"What was the start of all this?A single very significant moment, related to the fate of every single main character, and driving the entire plot, that happened before the beginning of the story. That event will probably be discussed, interpreted, viewed through flashbacks, and a The Reveal might show its true meaning later. In cases where the characters have any way of interfering with the past, this event will be their target. Since these events are more exciting, and more detailed than your average background story, they are frequently used as the setting for a Prequel. The lines "Everything started x years ago", or "It all began when..." are very likely to be uttered. See also Great Offscreen War. Not to be confused with Where It All Began, which entails returning to a familiar place for the finale (though they can overlap if Time Travel is involved).
When did the cogs of fate begin to turn?
Perhaps it is impossible to grasp that answer now
From deep within the flow of time..."
When did the cogs of fate begin to turn?
Perhaps it is impossible to grasp that answer now
From deep within the flow of time..."
— Chrono Cross opening text
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Anime & Manga
- Naruto, where the Fourth Hokage seals the Nine-Tailed Fox into a baby (Naruto) when the Fox attacked Konoha. The act cost the beloved Fourth Hokage his life, which becomes very significant later on. Later, we learn that The Fourth Hokage is actually Naruto's father, and that Naruto's mother was the previous host of the Nine-Tailed Fox. Chapters 500 - 504 (or more) depict the events of that night, from their perspective.
- We get another one from the First Hokage himself describing first his final battle with Madara, then flashing back to their childhood and the wartorn world both had to grow up in.
- And still another when the Sage of the Six Paths explains how he created the Tailed Beasts and the very concept of Ninja, along with the origin of the feud between the Senju and Uchiha clans that drove so much of the story.
- The Big O: The disaster forty years earlier that destroyed civilization and caused universal amnesia in the inhabitants of Paradigm City.
- In Neon Genesis Evangelion, the Second Impact.
- Haruhi Suzumiya: "Three years ago", something paranormal happened, possibly the universe was created, or at least most of the main characters were retconned into existence. It's also a recurring time travel destination.
- Higurashi: When They Cry: The curse of Oyashiro-sama. Either the first death five years prior to the story or Satoshi's disappearance one year prior.
- Umineko: When They Cry: The child from 18 years ago, the sin from six years ago, Battler abandoning his family 6 years ago, Beatrice dying 18 years ago, some of the children being born 18 years ago, etc.
- Dragon Ball has several of these: the arrival of a lone Namekian on Earth, the genocide of the Saiyans, and the arrival of a lone Saiyan infant on Earth.
- Nabari no Ou: The "incident ten years ago", when the Shinrabanshou was used.
- The execution of Gold Roger, triggering One Piece's great age of piracy.
- In Code Geass, the invasion of Japan, and the attack on Lelouch's family.
- In Dennou Coil, there are three of these, five years ago, four years ago, and one year ago.
- In Inuyasha everything happened because of events from 50 years ago.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, Edward and Alphonse's disastrous attempt at bringing their mother back to life through human transmutation, and the Ishvalan War, which takes place a little bit before the former incident.
- In Baccano!!, in 1711 aboard the Advena Avis, around thirty alchemists summon a 'demon' to grant them immortality. He gives it to them at no cost, tells them how to end it when they get tired of living, and gives one of them the secret to making the elixir that grants it to anyone who drinks it. Mass murder ensues.
- In Assassination Classroom, Yanagisawa/Shirou's experiments on anti-matter, with the original God of Death as a human test subject. The modifications to his body, and the influence of Aguri Yukimura, Class E's original teacher, would lead to him becoming the super-being teacher that is Koro-sensei who would teach Class E in Aguri's place after her death. The experiments also resulted in the partial destruction of the moon that Koro-sensei took credit for.
- The heist in Reservoir Dogs.
- The oft-alluded-to discovery of warp flight and how it started the brand-new era of space travel in the Star Trek verse, actually becomes the setting of the not-quite prequel Star Trek: First Contact. That movie also uses the first attempted Borg invasion as a second kind of backstory.
