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Anachronic Order
aka: Non Linear Storytelling

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Ordered by date published, numbered by chronological order.
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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"-Style 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 still to be jumbled chronologically.

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If the fact that a work uses anachronic order is a Reveal, you have a case of Sequencing Deception.

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.


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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • 20th Century Boys has five or so timelines interconnected and two more which take place in virtual reality.
  • 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 the 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.
  • 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.
  • Attack on Titan: The manga starts in 845 with the fall of Shiganshina, then a Time Skip rapidly takes us in 850 for the Battle of Trost. When it's over, we go back to 847 to follow the training of the 104th trainee corps, before switching back to 850, in the direct aftermath of the battle. The anime, however, tells the events in chronological order, which is generally considered an improvement, since we get to know the main cast before they are thrown into a deadly battle.
  • 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 centered around a single time period. It's still pretty anachronistic, though.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Billy Bat. 1940s to Biblical times to the 1950s to feudal Japan.
  • The Black★Rock Shooter OVA alternates between the fight scenes and the events that led up to them.
  • Boogiepop Phantom includes shifts in both timeframe and perspective.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Humanity Has Declined, at least in the anime, where the arcs are out of order. It's not really a big deal, being a comedy.
  • Season 1 of I Can't Understand What My Husband Is Saying was in chronological order and ends at the last published chapter (at the time). As a result, most of Season 2's episodes take place in between season 1's episodes (The first and second episodes were numbered 7.5 and 9.5 respectively). Since the only indicator of when episodes take place is a small number on the tile cards, it left some fans asking "Why aren't they following up on Kaoru being pregnant?"
  • Jewelpet Sunshine: Episode 38 takes place before episode 37, as they are respectively about Christmas and New Year's.
  • 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.
  • Kokouno Hito's story is told in a linear fashion at first but gradually begins to jump around very frequently in its chronology, alternating between flashbacks and the present at the drop of a hat.
  • Each season in Lyrical Nanoha was released in chronological order up until ViVid Strike! (which takes place in between ViVid and Force). Though considering that Force was canceled and most of the fandom likes to pretend that it never happened, it might as well be considered a subversion.
  • Maiden Rose 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Nijigahara Holograph's story frequently jumps between the characters' childhoods and the modern day, showing both their past actions and how their lives have been influenced by them in the present day.
  • 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.
  • Volume 8 of Overlord (2012) takes place chronologically between Volumes 4 and 5.
  • 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.
  • Episodes in Princess Principal aren't in chronological order, but instead have case numbers indicating where they fall on the timeline relative to each other. For example, in the first episode, Case 13, the main team is already fully assembled and has their dynamics down pat. Episode 2, Case 1, only has Ange and Dorothy on the team, and shows how the Princess joined them, and episode 3, Case 2, shows the immediate aftermath. Then they jump to Case 9...
  • 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.
  • The first volume of Sword Art Online covers only the beginning and the events near the end of the eponymous game. The second volume is a collection of short stories, taking place in the intervening period. Later volumes were more conventional sequels (Though the volume Early and Late contains another story that took place between the prologue and main story of the first volume). However, the Sword Art Online Progressive series was later started, which covers Sword Art Online from Asuna's perspective and uses a normal chronological order.
  • The Tatami Galaxy goes there within the first episode.
  • Tōka Gettan, produced mostly by the same people as Yamibou, is told completely in reverse order.
  • 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.
  • Yami to Boushi to Hon no Tabibito jumps back and forth in chronology but is actually quite comprehensible.

    Audio Plays 
  • 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.
    • In addition, individual stories are often anachronic — 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. It 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.
    • "Random Ghosts" is a Found Footage drama set in a "Groundhog Day" Loop, with all the characters making Note to Self recordings to a computer system with Ripple Effect-Proof Memory and built-in editing software that makes connections between related entries. In the version we hear, the editing software has gone wrong and is making thematic connections with no regard to chronology.
    • "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 unraveling the order of events a mindblowing exercise.

    Comic Books 
  • While the over all plot line in Brian Azzarello's and Eduardo Risso's crime noir series 100 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.
  • Done intentionally with the three separate plots in American Born Chinese, and is essential to the overall story.
  • Astro City often jumps between different periods of the city. Some story takes place in the present, while others happen in the past, from the Comic version of the Silver Age to the Dark Age usually. However, in one story, readers were taken back to the Victorian Age of England. Helped, though, by the fact that the book does not really have a main character.
  • 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".
  • Batman:
    • A lot of stuff written by Grant Morrison. For example, the storyline of Batman R.I.P. begins with Batman triumphantly 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, 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.
    • Batman: Prelude to the Wedding is told this way, with the third issue possibly occurring earliest and the fourth taking place entirely within the first.
  • The "To Drown the World" arc of Batwoman varies its scenes between the present and up to four months in the past and fifteen minutes in the future. The skips to the past tend to cover progressively less time as the arc goes on, though.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Multiversity: How Pax Americana #1 is told: one plotline follows the consequences of President Harley's assassination, while the other shows How We Got Here in reverse-chronological order.
  • Several issues of The Pulse involve heavy use of flashbacks to frame the story.
  • And before Black Panther, Christopher Priest's writing in Quantum and Woody had short clips appear in anachronistic order in every single issue.
  • 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.
  • Silent Hill Among The Damned is in this order. Since Tropes Are Not Good, this only serves to make the story more confusing.
  • The Sin City stories were published in this 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.
  • 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 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 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.
  • Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen, and, indeed, the flashback episodes of Watchmen in general.

