Common subtype of the Five-Man Band composed by starting with a Power Trio and adding some form of duo or a pair of Extra Rangers. While the five characters will generally still fit into some variation on the Five-Man Band archetypes, three of the characters will get decidedly more play.
In terms of plot, the core trio will generally have a relationship which pre-exists their introduction, while the remaining members are newcomers. Common archetypes for the non-core members include The Ace and the Old Master. Surprisingly, the Naïve Newcomer is rarely one of the peripheral duo (as Naïve Newcomer characters are usually given a more central role), but he can be a member of the core trio.
Even if the relationship between the core trio is not pre-existing, their bond will be immediate and close. You will find them interacting "off the clock" in a way you are less likely to see with the peripheral characters.
The leader is liable to be a member of the core trio, but if he is not, expect the dominant member of the trio to be The Lancer, and expect serious rivalry between him and the leader.
When the core trio works for Heroes R Us, the setup will often involve the trio's higher-ups assigning two new members to a long-standing team because they have somehow overlooked the fact that this would cause serious friction. The band may alternatively be formed by the core trio absorbing another group, either rivals with a common goal or enemies making a Heel-Face Turn.
Plots involving The Power of Friendship will focus on the core trio, while plots about teamwork will include the whole band. The two peripheral members may even duck out (via Heroic Sacrifice) before the Grand Finale.
The major advantage of this setup is that it covers the broad range of character types which makes the Five-Man Band a popular ensemble, but by relegating two members to the periphery, it prevents spreading the audience's time too thin, as is often a difficulty with large ensembles.
See also Cast Calculus.
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Anime & Manga
The first season of Sailor Moon spent an inordinate amount of time with just Sailor Moon, Mars and Mercury. Jupiter and Venus came later. Of course, as the season progressed, the five became a true Five-Man Band. (Note that this is not the case in the manga or in Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon; both had a trio for only a handful of episodes, added Jupiter quickly, and spent most of the arc with four before Venus showed up.)
The Littl' Bits has two examples within one gang: Willabit, Lillibit and Snagglebit plus Chip and Browniebit, or Snagglebit, Browniebit and Chip plus Willabit and Lillibit.
Cowboy Bebop starring Spike Spiegel, Faye Valentine and Jet Black! Oh, and also Ed and Ein.
In the first season of Ojamajo Doremi, Doremi, Aiko and Hazuki were the main trio, while Pop later came as a Tag Along Kid and Onpu as a Dark Magical Girl. Next season, Onpu became part of the main roster as the series went on. Pop, however, stayed in her position.
Fresh Pretty Cure! was previously a Three Plus One show, and for a while, fan theories have spread like wildfire as to whether there would be a fifth. It now becomes Four Plus Two, because of Westar and Soular's Heel-Face Turn.
Outlaw Star, where Gene, Jim, and Melfina were the main crew of the Outlaw Star, and Suzuka and Aisha tended to act more like people who just happened to be traveling on the same ship.
The three in Mahou Sensei Negima! tends to be Asuna, Konoka and Setsuna. The plus two is usually Nodoka and Yue. That being said, this trope can shift about the cast, given its size.
Digimon Tamers had something more like three plus three - Those Two Guys and the love interest join the team, but the Power Trio never really loses the spotlight. Toss in one more traditional Sixth Ranger (or arguably two more) and another "plus one", and the final result is a cast of Four (or Five) plus Four.
Digimon Frontier, however, plays it a little more like Two Plus Three(Plus One). Takuya and Kouji are the first to get their Human Spirits and Beast Spirits, and the only ones to get a Double Spirit Evolution and a Hyper Spirit Evolution, boosting them up to the Ultimate level. It's glaringly obvious in that, while they're in their Hyper forms, the other members of the Five-Man Band can only just stand around doing nothing.
Digimon Xros Wars, however, both played it straight and subverted it at the same time. Taiki, Akari and Zenjirou appear to be the three, with Nene and Kiriha as the Two. However, by the time that Kiriha and Nene have joined Xros Heart, Akari and Zenjirou are stuck in the real world, only being reunited when they return for the Grand Finale. So, in the end, Taiki, Kiriha and Nene serve as the Three, with Akari and Zenjirou as the Two.
Digimon Adventure 02 inverted it, then played it straight, doing another Two Plus Three. The two were Kari and T.K., the youngest two of the previous season and the only main cast holdovers. In the first episode, three more (and then a fourth) join them to complete their team, but this season was more about these new characters.
Fairy Tail started with Lucy, Natsu, and Happy, but later Gray and Erza officially joined the team after tagging along enough times. To look at it chronologically (and disregard Happy), Natsu, Gray and Erza form the Power Trio, while Lucy and Wendy are the extra two that complete the group later.
Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds follows three plus two, then added a third to the main cast. In the beginning it was Yuusei, Jack and Aki, with the two being the twins Rua and Ruka. Later on, after Crow was introduced, it became Yuusei-Jack-Crow, with Rua-Ruka-Aki serving as their own trio.
The first arc of Dragon Ball originally had Goku and Bulma adventuring together, with Oolong joining them shortly after. After this Yamcha and Puar were introduced, with the two pursuing the trio in hopes of stealing the dragonballs from them. Once Pilaf was introduced (or in the anime's case, became more of a threat), they officially joined into a Five-Man Band for the rest of the arc.
During the Freeza Arc, we have originally Gohan, Krillin and Bulma. When Vegeta joins them, we have Gohan-Krillin-Vegeta plus Bulma. Later Piccolo and Goku appear as extra ones, but when Goku joins the battle against Freeza and Vegeta ends up being killed, we have Goku as the Spotlight-Stealing Squad and Gohan-Krillin-Piccolo as the extra trio plus Bulma.
Played with and Zig-Zagged in Puella Magi Madoka Magica which starts off with Madoka, Sayaka, and Mami as the trio, and there is one Dark Magical Girl named Homura around. They remained like that until Mami dies and a new Magical Girl named Kyoko shows up. Sayaka and Kyoko hate each other the minute they meet making any chances they have at teaming up slim and then nothing after they both die. All hopes seems lost for this trope until we learned that Homura has been resetting the timeline. The original trio has been different with each new timeline, though there is at least one timeline where this trope was played straight but was quickly ended after Mami had a Freak Out over the Awful Truth and killed Kyoko before she herself was killed. By the end of the series the trope is ultimately averted because Madoka would Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence and Sayaka is the only one who stayed dead making any chance for this trope to happen impossible.
The Fellowship from The Lord of the Rings comes across as a seven plus two, with Merry and Pippin more or less along for the ride.
You could even subdivide it further into three plus two plus two plus one: Aragorn-Legolas-Gimli, Frodo-Sam, and Merry-Pippin, with Gandalf on his own.
They actually split up this way as the series progresses.
and then there's Boromir...
In The Two Towers, it's essentially a three plus one plus three (Aragorn-Legolas-Gimli plus Gandalf plus Théoden-Éowyn-Éomer) and then two two plus ones (Frodo-Sam plus Gollum and Merry-Pippin plus Treebeard)
For the first half of Remote Man, the main characters are Ned, his cousin Kate and his best friend Rocky. Their investigation leads them to make two further contacts, Cleverton from Jamaica and Yvette from France, thus cementing the Five-Man Band. Worth noting that, Ned and Rocky excepted, person-to-person contact between them is minimal - Ned spends a few weeks with Kate in Wakwak at the beginning, and she joins him and Rocky in Concord at the climax, but otherwise most of their communication is via chatrooms.
In the Power of Three arc of Warrior Cats, Jayfeather, Hollyleaf and Lionblaze form a Power Trio because they think they are three cats all-powerful cats spoken of in a prophecy. At the end, Jayfeather realizes that Hollyleaf is not the true third. Then in the Omen of the Stars arc, the true third Dovewing and her sister Ivypool team up with the others.
Some seasons in the Super Sentai/Power Rangers franchise have started with three rangers instead of the usual team of five, usually a trio composed of Red, Blue and Yellow, who are then joined mid-series by at least two extra rangers. They typically get just as much, if not more, exposure as the primary heroes, much like the sixth rangers.
Before Power Rangers, this practice was done first in the 1988 Super Sentai series Liveman, where the original heroes of Red Falcon, Yellow Lion and Blue Dolphin were joined by Black Bison and Green Sai (Rhino) in Episode 30.
Hurricaneger/Ninja Storm: The Hurricanegers/Wind Ninjas form the main trio, with the Gouraigers/Thunder Ninjas (two brothers from a rival academy) joining later to form a team of five. An actual sixth ranger was later introduced in the form of Shurikenger/Samurai Star Ranger.
Abaranger/Dino Thunder: The extra rangers were Abare Black/Black Dino Ranger, who served as an older brother figure to the main trio, followed by Abare Killer/White Dino Ranger, a former villain who underwent a Heel-Face Turn.
Gekiranger/Jungle Fury: Geki Violet/Wolf Ranger and Geki Chopper/Rhino Ranger were mentor figures to the main team. The heroes' two main rivals later switch sides, though only at the very end.
Go-onger/RPM: The series introduced not one, but two pairs of extra rangers: Black & Green (who were part of the main team) and Gold & Silver (twin siblings who formed a separate team).
Go-Busters: The main trio were joined by Beet Buster and Stag Buster, another pair of beetle-themed extra rangers. Beet and Stag are notable for being the first non-sixth extras who are gold and silver, colors normally reserved for sixth members and above. Much like Abaranger before it, the team never had more than five members.
Knight Rider (2008): Mike, Sarah, KITT as the core, with Billy and Zoe as the periphery.
The iCarlyPower Trio of Sam, Freddie and Carly getting the most screen time, with Gibby and Spencer getting sub-plots, and occasionally being part of the main plot with the trio.
Inverted with MythBusters; they end up being more like Two Plus Three. For the first season, it was just the Odd Couple of Adam and Jamie getting the focus. The Build Team were later given some of the spotlight, then spun off into their own team of "myth busters". Adam and Jamie are The Hero and The Lancer, with the Power Trio of the Build Team rounding out the band.
Sibuna in House of Anubis. What first begins as a club between three students (Nina Martin, Fabian Rutter and Amber Millington) eventually expands to include two other students (Patricia Williamson and Alfie Lewis).
This happens again in the second season, as the original trio recreate Sibuna but only have Patricia and Alfie come in later when they really need the help.
Happens AGAIN in season 3, as once Nina never comes back and Amber leaves it's down to Fabian, Patricia and Alfie as the remaining original members, and the new trio, with the addition of Eddie Miller and KT Rush.
Throughout Season 3, it becomes clear that the Nina-Fabian-Amber trio has been replaced by the Eddie-KT-Fabian trio, with Patricia and Alfie seeming like the added/background two.
Bunheads has a pairing off within the group of four students of Sasha with and Melanie with Ginny, with the first pair gettimg far more attention. Then of course the foursome is seperate from the adult grouping of Michelle, Fanny and sometimes Truly.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer started out with the Power Trio of Buffy, Xander, and Willow, adding and subtracting various others (Oz, Cordelia, Faith, Anya, Tara, Riley, Dawn) at varying levels of "insider-ness" over the seasons. At any given point there were usually five or six Scoobies, but only Buffy, Willow, and Xander remained constant throughout.
The Big Bang Theory is a Three plus Two plus Two. Penny, Leonard and Sheldon are clearly the main three characters all the way through the series, complemented by Howard and Raj, with Bernadette and Amy joining later. The addition of Stuart as a main character in Series 6 makes it Three plus Two plus Two plus One.
Older Than Feudalism: The Pandavas in the Mahabaratha were the three sons of Kunti (Yudhisthira, Arjuna and Bhima) plus the twin sons of Madri (Nakula and Sahadeva).
An odd example, but there was once a Simon Says-type of handheld game called Bop It that had three commands: "Bop It" ("bop" a large button), "Twist It" (turn a rotating handle), and "Pull It" (pull a telescoping handle on the other end). The follow-up, "Bop It Extreme", added "Spin It" (spin a wheel) and "Flick It" (flick a spring-loaded nub).
The action in Persona 3 begins with SEES comprised of a Five-Man Band... but only the three newest members are available to fight at the start. The other two are more experienced members, one serving as your initial Mission Control, and the other recovering from injuries, but both of them join the front lines in relatively short order.
Mega Man Battle Network has two separate groups. Lan, Mayl and Chaud plus Dex and Yai form the first, while MegaMan.EXE, Roll.EXE and Protoman.EXE plus Gutsman.EXE and Glyde.EXE form the second. As the former are partners of the latter respectively, clearly it's a case of like to like.
Disgaea: Hour of Darkness: In the latter half of the game, with a case of Three Plus Three, as the Defenders of Earth show up and join the party.
The Eeveelutions from Pokémon, not counting Eevee itself from Gen II to Gen III. Interestingly enough they had Sentai like colors attached to them also. The Trio of Flareon (Red) Vaporeon (Blue) Jolteon (Yellow) plus the duo of Espeon (Pinkish Purple) and Umbreon (Black). Now they're more of a 3 + 2 + 2 with Leafeon (Green) and Glaceon (Whitish Blue). Fans anticipate that number continuing to grow until it reaches 17 in total. In Gen VI you get another addition with Sylveon (Pink).
In Centurions, the core trio of Max Ray, Jake Rockwell and Ace McCloud is joined by new members Rex Charger and John Thunder in later episodes. However, this Merchandise-Driven variation of the trope has less to do with character dynamics than the toy company's desire to add new heroes to the action figure line.
In Beast Wars Optimus, Rattrap and Rhinox are the core trio, the leader and his two lieutenants (acting as the Kirk, The McCoy and the Spock, respectively). The three of them are in on all the secrets and will be trusted with things the others aren't. When Optimus is gone, leadership will generally be handled jointly by the two of them. Cheetor and Dinobot are the other two, Cheetor is trusted but because of his youth and inexperience he's still on the outside and is not involved in any decisions. Dinobot can't always be trusted because of his Predacon heritage and tendency to do some decidedly un-Maximal things and is thus also kept at a distance. There's a revolving door of "outsider" Maximals, but the three "insiders" remain Optimus, Rattrap and Rhinox for the whole run.
Code Lyoko jumps back and forth. It starts off with Ulrich, Yumi, and Odd as the only action heroes (Aelita has no attacks and Jérémie is Mission Control). Then in season 3, Aelita Takes a Level in Badass, and later on the team picks up William. For about half of an episode anyway, before he gets semi-permanently possessed by XANA.
World Of Quest has Two Plus Three. While all of the main characters except Anna share a past, the show is quite obviously focused on the interaction between Nestor and Quest.
Futurama centers its action around Fry, Leela and Bender, but at times others have been added: Zapp Brannigan and Kif on a few occasions, but more generally it's Zoidberg and Professor Farnsworth, or Zoidberg and Amy, or Zoidberg (notice a pattern?) and Hermes. In later episodes, sometime Cubert and Dwight too.