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A series introduces the main cast by adding them one at a time in sequential episodes, chapters, and/or story arcs.

Usually a tactic by writers to get everyone collected before having any real plot started, and the audience feels they can start paying attention. Also a cheap way to ensure that everyone's relationship to the lead has equal history.

Sometimes followed by Green Rooming. Can be especially annoying in things like 12-Episode Anime series if the cast has more than four people.

Extremely common with Bishoujo Series and Unwanted Harems. Even more common in computer games (namely, RPGs), with many such games introducing a new party member in each area, some even going so far as to have an obvious number of "slots" that are going to be filled up by the end of the game.

The next step to a Debut Queue system is the Character-Magnetic Team. Contrast You ALL Share My Story. May involve a Second Episode Introduction. If the characters are all present in early episodes but are given characterisation episode-by-episode, see A Day in the Limelight. Also see Arbitrarily Serialized Simultaneous Adventures for video games which begin by giving each character in the party their own level. Characters introduced by Debut Queue may also fall under Hitchhiker Heroes.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ai Yori Aoshi spends the first several episodes simply developing the backstory and relationship between Aoi and Kaoru, then slowly begins adding the other characters over the course of the first season.
  • In Bakemonogatari characters are usually introduced one at a time in own story arcs, after which they become part of the main cast.
  • The initial story arc of Bleach did this, introducing the main characters while following an essentially Monster of the Week format with lots of comic relief thrown in. After the basic backstories were squared away and the cast laid out, this entirely changed and the plot became much more serious business, in a move resembling Cerebus Syndrome.
  • Chrono Crusade introduces the main characters this way. Chrono and Rosette (and in the anime, some of the other members of the Order) are introduced in the first chapter/episode. The next arc then follows them saving Azmaria, who later joins them. After that arc is over, a plot triggers flashbacks concerning the Big Bad and introducing Rosette's brother, around whom Rosette and Chrono's main motivations are centered. The gang takes off to find Joshua, and at the start of that arc is when the final main character, Satella, is introduced.
  • Cowboy Bebop gets the cast together rapid-fire, with Spike and Jet already established as together in episode #1, Ein joining in episode #2, Faye in #3 (kinda — she deserts at the end, but is back for good by #4), then a brief lag until Ed joins in #9.
  • Almost all of the characters in Death Note are introduced in this fashion.
  • The Digimon series generally introduce one new evolution per episode in arcs where a new type or level of evolution is introduced.
  • The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. introduces first Saiki and his parents, followed by the most major of his classmates in succeeding segments that focus on their specific quirks — Nendou, Kaidou, Teruhashi, Hairo, and Yumehara. Other characters are later introduced as well.
  • Dragon Ball, to varying definitions of "main character" as many of them become Ascended Extras and/or Demoted to Extra. The first episode of the anime introduces Goku, Bulma and the arc's villains. Over the next fourteen episodes Oolong, the Turtle, Master Roshi, Yamcha & Puar, Chi-Chi & the Ox-King, Krillin and Launch are gradually introduced. By the time we get to the portion of the series that comes to mind when people think of Dragon Ball, of course, everyone but Goku, Krillin and Bulma are largely irrelevant.
  • In Fushigi Yuugi, the whole beginning plot was pretty much jumpstarted by this - find all the seven Celestial Warriors that are scattered around the empire.
  • GaoGaiGar is accused of starting slowly because it took so much time introducing several characters and tools, one at a time, about every other episode. After the final piece was in place, the battle with EI-01 happened and the awesome began.
  • Genesis Climber MOSPEADA, which was Macekred into the third section of Robotech does this with the real cast, after introducing and wiping out an entire separate cast in its first episode, with only the series protagonist surviving.
  • The first two volumes of Get Backers focus on the titular duo and introduce their support staff, but they were kind enough to introduce the other four major characters two by two in back-to-back Story Arcs.
  • Gintama spends an entire season as a Debut Queue in flashbacks after an In Medias Res Pilot.
    • Actually it's only the anime that starts In Medias Res. The manga has a Debut Queue too, though. It's really not that painful because the series is focused on comedy and it's mostly episodic in the beginning.
  • The Good Luck Girl! anime introduces Ichiko and Momiji in episode 1, Bobby in episode 2, Keita in episode 3, Momo'o in episode 4, and Ranmaru in episode 7.
  • In Gundam Build Divers, we get this with the main cast - the first episode introduces Riku, Yukio, Momoka and Sarah, but only Riku and Yukio play the game with their Gunpla and meet Sarah that way. Momoka doesn't join the game until episode 3, get her in-game avatar until episode 4 and her actual Gunpla until episode 7. The kids meet Ayame in episode 5, doesn't join the team until episode 7 and doesn't join in an official heroic capacity until episode 14. The last one, Koichi, takes the shortest time as he joins in episode 6 and introduces his Gunpla in episode 7.
  • Inuyasha started this once it was a couple arcs in, acquiring Shippo, Miroku and Sango in that order, and introduced Naraku immediately after Miroku.
  • The main girls in Is This A Zombie? are introduced this way. In the first episode, main character Ayumu is already living with the necromancer Eucliwood, and is quickly joined by Haruna, a "Masou Shoujo" ('magical-equipment girl'). Vampire-Ninja Seraphim is introduced in the next episode. Mael Strom, the final main girl vying for Ayumu's attention, isn't introduced until halfway through the series.