    Fanfiction 
  • 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.
  • The Alarmaverse: Alarm Clock: The penultimate chapter copies the structure from Memento: scenes in chronological order alternate with scenes in reverse-chronological order. The chapter ends in the chronological middle.
  • Avenger Goddess has so far primarily focused on Wonder Woman's first meeting with Steve Rogers in 1944 and her subsequent role in the Second World War, but certain chapters have also looked at her life in the early nineties after Howard Stark's death as Diana hunts for the Winter Soldier and essentially adopts the future Black Widow, and the conclusion of that storyline sees the secondary story "jump" to her peripheral role in the events that led to Tony Stark taking his first steps to becoming Iron Man.
  • 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.
  • Since Earth's Alien History is a collaborative timeline composed by several different writers putting it together piecemeal, entries are sometimes put up that take place before older posts. Fortunately, AlternateHistory.com's threadmark option enables the readers to go through everything in the proper order.
  • In The Elements of Friendship, Book II: Chaoskampf, the chapters are published in chronological order, but posted in random order, fitting in with Discord being the Big Bad. Later subverted, as the author apparently decided the gag wasn't worth the effort and put the chapters in proper order.
  • The Empath: The Luckiest Smurf stories following the novel are all published in this kind of order, as the author of the series may jump around to telling a story that takes place at anytime within the series' chronological order, whether that's before Empath's final return from Psychelia, the time period between that and his marriage with Smurfette, the Season 9-ish Lost Year period, or the years following the marriage.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • This is used throughout Ghosts of Evangelion. The first published episode happens in 2020. The second one happens in September, 2018. The third in October, 2018. The fourth and fifth in 2016. And so on.
  • Gift of A Diamond scrambles the events of Steven Universe to fit the story. Here Steven encounters Blue Diamond mourning Pink Diamond when he was five and Greg received his cut of Marty's advertising fortune when Steven was barely a year old (as opposed to the show, where Steven was fourteen when these events happened).
  • Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality: Chapters 24-26. Chapters 24 and 25 proceed in numbered acts 3, 2, 1, 5, 6, and 4; act 6 takes plac e in the middle of chapter 26.
  • 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 Worm fanfic It Gets Worse uses this as a framing device, as the story shows Taylor's luck-influencing power setting up a series of innocuous events that leads to a positive outcome in the story's present.
  • 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.
  • Joys of the Parenthood - The Țepeș Edition takes place in different stages of Adrian's life in no particular order.
  • 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.Net, however, where the chapters are in their proper order.
  • Used in the fanfic Kyon: Big Damn Hero, in the Anachronic Order Explanation Arc.
  • All of the story segments in Master, Pokémon? are delivered out of order.
  • 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).
  • Similar to the above entry, the first published entry in the Quiververse is An Act of Random Kindness, which is third in its chronology chronologicallynote . The third entry published, A Light in the Dark, is latest chronologically.
  • 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.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion 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.
  • The Revolutionary Girl Utena and Mawaru-Penguindrum crossover fanfic Seinen Kakumei Utena is written in this manner.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist fanfic Son of the Desert has three storylines: the Elrics brothers balancing life in the military with their culture, Trisha's youth and courtship of Hohenheim and Trisha raising Ed and Al in their early childhood.
  • In "Arm Candy", part of the Sorrowful and Immaculate Hearts series, the second chapter is set about a year after the first, but after that each chapter is set earlier than the ones preceding it. The final scene of the story is the first chronologically, and includes a revelation that casts new light on some of the preceding-subsequent events.
  • The format of My Huntsman Academia often has the story jumping back and forth in time to let readers decide where the story wants to go next. For instance, one story update can have Izuku hanging out with Coco in a cafe before hopping immediately back to another scene of Izuku ridding around with Sun.
  • The Code Geass AU fanfic World Enough And Time has a unique twist on it. Each part focuses on a character (per the author's word, it should be a single chapter but Gino's chapter got long enough it was split), thus centres around different events. The first chapter is Kallen's POV and focuses on things a few months into the Zombie Apocalypse with her joining up with Lelouch's elite forces. The next chapter focuses on Suzaku, mainly on his summer with Lelouch and Nunnally pre- and during the war with Japan. Gino's two-parter focuses on events before the Zombie Apocalypse, the day it started, and the early days of the seemingly endless war against the Blight. C.C.'s chapter then takes this Up to Eleven by jumping around like a bunny on crack, representing her Time Abyss nature in this verse.

    Film — Animation 
  • 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.
  • In Batman: Mask of the Phantasm there is both a storyline set in the present, and one set in the past. Characters in the present often flashback to the past for a few scenes, then return to the present, then, later on, another flashback to the past will continue that storyline.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • April Showers begins In Medias Res, and then goes on to show How We Got Here and the aftermath in roughly chronological order, with a large number of flashbacks throughout.
  • 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.
  • Bad Timing skips around the events of the main characters' disastrous relationship and its aftermath, often to juxtapose its sweet beginnings with its grim end.
  • The 2006 film Bella is told almost entirely in flashback form, with the first and last scenes being the only ones that take place in the present. The flashbacks themselves are split into three timelines, which are shown interspersed with each other: one involving a rising star soccer player, one involving a little girl, and one in which the soccer player, some years later, has become a cook in his brother's restaurant and is trying to help a pregnant coworker. It's eventually revealed that the first two timelines are simultaneous, and the moment when they intersect is what sets the stage for the later timeline. And then it turns out that all of that leads up to the moment depicted at the beginning of the film, which is revisited at the end.
  • The western Brimstone is divided into four non-chronological segments. It starts off with Liz being confronted by a sinister Reverend who vows that she will receive retribution for her sins, then the next two segments work backwards to explain their history together. The fourth segment takes place after the first one and features their final confrontation.
  • 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.
  • Daughters of the Dust jumps back and forth in time over the course of a day to show various events happening around the island.
  • In Deadpool (2016), the first half of the movie cuts between Deadpool's fight on the highway and Wade's time with Vanessa before he became Deadpool.
  • Distant Voices Still Lives: 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, mimicking the mechanisms of memory.
  • 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 the events.
  • 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.
  • Exotica: Through the film there are various flashbacks of two scenes that take place before the story, both are completed at the end of the film.
  • The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift is the third film released in the franchise, but takes place chronologically after the events of Fast & Furious 6.
  • A Few Good Men cuts around a bit early on.
  • (500) Days of Summer was presented in this way.
  • 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.
  • The movie Go follows several different groups of people during the same 24 hour period, with some interaction between the various groups.
  • Documentary film Harlan County U.S.A. tells the story of a mining strike in 1972-73. While the strike itself is shown in roughly chronological order, those scenes are intercut with scenes that skip back and forth to an earlier 1931 strike in Harlan County, a rigged 1969 United Mine Workers election (and the murder of the challenger), and the conviction of the corrupt murderous UMW president, which took place in 1974 after the strike was over.
  • The fourth film in the Hellraiser franchise, Hellraiser: Bloodline, is canonically the last entry in the story, despite a litany of Direct-to-Video sequels being released after it. While the first three films followed a generally linear story pattern, Bloodline itself is set in three time periods — 1796 (showing the creation of the Lament Configuration), 1996 and the "present day" of 2127, in which Pinhead is canonically Killed Off for Real in the film series.
  • The Akira Kurosawa classic IKIRU (Japanese for "to live") spends its first half being very straightforward 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.
  • The storylines of the Ju-on series, as well as the US remake series, The Grudge, are told in this fashion. While the remakes simply go back and forth every time they Smash to Black without any indication, the Japanese movies have name cards that precede each act to make the distinction clearer as well as to indicate which character the act is focused on.
  • 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 has 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.
  • Most of the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe take place in chronological order. However, there are some exceptions.
  • The first MonsterVerse movie, Godzilla (2014), takes place in... well, 2014. The second movie, Kong: Skull Island, takes place in 1973.
  • Mr. Nobody — Not only does it jump backwards and forwards at different ages of the main character, but it also jumps sideways to alternate timelines.
  • Mulholland Dr.: In the real life sequence later in the movie, several scenes are stitched together in an anachronistic order.
  • 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.
    • Dunkirk plays with this, cutting between three parallel timelines occurring at three different rates of time.
  • The Paranormal Activity films mostly consist of prequels and sequels, in that respective order, to the very first film. Chronologically, the events are told in the order of 3, 2, 1, 4, The Marked Ones, and finally The Ghost Dimension. Unfortunately, watching the films in that order can still create some Continuity Lockout since each film has scenes that allude to previous installments.
  • This dates at least as far back as 1933 and The Power and the Glory. The film jumps back and forth between three different time periods. There's the present-day setting of the Starts with Their Funeral Framing Device, there are the flashbacks of his early life and his romance with Sally, and there are the flashbacks of his later life as a railroad magnate with a Trophy Wife. And the film alternates between the two flashback timelines, cutting back and forth from Tom as a young man to Tom as an older man to Tom as a dead man in the framing device.
  • Premonition with Sandra Bullock scrambles a week out of order for the viewers and the main character.
  • Primer — made even more confusing because the plot itself is about time travel, so it's a chronological mess.
  • R.O.T.O.R. starts with Coldyron emerging from the woods after having destroyed R.O.T.O.R., and the main story is recounted in an extended flashback while he is being interrogated at police headquarters.
  • Seven Pounds begins with the protagonist reporting his own suicide. The show then pulls out a complex and non-linear How We Got Here before eventually coming back to the suicide in one of the final scenes of the film.
  • The Holocaust documentary Shoah is largely composed of a series of interviews, which are arranged thematically rather than in any particular chronological order.
  • The movie version of Speed Racer jumps back and forth in time constantly.
  • 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.
  • 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
    • Out of Sight did this, in a divergence from the novel by Elmore Leonard. It generally considered to have improved the story.
  • Used with great success in several of Quentin Tarantino's films.
    • Reservoir Dogs jumps back and forth between before the robbery and after it, but never shows the robbery in progress.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • The Hateful 8 has events that happen before the film's start shown close to the end of the film. This scene reveals who's working with Daisy Domergue.
  • The first six films in the Star Wars franchise were released out of order: the original trilogy consists of episodes 4-6, while episodes 1-3 formed a prequel trilogy that came later. Many fans believe that it's best to watch the films in their release order rather than chronologically, noting that the prequel trilogy gives away several of the biggest reveals from the original trilogy, specifically Episodes 5 and 6.
    • Rogue One was released in between Episodes 7 and 8, but is set immediately prior to Episode 4.
  • Toto the Hero is set in the current day, but jumps back and forth in flashbacks.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Vantage Point shows the same 20 minutes over and over from a different perspective.
  • Watchmen jumps between time periods in order to establish character backstories and relationships, much like the comic book it's based on.
  • X-Men Film Series: Applies ever since X-Men: The Last Stand made it easier to go with prequels. X-Men Origins: Wolverine preceded the original trilogy, then X-Men: First Class preceded that (while also following the World War II opening flashback of the first movie), The Wolverine was a sequel to The Last Stand (with the opening being set in WWII as well), and then X-Men: Days of Future Past acted as a sequel to both The Wolverine and First Class simultaneously due to Time Travel. X-Men: Apocalypse follows the "past" timeline as well, albeit in an Alternate Timeline.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • Damages has entire seasons in anachronic order.
  • Doctor Who:
    • 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" perhaps 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.
    • "Blink", written by Steven Moffat. Most of the episode is 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".
    • 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 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 Firefly episode "Out of Gas" is told in anachronic 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.
  • The Good Guys uses this purely as a story telling device with no pretensions toward being avant-garde.
  • The Good Place: The first season flashes back and forth between the character's past and their current after life.
    • This format comes back for the episode "Michael and Janet" in season 2, where Michael is trying to fix a sudden issue with Janet while remembering how they first met.
  • The Haunting of Hill House: The main storyline is divided between the Crain siblings currently, as a group of dysfunctional adults that have a troubled relationship with each other, and the time that they were kids and living in Hill House before losing their mother. A number of flashbacks also tell stories of the time in-between those two, of when they were closer before a number of events pulled them apart, such as Luke's drug addiction and Steve writing a book about Hill House at the cost of alienating his siblings with his portrayal of his mother.
  • Horatio Hornblower, "Mutiny"/"Retribution": The second installment 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.
  • 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.
  • Innocent bounces between Yusuf's present-day investigation, the recent history of the Bayrakçi family, and the occasional flashback to Yusuf's youth.
  • Kamen Rider Kiva keeps switching from 2008 to 1986.
  • 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).
  • In Season 1 of Mama's Family, the "Alien Wedding' and "Mama's Silver" episodes (which respectively aired on April 2 and May 7, 1983) occur with Naomi absent from the "Mama's Silver" cast and she is a next-door neighbor to the Harpers in "Alien Wedding". These were the first two episodes produced, and the networks decided to save their airdates until the end of Season 1 to work out the continuity problems for subsequent seasons.
  • 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.
  • 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 Outer Limits (1995): "Zig Zag" is presented almost entirely in reverse chronological order, moving hours, days and eventually four years back from the events of The Teaser. The final scene flashes forward to the present.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • "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.
    • "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.
  • Stargate-verse:
    • Stargate SG-1 used this in "Icon", starting with Daniel trapped on a planet and then looking back at how he ended up in that situation.
    • Stargate Atlantis:
      • 'Sunday' features the events leading up to an explosion in Atlantis as experienced by the main characters from different perspectives.
      • 'Tabula Rasa' starts with the characters all suffering from amnesia, and then shows them finding records to explain what happened to them.
    • The pilot of Stargate Universe also does this to a highly confusing degree, with no cinematographic or auditory hints – relying instead on viewers to pick up the context, which might take a few seconds or more.
  • 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.

    Music 
  • The story of Blue Öyster 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.
  • One of the things that make the BU (a continuing story told through many of BTS's music videos, teasers and additional content) a complete Mind Screw is that it's not told in chronological order:
    • Even the first video of the series, "I NEED U (original version)" constantly jumps between past (the boys hanging out together happily) and... present? (the boys being miserable, with at least one of them being Driven to Suicide and one of them committing murder). Said murder is referenced several times in the story.
    • "Run" also does this, though more in the sense of the characters themselves losing sense of reality.
    • There's a "Prologue" and an "Epilogue", but it's unclear if they're the beginning and end of only The Most Beautiful Moment in Life series or of the BU as a whole (and "Epilogue" could just be symbolic or an Imagine Spot, anyway).
    • The videos in WINGS (both the teasers and "Blood, Sweat and Tears") are World of Symbolism, and it's unclear whether any events there are actual events of the plot, Foreshadowing or some representation of the plot as a whole.
    • While the video for the Japanese version of "Blood, Sweat and Tears" makes new plot reveals, having the events in the original, Korean version more based in reality, the lack of context (and the fact that... it's still trippy) still makes it hard to place it in the timeline.
    • The Highlight Reel short films shows the seven characters in different time periods in the space of several months, shown by dates on the screen. All character's sections start and end at different points of the chronology, but they're shown in the films as happening somewhat simultaneously as parallel stories. It also has a Troubled Backstory Flashback for one character, and most confusingly, implies that another is a Time Traveler, complicating the timeline even further.
    • The LOVE YOURSELF albums contain HYYH: The Notes, a series of booklets with narrated segments for all seven characters, both from the past (mostly, the time they hung out together in school), the distant past (backstory for each character) and what seems to be the present, all given by dates (now adding information about the years these events took place in). They explain a lot of things, but only partially.
    • "Euphoria" complicates things even further, as it shows said possible-Time Traveler character seemingly fixing events from The Most Beautiful Moment in Life series/arc (namely from "I NEED U", "RUN" and "Prologue"). Whether it's real or not is ambiguous.
  • Funeral for a Friend's concept album Tales Don't Tell Themselves tells the story of a man named David who travels off to sea, runs into difficulty for a while and eventually returns home to his family, who may have thought him dead. Singer Matt Davies-Kreye noted in interviews his intent to make the album a grandiose concept album. However, after recording demos, the band decided on a truncated version of the album concept, which was partly due to Executive Meddling and partly because the album didn't flow very well in its correct order. Whilst we don't know the story entirely, the band have noted that the first track on the album "Into Oblivion (Reunion)" was written as the last part of the story, but was included as the opening track because the record company wanted it as lead single. The story isn't presented in order, instead being arranged for flow, and is also missing some of the songs that would have told the complete story ("Africa", "In A Manner Of Sleep", "Crash And Burn", "Rise And Fall" and "Colossus", which have all been released in demo form).
  • Kids Praise: This is perhaps the most bizarre example of this trope in existence, and applies simultaneously on a meta level and Played for Drama in-universe. Hold on to your hats, folks:
    • In real life, the tenth Kid's Praise album was released before the ninth, and this was intentional.
    • The ninth album was actually a prop and a plot point in the tenth album: Risky Rat stole every copy of the ninth album, and this even happened in the tenth album as a cliffhanger. It was stated during the tenth album that the aesops in the ninth album were about helping kids grow as Christians.
    • When the ninth album was released, the overall plot of the ninth album was chasing Risky Rat to recover...the ninth album. During this adventure, there are songs and lessons about how to grow as a Christian.
    • Risky Rat succeeded in destroying every copy of the ninth album during the ninth album. However, it turns out Rhythm was using a tape recorder to record the whole adventure, including the songs and lessons about growing as a Christian that happened during tha adventure, and everything that Rhythm recorded functioned as a replacement for the ninth album!
  • The first album in Arjen Anthony Lucassen's Ayreon, "The Final Experiment", tells the tale of the titular blind minstrel, who receives an apocalyptic warning sent from the future, both in-universe and IRL, as the actual sending was finally described in the sixth album, "01011001", which alternates between life on another planet in the distant past/now/the future and snapshots of life on modern-day Earth. The first half of the fourth album, "The Universal Migrator Part 1: The Dream Sequencer", meanwhile, is about the last human alive after the apocalypse going on a backwards journey through past lives, including an epilogue to "The Final Experiment", followed by the second half, "The Flight of the Migrator", where his consciousness meets and goes on a journey forward through time and space with a cosmic being that is basically God, briefly visiting the planet depicted in "01011001", eventually dies and becomes another God in his own right, which ties directly into the final track off "01011001", bringing the main plot to a close. Albums 2, 3, and 5 are relatively self-contained stories that happen somewhere in all of that, albeit with direct ties to the main plot. Album number seven is a completely new storyline, and the most recent, "The Source", is, appropriately enough, a prequel, taking place before everything else except for a few tracks off "Flight of the Migrator".
  • 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 music video for Oasis' "Stand By Me" uses this trope coupled with a bit of the Perspective Flip. In addition to the fragmented narrative involving two women in an argument and a biker fleeing the police on a motorbike, we're given shots of people who seem to be engaged in various illegal or anti-social acts (looters raiding a smashed storefront; a man assaulting a woman; another man getting up and running after two police officers enter the frame; a thuggish "skinhead" breaking into a businessman's car, and so on). However, later clips in the video provide more context for what's going on and reveal that what they're really doing is helping someone else (the "looters" are clearing heavy goods away from the biker, who has crashed into the shop window; both the man "assaulting" the woman and the man "fleeing" police are in fact grabbing other people to prevent them being hit by the biker as he weaves recklessly towards them; the "thug" is actually a roadside assistance engineer helping the businessman get into his car after the businessman has been locked out of it).
  • The second stanza of "Casimir Pulaski Day" by Sufjan Stevens (about the Love Interest's father committing suicide) chronologically belongs at the end of the song.

    Myths & Religion 
  • 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!
    • The Book of Jeremiah itself seems to be written in this kind of order. While the story begins with Jeremiah being called a prophet in the days of King Josiah and ends with the Babylonian exile and the surviving Judeans fleeing to Egypt, the middle chapters alternate between the reigns of King Jehoiakim (Jeconiah's father) and King Zedekiah and also between various states of Jeremiah's freedom during the reign of Zedekiah.

    Podcasts 
  • In Alice Isn't Dead, the Narrator's audio diary entries appear disorganized and recorded over in places, with each switch signaled by the static of her CB radio. This results in Mood Whiplash when the recording abruptly shifts from her fearful recounting of terrible events to pleasant, philosophical musings on the scenery, then back again.

    Roleplay 
  • 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.
  • 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...

    Theatre 
  • Tom Stoppard's Arcadia cuts back and forth between 1809 and the 1990s, with the present day characters discussing the events of the past and props being passed back and forth from era to era.
  • 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.
  • Extra Pulp is structured as episodic scenes performed out of chronological order.
  • Paula Vogel's controversial play How I Learned To Drive. This trope is common with "memory plays".
  • 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.
  • As always, William Shakespeare did it first: his histories were written completely out of their chronological order. Even the three parts of Henry VI weren't written in order (he wrote 2, then 3, then 1).
  • The Silmarillion doesn't do this, but its operatic adaptation does, with the first act of part IV happening chronologically between parts I and II, and the second half of part III overlapping chronologically with the rest of part IV. A handful of individual scenes are also presented out of strict chronological order. The reason for this is that the four parts are really four separate stories.
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • Used to an infuriating extent in Beyond: Two Souls, where we're told Jodie's entire story this way, jumping around from situation to situation rather than going in a linear progression, which hampers the narrative significantly except for a few big plot points that even then aren't fully explained. This method of "storytelling" was a major criticism of the game, as there was little emotional connection when you had no idea of what had happened when. Thankfully, the PS 4 release allows you to play in chronological order to understand it better.
  • 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.
  • Calling is played this way. Shin dies in the first chapter and then Rin meets him in the next one.
  • Each game in the Castlevania franchise 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.
  • In Second Sight, as the amnesiac main character recovers memories of his own past we flashback to those events. As a result the game will have several scenes in the present, then several scenes set in the past, and continue to shift between the two time periods as the protagonist regains his memories.
  • Dead or Alive 6 has its story mode appears to be structured this way. For instance, NiCO’s part of the prologue doesn’t unlock until the D.O.A. tournament begins in chapter 4 of the main story thread.
  • The timeline of the Devil May Cry series jumps around quite a bit. For a long time, it was assumed that the chronological order it would be 3 -> 1 -> 4 -> 2. One official artbooknote  was even named after the chronological order of the first four games. However, prior to the release of Devil May Cry 5 the order was later changed to 3 -> 1 -> 2 -> 4 -> 5. As for the manga and anime...
    • The Animated Series is pretty easy; that's set between the events of DMC1 and DMC2. The various manga/light novels are a bit trickier: Devil May Cry 3 (the manga) takes place before the third game and also kicks Devil May Cry Vol. 1 (an intended prequel to the first game) right out of canon. Meanwhile, as Devil May Cry Vol. 2 occurs before 2, it follows the events after 1 and TAS.
  • The chronological order of the Divinity games in absolutely no way matches the order of their release. The first game, Divine Divinity was released in 2002, but it takes place somewhere in the middle of the timeline. Divinity: Dragon Commander (2013) happens an untold number of millennia before it, and Divinity: Original Sin (2014) takes place about 1200 years before the events of Divine Divinity. Then Divinity: Original Sin II (2017) happens, it's followed by Beyond Divinity (2004), which in turn leads to Divinity II (2009).
  • Ensemble Stars!: the main story is told chronologically, and occurs quite early in the school year, so it's the recommended starting point, introducing most of the characters, and telling a plot which resolves a terrible series of events which began the previous year. However, almost all other stories simply fill in what happened in the characters' lives in the year after that, and so can occur at any time of the year (though they tend to correspond with the real-world season). While there is a canon order, the only thing set in stone is the season the story is set in (and any real-world holidays the story revolves around, naturally) - anything else is subject to be changed up by later stories.
  • 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 (e.g., 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.
  • The Fire Emblem series currently has six different canons, which can sometimes play this trope straight:
    • The Elibe canon, consisting of the sixth and seventh games, goes back-to-front — Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade (FE7) followed by Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade (FE6).
    • The Jugdral canon takes place earliest, on the Jugdral continent, with Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War (FE4) spanning decades and generations. Fire Emblem: Thracia 776 (FE5) is an Interquel to Genealogy, and takes place near the end of the time skip between chapters five and six.
    • The Archanea canon (the original) takes place centuries later on the continent of Archanea, distant from Jugdral but occupying the same world. 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 (FE12). Then comes Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light (FE1), Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem Book 1 (the first half of FE3) and Shadow Dragon (FE11), which all tell the same story.
    • While this is going on, Fire Emblem Gaiden (FE2) and its remake Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia (FE15) are occurring during the three years between Shadow Dragon and Mystery on the distant continent of Valentia, which shares the same world as Archanea and Jugdral.
    • After this, Book 2 of Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem and the main story of Heroes of Light and Darkness occur, which tell the same story.
    • Fire Emblem Awakening (FE13) takes place on Archanea and Valentia in the distant future, the respective continents now renamed Ylisse and Valm. Various DLC chapters imply that Awakening is the last game in the timeline overall, as Chrom refers to all of the previous characters in the series as mythological figures; in addition, a man claiming to be a distant descendant of Ike from Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance is a Secret Character.
    • It is implied in Fire Emblem Fates that the game takes in an Alternate Universe from Awakening, with a completely separate timeline, as three of the second generation characters from Awakening are featured as first generation characters here (operating under aliases), while three of the second gen characters are implied to be the past lives of first gen characters from Awakening. (And due to Fates retaining the marriage mechanics from Awakening, it is even possible for one of said second gen characters to be their own grandparent. note ) The Before Awakening DLC sort of explains it, with Chrom's group (encountered prior to the prologue of their adventure) noting how Hoshido and Nohr are known as "mythical kingdoms" in Ylisse.
  • The order for the Five Nights at Freddy's tetraology is 2 and 4 simultaneously, 1, 3. Finding out the second game came first was a Wham Episode as it didn't even hint at it until the fifth night where the check Jeremy Fitzgerald received listed the date as November 12, 1987 and sixth night which confirms the murders happened earlier that week, and the infamous Bite of '87 was happening the next day. The fourth game, to be fair, had long been hinted to have something to do with the Bite of '87 but it's only confirmed at the end that the protagonist is the victim who was bitten, unless you subscribe to the slightly out-there theory that the protagonist of the main game is in fact his brother. Even then there's some debate: there's evidence to suggest 4 is actually even earlier than 2, and the previously-mentioned theory would place 4 just after 2. It's unclear when Sister Location takes place, but it's most likely before 2 if you believe that Michael Afton is Jeremy Fitzgerald and Mike Schmidt. Freddy Fazbear's Pizzeria Simulator appears to take place after 3, based on the presence of a very damaged Springtrap.
  • Granblue Fantasy: Depending on which characters you draw and how far along you are in the game, some Fate Episodes can count as this. For example, some episodes will reference events that have not happened yet or characters you have not gotten yet.
    • It becomes even more apparent with characters' alternate forms. For reference, some characters have an initial form whose Fate Episode details how they first met the player, and another, higher rarity form whose Fate Episode serves as a continuation of their story. However, you can get the higher rarity form first, which can be quite confusing when watching the Fate Episode.
    • However this is subverted with some Grand Series characters, as the game locks even their introductory Fate Episodes to certain chapters in the story to make sure none of them break continuity. For a few of the newer Grands, this can happen annoyingly late if you luck into them while you are still new to the game (for example, Drang's Fate Episode requires clearing chapter 73 of the main quest. This is, note, a good ten chapters after things like the 20 million HP fight with Akasha.
  • 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.
  • Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number jumps between 1985 (which explains Jacket and Beard's past in the military, fending off the Soviet invasion of Hawaii), 1989 (events happening around the same time as and clearing up the first game), and 1991 (looking at the results of Jacket's one-man decimation of The Mafiya and the events leading to full-scale nuclear war between the Soviets and Americans).
  • Sega's House of the Dead series was chronological for the first three installments. Then the fourth game came along and inserted itself between the second and third games (which were separated by a Time Skip of 19 years). Following that The House Of The Dead OVERKILL came along as a Prequel (which wasn't really related to the overarching story established by the previous games anyway) and then House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn was an Interquel set between the fourth and third games.
  • 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. Things only became harder to keep track of after that. The order goes like this: Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep > Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep/Kingdom Hearts (0.2 picks off from the end of the Secret Episode in Birth by Sleep but also runs concurrently with KHI) > 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 KHII) > Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance > Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep (due to the Framing Device of Mickey narrating the events of the story following 3D) > Kingdom Hearts III. Kingdom Hearts χ serves as a very distant prequel, detailing the events leading up to the Keyblade War mentioned in Birth by Sleep.
  • It took until the 25th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda franchise for an official timeline (contained in Hyrule Historia) to be released, accompanying 2011's The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. It ended up confirming two aspects of one of the more popular fan theories: that the timeline split after The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and that the original games are at the end of one of these split. But it also revealed a piece of information that no one saw coming: the timeline split THREE ways after Ocarina Of Time, with the third timeline being that Link fell to Ganon. To wit, following the Hyrule Historia timeline in chronological order up through the end of the "Fallen Hero" branch, we have (as of 2017): Skyward Sword (released in 2011), The Minish Cap (released in 2004), Four Swords (released in 2002), Ocarina of Time (released in 1998), A Link to the Past (released in 1991), the Oracle games (released in 2002), Link's Awakening (released in 1993), A Link Between Worlds (released in 2013), Tri Force Heroes (released in 2015), the original The Legend of Zelda (released in 1986), and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (released in 1987). Oh, and maybe Breath of the Wild (released in 2017) somewhere in there.
    • What makes this perhaps the ultimate example is that use of time travel has created three parallel timelines, and Nintendo has 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 2017 Hyrule Encyclopedia timeline is mostly the same, but it moved the Oracle games to being set in between Link's Awakening and A Link Between Worlds.
  • LEGO Star Wars:
    • In The Complete Saga, after playing the first level of The Phantom Menace, the first levels of the other five movies are unlocked, allowing playthrough in whatever order you feel like.
    • The upcoming The Skywalker Saga, featuring all 9 movies in the prequel, original and sequel trilogies, will have the same thing, only this time without having to play through the first level of The Phantom Menace to unlock the others.
  • The Lufia series' chronological order is 2, 4, 1 and 3, although the fourth is a sidestory.
  • 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: Ground Zeroes (1975), Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (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 continuity of the Metroid series was straightforward in the first four games (including Metroid Fusion). Then came the Metroid Prime Trilogy, which is set between the first two games. There's also Metroid Prime: Hunters, a DS game set after the original Metroid Prime, but before Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. Finally, Metroid: Other M takes place between Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion, with flashbacks to events prior to the first game.
  • Monument Valley uses this. The original game ends with the main character finishing her quest to return all the Sacred Geometries she stole; the Forgotten Shores DLC, which came out after the original game did, is set during the quest. There's also the possibility that pretty much the entire game is this: the levels don't connect much. The last level of the original game clearly comes last chronologically, and nothing involving Totem can take place during the period of time that he's dead, but other than that the levels can pretty much take place at any time relative to each other.
  • 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 Xbox 360 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.
  • Odin Sphere is a particularly complex case. You unlock each "book" in sequence so you would expect them to be sequels to each other. But no, they actually all cover pretty much the same time period just from different perspectives. Luckily they provide a story mode so you can go through all the cutscenes of the first five books in chronological order before you start the sixth book.
  • PAYDAY 2: The Reservoir Dogs Heist is played in reverse order (which is mirroring the movie it's based on), meaning you play the second day of the heist first, and then you play the first day. That second day has Locke guiding the gang instead of Bain, who not that long ago appeared to have been double-crossing the Payday Gang, and the reasons why are not fully explained until the very end of the first day.
  • Pokémon games are like this. A Twitter post by Game Freak member Toshinobu Matsumiya explained that Pokémon Red and Blue and Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire are first, followed by Pokémon Gold and Silver and Pokémon Diamond and Pearl three years later. Pokémon Black and White takes place an unspecified amount of time after those game, with Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 and Pokémon X and Y occurring two years after B/W. The latest entry in the series, Pokémon Sun and Moon, is also the latest entry chronologically, roughly a decade after the events of Generations I/III note  and two years after Generation VI note . However, the Gen VI remakes of Ruby/Sapphire, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, heavily imply that any game featuring Mega Evolution is set in a different timeline from the Gen I-Gen V titles as a result of AZ activating his ultimate weapon 3,000 years prior to X/Y.
  • Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, the third game in the Professor Layton series, concludes Layton's and Luke's personal stories, meaning every game made after that about them have to be set earlier than Unwound Future. Most notably, the end of Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy, the 6th game released chronologically, leads directly to Professor Layton and the Curious Village, the 1st game released chronologically.
  • The Quest Fantasy games jump all over the timeline. Hell, more of the games take place before the first one than otherwise.
  • Radiant Silvergun starts you off on Stage 3 (Return), then after that you have the option to go to either Stage 2 (Reminiscence), which occurs prior to the events of Stage 3, or Stage 4 (Evasion), set after Stage 3. Then the game continues to Stage 5 (Victim) and Stage 6 (The Origin), culminating in Stage 1 (Link), the first stage chronologically.
  • 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 Samurai Shodown chronology follows this order: V, I, III, IV, II, 64, Warriors Rage (arcade note ), Sen/Edge of Destiny, and Warriors Rage (PS). VI, on the other hand, is officially a "festival game" set in an Alternate Continuity that generally follows the events of the main timeline. Going by the original Japanese titles clears up the confusion ever so slightly, as Samurai Shodown V is actually Samurai Spirits Zero.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • 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.

      Though this does actually result in at least one case of something being out of order. In both the Hero and Dark Stories, Knuckles and Rouge's confrontation over the Master Emerald which ends up with Knuckles shattering it to keep it away from Eggman occurs immediately before Stage 2 — yet, as mentioned above, Sonic's first meeting with Shadow happens right after Stage 1 of the Hero Story (there's a boss fight in between Stages 1 and 2 which separate these two events), while in the Dark Story the same cutscene occurs after Stage 4. Beyond that, the overlaps all occur in chronological order, though there's definitely some skipping involved — the boss fight right after Dark Stage 9 mirrors the one following Hero Stage 4, but then Dark Stage 10 itself is pretty much happening simultaneously to Hero Stage 9.
    • 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:
      • As a result of delays, Sonic the Hedgehog CD (1993) came out between Sonic 2 (1992) and Sonic 3 (1994), but it takes place either before Sonic 2 or after Sonic & Knuckles (1994).
      • Tails Adventure (1995): While rarely considered canon, it's 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).
      • By extension Sonic Advance 3 (2004), which is a sequel of sorts to Sonic Battle, can only take place after Shadow the Hedgehog as well.
      • Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Its two parts came out in 2010 and 2012 respectively, but it takes place right after Sonic & Knuckles (1994).
      • Sonic Mania (2017) takes place shortly after Sonic & Knuckles (1994), replacing the now non-canon Sonic the Hedgehog 4.
  • Star Ocean: The Last Hope The Last Hope, 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 fifth title in the series, Integrity and Faithlessness, continues this, being set after The Second Story and Blue Sphere but before Till the End of Time. Essentially, tri-Ace doesn't want to touch Till the End of Time in the same way Capcom doesn't want to touch Devil May Cry 2.
  • The timeline of the Street Fighter series currently goes like this: SFI > Alpha/Alpha 2 > Alpha 3 > the Street Fighter II series > the Street Fighter IV series > Street Fighter V > Street Fighter III/III: 2nd Impact > III: 3rd Strike. The events of the first Final Fight is set sometime after the events of SFI, but before the Alpha series.
  • Suikoden chronologically starts with IV (IS 302-07 of the in-universe calendar), the first game of the series with Suikoden Tactics occurring 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 game Magical Tetris Challenge had Mickey Mouse's story going last and Donald Duck's going first, with Goofy and Minnie's stories occurring 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The World of Mana/Seiken Densetsu timeline seems to be, from earliest to latest: Dawn of Mana > Children of Mana > Heroes of Mana > Trials of Mana > 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...
  • 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 was 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. This 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 WotLK. 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 supposed 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.
      • And then this gets even worse come Legion and Battle for Azeroth where Sylvanas is warchief.
    • As part of under-the-hood upgrades prior to Battle for Azeroth, classic and previous expansion zones were 'unlocked' from their level requirements so they now scale with the player, meaning that the questlines become even further out of order... and some expansions share their level groups, so the order is now revamped Classic > Burning Crusade/Wrath > Cata/Pandaria > Warlords > Legion > BFA. Levelling characters have the option to skip entire expansions by focusing on the other in their group.
      • Echoing the problem with Death Knights above, allied races (which canonically join the Alliance/Horde at the end of Legion) now go even further back in time to level properly.
  • As of the eighth Ys game, the order in which the events of the games occurred is: Origin (0), I, II, Memories of Celceta (IV), Oath in Felghana (III), Kingdom of Sand (V), Lacrimosa of Dana (VIII), Ark of Napishtim (VI), Seven (VII).

    Visual Novels 
  • 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.
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney:
    • The 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, and are in fact played as Mia, who was the victim of the second case of the first game.
    • 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, both the murderer and the victim of case 1 show up.
    • The third case of Ace Attorney Investigations 2, The Inherited Turnabout, has you jumping between playing as Gregory Edgeworth in 2000 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.
    • Because of how prevalent it is throughout the series, it's worth noting that Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice marks the first time since the very first game that this trope is completely averted, with even the DLC case taking place after the events of the main game.
  • Zero Escape:
    • 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.
    • Zero Time Dilemma also makes use of this. Not only does it take place before the second game chronologically (though thanks to time travel some of the characters experienced the second game "first"), but the game is also divided into 90-minute fragments, which aren't always shown in chronological order either. You only learn each fragment's place on the overall timeline after the fragment has played out.

    Web Animation 
  • 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.
  • Star Wars: Forces of Destiny is all about showing the small moments in the Star Wars universe. As such, its episodes are spread out all over the timeline of canon media, from the prequel era to the sequel era, in no particular order.

    Webcomics 
  • Chapter 15 of Evil Plan switches between two modern day timelines and a childhood one.
  • Guilded Age: Each of the first six chapters is divided in two parts: The first one follows the party in one of their many adventures, the other one forms a regular story arc showing the party's meeting and eventual banding together.
  • 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.
  • Harbourmaster jumps back and forth in time to tell stories about the various members of the ensemble cast.
  • Homestuck is made of this stuff. Flashbacks, flashforwards, flashforwards inside flashbacks, different timelines, timeline-jumping shenanigans that are Mind Screws 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 millennia ago or just a few hours ago all to exist within the same dreambubble at the same time and interact.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff's first and second pages are reversed, because the memetic "I warned you about stairs" makes for a better first impression than the "I Banged Your Mom" one.
  • Swords casually hops between characters and their past; King Hilton is seen as a young man, as a king, and later as he received godly instructions to build his kingdom...
  • The first chapter of Undying Happiness details how Naomi and Keisuke met (and how Naomi discovered his Healing Factor powers). The second chapter takes place thirteen years after the first, and later chapters jump back and forth through time to show how Keisuke and Naomi's relationship developed.
  • We Are The Wyrecats slips between the past and present nearly every chapter.
  • Yume-Hime. The first storyline starts in 2010, with a second beginning in 2002.

    Web Original 
  • AH.com: 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.
  • The scenes in C0DA jump between the current time and various points in the past. The pages where this happens are usually labeled with the location and date to help keep track, but not always. (Given the implications that the story takes place during a Time Crash, "when" might not even matter.)
  • 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.
  • Fine Structure jumps back and forth by entire eras from time to time.
  • 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.
  • Vox and King Beau switches back and forth between Vox relating current present-day updates, giving background on her and Beau's relationship when she was a child, and re-telling the stories that Beau told her about himself that happened long before any of that.
  • 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.

    Web Videos 
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The TRY Channel: Each of their videos has three pairs of participants, trying various items. There are occasional clues that some pairs film several segments in a row, then have them placed into the appropriately themed video — e.g.: One TRY'er saying it was the first time he filmed with another AFTER another video containing both of them; a YouTube comment from one saying that the effects of that video influenced an earlier video....

    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Animated Series. Both the airdate order and production order have the episodes in an anachronistic order. Even worse, two-parters are separated by various episodes in between in both cases. Not even the DVDs offer a "proper" order, though they at least put two-parters together.
  • Beat Bugs has "Hey Bulldog", in which the characters meet Bulldog, as one of the last installments. Earlier episodes, however, already show Bulldog as an established character, one that the Beat Bugs have met and can even directly talk to using a device that Crick invented. "Hey Bulldog" also shows the invention of this device, the crickterpreter.
  • Bojack Horseman: Season 5 episode "The Dog Days Are Over" tells the story of Diane traveling to Vietnam to find herself. The episode starts with her crying desperately, packing her bags and going to the airport to travel to anywhere she can and is framed through Diane writing an article called "10 Reasons to Travel to Vietnam". Each one of the reason has intercut moments of her trip and what happened before her impulsive decision to travel to show exactly how she has been and what led her to do that. The ending of the episode coincides with the chronological end though.
  • Though most of the show is episodic in nature, Darkwing Duck had many episodes early on that featured characters such as Morgana, Liquidator, Neptunia and and so forth before any introduction episodes were given to those characters. Morgana, 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. The reason for this is actually a result of Out of Order: The actual order in which the episodes were written makes much more sense, but the network completely changed it when airing the episodes and the DVD releases went with the airing order instead of the production order.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures:
    • The second season 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.
    • Also, while the dialogue in the first season would naturally lead to the next episode chronologically, this trope ran wild in JCA's first season by having the episodes' production numbers out of order. The Dog And Piggy Show has Tohru mention that only two talismans, the Tiger and the Pig, are left undiscovered, and the plotline should lead into the two-part season finale, but the next episode in the production order, The Jade Monkey, features the Monkey Talisman instead. THEN the season finale comes up.
  • 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 Drakken getting an introductory episode after their debut appearance though there are other examples like Ron becoming the team mascot and Kim learning to drive.
  • 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 previous episode "Grounded".
  • Some My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episodes only make sense if they take place before later episodes/after earlier episodes. At least Word of God confirmed that the fall episode "Fall Weather Friends" takes place before the spring episode "Winter Wrap Up" despite the latter being broadcasted first. It doesn't get noticeable until later seasons, where annual events happen again, does this implication become more and more obvious. Given that a year passes between episode one and Twilight becoming an alicorn, season one episodes 'Winter Wrap Up', and 'The Best Night Ever' (which by All There in the Manual explanations takes place after Hearth's Warming Eve during spring) have to have occurred after much of the second and third season, most notably 'Hearth's Warming Eve' (naturally) and 'Luna Eclipsed'.
  • Phineas and Ferb:
  • PJ Masks: In Season 2, the episodes "PJ Robot/PJ Powerup" come after "Wacky Floats/Romeo's Disguise" by both production order and airdate, but chronologically the former 2 are set before the latter since they introduce the PJ Mask's new Robot Buddy and powers, which were already present in the latter 2.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The series has a significant amount of story arcs and stand-alone episodes that are aired anachronistically, which allows for the viewers to be able to discover additional elements that surround a story arc or stand-alone episode they had already watched. The official episode guides are helping with the identification and lead to some All There in the Manual moments. For a full chronological listing of episodes, see here.
    • The chronological order of the story arc focusing on the planet Christophsis is "Cat and Mouse" (2:16), "The Hidden Enemy" (1:16), and the Pilot Movie.
    • The chronological order of the story arc focusing on the planet Ryloth is "Supply Lines" (3:03), "Ambush" (1:01), and the Ryloth Trilogy (1:19-21).
    • The chronological order of the story arc focusing on the Domino Squad is "Clone Cadets" (3:01), "Rookies" (1:05), and ARC Troopers" (3:02).
    • "Holocron Heist" (2:01), "Cargo of Doom" (2:02), and "Children of the Force" (2:03) take place before "Assassin" (3:07), "Evil Plans" (3:08), "Hostage Crisis" (1:22), and "Hunt for Ziro" (3:09) (which form their own arc in that order).
    • "Heroes on Both Sides" (3:10) and "Pursuit of Peace" (3:11) take place before "Senate Murders" (2:15).
    • The anachronic order is mainly in the first two-and-a-half seasons since "Nightsisters" marked the beginning of the episodes in the subsequent seasons being aired in chronological order (albeit with the exceptions that are described below).
    • In season five, the Onderon and Young Jedi arcs take place prior to events with Darth Maul that open the season since Adi Gallia is alive in the former and Hondo's base on Florrum is still intact (at least until the end of the latter). Averted on the season five DVD/Blu-Ray release, where "Revival" is in its correct chronological placement and grouped with the arc it was part of.
  • Bumblebee's flashbacks in Transformers: Cyberverse are recovered out of order over the course of the series, jumping back and forth to events that happened before and during the Autobot-Decepticon War. A marker for judging when something happened are the presence of faction brands and whether Bumblebee is mute.
  • 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.

Alternative Title(s): Anarchic Order, Non Linear Story, Non Linear Storytelling

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