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"Well, this is where you came in..."
Joe Gillis, viewing his own dead body, Sunset Boulevard

A type of In Medias Res/Whole Episode Flashback, where the story opens at a point at the middle or near the end of the story, and the bulk of the story is spent showing how the character got to this point.

Sub-Trope of Framing Device (a story within another story). Sister Trope of Recap by Audit (the aftermath of an event reveals or sums up what happened). See also Back to Front, Death by Flashback, Foregone Conclusion, Starts with Their Funeral, Little Did I Know, and This Is My Story. Goes very well with Private Eye Monologue.

Can often be used as a highly effective Driving Question. Can often overlap with Once More, with Clarity if and when the introductory scene in question reappears. A specific variant is How Dad Met Mom. Can take the form of Flashback B-Plot if a character's story alternates between the past and present but is not primarily a frame story.

Example Subpages:

Other Examples:

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  • There's one amazingly funny NASCAR themed commercial for Diet Mountain Dew out there. It starts with the #88 racecar being driven through a street. The driver does an amazing skid and comes to a stop in his driveway. The driver gets out:
    Kid: Whoa, dad! Where'd you get that?
    Father: Oh you won't believe what just happened!
    (Cuts to him pulling a Diet Mountain Dew bottle off an empty shelf. He turns and finds Dale Earnhardt, Jr., in full fire suit, looking at him in disbelief)
    Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Don't tell me you got the last Diet Dew.
    Father: Yeah.
    Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: I love the taste of Diet Dew. Whaddaya want for it?
    Father: Uhhh... (glances at Earnhardt's car outside in the parking lot)
    Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Deal.
  • Pizza Pops commercials begin by showing everything and everyone in it splattered with the filling. Then the commercial cuts back to just before someone is about to smash the pop.