  • We're introduced to almost all the recurring characters in Love Hina in the first few minutes of the first episode, but Shinobu and Motoko only get a minute or so of screen time, just enough to set them up for their more fully developed introductions in the second and third episodes, respectively.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi introduces the bulk of the characters all at once at the beginning, but inducts them into the primary Cast Herd in this manner. It starts out with Negi and Asuna being the the main characters, and then gradually incorporates more of the class into the overarching plot at the rate of three or four per arc.
  • In Ojamajo Doremi, Hazuki and Aiko both became apprentices in episode 4 (though Hazuki is briefly introduced in the first episode, and Aiko just transferred in episode 3), Doremi's sister Pop joins the team in episode 25 (she was introduced in the first episode as well), and Onpu debuts in episode 35 (but is The Rival Dark Magical Girl until the finale of the first season). Momoko and Hana-chan transform in the first episodes of Motto and Dokkan, respectively...but Hana debuted in Sharp as a newborn.
  • In the One Piece anime, we meet Luffy and Nami in the first episode (though Nami doesn't join up with Luffy until episode 8, and was not introduced in the manga until the start of the Buggy arc). Zoro appears at the end of the premiere episode, meets Luffy in the second episode, and joins Luffy's crew as the first member in episode 3. Nami promises to tag along after the events of the Buggy Arc but isn't a fully-fledged member of the crew until the Arlong Park Arc completes. Usopp joins in episode 17 (along with the acquisition of the Going Merry), Sanji joins in episode 30, and Tony Tony Chopper and Nico Robin join in episodes 91 and 130, respectively. Franky joins in episode 322, following events that caused Robin to become a true companion, Usopp to leave the crew but later apologize and come back, and the Going Merry to meet her demise, so Franky builds the Thousand Sunny. Brook joins in 381, in a hilariously perfunctory fashion. Jimbei first shows up in episode 430 and is asked to join the crew in episode 568, though he holds off actually joining until episode 833. Vivi seems like a shoe-in to join, but ends up not doing so after well over a year as a major character, then decides to remain in Alabasta. It's debatable whether any characters past Sanji count since major plots already happen after that point. And others who had already joined have significant backstory-related arcs play out which cement them as members.
    • This really just holds true for Luffy's first four crewmembers (Zoro, Nami, Usopp, and Sanji), who are introduced and/or join successively in the first five arcs: Zoro appears and joins in the Romance Dawn arc, then Nami is introduced and joins Luffy on a temporary basis in Buggy arc, then Usopp comes in and joins in the Kuro arc, then Sanji appears and joins in the Baratie arc, and finally, Nami joins the crew for good in the Arlong arc.
  • In Outlaw Star, Gene, Jim and Melfina are introduced in episode 1, Aisha in episode 3 and Sukuza in episode 6.
  • Pokémon: The Original Series introduces Ash in the first episode, which also features Misty, but she doesn't properly join him until the next. Team Rocket are introduced in Episode 2, and Brock joins the team in Episode 5.
    • Ash's party is also introduced in this fashion: Pikachu in Episode 1, Pidgeotto and Caterpie in Episode 3 (of which Caterpie quickly becomes a Butterfree by Episode 4), Bulbasaur in 10, Charmander in 11 and Squirtle in 12.
    • Also invoked by the later series as well:
      • In Advanced Generation, we're introduced to Ash and May in episode 1, Max in episode 3 and Brock returns for episode 4.
      • Episode 1 of Pokémon the Series: Diamond and Pearl introduces us to Dawn before bringing Ash and Brock back in episode 2.
      • Pokémon the Series: Black & White gives us Ash in episode 1, Iris in episode 2 (though she made a brief appearance in episode 1) and Cilan in episode 5.As well as again lining up the full team rather quickly—Pidove in episode 2, Oshawott in episode 3, Tepig in episode 4, Snivy in episode 7 (after having a Gym Battle in episodes 5 and 6), and getting the egg for his sixth Pokémon in episode 12.
  • Pretty Cure
    • Yes! Pretty Cure 5 introduces one new Cure an episode until the full quota of five is met... except it twists it slightly with the last Cure, whose personality flaws cause the Call to reject her, forcing her to use up another episode to learn An Aesop and join for real.
    • Smile PreCure! does something similar, but without the Missed the Call part.
    • Doki Doki! PreCure twists it. The first seen Cure doesn't want to be part of a team. After the other Cures form a team, it takes about two to three episodes and a lot of convincing to get the first Cure to stop being such a cold fish and join up.
    • HappinessCharge Pretty Cure! is interesting in its Debut Queue: the second Cure we meet doesn't join the main team until the halfway point after a Humiliation Conga. The last Cure shows up in the ninth episode and doesn't join until episode eleven.
    • Go! Princess Pretty Cure introduces the first two Cures in the first two episodes. In the third episode, the characters have to search for the third Cure's Transformation Trinket. The third Cure makes her first transformation in the fourth episode, but she gives a Refusal of the Call until episode 5.
    • KiraKira★Pretty Cure à la Mode introduces the first three Cures in the first three episodes, spends an episode with just the three of them, then gets back to introducing the last two.
    • HuGtto! Pretty Cure adds in another twist - the first two episodes introduces the first two Cures, Cure #3 shows up in episode 3 and takes two more episodes just to get her to transform and join.
  • Rave Master begins with Haru acquiring Plue. In the next volume (since the first volume all happens around his house) he runs into Elie, and has come across Musica by the end-though it takes another volume for Musica to join.