- Avatar starts with a narration by Jake Sully explaining how he wound up on Pandora. His twin brother Tom was supposed to go on an expedition to the planet, except he died in a grocery store robbery beforehand. The mortician who burns his body at the start of the film recommends as he does so that Jake go to Pandora himself for a fresh start.
- In Dragon Bones, an ancestor of the protagonist killed a dragon. He really shouldn't have done that. Three protagonist meet in a the cave where the eponymous dragon bones, the skeleton of a dragon who was obviously killed (it is in chains) are located. While there is some political conflict, the plot itself is fueled by the dragon bones, alone.
- Treasure Island: Captain Flint buried his treasure on the island.
- From Harry Potter, The first war with Voldemort, particularly the death of the Potter parents, Harry's marking, and Voldemorts downfall, all in a single scene.
- Robert's Rebellion from A Song of Ice and Fire.
- And, for many characters, the tourney at Harrenhal in the year of the false Spring. The events that transpired over these three days led directly to the beginning of Robert's Rebellion.
- The main characters in Eden Green would never have been infected with an alien needle symbiote if Patient Zero, Tedrin, hadn't been attacked and infected a year beforehand.
Live Action TV
- The Dukes of Hazzard: The seventh-season premiere of the series saw the Dukes and Cooter say, "Happy Birthday, General Lee." The episode establishes several key things that became part of the official series' bible. Set in 1976 (more than two years before the series' premiere), Bo and Luke, freshly placed on probation for illegal transportation of alcohol, purchase a banged-up Dodge Charger to compete in one of Boss Hogg's races; Daisy is a recent high school graduate who gets a job at Hogg's Boar's Nest. The General Lee, in its previous life, had been owned by a jewel thief and his girlfriend, who – after robbing a jewelry store – stash the booty in the dashboard, but then crash the car. Since the car's owner was in jail and forfeited it, Bo and Luke are able to purchase the car, soup it up and use it to foil every one of Boss' countless schemes.
- The nuclear holocaust of Old Earth in Battlestar Galactica (2003).
- Earth: Final Conflict begins three years after the arrival of the Taelons.
- Khitomer in Star Trek: The Next Generation, as it had a profound effect on many of the characters, and the empires themselves.
- The Cardassian occupation of Bajor in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Almost all the non-Starfleet characters participated and lived through it, and many of the Starfleet characters were involved as well.
- The Time War in the revived Doctor Who.
- Somewhat coyly alluded to in the twentieth anniversary special, ''The Five Doctors": "So you're going to go on the run from your own people, in a rackety old TARDIS?" "Why not, that's how it all started!"
- War of the Worlds (1988-1990) took place 35 years after the Martian invasion depicted in the 1953 George Pal movie.
- Firefly has this with the Unification War.
- Smallville has the meteor shower in the pilot, which brought Kal-El to Earth, baldness to Lex, and increasingly ridiculous superpowers to numerous civilians.
- Lost's antepenultimate episode, "Across the Sea," was a Whole Episode Flashback to the birth of Jacob and the Man in Black, revealing how they came to be who they are, which set in motion events continuing 2000 years into the future.
- Kamen Rider Double:
- The "Begins Night", the case in which Shotaro accidentally caused the death of his mentor, met his future partner Philip, and became Kamen Rider Double for the first time; it also qualifies for Philip because it marks the point where he starts taking responsibility for helping make Gaia Memories. They actually use the term as a shorthand for this trope later on; when they meet Ryu Terui, Philip comments that the murder of his family was his own personal Begins Night.
- Almost all the Double characters had their "Begins Nights", the events that make them the person/rider/monster they are. Narumi's Begins Night was when he first encountered the Dopants and was given his Driver and Gaia Memory from Shroud, while Daido gets two. The first is when he dies and is the first subject of the NEVER experiment and the second is when he went to Island S where his mind practically unravels. As for Phillip, well, his began the moment he fell into the Gaia Memory well, while his mother's began when she protested at her husband wanting to use Phillip to make Gaia Memories. The murderer of Ryu's family's night began when said mother gives him a Gaia Memory.
- In Merlin (2008), Queen Ygraine cannot concieve and so King Uther makes a deal with the enchantress Nimueh to provide him with a son. Unbeknownst to him, someone must die in order for a life to be created, and it ends up being Ygraine's. Thus, the future King Arthur is born, and a grief/guilt-stricken Uther imposes a ban upon all magic in the realm, thus setting up the conflict for the entirety of the show: that Merlin cannot reveal his magic to anyone.
- Just about everything in BIONICLE can be traced back to either one of these two events:
- "The Great Cataclysm", when The Makuta cast Mata Nui into a deep slumber. Happened 1,000 years prior to the beginning of the story.
- "The Core War", when Spherus Magna was destroyed, which lead to the creation of the Matoran Universe. Happened 100,000 years prior.
- Although it's not really apparent until the end of the series, pretty much everything that happens in the Metal Gear universe has its roots in August 1964, the Virtuous Mission which sparked Operation Snake Eater and led to the creation of the Patriots, as shown in Metal Gear Solid 3, chronologically the first game. The best example? The Boss's last wish: a unified world. Big Boss's and Zero's differing interpretations of that wish and how to fulfill it lead to almost everything that happens in the rest of the series, including the creation of Outer Heaven and the creation of the Patriots, which leads directly to the events of Metal Gear Solid 2 and 4.
- Ghost Trick has the incident in Temsik Park 10 years ago. Lynne was taken hostage by Yomiel, who was fleeing Detective Jowd. Yomiel died from a Temsik shard to the back, but gained ghost tricks and an immortal, undead body. After sinking into darkness due to his isolation from humanity, he set out to take his revenge on everyone involved, causing the deadly events of the game.
- Fate/stay night: The last Holy Grail War 10 years ago, especially its final battle.
- Final Fantasy:
- What happened in Nibelheim five years prior to the events of the game in Final Fantasy VII.
- In Final Fantasy VIII, the Sorceress' War, 18 years before the game takes place, sets off the events of the game, though due to Time Travel, the beginning point is itself affected during gameplay.
- Final Fantasy XIII has the 13 days prior to the start of the game in flashbacks throughout the main game, which manages to link all of the main characters to the plot by way of a single event.
- The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword: After the final boss, Demise, is defeated, he casts a curse on Link and Zelda, insinuating that anyone like them will be chased forever by "an incarnation of his hatred". This explains how Ganondorf keeps on coming back in later games, since Skyward Sword takes place before all the the other games including Ocarina of Time.
- There also are some details about the genesis of the world that would eventually become Hyrule in Skyward Sword, Ocarina of Time, and later expended in the Hyrule Historia book. The world was created by the three goddesses Din, Nayru and Farore. When they left, a golden artifact called the Triforce appeared, symbolizing their powers (respectively Force, Wisdom and Courage) which was left under the custody of the goddess Hylia. She protected the Triforce from numerous evil creatures including Demise the Avatar of Nothingness. Unable to totally defeat him (he was at most momentarily sealed) she decided to use the Triforce to do so, but her status of goddess forbade her to directly use it. She decided then to renounce her goddess status and reborned as a human (who would eventually be named Zelda) on Skyloft, a floating island keeping the humans safe from the ravages on the war going on land. The warrior Impa from the Sheikah clan was given the task to protect the Triforce in the absence of Hylia as well as the fragile human child she would become. Then Skyward Sword begins...
- Almost all the events of the Knights of the Old Republic games can be traced to Revan and Malak leading roughly half of the Jedi to fight in the Mandalorian Wars. And much of that can be narrowed down to the Battle of Malachor V, especially in the sequel.
- Bastion's Calamity happens just before the game. Rucks says it best;
Rucks: "A proper story's supposed to start at the beginnin'... this one ain't so simple."
- Mass Effect has Shepard's visions from the Prothean Beacon lead them to Ilos, the location of the underground base where the last Prothean scientists worked and ultimately sacrificed themselves to delay the Reaper invasion of Shepard's time.
- Mass Effect 3 has Shepard return to Eden Prime, the location where they first had their vision.
- The events surrounding the death of Lord Indoril Nerevar several thousand years prior to the time the game takes place essentially establish the plot of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. Throughout the game, the player can find "Rashomon"-Style accounts from various parties which give conflicting reports of what happened there and who is to blame. The Tribunal Temple, the Dissident Priests, the Ashlanders, Dagoth Ur, Vivec, and Azura all tell different stories. The actual truth is never revealed, leaving the player to make his or her own conclusions. All that is known for sure is that Nerevar was slain, the Tribunal and Dagoth Ur made themselves into gods, and Azura is not happy about it.
- Kingdom Hearts all started with the Keyblade War, warriors wielding Keyblades fought for the light with Kingdom Hearts, but they ended up driving the light into the Realm of Darkness and fracturing the universe into hundreds of smaller worlds. The series has been one gigantic Gambit Pileup by the Big Bad to forge the weapon that can unlock Kingdom Hearts for him.
- In Robopon 2, Cody witnesses the destruction of Baba Village in the past, which has been a mystery for the entire game.
- That One Case in nearly every Ace Attorney game is always the trigger of each installment's overarching plot, and is alluded to many, many times via "X years ago":
- The DL-6 incident, happening 15 years before the first game. Defense attorney Gregory Edgeworth was shot dead in an elevator whose power had run out due to an earthquake in the courthouse. This scarred Miles Edgeworth, his son, and was the moment where he stopped wanting to be a lawyer and instead took the path of a prosecutor under Mandred von Karma's custody. The most tragic thing is that von Karma was the killer. Misty Fey's subsequent disgrace and disappearance following the true killer failing to be convicted ruined the Fey clan's reputation and significantly affects Mia and Maya's backstories as well.
- The kidnapping of a kid in the backstory of Trials and Tribulations. Terry Fawles abducted Dahlia Hawthorne and wouldn't release her until Valerie (her sister) delivered a red diamond which was worth over one million dollars. Dahlia fell to a river and her body was never found. Of course, Dahlia survived and proceeded to become the main villain of Trials and Tribulations with her long chain of murders. Even the kidnapping was a charade planned by her, Valerie and Fawles.
- The trial where Phoenix presented forged evidence and was subsequently disbarred 7 years prior to Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. It was Phoenix's Cynicism Catalyst, and the beginning of his 7-year-long gambit to take Kristoph Gavin, the man that made him present the evidence, to justice.
- The KG-8 incident in Investigations. Manny Coachen killed Cece Yew as he was told to by the international smuggling ring, which led to the creation of the Great Thief Yatagarasu and later the murder of Kay's father, which in turn prompted Kay to continue the Yatagarasu's legacy.
- The IS-7 incident was the trigger for the main series of games, being the case that Gregory argued in court the day he was killed, leading to DL-6.
- The UR-1 incident 8 years before Dual Destinies. Metis Cykes, Athena's mother, was murdered because she knew top secret information about her killer, leading to the conviction of Simon Blackquill and Athena's quest to prove his innocence in court, which is accomplished in the final case.
- The assassination of Khura'in's queen 23 years prior to the events of Spirit of Justice. It led to the enactment of the Defense Culpability Act, a fiat by which lawyers who defended criminals would be punished just the same as those criminals, killing off nearly every defense attorney in the kingdom.
- Drive: If it weren't for the fleeing pre-maker's actions, humanity wouldn't have gained access to the Ring Drive.
- The extinction of the Air Nomads and the disappearance of the Avatar occurs 100 years before the beginning of Avatar: The Last Airbender.
- ReBoot season 4 gave several flashbacks to before the series began. These explained the origins of Megabyte and Hexadecimal and how the main characters were involved in it. A mix of Nice Job Breaking It, Hero! from Bob and a Gone Horribly Wrong from Dot kickstarted everything.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic you could argue that there are two different events that mark the beginning. One would be the banishment of Princess Luna, and the other would be the Sonic Rainboom that sparked the discovery of the Mane 6 Cutie marks.
- In Kim Possible, we have the fateful meeting of Kim and Ron the first day of Pre-K, and the equally eventful typo on a computer that resulted in them becoming world-saving heroes.