    Comic Books 
  • Asterix and the Laurel Wreath opens with Asterix and Obelix in Rome, and Asterix complaining to Obelix about the mess that Obelix (and as we later learn, Chief Vitalstatistix) has gotten him into. The story then briefly flashes back to explain what's going on.
  • Used at times in Astro City:
    • Issue 32 of the Vertigo series begins with a battered Steeljack being arrested by the police. The next two issues go back to how he got there, revealing Steeljack was actually defending himself.
    • "Yesterday's Heroes" begins with Wolfspider falling into water while being attacked by unseen enemies. The bulk of the story is a flashback from his childhood to the present situation.
  • Batgirl (2009) #14 opens with Batgirl and Supergirl bantering with each other while Dracula is strangling both of them simultaneously. The next page goes back to the beginning of the story to explain how both heroines found themselves in that situation.
  • Batman:
    • Batman '66: Issue #24 starts with Batman and Robin buried in the sand and surrounded by scorpions. The scene changes to two days before.
    • Batman: White Knight: The first few pages show Jack Napier visit Batman's cell in Arkham Asylum and ask for his help. The next page starts detailing the events one year earlier.
    • Batgirl: Year One opens with Barbara Gordon wearing her Batgirl costume and facing Killer Moth and his goons in a charity ball; then it quickly moves to Babs remembering how she ended in that situation.
    • Robin (1993) #31 starts with Robin and Wildcat jumping off a bridge onto cars diving by below them on a freeway and then as Tim's narration boxes make it clear he's questioning the intelligence of jumping into traffic and what he could have done differently to avoid doing so it jumps to earlier in the day at a car show from which the thieves they're currently chasing stole a car.
  • Captain Gravity: At least the first four issues begin with Joshua in a sticky situation before reminiscing about earlier.
  • The first Clem Hetherington book opens with Clem and Digory in a race against the Croconoids. Clem and Digory are about to crash into a very large creature before flashing back to the museum.
  • Convergence: Suicide Squad #1 begins with Amanda Waller, who is badly wounded, with the Kingdom Come Green Lantern (Alan Scott) remorsefully overlooking her until someone, later revealed to be Captain Boomerang, emerges from the shadows, and shoots Waller.
  • One Green Lantern story from "All-American Comics" starts with Doiby and Alan having an argument, then flashes back to the events that lead to the argument. (It turns out they're arguing over who should get the credit for saving the day.)
  • The Human Target (2021) begins with the death of its protagonist, Christopher Chance, calmly doing his final rites before lying into bed and passing away on what the narration lists as "Day 12". The following pages start documenting images from the previous 11 days in reverse-chronological order before stopping on "Day 1", showing the events that led to Chance realizing he's been poisoned by a mystery assassin and only has 12 days left to live, with the rest of the comic being about his hunt for the person who tried to kill him.
  • Iznogoud: The story "Iznogoud Rockets to Stardom" starts with Iznogoud being a "strange satellite in orbit". Then the readers get to see how it happened.
  • Laff-A-Lympics: The story "The Day the Rottens Won" starts with the Rottens having already won and other characters showing their displeasure with the fact and then the readers get to see the games being played. Then it's revealed how they cheated and the Scoobies are declared the real winners.
  • The first issue of Mega Man (Archie Comics) opened with Mega Man storming Dr. Wily's Fortress and beginning to fight the Yellow Demon. It then goes into a flashback that lasts until the end of issue 3.
  • An issue of Miracleman starts with paid assassin Evelyn Cream out in the jungle, wondering how he got there. The issue then flashes back, and it's slowly revealed that he's remembering all this after being decapitated by Dr. Gargunza's monster dog.
  • Pinky and Pepper Forever starts with the titular characters dead and in hell, and Pinky in training to be a reaper. The comic then goes back to six months ago before their deaths.
  • Poet Anderson: The Dream Walker's first issue starts with Alan in the grasp of a Night Terror and Jonas in full Poet mode, with Alan begging for Jonas to wake up. We then jump to the week before and go from there.
  • Red Dwarf Smegazine: "Space Monkeys" begins with Lister and The Cat tied up upside down, with the strip then showing us how they came to be in this situation. As it turns out, they were tied up by the titular creatures.