  • Reborn! (2004) loves this. Pretty much the whole light fluff comedy beginning consisted of introducing a bunch of new characters that try to kill Tsuna. After the Genre Shift, it's still done by introducing the Varia and who Tsuna's guardians are. Even in the latest chapters, it's still introducing more Bishōnen to interest fangirls ( "Let me introduce you to the real six Funeral Wreaths!").
  • In Rosario + Vampire, Moka, Kurumu, Gin, and Yukari each get a chapter/episode dedicated to their introduction, plus a chapter dedicated to them deciding which club to join. Mizore and Ruby followed a bit later.
  • In the first season of Sailor Moon, Sailor Mercury shows up in the eighth episode, Sailor Mars in episode ten, Jupiter in episode 25, and Sailor Venus, the last of the Inner Senshi who the rest of the series focuses on, in episode 33.
  • Samurai 7 did this. Then again, Seven Samurai did it first.
  • Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei does this with the students in Itoshiki-sensei's homeroom class. They're all technically members of the class from the beginning, but they each get focus episodes that introduce them to the audience and show off their particular brand of insanity.
    • Though some of them, like Kiri, Matoi and Maria (and Nami in the manga) didn't come to class until their debut episodes, and Ai deliberately stayed out of any shots until her debut because she was worried she'd ruin the anime.
  • Sgt. Frog has the frogs appearing one by one over the first 13 episodes. When the last frog, Dororo, appears only a few episodes after Kururu, Aki notes that someone like that shouldn't appear until "volume seven" — and, indeed, in the manga, that's when Dororo showed up.
  • Soul Eater has the first three episodes each introducing one of the main weapon/meister sets before the first Arc begins.
  • In the original OVA version of Tenchi Muyo!, we (and Tenchi) meet Ryoko in the first episode, Ayeka and Sasami in the second, Mihoshi an episode or so after that, and Washuu in the sixth installment. Other versions of Tenchi compress this process, with the cycle of meetings becoming shorter and shorter until they all happen in one fell swoop in Shin Tenchi Muyo.
  • Tokyo Mew Mew: The team meets Zakuro AKA Renee (their last member) in the 10th episode, but she doesn't join until the next. 4Kids, in order to get the kiddies to know everyone ASAP, premiered with the 12th episode.
  • The Four Heavenly Kings in Toriko all get their own introductory arcs within the first season, except for Zebra, who gets his some fifty episodes into the series.
  • Zoids: Genesis tries to play with this a bit, by making characters take one episode or so to actually join the team, but otherwise is the usual: The series starts with Ruuji, the first episode has Re Mii and Ra Kan (Not that one) appear as somewhat ambiguous figures (Even if the OP ruins this) but are revealed as good guys next episode. Kotona Elegance appears in ep 4 and joins in ep 5, Garaga appears in ep 5 and joins by 6, Ron appears AND joins in 6, even if he doesn't gets his Zoid until ep 9, and then there's a small gap until Seijuurou joins in ep 10.

    Comic Books 
  • John Byrne's Alpha Flight did a variation; all eight team-members were in the first four issues, but after that, each story until #11 was a solo story. #s2-11 ('cept 4) also had back-up features showing the origins of each character.
  • This is how the original X-Men got together, but it's only revealed in flashbacks. Professor Xavier recruited Cyclops, who in turn recruited Iceman. Together, they met Angel, and then the Beast. We see Jean Grey (who had been privately tutored by Xavier up until then) join them in their very first issue.
  • The Inhumans entered the Marvel Universe this way within the pages of Fantastic Four. Medusa first appeared in #36, followed by Gorgon in #44, then Crystal, Lockjaw, Karnak, Triton, and Black Bolt in #45.
  • The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: Issue #1 is entirely this, introducing the main characters, even the ones who've appeared previously (Rodimus is charismatic but laid back, Drift his number 2, Ultra Magnus the stodgy lawman who suspects everyone, Ratchet is feeling old, Swerve is... Swerve, Whirl is utterly crazy, Red Alert is seriously paranoid, Brainstorm's a nut with a briefcase, etc). In fact, issue #1 was also supposed to introduce Skids, but his gets pushed back to issue #2 because there was no space.
  • The first BIONICLE comic focuses on two of the six main Toa, Kopaka and Pohatu, and some side characters like Matoro and Turaga Nuju. The others (Tahu, Gali, Lewa and Onua) only appear on the last panel. Only Gali and Lewa are properly introduced in the second issue, alongside the other five Turaga elders. In the third issue, all the Toa share the spotlight and Makuta introduces himself too, serving as the narrator. As the franchise was based on a toy line, other key characters appeared when they were ready to be sold. The 2004-2008 comics were quite blatant about this, as even important characters could not be shown until their toys were out, necessitating a lot of filler and characters awkwardly going off-screen for several issues.

    Fan Works 
  • The Pieces Lie Where They Fell: After the prologue, Chapters 1-6 introduce the main characters, each meeting the next. Chapter 7 finally brings them all together.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Seven Samurai spends its first act introducing each of the seven samurai in sequence.
  • The Magnificent Seven introduces each of the magnificent seven in sequence over the course of the first act, mirroring the structure of Seven Samurai.
  • Stop Making Sense is probably the only concert film that does this. The members of Talking Heads come out one at a time, one person per song, followed by all the backup musicians during the fifth song. At the same time, the stage is being assembled behind them as they play.
  • The Wizard of Oz. We don't even have to tell you which order Dorothy meets her traveling companions. You already know.
  • Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem showed each of the main characters arriving or already in town in short vignettes one after the other. In case you weren't aware these were the main characters, each vignette ends with a zoom to mid-shot for each of them.
  • Like its comic namesake mentioned above X-Men: First Class included a sequence in which Charles and Eric traveled around America to gather the other members of the team.
  • A particularly prolonged example is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where the main characters each debut in their own movie before at last banding together in The Avengers - though Black Widow had to make do with getting introduced in Iron Man's second movie and Hawkeye in Thor. In the movie itself, they're also introduced in this manner with different S.H.I.E.L.D. agents going out to recruit them.
  • Star Wars:
    • In A New Hope, every major character is introduced to the viewer at the same time R2-D2 and C-3PO meet them, or when met by other characters the droids have crossed paths with.
    • The Empire Strikes Back continues the tradition. Yoda, Lando, and the Emperor only appear after they've interacted with established characters.
    • And again in The Force Awakens. We start on Poe, who then meets Kylo Ren, who then interacts with Hux, and the pair interact with Supreme Leader Snoke. Finn, who was introduced in the scene with Poe as well, then meets Captain Phasma before escaping with Poe. Meanwhile, BB-8 is sent off by Poe, who then meets Rey (although she is introduced just before) and later Finn. And we don't see what Han, Chewie, Maz, Leia, or Luke are up to before they interact with the heroes.

  • Roland's ka-tet is introduced in this manner in Stephen King's The Dark Tower. In the first book, we meet Roland, then Jake (who is subsequently lost). In the next book, he's joined by Eddie, then Susannah. In the third book, Jake reappears, and he then adopts Oy.
  • King handles the large cast in The Stand by introducing them in sequence.
  • Despite being one of the two protagonists of the His Dark Materials trilogy, Will is not introduced until the start of the second book.
  • In The Belgariad David Eddings uses Debut Queue quite skillfully, using three books out of five to get them all lined up (The last duck doesn't join up until the final pages of Magician's Gambit.)
    • And he does it again in its sequel The Mallorean, where the last duck is only confirmed in the second half of the last book (though she was introduced in another form earlier in the series).
  • Dave Barry's novels Big Trouble and Tricky Business introduce all of the primary characters in the first chapters before their plot threads start to (insanely) intertwine.
  • Mindwarp: The first six books (of ten) each introduce a new character through their own discovery of superpowers and pursuit by alien assassins, though from the second book on, previous characters would appear to aid the new kid. Once the crew is all assembled, we rapidly learn what's going on and launch the true plot, with multiple POVs in each book.
  • The Railway Series utilized this novel by novel for engines, each one getting an entire spotlight book to themselves (though some would make a quick introduction in another's before having a more developed one in their own). This was repeated in the Thomas & Friends Animated Adaptation, which ran most of the novel's stories in order of their appearance.
  • The Supernaturals Series: In book 1 (The Earth Titan), the story begins with each of the main characters living in different parts of the world (the United Kingdom, United States, South America and Japan, respectively). Over the course of the story they are gradually brought together to save the world from a rampaging ancient titan.
  • After the first chapters of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory establish Charlie, his family, and the Backstory of Wonka's Factory, the Golden Ticket contest is announced. Over the next few chapters the bratty kids who find the first four tickets (and their respective parents) are each introduced in turn. Then Charlie finds the final ticket, everyone gathers for the tour, and Willy Wonka himself finally appears "onstage". The remainder of the book has a departure queue going on as each brat eliminates themselves from the tour one by one! In the 2013 stage musical adaptation, this trope is even more pronounced as the introductions to the brats come in the form of four consecutive I Am Songs / Phony Newscasts, each staged in a giant television set that Charlie and his family are watching.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Doctor Who, this is the way the Doctor picks up companions. Randomly lands somewhere, finds someone half-sensible who doesn't die by the end of the story, and then invites them along to travel with him. Usually you can predict when this will happen, due to the fact that a previous companion has just left, but sometimes it can be a little more random.
  • Blake's 7 did this with the original seven: Blake meets Vila and Jenna at the end of the first episode, Avon and Gan in episode two, Zen in episode three and Cally in episode four. It was repeated on a smaller scale with the new regulars in the third season, with Dayna being introduced in the first episode but Tarrant not until the second (bar a cameo at the end of the first).
  • Nathan Spring has a similar introduction to his officers in Star Cops, meeting David Theroux in episode one, Colin Devis in episode two, Pal Kenzy in episode three (although she had a cameo in episode one), base commander Alexander Krivenko in episode four and Anna Shoun in episode six.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: As almost every episode introduces multiple plot lines, there are also many new characters.
    • Season 1:
      • The first episode features the debut appearance of Elves Galadriel, Elrond, the High King Gil-galad, Celebrimbor, Arondir; the Harfoots Nori Brandyfoot, Largo Brandyfoot, Marigold Brandyfoot, Poppy Proudfellow, Sadoc Burrows, The Stranger, and the Men of the Southlands like Haldreg, Bronwyn and her son, Theo.
      • In the second episode, Elrond's subplot introduces the dwarf royal Family of Khazad-dûm, King Durin III, Prince Durin IV, and wife Disa, and their children, Gamli and Gelda, while Galadriel meets the mysterious Halbrand.
      • With Galadriel and Halbrand in Númenor in episode three, we finally meet Queen Miriel, her cousin and nephew, Pharazon and Kemen respectively, and Elendil with his children, Isildur and Earien.
      • In the fourth episode we meet one of the main villains, Adar.
      • In episode five, another three mysterious characters make their debut; The Dweller, The Ascetic, and The Nomad.
  • Lost did a variation: the episode "Confirmed Dead" introduced a character of the "rescue team" (although one appeared in the previous episode finale) in each act.
  • Kamen Rider, starting back from Kamen Rider Den-O, does a variation where it has a debut queue of a Rider's forms, though after around Kamen Rider Wizard, you're almost guarenteed in the first quarter of the show that there'll always be a new form or new Rider Once an Episode.
    • Kamen Rider Den-O: The first quarter of episodes breaks it down with four epidodes devoted to each Imagin. Two to introduce them and their tied form, and another two to flesh them out. By the time they're fully introduced, it's then time to introduce the secondary Rider and his Imagin.
    • The same can be said for the Kamen Rider Club in Kamen Rider Fourze. The club starts out with three members. All of them are shown as early as the first episode, but the other main characters don't join until their A Day in the Limelight (a two-parter each), up to episode 10. The Second Rider, Meteor, gets introduced in 16, joins the club the next episode as a False Friend, but only becomes a full-pledged member (i.e. he starts being more friendly) in episode 32.
    • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: While the first episode centers around introducing the protagonist Emu Hojo and his supervisors Poppy Pipopapo/Asuna Karino and Haima Kagami, most of the core cast note  can be also glimpsed along the way, but are only properly introduced one or two episodes at a time through the story's first act.
  • Power Rangers RPM had an interesting variation, in that newcomers were introduced in the premiere and then everyone, old and new alike, (except the one with Laser-Guided Amnesia, who was the focus of the premiere anyway) had a flashback episode explaining their origins. Strangely, this meant that the newcomer characters were focused on before the original ones were.
  • A variation appears at the beginning of the fourth season of Farscape. The gang had split up at the end of the third season, and they only rejoin the crew two or three at a time over the course of the first four episodes. This wouldn't normally be an example, since all but onenote  of the characters were already known to viewers - except that the creators have explicitly said that they invoked this trope in order to provide new viewers with a gradual introduction to the characters and their relationships.
  • At the beginning of the first season of Colditz Pat Grant, Simon Carter and Dick Player get an episode each to introduce them and show their escape attempts from other camps. Phil Carrington and Colonel Preston are introduced in episode 4, along with Colditz Castle itself. Finally the German security officer, Hauptmann Ulmann is introduced in episode 5.
  • In Servant of the People, Vasiliy's sister and ex-wife are introduced in respectively episode 3 and 4, most of his team comes in in episode 8, and the final member of the team is introduced in the episode 10.
  • Tin Man being a Cyberpunk retelling of The Wizard of Oz introduces its cast in this way. First DG, then she meets Glitch as soon as she arrives in the OZ. After escaping, they find Cain. They finally hook up with Raw to complete the set. The Toto analogue isn't introduced until the second episode.
  • Once Upon a Time season 1 works like this. The first few episodes serve to give a backstory to each of the Storybrooke characters. After the pilot the order goes: Regina, Snow White, Cinderella, Jiminy Cricket, Prince Charming, The Huntsman, Rumpelstiltskin and Hansel & Gretel. Starting with "7:14 AM", the episodes alternate between giving backstory to a Storybrooke character and continuing the ongoing backstory about the romance between Snow and Charming.
  • Due to the "ten episodes per season" nature of the anthology series Fargo, characters important to the story can be introduced at any point. In the first season alone, FBI agents Budge and Pepper aren't introduced until the seventh episode, but they remain important recurring characters through the finale.
  • Daredevil (2015):
    • In season 1, the first episode introduces Matt Murdock, Karen Page, Foggy Nelson, James Wesley, Leland Owlsley, Nobu Yoshioka and the Ranskahov brothers. Episode 2 introduces Claire Temple. And episode 3 introduces Ben Urich, Mitchell Ellison, Vanessa Marianna, and Wilson Fisk.note 
    • Season 3 functions much the same way. Episode 1 reintroduces Matt Murdock, Karen Page, Foggy Nelson, and Wilson Fisk. It also introduces newcomers Sister Maggie, Ray Nadeem, and Tammy Hattley. Episode 2 introduces Benjamin "Dex" Poindexter. Episode 5 introduces Felix Manning. Vanessa Marianna provides a variant in that while she's the driving motivation behind Fisk's actions, and an order she makes (ordering Ray Nadeem's murder) proves to be Fisk's undoing, she doesn't appear onscreen until the last two episodes.
  • The Defenders (2017) works like this: episode 1 introduces Matt Murdock, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Danny Rand and catches the audience up on things that last happened in their standalone series. Episode 2 starts the mini team-ups of the show, with Matt and Jessica meeting in an interrogation room while Luke and Danny cross paths at a crime scene. And episode 3 sees them all finally cross paths at once at Midland Circle.
  • Star Trek: Picard: Main characters Raffi Musiker, Cristóbal Rios and Elnor don't appear until the second, third and fourth episodes, respectively.

  • The Chieftains do this on their self-titled debut album. As noted in the original liner notes: "The first section has, in fact, been designed to introduce each of the players and the instruments they play." So the album starts off with "Sé Fáth mo Bhuartha"" (with Paddy Malone and Seán Potts playing tin whistles) then "The Lark on the Strand" (with Michael Tubriry on flute, David Fallon on bodhrán, and Martin Fay on fiddle), then "An Fhallaingín Mhuimhneach" (with Michael Tubriry on concertina), and finally "Trim the Velvet" (with Paddy Maloney on Uilleann pipes).
  • Confession Executive Committee did this for the first generation of characters, sectioned off by couples. Haruki and Miou were introduced first ("First Love's Picture Book"), with Yu and Natsuki ("Confession Rehearsal") coming second and Sota and Akari ("A Solution for Jealousy") coming last and establishing the continuity with the latter's introductory video. Later generations would downplay this, as characters important to that group's story arc would usually appear somewhere in the video, unlike the first group's videos solely focusing on the couples and no one else.
  • The girl group LOONA are doing this for their pre-debut phase. The first 8 members debuted in a solo video featuring one member during their month, adding that member to the group roster. The remaining four members also debut on a monthly basis, just not necessarily in their particular month.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Done with U.S. Acres. Orson debuts first, then Roy, then Sheldon and Booker, then Wade, then Lanolin and Bo, then finally Cody and Blue. Interestingly, the latter four appear on the back cover of the first book, although the first strips with them aren't until the second book.

  • The early Gilbert and Sullivan opera The Sorcerer spends most of its first act introducing us to all of the main characters, each of whom gets either an "I Am" Song or an "I Want" Song, in succession. Nothing plot-related actually happens until the Incantation scene, about ten minutes before intermission. (As the collaboration matured, later G&S shows became much more wily about mixing exposition with plot.)
  • A Very Potter Musical has Going Back To Hogwarts, which introduces Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Cho Chang, Cedric Diggory, Malfoy/Crabbe/Goyle, Dumbledore, and Snape over the course of the ten minute song.
  • Hamilton introduces all of the main characters in the opening number, Alexander Hamilton, then goes back and introduces them more slowly over the course of the show: Aaron Burr, Lafayette, Laurens, and Mulligan in Aaron Burr, Sir, Angelica, Eliza, and Peggy in The Schuyler Sisters, King George III in You'll Be Back, and George Washington in Right Hand Man. Act II continues the trend by introducing Jefferson and Madison in What'd I Miss (although Madison was mentioned in Non Stop), Philip Hamilton in Take A Break (although he was seen as a baby in Dear Theodosia), and Maria Reynolds in Say No To This.
  • Fancy Dress introduces all the characters of the Show Within a Show The Drowsy Chaperone (the Man in the Chair having already been introduced in the opening monologue). Even Trix, who says herself that she won't show up again until the end of the show, is present.

    Video Games 
  • In Baldur's Gate II you gather Imoen, Minsc, Jaheira and Yoshimo all in the same dungeon, once at a time and all in a row.
  • Bioware examples:
    • Knights of the Old Republic goes so far as to have silhouettes of EVERYONE that will join the party just after the start of the game.
    • Jade Empire, like KOTOR, has a screen for the main cast's silhouettes before they're properly introduced. There is a slight aversion, however, in that, unlike KOTOR, you may not actually recruit every character shown on the silhouette screen. In fact, two of the characters, Chai Ka and Ya Zhen are mutually exclusive after a certain point in the game. A third one, Abbot Song, is only available for a short time, during which you don't have access to your other followers.
    • It pops up again in Dragon Age: Origins. You can meet each of the playable characters in sequence. Depending on what order you choose for visiting certain areas, though, you can dodge this trope.
    • In Mass Effect, each new squadmate is met as Commander Shepard trucks down the main plot and runs into them. They all have a short bit of characterization showing their personality and/or badassery before they join up, with the exception of Kaidan Alenko, who is with you from the get-go.
    • While Mass Effect 2 switches to Avengers Assemble, Mass Effect 3 returns to this formula, with a bit of Putting the Band Back Together, as five of your six/seven squadmates are either former party members or major NPCs.
    • Mass Effect: Andromeda keeps with the tradition. First, Ryder meets and chats with Cora before their first planetfall, and winds up with Liam as their only partner during the inevitable Things Go Wrong moment, getting an introduction to Cora's biotic powers about twenty minutes later, where she joins the party. Vetra joins up when you get the Tempest, with Peebee introducing herself on Eos, Drack following ten minutes later, though the last two don't join the party for around an hour after that. Finally, Jaal joins the team after the first visit to Aya (the second planet visited).
  • Chrono Trigger: Begins by introducing Crono, Marle, and then Lucca. After that, Robo, Frog and Ayla join after a dungeon where they're a Required Party Member. (Frog and Ayla have a dungeon each long before their recruitment, and another when they're about to join for real. Magus will join you so long as you refuse to fight him).
  • During the One Year Anniversary news video for Dragalia Lost on September 2019, this is how the Agito were first hinted at, each one to be released throughout 2020, all of them framed in shadow during their reveal.
  • In Dragon Quest IV, you spend a chapter with each playable character (or a small team of them) other than the hero before you get to do anything significant with the hero. Then you get to collect their companions in the exact reverse order that you played through their chapters (so you get Chapter 4's Meena and Maya first, and Chapter 1's Ragnar McRyan last.
  • This is done in Elite Beat Agents, and for the climactic final character, essentially everybody in the game (except for those in the fourth chapter) gathers together to help the EBA fight against an army of aliens.
  • Ensemble Stars! pulls this off through the Main Story, where the protagonist gradually gets to meet each of the initial cast of fellow students at her new school. However, due to the introductions being integrated into the plot, and the cast being very large, some characters receive a lot more focus than others - the entire units of Knights (bar Izumi, who has a brief scene earlier) and Ryuuseitai don't appear until the final act, and Kanata in particular gets at best three lines. Even for the focus characters, the Main Story is still really only an introduction - to get a good feel for the characters and how they relate, you'll need to read the gacha and event stories, too.
  • Multi-character games in general do this. Final Fantasy in particular ever since 4. You typically get half the cast or so in the first section of the game and then the rest are spread over the midgame.
    • Final Fantasy VI deserves special mention for essentially doing the Debut Queue twice: once in the World of Balance, and again (in a different order) when reassembling your scattered party in the World of Ruin. On top of that, it has the largest cast in the main series (14 playable characters in all), so a fairly big portion of the game ends up being entirely dedicated to this trope.
    • The beginning of Final Fantasy IX sees the player switching control between three of the four first playable characters, until it culminates in them officially becoming a group and start working together.
  • Fire Emblem games have a habit of giving you a new character or two... or three or four... each chapter.
  • The first half of Hi-Fi RUSH has each protagonist be introduced in this manner; Chai is introduced at the start, he meets Peppermint's robot cat 808 midway through Track 1, Peppermint is properly introduced at the end of Track 1 and becomes a summonable ally midway through Track 2, Track 3 ends with the introduction and recruitment of Macaron and CNMN as the team prepares to fight the man that took Macaron's job, and Track 7 ends with Korsica joining the gang.
  • Both Persona 4 and Persona 5 start off with The Protagonist meeting their first party member very close to the start of the game, then gaining roughly one or two additional party members per new dungeon over the first 2/3rds of the story until the plot begins to reach its climax.
  • Phantasy Star II starts with the protagonist Rolf and his friend Nei in the Motavian capital city of Paseo. Each time he visits another Motavian city (Arima, Oputa, Zema, Kueri, and Piata), he can return home to meet someone new who wants to accompany him on his mission to end the Biomonster threat. He also acquires a new party member after he completes his assigned mission in the Biosystems lab, making for eight characters total.
  • The Sakura Wars series does this every time. Even in the second game it introduces the two new characters in a chapter each.
  • The first stage of Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves occurs chronologically right before the final stage, showcasing (albeit in Sound Only mode) all of the new characters (well, new except for two who were originally villains!) and their skills: everything in between explains how Sly assembled his A-Team, one stage at a time.
  • This is how Sonic Origins presents the main cast of Sonic the Hedgehog: The first game introduces Sonic himself and Dr. Eggman, Sonic the Hedgehog CD (which was originally released third) introduces Amy and Metal Sonic, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 introduces Tails, and Sonic 3 & Knuckles introduces... well, Knuckles.
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl - The Subspace Emissary introduces all the characters like this, even flashing their names on the screen in a freeze frame as they appear.
  • Touhou Project has the stage 5 bosses (typically the Battle Butler of the Big Bad) typically undergo Defeat Means Friendship and join up as the third (or fourth) heroine in the next game, although they frequently drop out after a game or two, just because there seems to be an upper limit on the number of shot and bomb types that will be used per game.
  • Vandal Hearts does this too. You start with Ash, Clint and Diego. You quickly meet an NPC ally and two villains, then gather four characters in three battles. Three more join in chapter 2, and two more in chapter 3 to round out the cast. Much the same happens in the sequel.

  • El Goonish Shive starts out with Elliot and Tedd in the first strip and Sarah makes her first full appearance in the third strip. Grace first appears in the third storyline and Justin and Nanase in the eighth storyline. Susan debuts in the first storyline of the second arc and Ellen in the arc's fifth storyline rounding out the main cast at eight. Since then there have been several characters that could be considered at most as supporting characters but the number of main characters have stayed at eight.
  • Darths & Droids has this for its first arc which adapts The Phantom Menace. It started out with just Ben and Jim, as well as the GM. Sally first showed up in Strip 17 after the two arrive on Naboo. Pete joined not long after in Strip 46 during the escape from Naboo. Annie finally appeared in Strip 70 shortly after the group land on Tattoine.
  • Done in Dear Children. The first half of Chapter 1 introduces all five of the starting members of the Journalism Club (in order, Cailin, Devin, Emma, Chelle and Josh), before they begin the cemetery adventure. Chapter 2 then introduces (and is largely from the POV of) Gabe Hernandez.
  • Kuro Shouri technically hints at the plot at the very beginning, but then spends a few chapters introducing the main cast (and specifically Hisaki and Yasha) before anything plot-worthy happens.

    Web Original 
  • ARCHON's first few parts are this, introducing one or two characters then taking the time to explore them before introducing another few.
  • Sonichu takes the first few issues to introduce entire chunks of characters based on their Cast Herd as seen in the introductions in Issue 0. Issue 0 introduced the main characters, Issue 1 introduced Sonichu's Evil Twin, Issue 2 introduced the three Self-Insert Sonichus, Slaweel, and Count Graduon and Issue 3 introduced both the Chaotic Combo and Flame.

    Western Animation 
  • Amphibia:
    • Only Anne, the Plantars, Wally and Mayor Toadstool are introduced in the premiere. "Cane Crazy" is where Loggle first appears, "Hop Luck" introduces Mrs. Croaker and Maddie Flour, Bessie is introduced in "Anne Theft Auto", Toadie first appears in "Breakout Star", Felicia speaks for the first time in "Girl Time", Ivy debuts in "Dating Season", and Stumpy debuts in "Lily Pad Thai".
    • Grime has an early appearance in "Best Fronds" before making an official debut in "Prison Break", while the Toads are introduced in "Toad Tax".
    • For the other two human girls Sasha and Marcy, both first appear in "Best Fronds" with Sasha officially debuting in "Prison Break", while Marcy doesn't officially debut until the Season 2 special "Marcy at the Gates".
  • If you don't count the micro-episodes, which merely established several character arcs, The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes does this. Six episodes were spent gathering eight superheroes together to become the Avengers (and that's not counting Ms. Marvel and Vision, who join the team later on). Meanwhile, enemies of the heroes also gathered together, to become the Masters of Evil.
  • Big City Greens: The first proper episode, "Welcome Home", introduces the four central Greens, Cricket, Tilly, Bill and Gramma Alice, while "Space Chicken" introduces Remy and Gloria. Surprisingly, both episodes aired out of order, but were paired properly on Disney+.
  • The Five Episode Pilots of DuckTales (1987) and Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers introduced the main characters in this way. In each case, only the original main characters (Scrooge and his nephews, Chip and Dale) were featured in the very first episode, with the other characters appearing later on in the pilots.
  • Fanboy and Chum Chum: The first episode introduces the titular duo, Kyle and Mr. Mufflin; Janitor Poopatine appears in the first half of the second episode, while Lenny, Boog and Oz are introduced in the second half. Though Yo debuted in the first episode as well, she doesn't speak for the first time until the first half of the third episode.
  • The pilot episode of Futurama introduces Fry, Leela, Bender and Prof. Farnsworth. The remaining regulars - Hermes, Amy and Zoidberg — don't appear until the second episode.
    • Most of the major recurring characters are introduced over the course of the first season in episodes where they take center stage: Zapp, Kif, and Nibbler in episode 4; Mom and her sons in episode 6; Professor Wernstrom in episode 8; and the Omincronians in episode 12.
  • The first five five-minute episodes of Egmont's stop-mo series Little People (Egmont) based on Fisher-Price toys, collected on the Friendship Collection DVD, introduce Eddie (and Freddie and Sarah Lynn), Maggie, Sonya Lee, and Farmer Jed respectively.
  • The Owl House: Only Luz, Eda, King and Hooty appear in the premiere. Willow, Gus, Amity and Principal Bump first appear in the third episode, Lilith first appears in the fifth, Boscha is introduced in the sixth, Emperor Belos makes his debut in the second-to-last of Season 1, and finally, Hunter is introduced in the first episode of Season 2.
  • In the computer-animated show Shadow Raiders, this is rather conspicuous. The main character and the plot-driving character are introduced in the first episode, along with a couple more important characters. Then, within the span of five episodes, you've seen everyone of note. If the character wasn't introduced in the first five episodes, they're cannon fodder.
  • This is most of the first season of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. Episodes four, five, and six each center around the Best Friend Squad meeting and recruiting Perfuma, Mermista, and Entrapta respectively. Episodes seven and eight introduce Castaspella and Frosta, although they aren't as central to the plots of those episodes.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In the first episode "Help Wanted", only SpongeBob, Patrick, Squidward, Mr. Krabs and Gary were introduced. Sandy first appeared in "Tea at the Treedome", the first episode's third segment, and Plankton first appears in his self-titled segment in the third episode. Mrs. Puff first appears in "Boating School", and Pearl is introduced in "The Chaperone".
  • Most Transformers series does this. Heck, in Beast Wars, new cast members do, in fact, fall from the sky, generally in stasis pods. The upside of this is twofold: one, it makes introducing new product go down smoother and easier; and two, if there's any race in the universe that knows how to make an entrance, it's the Transformers.
    • With Transformers: Armada, it was more that "reinforcements" for both sides were either late to the party or weren't summoned until later. Apparently Megatron thought he could handle things with three mediocre soldiers and Optimus with two.
  • Trollz: The first part of the first arc only introduces the five BFFL and two of the boys, Flint and Rock. The second part introduces Obsidian, Jasper, and Coal (who made an Early-Bird Cameo in the first episode), and the third introduces Mr. Trollheimer, Coral and her Girl Posse (who all cameoed in the first episode as well), and Snarf. Simon was introduced in the first part of the second arc (after vague mentions earlier), along with Alabaster, and the second part introduced Amethyst's Grandmother.
  • Winx Club: The only main characters who appear in the first episode are Bloom and Stella, along with Mike, Vanessa, Mitzi, Knut and Kiko, and the four Specialists, Riven, Brandon, Timmy and Sky. The second episode introduces the rest of the Winx — Flora, Tecna and Musa, respectively, as well as the Alfea staff such as Faragonda and Griselda, and the Trix. Aisha, the sixth Winx member, was introduced in the second season premiere, and Helia, the fifth Specialist and Flora's lover, was introduced in the middle of the season.
  • The first five episodes of X-Men: Evolution are almost solely devoted to this, generally with both the X-Men and the rival Brotherhood recruiting a new member in each episode (mainly the Brotherhood, as we can see). In order: Nightcrawler and Toad in "Strategy X", Shadowcat and Avalanche in "X-Impulse", Rogue in "Rogue Recruit" (though she was mostly detached from the Brotherhood, and joined the X-Men in the seventh episode), Blob in "Mutant Crush" and Spyke and Quicksilver in "Speed and Spyke". This is averted with the new recruits in the second season, who are introduced all at once. Only Magma and Boom-Boom get any particular focus episodes.

Alternative Title(s): Ducks In A Row