Razor: Giant monster of the week?
Episodes where the characters fight a villain who is expeditiously defeated at the end, never to be dealt with again. Essentially, the Monster of the Week serves as the Big Bad of a single episode. Can be seen as the complete antithesis of a Story Arc, or a Story Arc compressed into one episode. Sometimes, use of a plot element like Arc Welding can bring together what appear to be unrelated threats, but other times they are established as being minions of the ultimate Big Bad from the start.
The term (a play on Movie of the Week) was originally coined by the writing staff of The Outer Limits (1963), which sought to distinguish itself from its biggest competitor, The Twilight Zone (1959), by promising viewers a new monster every episode. Out of its 49 episodes, only around 8 twisted or outright eschewed the formula.note
Variations crop up from time to time, though the most generic term is "Villain of the Week". The 4400 and Smallville, for example, are sometimes discussed in terms of the "Freak of the Week". Mystery of the Week is the detective series version of this trope.
Sometimes, the monsters get ridiculous, especially in fillers, where they are almost always themed after the plot of the episode. Futari wa Pretty Cure had a giant vacuum cleaner early in its run, for example; Digimon Adventure, a walking garbage dump.
This actually is not a bad thing. Monster of the Week (and perhaps Monster Munch) can be used to establish characters or setting. Or perhaps lead to a much bigger Story Arc - such as deliberately showing the characters developing as they have to learn new tactics to overcome their foes, sustain injuries from more powerful monsters, or even setting up things such as He Who Fights Monsters. Additionally, some shows that use this formula have no wider plot whatsoever, and do not need to, since the core "defeat the villain" episodic plot can be more than enough to maintain audience engagement as long as the plots themselves remain interesting.
It's actually Older Than Print... several pieces of old mythologies about folk heroes can be interpreted as a recurring Monster of the Week.
Sub-Trope of One-Shot Character. Often used in collaboration with Adventure Towns, may or may not be Monogender Monsters. See also Robeast, Monster of the Aesop, and Single Specimen Species. Contrast Monster Mash, Rogues Gallery and Villain Exclusivity Clause.
See Continuity Creep and Not So Episodic, for heavy overlap.
Not to Be Confused with Shaenon Garrity's The X-Files parody webcomic Monster of the Week, or with the Apocalypse World style Tabletop Game of the same name.
- Catch! Teenieping: Almost every episode in Season 1 features Princess Romi attempting to find and catch a loose Teenieping who likes to cause trouble and mischief for innocent townspeople.
- Gaju Bhai has the title character, a movie actor from Jollywood, going to Gajrajpuri and fighting off a different villain in each episode.
- Happy Heroes has the heroes go up against a different monster, usually summoned in one way or another by the primary antagonist Big M., in a vast majority of episodes. However, some of the monsters make recurring appearances, and a few even have detailed personalities and backstories.
- In Kung Fu Wa the Kwei are evil spirits in the shape of white orbs with vaguely evil faces on their surface that can possess objects and living creatures, turn them into monsters and cause destruction, they can only be stopped by sealing them in the Ancient Scroll.
- Zakia Al Thakia involves the titular superheroine battling a different type of foe in each episode, primarily living inanimate things such as hamburgers, clouds, and vending machines, along with others such as aliens and cats.
- Many comics tend to have a story with a one-shot villain every now and then. It would be easier to list comic books and comic strips that DON'T utilize the monster of the week trope.
- Wonder Woman Vol 1: Marston seemed to be using all villains outside of Paula, who reformed and became a hero, only once at first. Then they started reappearing years later, with ties to current villains or looking for revenge but Marston died before there was any real payoff outside of the connection between Hypnota and the slavers of Saturn and the initial formation of Villainy Inc.
- In the old The Dandy comic strip, Jack Silver, the villainous Captain Zapp had a device known as a Duplicator, which could create a living, breathing copy of any picture that was fed into it. Every week, he would use the strange creatures the machine produced to commit crimes, before being stopped by Jack Silver and his gadget of the week.
- Each volume of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World has the titular character battling one of Ramona's Seven Evil Exes.
- Superlópez: A common format in the early stories. Chiclón, Luz Luminosa, the Galactic Gladiator, Morgana the Witch or the Atomic Nightmare are all one-off villains, never appearing again.
- Every week, the Amazing Three of Jackpot had to battle a monster created by the evil Vogler, who could bring any monster he thought up to life.
- The Lion King Adventures follows this format, featuring an absolute plethora of villains, monsters and aliens.
- Most chapters of My Brave Pony: Starfleet Magic deal with the good guys blowing up Titan's recently created monster/Chrysalis's new changeling.
- In Tomica Hero Rescue Pups, the Rescue Force and Paw Patrol blow up each episode's super-droids and super-disasters.
- Done in two terms in Magical Girls Unite Retransformed. Half of the chapters focus upon facing a Witch and turning them back into a Puella Magi, the other half focuses on recruiting other magical girls, in which case the monster is an established villain.
- Each Godzilla movie usually sees Godzilla going up against a new daikaiju that's emerged to terrorize Japan, particularly in the first Showa series. The later eras of Godzilla movies had more reoccurring rivals, due to the financial failure of Godzilla vs. Biollante, resulting in the studio deciding to play it safer with pre-established characters.
- In a similar manner, Gamera fights a new monster every movie, some even being recycled from previous films. The sole exception is Gyaos, which is thus far the only monster to appear in several movies, rather than just being a one-off antagonist.
- The James Bond film series generally follows a "Diabolical Mastermind of the Week" formula. This was moreso common in films after the Sean Connery era, as due to a legal dispute Eon Productions couldn't use Ernst Stavro Blofeld, and so they created one-shot evil masterminds to go up against Bond instead.
- Alex Rider would be sent on a mission to stop the Evil Plan by whoever's plotting it.
- In the Animorphs series, whenever Visser Three (Big Bad of the series who possesses the same shape-shifting abilities as the titular heroes) would personally participate in a battle, he would do so by assuming the form of a new exotic alien creature that clearly outmatched the Earth animals that the Animorphs themselves had taken the forms of. Subverted by the fact that it is the same character every time, only in a different form. Played straight in later books with one-shot antagonists like Queen Soco and the Inspector.
- The Captain Underpants series has the titular character facing off against a new villain in each book.
- The Doc Savage novels are always this except one because Doc is so good at what he does (lobotomies).
- Beyond the Deepwoods, one of the books of The Edge Chronicles, is basically this. Twig has to face a (deadly) menace every chapter in this book.
- This trope is actually Older Than Steam. Journey to the West is lately made up of monster of the week encounters, or in this case monster of the chapter.
- The Dresden Files has this, particularly in the first three books in the series. Storm Front has an evil sorcerer, Fool Moon has werewolves, Grave Peril has a ghost called "The Nightmare". Later books continue this somewhat, with Summer Knight focusing on Faeries and Death Masks on fallen angels, but both of become significant returning elements as the series continues. Later books focus more on recurring allies, enemies, and story threads that the series has built up over time, although there is also often a monster of the week element happening alongside it.
- Goosebumps, much like The Outer Limits (1963), adds this formula to its The Twilight Zone (1959) influence. Almost every book deals with the everyman kid heroes encountering(or in some cases becoming) a new monster or supernatural entity that's featured right on the cover art. A few later books however (such as Fright Camp, Scream School or Are You Terrified Yet) avert this by having no supernatural elements and making the conflict a mundane one.
- In Princess Holy Aura, the frequency of the monsters increases, so by the end of the book the Maidens are close to facing a monster per week, which also is lampshaded, though not all monsters are shown in action. Some of the monsters they face are; a dhole, a shoggoth, a crazy rhyming axe murderer, and a phantom clown.
- In the books of Star Wars Legends, earlier-written ones in particular, the vast majority of villains are only there for the book or trilogy, and books set later or earlier completely forget that these villains ever existed. Odd, considering that they tend to be Imperial forces. The exceptions are Aaron Allston's run on the X-Wing Series, which had the campaign against Warlord Zsinj; the Coruscant Nights trilogy, which had one-book guest appearances by Prince Xizor and Aurra Sing; and roughly anything Timothy Zahn writes.
- The villain usually had a new superweapon, too: "the Death Star but Better" sums up all of them. The Tarkin was "the Second Death Star before the Writers Knew about the Real Second Death Star", World Devastators are "the Death Star but Slow and Productive", the Nightcloak was "the Death Star but with Climate Change", Darksaber was "the Death Star but Minimalistic", the Eclipse was "the Death Star but also the Executor", the Galaxy Gun was "the Death Star but with Really Long Range Nukes", Centerpoint Station was "the Death Star but also Long Range", and the Sun Crusher was "the Death Star but God-Mode Sue". As you can guess, people who prefer the Death Star as an ultimate weapon hate every single one of them. Particularly since about half of these have characters popping up to exclaim that this superweapon is worse than the Death Star, omg!
- Galaxy of Fear has a different horror or threat for each book. The first six can all be traced back to the Mad Scientist Big Bad, who had a lot of projects going. The others are mostly unrelated.
- In the Trixie Belden series, there's almost always a new villain in every book.
- Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure has an in-universe, reality TV version of this with Monster Slayer in which Jason Powers stalks and kills a new monster each week. (When the Greek gods returned to the world, mythological monsters weren't far behind. There are now harpies off the coast of North Carolina and a hydra in Lake Michigan.)
- The premise of the Bailey School Kids book series is that each book has the children encounter an unsual person whom they believe to be some kind of supernatural creature, with no clear indication whether or not the children's suspicions are true.
- Isaac Asimov:
- Black Widowers: The stories have a "mystery of the month" format, where each meeting has a guest who provides a puzzle for the characters to solve. Meetings where there is no mystery simply don't have stories written about them, but are implied to exist.
- The Foundation Trilogy:
- "The Psychohistorians": Taking place when Seldon is still alive, he invites a mathematician to discuss his psychohistory and sneaks in a private nocturnal meeting with the man. This prompts Chief Commissioner of Public Safety, Linge Cheng, to imprison, then exile, Seldon to stop his schemes.
- "The Encyclopedists": Salvor Hardin, mayor of the planet Terminus, tries to get the Encyclopedia Foundation to deal directly with the threat of the four neighboring kingdoms. Unfortunately, their leader, Lewis Pirenne, is an Obstructive Bureaucrat as dense as a brick. It takes Seldon's reveal that the Encyclopedia Galactica was a scam in order to set the colony of Terminus in motion before they're willing to deal with the problem. By then Mayor Hardin has already taken control of the situation.
- "The Mayors": Salvor Hardin, mayor of the planet Terminus, is facing internal revolutionary elements on Terminus, led by Sef Sermak. At the same time, they're facing a threat from Anacreon, where Prince Regent Weinis, uncle to the King of Anacreon, is making a power play for his country to take control of Terminus.
- "The Merchant Princes": Foundation politicians Sutt and Manlio are still clinging to the power of the Scam Religion, so they try to weaken the blossoming Traders by sending an agent to undermine Master Trader Huber Mallow during his mission on Korell, a world staunchly against the Foundation's religion. During the last third of the story, after Mallow has defeated his political opponents, he is faced by the planet of Korell itself, which has declared war on the Foundation. Mallow uses the Foundation's economic powers to win by declaring a trade embargo on Korell. Despite winning every battle, Korell is forced to surrender due to civil revolt during wartime hardships.
- "The General (Foundation)": General Bel Riose is a massive threat against the Foundation, fully immune to their previous tactics, as political maneuvers are useless on him, the Foundation's religion is long dead and nuclear embargo can do nothing to him as he has Empire technology. He manages to severely weaken the Foundation's hold on the Periphery, and even lay siege to the Foundation's doorstep by taking some of the Four Kingdoms, its inner core worlds. He's also surprisingly likable, fairly noble, and philosophical. His main concern is reigniting the glory of the Empire, with no ulterior motives whatsoever, which makes his inevitable defeat by the politics of the inner court of the Empire rather heartbreaking. The timing of the attacks favoured him, too; the Foundation government is much weaker than the capitalists running the corporations. We have foreshadowing that a class struggle between the plutocrats and the common traders is forthcoming.
- "The Mule": Seldon expected the conflict in this era to be democracy against tyranny, pitting the advocates for independence against the advocates for strong central organization. However, their disagreements had to be put on hold to deal with an unexpected threat.
- "The Mule": The Mule is an apparently unstoppable Galactic Conqueror who successfully defeats Seldon and shatters the plan nearly beyond saving. The Mule is miles above anything the Foundation has ever faced, causing Terminus to fall for the first and only time ever in its history. Yes, the Foundation loses to him. He does this with relative ease, outsmarts Foundation's insurgents and in Part Two, starts his plan of tracking down the legendary Second Foundation, which is surrounded in myth and rumored to be able to defeat him.
- "Search by the Mule": Rather than some psychohistorical imperative, last week's threat continues. Equal parts attention are given to the villain of this work (the Mule and his minions) and to The Hero of this work (First Speaker and their Second Foundation), making them mutual antagonists.
- "Search by the Foundation": The primary conflict here is a silent showdown between the First and Second Foundations, with the First being notably more antagonistic, since they have become extremely paranoid of any psychic since the Mule and thus want to destroy the Second, which is an entire nation of psychics. Simultaneously, the First Foundation is also facing war with the remnants of the Mule's empire and its current leader, Lord Stettin. The Second Foundation manages to masterfully trick and outmaneuver the First into thinking they have been defeated, while Lord Stettin is a mere cover up who has been manipulated from the beginning by a Second Foundationer, the whole war being a farce to give the First Foundation the confidence to stand on its own.
- Many of the Franny K. Stein books have Franny having to fight a monster or villain whose existence is at least partially her responsibility.
- Despite many works by Rick Riordan form their own self-contained Myth Arc, many (Especially his earlier works) have this formula appear in which a monster or opponent from mythology threatens the main characters, and they are dispatched within one or two chapters. Considering the source material, this is likely invoked:
- Percy Jackson and the Olympians, prior to The Last Olympian (the conclusion to the original pentology and the end of the Wham Episode that was The Battle of the Labyrinth), has a common formula: Our heroes are sent on a quest, and along the way end up fighting a few monsters or opponents that serve as obstacles to them. While there are a few who are working as a group, for the most part the monsters are fighting by themselves, specifically targeting the heroes who either walk into their operation or because a reward was promised.
- The Kane Chronicles, primarily in The Red Pyramid, features the titular Kane siblings encountering obstacles that are often dispatched
- The Heroes of Olympus also uses the formula where the heroes are continuing on their quests, but much more like The Kane Chronicles, sticks mostly towards progressing its overall arc and the Myth Arc itself. While situations like these do appear in the last two books of the quintet, they are much fewer in number and are almost always something they are informed of ahead of time. Which leads to the last two which contrast the most:
- In contrast, The Trials of Apollo and Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard more or less ditched this. Virtually every opponent encountered serves a purpose to either the current objective or the myth arc.
- The Give Yourself Goosebumps gamebook Curse of the Cave Creatures also features monsters of the week in which the Cave Spirit sends creatures after the player, who the player has to defeat in some way.
- Solar Defenders: The Role of a Shield, being a Power Rangers pastiche, takes place in a world where regular monster attacks every Thursday are an expected part of the normal routine.
- The stories of many folk heroes often end up this way. Often, reading collections of such things will highlight how certain monsters met their demise, or how certain things came to be.
- Greek Mythology in particular is full of this, featuring a hero who fights a strong opponent or a monster. Even some of Homer's epics such as The Odyssey features quite a bit of obstacles in Odysseus's path that are only around for a few instances.
- Residents Of Proserpina Park largely takes a creature of the week format. The primary plot of each episode involves the cast encountering, or learning about, a new creature from mythology or folklore.
- The science fiction radio show Alien Worlds had the heroes confront a different villain or alien race with sinister intentions in every adventure.
- The game Monsterhearts (based on Apocalypse World's rules) can run on this trope, if one of the players is using the Chosen skin.
- The aptly-named Monster of the Week game (also based on Apocalypse World's system) is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- Although a different medium, episodic RPG campaigns also fall into this pattern, as gaming groups usually get together to play once a week.
- Most early cases in Ace Attorney follow this format, being self-contained cases with a killer who is caught in their first appearance and isn't relevant to the game's over-arching plot. Later games have begun subverting this, however, with early case villains often having minor ties to a greater conspiracy that forms the game's Story Arc.
- In Bomberman 64: The Second Attack!, Bomberman and Pommy on their travels to each planet would do battle with a member of the BHB Army's Astral Knights led by Rukifellth to gather the Elemental Stones.
- In Danganronpa: Ultra Despair Girls, while Komaru and Toko are traveling through Towa City, each chapter has them fighting a member of The Warriors of Hope who uses a remote-controlled Mini-Mecha to fight them.
- Platformer entries that were released after Rareware's tenure on the Donkey Kong Country series generally had a unique major new villain for each, but Donkey Kong Jungle Beat in particular solely consists of Donkey Kong beating up an antagonistic Kong at the end of each world.
- Dragalia Lost has this structure a lot of the time, especially early on. There are many events that mainly just focus on Euden and friends taking on a different fiend.
- EXTRAPOWER: Chapters in Attack of Darkforce take this format.
- The Fire Emblem series uses this for bosses of most chapters. In general, most games begin with the main army fighting isolated skirmishes against a few irrelevant bandit leaders, before the greater Story Arc begins.
- Kingdom Hearts plays it straight for each game, with Sora and his friends fighting against whoever is threatening the world with Heartless.
- Ganbare Goemon usually has the eponymous hero and his friends battling a new zany villain in every game. In the series, it's rather rare for characters aside from the core quartet and the supporting cast i.e Impact, the Old Wiseman and Omitsu to appear more than once, even as cameos. The most noteworthy aversions is Kabuki, a cyborg kabuki warrior who has appeared in four games and Taisamba and her various versions.
- In Killer7, The titular Killer7 hunt down a major target in each mission after receiving intel of their crimes and location.
- A large amount of Kirby games' plots follow this, each game being based on one Big Bad at a time (the major exception being the Dark Matter Trilogy).
- The Legend of Heroes: Trails:
- Trails In The Sky: In each chapter, Estelle and Joshua, along with some of their allies, would deal with a major villain, who turns out to have been Unwitting Pawns of the true Big Bad. In Sky - Second Chapter, the Enforcers of Ouroboros are introduced as the one responsible for the incident in each area for every chapter.
- Kuro No Kiseki: The general structure of the story goes like this. In each chapter, Van and his party get a request from someone, goes to the location mentioned by said requester, get wrapped up in whatever problem the place has at the time, and ends with Van using the Grendel and beating the chapter's villain with the party assisting him.
- Mega Man:
- The sets of 8 Robot Masters in the Mega Man (Classic) series easily fall into this. The Game Boy spin-offs do this with the Mega Man Hunters/Rockman Killers (and Quint) and the Stardroids as well, while the sole Genesis game in the series (The Wily Wars) had the Genesis Unit. Then, there's the major villains fought before Dr. Wily.
- Mega Man Battle Network 4: Red Sun and Blue Moon follows this format, with the game consisting of three tournaments, each made up of randomized mini-scenarios that always involve some kind of problem-related to your tournament opponent, ending in the tournament match against their Navi. These scenarios are all wrapped up on their completion and have no relevance to the game's Story Arc.
- Noel The Mortal Fate: Each episode follows Noel and Caron dealing with one of Russell Burrows' subordinates sent to kill them.
- No More Heroes follows this with Travis hunting down the main Assassins on the rank board to be the Number 1 assassin.
- The monthly Full Moon Shadows that the party fights in Persona 3 at first seem to fall into this category; however, later on, it is revealed that they are all actually fragments of a single Shadow, Death, who is the herald of Nyx, the one destined to bring about The End of the World as We Know It.
- Persona 4 does this with the team rescuing whoever's trapped inside the TV world and battling their Shadows to make them repent.
- Persona 5 has the Phantom Thieves in each chapter entering the mental Palaces of a criminal individual to make them confess their crimes.
- Sly Cooper does this, with Sly and the gang taking down a major criminal while shutting down their crime operations.
- Super Mario Bros.
- Unlike the rest of the franchise, Super Mario RPG and Paper Mario does this, with a major villain in each chapter, and at least one Big Bad unique to the game.
- Mario Party DS: In Story Mode, while on-route to Bowser's Castle, Mario and the group assist an ally when they're being troubled by one of the usual series enemies at each area.
- Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon: Each boss of every location has a creature or object possessed by a Possessor.
- Luigi's Mansion 3: Each floor of the hotel is haunted by a major ghost that Luigi encounters as he tries to catch them.
- The Wario franchise (outside of WarioWare) mostly does this, featuring Wario going up against a new antagonist standing in his way of getting even richer. Wario World also has Wario battling a monster created by the Black Jewel at the end of each level. The only recurring antagonist he has is Captain Syrup, who only served the role in Wario Land 1 and II.
- Super Robot Wars: Not only do the heroes have to deal with most (if not all) of the villains and monsters from their respective series (including those mentioned above), but there's also a new latest threat to stop on top of everything else.
- Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE: In each chapter, the team finds a Mirage gate emerging at a major location in Shibuya, with the main boss being a monstrous version of a Fire Emblem villain.
- Tokyo Xanadu: The story follows this formula of isolated incidents caused by Elder Greeds, with said monsters being the last bosses of each chapter. This goes on until Chapters 5 and 6, where an Arc Villain is introduced to be the cause of the Grim Greeds wreaking havoc in those chapters, and the last chapters put focus into fighting the Big Bad.
- Most Touhou bosses only appear as the main boss once and then either turn good or at least befriend Reimu, Marisa or both the next game they're seen, though this doesn't stop the occasional misunderstanding, especially in the Fighting Game or PVP spinoffs, or are never seen again outside of a Gaiden Game. This has continued for 15 games and counting (discounting decimal-numbered games!).
- Undertale does this. The Human Child would encounter a major monster character who'll be the main obstacle for each new area they enter. Deltarune has The Delta Warriors facing off with a major villain in each chapter who rules over a Dark Fountain.
- A literal example in The World Ends with You. Each week of the Reaper's Game is presided over by a "game master." These are especially powerful Reapers who, what do you know, transform into monstrous versions of themselves when you get to fight them.
- Xenoblade Chronicles 3: While some of Moebius get more screentime to themselves and serve as primary villains, a fair number of them only serve to be the Arc Villain of a Hero's recruitment quest.
- DSBT InsaniT has a different monster showing up in every episode with varying threat levels. Koden even references this trope in 'The Camping Webisode'.
- Mega Man Dies at the End does this in the first season. Mega Man would hunt down a target on his hit-list such as the BattleToads, Samus, and BomberMan to obtain their abilities.
- Quirky Misadventures of Soldine the Cyborg: The first three mini-movies follow this format. The fourth one contains Night of the Living Mooks and a Quirky Miniboss Squad, but the fifth one returns to the classic format.
- Sonic Zombie: Every entry in the series has at least one. Godzilla with the Tank, Satan, Zombie Knuckles, Hornhog Sonic with Monster Silver, a sea monster, Monster Bowser and the giant carnival sewer worm.
- The first three chapters of Agents of the Realm has the girls face three bleeds: a bear-bleed, spider-bleed and bird-bleed.
- Gorgeous Princess Creamy Beamy parodies and plays this straight (albeit, in an arc-based way) with its Instant Monsters, for obvious reasons. So far, three of them have been defeated, with the former two being sentient everyday objects, and the third being human (however, the side effects of the potion on him were unintended).
- The Green Knight generally follows this structure, with the main protagonists facing off against a different kind of fairy everywhere they stop.
- The Sword Interval dedicates each of its story arcs to dealing with a different monster. Justified, as the protagonists are monster hunters.
- Ash & Cinders often has the trio facing off against different strange perils in between their Fetch Quest to retrieve their stolen half-brother.
- The web fiction serial Dimension Heroes often has the Dimensional Guardians fighting a new monster in every chapter, though it must be pointed out the fights still help to advance the story arc.
- New York Magician: Not many (as there aren't that many stories, all told), but they definitely have this vibe.
- Stellar Ranger Dark Star zigzags this throughout the series:
- Series One plays it straight, with Baron Stellos sending out a new Hollow Heart minion each chapter or few chapters.
- Series Two averts it entirely, instead putting the focus on the five Savage Star Generals.
- Series Three downplays it. The various Fallen Star prisoners often serve as enemies for the Rangers to fight and are treated like this, but they are given much less focus than the Hollow Hearts were, and are less frequent.