  • Rorschach (2020) begins with a woman in cowgirl getup and a man dressed as Rorschach getting shot down by Secret Service just before they attempt to assassinate a presidential candidate. The rest of the series follows a detective being hired to determine who they were, why they tried to murder a man during a political rally, and if there's anyone else linked to the conspiracy.
  • Samurai Jack: Quantum Jack begins with the inexplicable change of Jack being the leader of a futuristic biker gang. The rest of the miniseries shows Jack changing to different lives while remembering traces of his original life as a samurai determined to vanquish Aku and eventually explains how all of this happened.
  • The Silencer starts with the protagonist threatening someone with a gun in a diner, and the first arc tells how things got to that point.
  • Silent Hill: Sinner's Reward begins with Jack Stanton, a professional hit man, contemplating suicide. The rest of the story details the plot that leads to it.
  • The Simpsons: One issue has a future Lisa visiting Bart in hospital, with his only words being "fish logs". She goes around town talking to everyone, learning a long story involving Bart making a fortune off of fish logs when he was a kid. It's only at the end of the story that it's revealed this has nothing to do with Bart's injury, but because those were what landed him in hospital in the first place - he'd been overeating them at work on a dare.
  • Much of The Smurfs comic book story "Smurf Vs. Smurf" is basically Papa Smurf recalling the language war between his little Smurfs that reached the point where he sought after Gargamel's aid.
  • Spider-Men II: The story opens up with Peter and Miles unmasked and webbed together, arguing as an unknown person — implied to be Earth-616 Miles Morales — escapes in a jet. Miles frees them but fails to catch the plane in time, causing Peter to take back his Passing the Torch from the Spider-Man (2016) series and say he should have never let Miles become Spider-Man. The story then jumps back to Peter and Miles investigating the sudden reactivation of Mysterio's portal to Earth-1610, and eventually reaches the starting point.
  • The three-issue miniseries Sunfire and Big Hero 6 starts with Sunfire's funeral and Hiro in deep mourning. The story then goes back three weeks earlier, exploring what happened up until then.
  • Sunny Side Up starts with Sunny on the plane to Florida to spend part of her summer vacation with her grandpa, before showing why she went there by herself without the rest of her family. Her parents have sent her to stay with him while they face the issues of her older brother Dale's drug addiction, since it won't be pretty and they don't want her to get hurt again given that her brother drunkenly hit her on accident.
  • Superman:
    • In The Supergirl Saga, Pocket Universe Lex Luthor spends much of the second part telling Superman how his world got to the broken state it was in at the present time: that he had accidentally let loose the Phantom Zone criminals who terrorized and devastated the Earth, turning most of it into a lifeless husk with only Lex Luthor and those in his resistance force living in his Smallville citadel as its only survivors.
    • In The Killers of Krypton opens with Supergirl building a spaceship in the Fortress of Solitude. The story then flashes back to the prior conversation between Kal and Kara where she declared she was leaving Earth for a while to investigate Rogol Zaar's claims of destroying Krypton.
    • Death & the Family: After Supergirl has been rescued from Insect Queen's hive and brought to S.T.A.R. Labs, a flashback narrated by Dr. Light explains what happened between Supergirl finding Lana's cocoon, and Gangbuster sneaking into the hive and breaking her out.
  • The Transformers: Maximum Dinobots is basically one big setup and explanation for plot holes for The Transformers: All Hail Megatron.
  • Wizards of Mickey:
  • X-Factor (2006):
    • One issue begins with Nicole standing on a bridge in Central Park, smashing something with a rock. At the end of the issue, it turns out it was a positive pregnancy test, and she'd just smacked Layla over the head with said rock, sending her falling into the river.
    • When Rictor, Guido, and Shatterstar appear in the middle of a fight with Cortex, who was surprised because he thought they were many miles away. When Cortex points this out, Guido replies "That's very good question. And here's how we got here." and cue the end of the issue. The issue after that shows how they did it.

    Fan Works 
  • Advice and Trust: The prologue happens two months after the first chapter. Much of the opening act is spent chronicling the time before and after that period. This ends in Chapter 5, where the story has caught back up and moves forward.
  • Arc of the Revolution opens with the Jaune-led White Fang inside Beacon Tower, having successfully defeated Ozpin and conquered Vale. The next chapter rewinds to the beginning of Jaune's journey to becoming the Supreme Commander of the Revolution.
  • Dragon Ball Reboot: The first few pages of the comic introduce the final battle of the Frieza arc with a Super Saiyan Gine subduing Frieza with an arm bar despite him being at 100% full power. The comic then goes back to when Gine first escaped from Planet Vegeta and tells the story of how all this came to be.
  • In NUMB3RS story Elemental Four starts with Don being chained with water rushing over him and the next chapter starts with the team investigating the death of a DEA agent.
    • In the story Surfacing, the story starts with Alan being held at gunpoint and Don and the gunman both looking to make their next move and the story then jumps back 12 days as Alan looks to meet with new clients for his and Stan's business.
  • The Enchanted Kingdom starts with a pony named North Ridge encountering Rarity in a bar, with the entire kingdom looking for her. She tells him her story.
  • Gaz, Taster of PTSD: The story opens with Gaz locked up in a mental hospital after having had a breakdown, with the rest of the plot then showing how that happened.
  • Johanna Mason: They Will Never See Me Cry: The first six chapters show Johanna mentoring for the 73rd Hunger Games. The story then flashes back to her childhood, time as a tribute in the 71st Hunger Games, and what happened after her victory. Chapter 35 (out of 97) returns to the 73rd Hunger Games.
  • The Miraculous Ladybug fic Eye of the Beholder opens by describing a kiss between Ladybug/Marinette and Pavo Real/Alya in their superhero forms, about six months after they begun fighting Akumas together, and revealing that a couple of months later Alya will be kissing Chat Noir/Adrien. "But perhaps some context is in order."
  • Chapter 81 of FREAKIN GENSOKYO focuses on how Matt, Rumia and Shikome arrived in the Palace of the Earth Spirits at the end of Chapter 80. A teleporter and an angry Buddhist are involved.
  • Guardian begins with Lulu volunteering to be the Final Aeon late in Final Fantasy. Then it goes back to her childhood to detail her first two pilgrimages and friendship with Yuna. The in-game scene at Zanarkand is revisited at the beginning of each chapter.
  • Hard Being Pure: The very first scene shows Noa throwing up her stomach in a bathroom stall. The following scenes jump two days back to explain how this came to be.
  • Hop to It opens with Jack being targeted by an akuma butterfly, transforming into Rabbit, and trying and failing to purify it. She then tries to use Lucky Strike, only to somehow cast Dogstruction instead and tear up the street while trying to escape. After she asks herself "How did everything come to this?", the story cuts back a few hours.
  • The 22nd chapter of the Harry Potter fanfic I Saw My Lady Weep begins with Ginny Weasley on the edge of death, being rushed into a Muggle emergency room and receiving life-saving care. The 23rd chapter tells the story of how she ended up in an emergency room. (She was hit by a delivery truck while walking through London on her own for the first time.)
  • Imitation Steamrollers opens with Thomas, Emily, Percy and Gina awaiting the results of George the steamroller's trial, then flashes back to the events that lead up to that point.
  • Chapter 14 of The Immortal Game starts with Titan conversing with Celestia while simultaneously torturing Twilight. The rest of the chapter explains how he came to be torturing Twilight.
  • In Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail, the Prelude to Part 2 shows off the events that had Hop land on the Infinity Train days before Chloe Cerise ran away from home.
  • In the Xenoblade Chronicles fanfic It Was Right On The Tip Of My Tongue the fic starts with Zeke fighting Taion. Then Zeke decides this is too confusing, and immediately launches into a flashback of when he was sent on the mission two weeks earlier. In the middle of the fight.
    Zeke: (blocking an attack) Not now, I'm having a flashback!
    Taion: He's what?
    Pandoria: Having a flashback.
  • Jimmy's Visit With Dr. Franklin: Chapter 1 has Jimmy explain how he'd had gotten to the point he is in.
  • Linked in Life and Love opens with Blake Belladonna waking up one morning to find she just had sex with the rest of Team RWBY. After that, everything up to chapter 6 tells the story of how this happened.
  • The Loud Awakening starts with a prologue that shows Lincoln and some of his sisters, now gifted with superpowers and transformed into non-human forms, acting as a superhero team. The story then rewinds back to 1,5 years ago and shows how they came to be this way.
  • Loved and Lost begins with Princess Celestia and Luna exiled and in different parts outside of Equestria (Celestia in a desert and Luna on top of a mountain), respectively raising the sun and lowering the moon. The story proper explains what led to their predicament.
  • Mergers starts with Brock getting Steelix DNA and being caught in a Master Ball, then flashes back to show how it all happened.
  • MLP Next Generation: Know Fear! opens with Starburst already as the Fear Lantern and fighting griffon soldiers in Stalliongrad. The next couple of chapters show how this came to pass.
  • Paradoxus: The first four chapters are devoted to partially explaining why Altalune and Trisha have arrived at the conclusion that taking drastic measures is the only way to prevent Altalune's nightmare in the prologue from happening.
    • First chapter: The narration goes back 150 years into the past and switches the POV to that of Sylvanas'. Through her, the key figure that eventually connects Magix with Azeroth is introduced.
    • Second chapter: The first contact between Magix and Azeroth is shown; 100 years after Sylvanas is restored to life, Galadwen has been dimension-hopping nonstop seeking potential allies. This leads her to eventually stumble on Magix, where she immediately detects the powerful magical aura of the Dragon's Flame, of which the bearer at the time is Queen Marion of Domino, pregnant with either of her daughters. 24 years later, she goes there again, where she sees the Winx being interviewed about Earth's newly-restored magic.
    • The third chapter explains how Bloom is made aware of Azeroth's existence and, (implied) through her, the rest of Magix. It's also confirmed that Magix has already attracted the Burning Legion's attention, with three Erakli cities having already been attacked with extreme prejudice.
    • Galadwen and Sylvanas exchange relevant information about their respective dimensions with Bloom in the fourth chapter. That conversation culminates in Bloom striking an alliance with Galadwen and Sylvanas about Queen Daphne's eerily similar backstory. It's partially explained how the Oðrsson sisters get involved—Trisha, an unborn fetus in her mother's womb, unknowingly gets included in Galadwen and Bloom's pact.
    • Subverted. The previous chapters of the fic have centered around slowly revealing who the corpses in Altalune's nightmare belong to and why she's so hung up on that plan of hers to fix everything. In the fifth, the narration suddenly cuts back to her point of view—in as much as can be said for a narrator who briefly jumps to other characters' perspectives from time to time—while there are still many unanswered questions. Furthermore, both the actual plan (time travel) and her motivations are revealed by her musings here as opposed to during the flashback.
  • Peace Forged in Fire starts In Medias Res at the beginning of peace talks between the Romulan Republic and Romulan Star Empire, then cuts to five days earlier to introduce the cast and more fully explain how they got to that point.
  • The Princess of Themyscira: The story opens with Soarin' waking up on Themyscira and being confronted by Diana, with the next couple of chapters being spent showing her backstory and how he ended up there.
  • The crossover fic The Pros and Cons to living a triple life opens during the Shujin Volleyball Rally, which plays out very differently to canon when Sora steps up and absolutely humiliates Kamoshida without breaking a sweat. The next few chapters cut back two weeks to explain what he and Kairi are even doing there.
  • Re: My Hostage, Not Yours: The sequel Winner Takes All starts with a segment labeled "Epilogue" and is set after some unexplained disaster that the city is recovering from, while Gaz is shown physically and psychologically recovering from some kind of trauma of her own. Then things flashback an undefined amount of time to show the events leading up to this.
  • The Rise of Darth Vulcan: The story opens with Vulcan imprisoned in Canterlot and being interrogated by Celestia. The next 18 chapters are composed of him narrating to the Princesses how he arrived in Equestria and rose to be Public Enemy Number One.
  • One of the first pages in Rocket Member leads into this after showing Meowth cuddling awkwardly with Pikachu at night.
  • Son of the Sannin: Chapter 32 begins with a scene of Sasuke and Naruto fighting against each other, as the prelude to the final arc of Part I. The story then skips to two days before to explain how things came to that and eventually revealing that things are not what it seems at first glance.
  • Issue 0 of Sonic the Continuation starts with Sonic fighting Metal Sonic, then flashes back to how it all started.
  • Super Villain Prevention 101 begins with Harley Quinn being held hostage by the Joker, before cutting to how she got there.
  • Taaroko's Buffy the Vampire Slayer opens with a chapter devoted exclusively to Oz's activities after he left Sunnydale, as he moves to Cleveland, joins a new band, and masters control of his wolf side before the destruction of Sunnydale.
  • Through the Eyes of Anon-a-Miss starts with Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo in the principal's office, after the three of them confessed to being the true Anon-a-Miss cyberbullying culprits the previous night. Principal Celestia and Vice Principal Luna then request the full story of why they started Anon-a-Miss before they decide how to punish them. The intermission chapters cut back to the present day, where we see Celestia and Luna's reactions to the horrible actions they've performed for their scheme.
  • Trunk's New Look begins with the titular character wondering how the hell he ended up in his mother's Playboy Bunny outfit. It's a valid concern.
  • The Flashback chapters of The Twilight Child explain how the main character ended up the way she has, and why she was behaving the way she was in the first chapter, in-between a few acts of Break the Cutie.
  • Two Letters opens six months after Marinette chose to retire from being Ladybug. The story balances scenes set in the present with the gradual reveal of the contents of the two letters she wrote beforehand, wherein she explains her reasons for retiring to the recipients.
  • Where the Sunlight Ends: The first nine chapters dovetail neatly into the ending of No Way Home, with Peter One moving into his apartment and constructing his new suit before swinging off into the night.
  • The first chapter of A Man of Honor opens three months after the battle for Beacon, with Sapphron Arc searching through the recovering city of Vale for her wayward brother Jaune. Last she heard, he had applied for Beacon and claimed that he had been accepted. Beacon Academy, which still stands after the battle, claims they have never heard of him. Sapphron is beginning to fear the worst until she is approached by Cardin Winchester, who claims to work for her brother and that he can take her to him. When she finally does find him, not only is he alive and well, but living it up in a penthouse in one of Vale's ritziest neighbourhoods, wearing a nice suit and sipping on a glass of expensive whiskey. Naturally, after letting him have it for leaving she and their parents sick with fear, Sapphron wants to know why Jaune has been radio silent for almost a year, how and why he apparently has the likes of Cardin Winchester on his payroll and how he could possibly afford to live such a luxurious lifestyle. As such, the rest of the story is told through Jaune's flashbacks. Occasionally, Cardin and Neo give their own perspective for events Jaune was not present for.
  • Truth and Consequences opens with Marinette and Adrien arguing in the ruins of the Agreste Mansion, both their Miraculouses gone, Gabriel apparently dead, with it apparently being all Marinette's fault. The story then cuts back three months to explain exactly how things reached this point.
  • The Violet Demon opens with Gaz fighting as a gladiator on another planet, before flashing back several months to show how this happened.

  • The sixth volume of Witch Hunter opens on Tasha somewhere (most probably in England), fighting a guy whose face we've only seen once and whose name is yet unknown (Lancelot), and apparently in a tight spot, what with his right arm having been ripped off and Halloween being nowhere in sight. That's the first few pages; the chapter then goes on to show Tasha being sent away in a mission. Two volumes later, he's still only on his way to the place where this all is supposedly going to happen...

  • The video for Bronski Beat's "Smalltown Boy" begins with Jimmy Somerville leaving town by train, then flashes back to the homophobic bullying incident that forced him to leave home, before returning to him and his bandmates on the train.
  • Gorillaz's album Cracker Island starts with the song of the same name, which vaguely talks about the plot of the album after the fact. Meanwhile the music video shows how the arc is going to end. (2D and Noodle in a hospital being interrogated by the cops for something that happened at the Hollywood Sign, Russel seemingly waking up from a coma in that hospital, and Murdoc wearing cult leader robes seemingly bringing a dead body back to life and then kissing her).
  • Moby's video for "Run On" (from the album Play) is this.
  • Pink Floyd's concept album The Wall begins with the song "In The Flesh?", sung from the perspective of the main character Pink: "If you want to find out what's behind these cold eyes / You'll just have to claw your way through this disguise." From there the album goes into a long flashback of Pink's entire life, beginning with the sound of a baby crying leading into the next song "The Thin Ice". The narrative of the album finally returns to where it began with the sort-of Dark Reprise "In The Flesh".
  • The Slick Rick song "Sittin" In My Car" begins unsurprisingly with Rick sitting in his car. Rick then proceeds to tell the tale of debauchery and intrigue that explains why he is waiting in his Jeep outside a club for a particular girl.
  • The Vocaloid trilogy Shinseiki ~New Millenium~,Risoukyou ~Utopia~,and A Faint Wish. The first video is chronologically the last, and the second two are basically flashbacks telling us how the story led up to the first video.
  • Watsky's video for "Stupidass" starts with Watsky dirty and naked, then rewinds until the audience sees what happened.
  • The Who's Rock Opera, Quadrophenia, opens with the main character stranded on a rock off the coast of Brighton, in the pouring rain, with no means of egress, and goes on to explain how he ended up there.

  • The Season One finale of Quest in Show opens with Prince Pratt hiding in a bathroom. The story then cuts to the night before, explaining why Pratt is there.
  • On The Thrilling Adventure Hour, the "Beyond Belief" episode "Love Love Me Doom" parodied this. It opens with Frank and Sadie yelling at each other and wanting a divorce and then the narrative goes back to before the fight. However, when time catches up, they only act the fight because it was heard at the beginning, though they still love each other.

  • On The Gungan Council, "It's Not That I Keep Hanging On, I'm Never Letting Go" slips into three different flashbacks to explain how and why Bianca and Darth Apparatus were separated for over two decades.

  • Many Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals begin at the end and are told in flashback: Evita, The Phantom of the Opera, Aspects of Love, Sunset Boulevard (of course, the source material for this one did, as well). Love Never Dies opened this way as well in the original London staging (and the cast album), but by the time the Australian production was filmed, the prologue was dropped.
  • Ang Huling El Bimbo: The musical opens with the three men being given news of Joy's death before flashing back to The '90s, when they were all friends in university.
  • Anne of the Thousand Days begins with Anne awaiting execution while Henry steels himself to sign her death warrant.
  • In City of Angels, Stone begins his Private Eye Monologue after being wheeled into a hospital with a gunshot wound in his shoulder. It's left ambiguous whether or not Stone survives ("No great loss if he don't," an orderly remarks). The rest of the Show Within a Show unfolds in flashback, culminating in the three gunshots heard at the start of this scene.
  • Fiorello! begins with a short prologue in which Fiorello, as mayor of New York City, reminisces about the very beginning of his political career.
  • Grey Gardens begins in 1973 with Big and Little Edie playing a record of "The Girl Who Has Everything", which segues into the 1941 flashback for the first act. At the end of the 1973 second act, the story returns to the opening scene.
  • The Haunted Through-Lounge and Recessed Dining Nook at Farndale Castle, supposedly an accident-prone amateur production, gives a meta twist on the structure. The curtain comes up to reveal the cast on stage still rehearsing the final scene of the play, with the protagonists anxiously awaiting an ambiguously-described fate. They break off and head backstage, then the show-within-the-show begins at the first scene, shows everything leading up to the scene glimpsed at the beginning, and finally proceeds to the end of the story.
  • The musical Merrily We Roll Along does this to the point where it's told in entirely reverse order.
  • In Noah Smith's stage version of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the first act proceeds linearly, while the second act has this structure; it opens with Utterson arriving at Jekyll's house for the final showdown, then recounts his investigation in a series of flashbacks, before continuing on to the showdown itself.
  • The off-Broadway run of Vanities: The Musical followed this format, with a prologue in the mid-80's/early 90's, which the story returns to in the Distant Finale.
  • Waterfall begins in 1945 just after World War II, when Noppon's wife Pree discovers the painting made by his late love interest Katherine, before flashing back to the 1930's for the main story, then returns to the opening scene at the finale.
  • The musical Wicked follows the same format as the novel, with the added twist that it turns out Elphaba faked her own death.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations, the prologue of the fourth case starts with Phoenix on a hospital bed looking over a report about a case handled by Mia. After learning what transpired during that trial, Phoenix mentions on how an incident occurred that made him remember another important incident from his past. The first act of the fifth case shows why he ended up on that hospital bed.
    • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies begins on December 17 with a trial for a courtroom bombing that happened the previous day. After Case 1 is over, Athena spends half the game flashing back to the events of the previous months (April in Case 2 and October in Case 3). After the narrative finally arrives to December 16, the day of the bombing, two days are glossed over as this timespan is already covered in Case 1. Then the second half of Case 4 is told, followed by the final Case 5. It's important to note that a good deal of Dramatic Irony comes when the end of the first case reveals how a certain character apparently turns their back on the rest of the gang — the player is left wondering what led to this decision, and finds the answer through the aforementioned flashbacks.
    • In Ace Attorney Investigations, the second and third cases are flashbacks occuring before the first case, and the fourth case is a flashback seven years back from the third case. It's less confusing in context.
  • CLANNAD starts with the first part of the final Illusionary World sequence, which isn't fully played until the end of the game.
  • ef - a fairy tale of the two. starts with the ending, and jumps to two different points in the middle, before starting at the beginning.
  • Fate/stay night plays with this. It starts with a scene from the the third day, before starting on the first, but from the perspective of one of the heroines. The rest of the prologue plays out from her perspective until an event shortly after the first scene, with one of the characters from that scene holding her up at swordpoint. After the opening movie and starting the game proper from the menu, it goes back to the first day, this time from the Protagonist's perspective.
  • Goodbye Volcano High: The game begins the night the meteor is doomed to hit Earth and wipe out the dinosaurs, and the player (as Fang) as to make their Big First Choice of whether or not to burn the yearbook. Once a choice is made, the game flashes back to Fang's first day of senior year eight months prior, and the story begins.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry: The first arc begins with a long monologue and a black screen, with someone apologizing... as a wet and sickening THWACK noise sounds repeatedly in the background. This is Keiichi apologizing to Rena and Mion after bludgeoning them to death. This is likely where the anime adaptation (see above) got the idea of opening some arcs (including this one) with a clip from the end, or a suitably dramatic point.
  • During Emi's route in Katawa Shoujo, a week after Hisao angers Emi enough for her to throw him out of her house, he is approached by Misha, who asks him what's wrong. If he tells her, she tells him to go apologize to her. He does so, then discusses this trope in an attempt to save the relationship he and Emi have. It works.
    Emi: Determination? What do you know about determination?
    Hisao: I know that there's a girl so determined to take care of a total stranger that she'd steal his food at a festival. I know that there's a girl so determined to help me with my own problems that she'd draw up a complete dietary and exercise plan, and that she'd not only draw up the plans but she'd follow them with me even when she couldn't run. Determined enough to keep me at arms length that she'd put herself through emotional pain if she thought it was the right thing to do. Although, there's one thing this determined girl didn't quite plan for, which was that I might feel the same kind of determination to keep her from being hurt. I fell in love with you and I refuse to let that be thrown away because you're afraid of losing me.
  • Kira☆Kira, over and over again. You're dropped in the middle of a scene, and the next five minutes are spent explaining what happened before then.
  • The Prologue of Moe! Ninja Girls depicts the formation of the Ninja Seeking Club, consisting of the protagonist and his new (mostly female) friends. This is followed by Season 1, which depicts events before that scene, properly introduces all of those characters, and shows both how and why the club was formed.
  • In Tyrion Cuthbert: Attorney of the Arcane, Case 4 starts with the point of view of Ruby Tymora as she enters the courtroom with her client. It isn't long until Tyrion shows up and takes over the prosecution. Then the game goes back to the night of the crime, with the usual perspective of Tyrion, to show how he came to be at odds with his mentor.
  • Umineko: When They Cry, episode 5. Ushiromiya Natsuhi, you are the culprit! Way to start an episode of an extremely long murder mystery story. In the end, it turns out that Erika was wrong after all. In fact, Natsuhi becomes one of the two characters confirmed to not be the culprit. EP 6 follows suit starting with BATTLER and Erika's Wedding, with BATTLER in a logic error.

    Web Animation 
  • The very first episode of The Accuser started with the protagonist, Dan Mason, in a hospital bed, motionless, hearing the doctors mentioning that his wife was dead. Then we get flashbacks of his career as a criminal defense attorney and how it led to his hospital bed.
  • Mario Brothers starts with Mario running from something while lamenting his failures, and flashes back to show what occurred.
  • Sam & Mickey's "Road Rage" begins with Skipper, Barbie, and Chelsea stuck in traffic, before backtracking to show how they got stuck there, and why Barbie has a black eye.

  • The Sprite Comic Captain SNES: The Game Masta uses this with the main character as the narrator (who likes to jump around), while Alex and his captor in the present discuss the events in the flashback and verbally spar.
  • Children of Eldair: The story starts with Koe finding Embera injured and unable to remember how she got there and then using some kind of scrying to see where she came from and what happened.
  • The first 10 pages of Dragon Ball Multiverse are chronologically placed between chapters 9 and 11 (chapter 10 is a special chapter). They also work as a trailer.
  • The first page of The Fuzzy Five apparently starts In Medias Res, but after one frame, Spirit invites Otto to Flashback to how it all got started.
  • Chapter 2 of Godslave starts with Edith waking up the morning after chapter 1's events, then skips to the previous evening to deliver the exposition.
  • The "Catnip" chapter of El Goonish Shive starts In Medias Res and most of it is a flashback which is revealed at the end to have been shown to Sarah as a video.
  • Grrl Power starts with Corporal Sidney Scoville roleplaying with friends then going to work. The comic then jumps back 6 months ago to show how she became a hero. 12 years later in real time and we still haven't caught up with the full six months.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court:
    • Chapter 7, "Of New and Old", begins with Antimony standing on a bridge, thinking to herself, "Something is wrong. I shouldn't be here." By the time we see how she got there, we agree with her.
    • "Catalyst" opens with her and Smitty fleeing Gillitie woods hell-for-leather, and Parley and Eglamore both go Oh, Crap! when they see what's behind them... but we don't until Kat asks why they're back so early, and Annie tells the story.
  • In Jupiter-Men, the story opens with Quintin and Jackie fleeing from an enormous monster that manages to pin and corner them. That's when Quintin hits the rewind button and brings the story back to before he and Jackie got their powers.
  • Kick the Football, Chuck. suggests that the reason Charlie Brown doesn't have any hair is because of his chemotherapy, and uses this to create darker explanations for several of the original series' iconic traits.
  • Chapter 4 of Legio Arcana opens with Tim chasing and shooting arrows at a bleeding Nolan before the comic picks up 79 minutes earlier.
  • Marionetta: The first episode shows the aftermath of Julia killing Tonny, and it then cuts to her several months earlier.
  • Each chapter in The Monster Under the Bed, has a prologue during Tim' and Shadow's early adult years, while the main story is about Tim and Shadow as kids
  • The Princess's Jewels: The webcomic begins at a ball with Princess Ariana being accompanied to a ball by her entourage of five men, with everyone fawning over her. Then, after the Title Drop, the comic jumps back by one year.
  • The first chapter of Sire begins in a juvenile mental hospital and spends the rest of the chapter having the main character describe how she ended up there.
  • The entirety of The Space Between thus far is framed like this, told in flashback by the main character, three years later.
  • Chapter one of Sunstone starts with Lisa taking off her wedding ring, revealing its inscription "Forever Mine", she threads the ring onto her necklace, cracks her knuckles, and starts writing about how it all transpired.
  • The first story of What the Fu starts with this, but doesn't really offer much of an explanation.
  • Subverted in this xkcd strip. It starts with a Record Needle Scratch over a chaotic scene, but rather than say something like "You're probably wondering how I ended up in this situation", it says "You're probably wondering what that sound was. Well, long ago, music was recorded on vinyl discs..."
  • Chapter's 5 through 20 of The Zombie Hunters. Chapter 1 through 4 establish the team's dynamic is falling to pieces under Jenny's sub-par leadership. Chapters 5 through 20 shows how everything went so wrong as to land them in the predicament they found themselves in in Chapter 1, with the story finally returning to the present in Chapter 21.

    Web Originals 
  • The Ningyo begins with Christopher Marlowe entering a dark catacomb underneath a small shack, and about to be bitten by a rattlesnake when the flashback begins to show how it got started.

    Web Videos 
  • The entirety of Season 2 to Marble Hornets. The first few entries show Jay waking up in a hotel room with no memory of the last seven months. After finding a large number of tapes in his room safe, he witnesses the events that lead up to his amnesia.
  • "Mumkey Jones Stops a School Shooting" uses this trope as a running joke. EVERYONE wants to tell you how they got into this crazy situation, complete with backwards time jumps.
  • Splinter Cell: Extinction: the prologue starts "47 minutes from now". Hence we know that the Corbin mission is a bust in advance.
  • The first episode of The Veronica Exclusive starts with Veronica entering her room with a split lip, bruises, and a trenchcoat that isn't hers, apparently traumatized. Then she sits down at her webcam, and explains that the only way she can properly explain what happened is to show the audience her old video diaries. The rest of the series is made up of said videos, showing us how Veronica got to that point.

  • A variant of this trope can be Invoked to test if you are dreaming or not: stop and mentally retrace your steps. Can you remember how you got to where you are now? Most dreams have nothing resembling a backstory or coherent plot, so if you really are dreaming you will almost certainly be unable to.
  • The first episode of BoBoiBoy starts with Super Probe chasing the title character, then flashes back to how both characters got to this point.

*record scratch* *freeze frame* "Yep. That's me. I bet you're wondering how I got myself into this situation..."


Video Example(s):


Hypnosis Session

In the very first scene of the series, protagonist Gereon Rath is lulled into a hypnotic trance and instructed to remember all that he has experienced up to this point, at which point the series proper begins.

The show will ultimately catch with this moment at the end of Season 2.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / HowWeGotHere

Media sources: