comics Curmudgeon has proposed this as an explanation for minor inconsistencies in the storyline of Hägar the Horrible. By this interpretation, it's not really a Running Gag that Hagar and Lucky Eddie keep ending up stranded on a Desert Island – we're just seeing different snippets of a single desert island incident, spaced out along with snippets of the bungled-castle-raid incident, the coming-home-drunk incident, etc.
  • The Game Grumps film their playthroughs in one long sitting, and the footage is cut up into bits and uploaded onto YouTube, and thus there are minor inconsistencies (usually when Jon suggests they play a game of which footage has already been uploaded).

    Western Animation 
  • Though most of the show is episodic in nature, Darkwing Duck had many episodes early on that featured characters such as Morganna, Liquidator, Neptunia and and so forth before any introduction episodes were given to those characters. To feature a character before introducing them isn't inherently anachronic order, but virtually all of those characters were given introduction episodes later. Morganna, in particular, had several episodes devoted to how her character began as a villain, then gradually became a hero, which confused some viewers, who'd seen the hero version of her first. This perplexing broadcast and production order also carried over to the show's DVD release. This is due to the show's dual weekly/syndication nature, with the weekly episodes later folded into syndication schedules.
  • The first ten episodes of the third season of Moral Orel all took place either before or during the events of the second season finale, "Nature." Only at the tenth episode's conclusion we finally learn events post-"Nature". And even in those first ten episodes of the third season, events before "Nature" are still being shown out of chronological order; for instance, the third episode of the third season, "Innocence" follows Orel as he gathers friends to provide blood for Orel to take a bath in, the outcome of which was already seen in the season premiere episode "Grounded".
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars was built with an anthology aspect, so that stories can be told in different time frames.
    • This was evident as early as the mid-season one episode The Hidden Enemy taking place before, and leading up to, the movie that began the series. Other episodes can be moved around in the order without messing up the narrative, and could therefore be considered Anachronistic Order as well. In the end, the guy in charge of making sure all Star Wars canon fits nicely together has even said he doesn't plan on making a timeline for the series until it's well on it's way.
    • Season 3 used this trope radically in it's first half. Over half of the episodes are made to fit in between past episodes, often exploring holes in various storylines.
    • This is more noticable with the episodes featuring Domino Squad. While there is a definitive chonological order for all of the episodes, the first episode they were featured in (Rookies) was first aired in the first season, with a prequel airing in the 3rd season. Practically lampshading this trope, the follow up episode to Rookies was also the episode directly after the aforementioned prequel.
    • With the series finally finished, an official timeline of the episodes has been released, showing that it's mostly the first half of the series (the movie, the first two season and the first half of Season 3) where the anachronism is prevalent. With one exception ("Revival" was aired as the Season 5 premiere but takes place much later in the season), the rest of the series starting with "Nightsisters" is chronologically straightforward.
  • The season 4 premiere for The Venture Bros. does this. The episode covers a period of over 8 months with the various scenes shuffled completely out of order until the post-credits scene which is the final in both the episode and chronologically. There's a method to it. The scenes at the Venture compound are shown Back to Front, while scenes with Brock are shown in chronological order. The constant switching of scenes is what makes it confusing. The order is marked by the price of a comic book shown at the top of the screen at the beginning of each scene.
  • The second season of Jackie Chan Adventures was the longest one of the series, and with the Myth Arc concluded half-way the remaining episodes were either filler fluff or set in between episodes of the first season. In particular, one episode establishes a previously unknown confrontation in acquiring the Snake Talisman.
  • Word of God says that Phineas and Ferb is this, and given its episodic format, they get away with it most of the time. However, with one exception ("The Baljeatles"), there is little evidence of it. Bearing this in mind, and with its Continuity Porn nature, making a timeline for episodes is almost impossible.
  • Some My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episodes only make sense if they take place before later episodes/after earlier episodes.
  • Watching Kim Possible by episode order does show aspects of this but given the episodic nature of the series it has little to do with any overall plot. The most noticeable example being Shego and Drakon getting an introductory episode after their debut appearance though there are other examples like Ron becoming the team mascot and Kim learning to drive.
  • All pre-Static Shock DCAU shows suffer from this. Episodes were produced out of order (even placing many random episodes between multi-parters' parts), and air date order is even worse. Not even the DVDs include a proper chronological order.

    Flashbacks and Chronology...And That Little Girl Was Me
Always NightIndex of Gothic Horror TropesFlashback
Amoral AttorneyOlder Than FeudalismAnachronism Stew
The Chronicles of NarniaImageSource/LiteratureCiaphas Cain

alternative title(s): Anarchic Order; Non Linear Story; Non Linear Storytelling
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy