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Out of Order

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"One of the many fascinating things about The Prisoner is that no one knows what order the episodes should be watched in. There is, however, a consensus on two things. Firstly, they should not be watched in the order they were made, and secondly, they should not be watched in the order they were broadcast."

A truly strange tendency that some broadcasters have is to air episodes of a television show in an order that disregards the order in which they were written. For some shows, particularly those of the episodic variety, this will make little difference. For a series with continuity, this can confuse the heck out of viewers.

Often executives do this to make an Action Prologue, using it to draw in an audience for better ratings, while ignoring how many people desert the series later. Occasionally this trope is justified, or at least understandable if a recent event or tragedy might make airing the episode so close to it need to be Distanced from Current Events. As often as not, it's just because they didn't really care - this was especially the case for local stations airing syndicated shows back when they were stored on physical media.

In comics, production sometimes falls behind deadlines so comics companies have "filler" issues prepared, generic stories that have nothing to do with any ongoing storyline, sometimes characterized as an "untold tale" of the character. Occasionally, a filler issue drops in the middle of a long story arc.

This trope is often a symptom of being Screwed by the Network. When the writers intend for a series to be this way, it's Anachronic Order.

Not to be confused with the "functional" variety of "out of order"; for examples of that, see Phlebotinum Breakdown, Holodeck Malfunction, Plot-Driven Breakdown or Failsafe Failure. Also not to be confused with the common plot device for a Potty Emergency or justification for a Forgotten Superweapon.


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  • In the famous Dolmio puppet adverts, which promote a line of Italian sauces, when we are first introduced to the Dolmio family, Sophia (who is either Mama's eldest daughter or her daughter-in-law) has a bizarre, multicolored hairstyle akin to a poodle's without explanation. The hair was explained soon after in a series of follow-up shorts that had the theme of the family members having a bad day they immediately forgot about then Mama served dinner: she went to a new hairdresser and it didn't go well. In later shorts, Sophia had straight brown hair like the rest of the family, meaning this wasn't her natural hair.

    Anime and Manga 
  • The 80s Astro Boy series' episode order has been completely ignored for all English broadcast and home video releases, with some of the very last episodes airing among the first, and some of the very first episodes airing among the last. Fortunately, the very first and last episodes remained the same.
  • KidsWB trifecta! While Nelvana did dub all 70 episodes of Cardcaptor Sakura (CardCaptors), KidsWB only aired about half of them (the more action-packed and/or Shaoran-centered ones), and very much out of order.
  • The English dub of the second Digimon Tamers movie, which took place after the series proper, aired two weeks before the dub of the first, which took place during the series.
  • The English dub of the Dragon Ball franchise was subject to this to a certain extent, particularly with the home releases. Uncut DVDs of the series began in 2000 with episodes 68-74 of DBZ, with the end of the series (around 291) being released in 2003, while episodes in the early 200s were still being released in 2005. DBZ alone wasn't available in its entirety until 2007, while the first 13 episodes of the original Dragon Ball series weren't released to DVD uncut in the US until 2009.
    • Naturally, when Toonami expanded to Kids' WB! and started showing Dragon Ball Z, the episodes shown were seemingly chosen completely at random from the entire series shown on Cartoon Network up to that point, despite every episode having a Previously on… segment and a To Be Continued segment. Rarely would the show even be on the same story arc on consecutive days. Since no one who started DBZ from Kids' WB! could understand what's going on, viewership plummeted, and Kids' WB! pulled DBZ out of its schedule shortly afterward.
    • In the original Saban dub of DBZ, several episodes from the Saiyan Saga were cut and had certain scenes spliced into earlier or later episodes. During the Namek Saga, the non-canon movie "The Tree of Might" was also made into a three-part episode, despite the obvious continuity problems.
    • Pioneer released Ocean's uncut dub of the first 3 DBZ movies out of order. The third movie, "The Tree of Might", was released on March 17 1998, followed on May 26 1998 by the second movie "The World's Strongest".
    • AB Groupe's infamous "Big Green" dub for the Dragon Ball Z movies and specials was released in a very jumbled order. It went: Movie 3 > Movie 2 > Movie 4 > Movie 5 > Movie 6 > Movie 7 > Movie 8 > Movie 9 > Special 1 > Special 2 > Movie 1
  • Fairy Tail: Episode 19, "Changeling" has Levy show up and Lucy is already familiar with her, but they meet for the first time two episodes later. Not really that important since Changeling is a Filler Episode.
  • There was some controversy when the US DVD release of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya undid the Anachronic Order of the broadcast. The company responded by putting the episodes in broadcast order in one disc and chronological order on the other in future releases.
  • The "Hi*Light" release of Hyperdimension Neptunia the Animation had Episodes 1-5, 11 and 12 in the first volume, while Episodes 6-10 and 13 were in the second volume, with the justification that each volume had its own theme ("bonding" for the first, and "dimensions" for the second).
  • Kirby: Right Back at Ya! ran into a minor case of this due to a bit of Merchandise-Driven. A two-part special was created to promote the then-new Kirby Air Ride, but in order to air it at the proper time to promote the game in the U.S., it had to be aired far earlier in the series' run than it had in Japan, leading to minor plot holes.
  • The first aired episode of the 4Kids dub of Magical Doremi was episode 4 in the original Japanese version, likely because it's the one where Hazuki and Aiko get their witch apprentice powers.
  • Nelvana's dub of Medabots at first skipped some Filler episodes to get the first two "arcs" of the series to fit in a 26-episode season (in the Japanese version, the arcs took 39 episodes). After deciding to dub the rest, such episodes were inserted as the first episodes of "Season 2". Lots of continuity headaches.
  • MegaMan NT Warrior was also aired out of order, moving the "filler" episodes to later, continuity be damned. At first it was thought to be KidsWB's fault, but other countries who got the show from ShoPro also had it out of order; so, all fingers point to ShoPro for this. note 
  • When Ninja Robots (aka the dubbed version of Ninja Senshi Tobikage) aired in Australia in a block of about half a dozen episodes were televised out of order. This was particularly obvious because it skipped the introduction of a major character. This alternative ordering of the episodes was repeated on the DVD.
  • Kids' WB! reruns of Pokémon: The Series were also aired out of order for a while, which may have been one contributing factor to its decline in popularity, since fans lost interest and newcomers were confused.
    • The 15th episode "Battle Aboard the St. Anne" aired first in the U.S. as part of a "sneak peek" due to it being more action-packed and therefore "interesting" to hook viewers. note  When the show was picked up for broadcast, it aired in its proper spot.
    • The mid-Hoenn episode "Love At First Flight", which occurs between the episodes "What You Seed is What You Get" and "Let Bagons Be Bagons", was initially skipped over in the US due to elements involving love (and a scene where Brock chases Ash dressed as a girl), eventually airing a few episodes later. Reruns would have it air in its proper spot, however.
    • The episodes involving May's final Pokémon Contest in Hoenn ("Date Expectations" note , "Mean With Envy", "Pacifidlog Jam") were skipped over in the US due to one of the Pokémon Coordinators using a Jynx. This lead to confusion when the Grand Festival came around and May somehow had her final Ribbon. These episodes didn't air in the US until after the Hoenn League.
    • For that matter, good luck trying to figure out the order of episodes after the Infamous Seizure episode was banned in the dub, especially the two episodes that feature Lickitung. To clarify: Lickitung's first appearance was episode 49 in the Japanese airing; the episode in which it was captured was episode 52. Episode 53 also clearly belongs immediately after episode 52 because Togepi, who hatched in episode 50, is nowhere to be seen in that episode. The Kids' WB! airing further compounded this by airing these episodes after episodes 54-57 (again, by the Japanese numbering, since there had already been three skipped episodes in the dub by this point, only one of which ever aired), with a four-month break from new episodes immediately preceding it, which could easily lead to a person believing that Team Rocket just acquires all of its Pokémon off-screen as James's Victreebel, which was acquired off-screen, made its dub debut before the episode in which Jessie caught her Lickitung aired in the dub.
    • Happened frequently during the Johto arc as well, most notably delaying episode 147 (in which Squirtle leaves and Ash also sends Tauros and Heracross back to Professor Oak's Lab) until after episode 150 and then immediately following it with episode 154 (in which Ash catches his Noctowl)...despite Ash using his Totodile, which he caught in episode 151, during the battle with Noctowl! Compounding this further is that Pokémon 3 came out between the airings of episodes 148 and 149 in the US, whereas in Japan it came out between the airings of episodes 155 and 156, and the changes in Ash's lineup are quite visible in the movie.
    • In September 2002, KidsWB decided to air a new Pokémon episode on each weekday for a week around the time the Whirl Islands arc began. The problem was that all five such episodes took place after the Whirl Islands arc, especially "Just Waiting on a Friend" and "Will the Real Oak Please Stand Up", the latter of which takes place after Ash's 7th Gym badge.
  • Good luck trying to figure out the proper order of Pokémon Adventures by its magazine releases alone. Seeing how being published in two or three different magazines at once is the only reason it's allowed to go beyond a single volume's worth of material unlike other Pokémon manga, expect to be very confused until the volumes do come out.
  • In The '90s dub of Sailor Moon, DiC aired the first episode of the Negamoon arc after the episode Queen Beryl was defeated. They were trying to hold out the 13 Doom Tree episodes to air as a Network exclusive (Sailor Moon aired in syndication back then); other countries that aired the English dub aired the episodes in the proper order. Also for continuity reasons the Doom Tree episodes are numbered after the Beryl episodes.
  • Slayers: The order of the movies and OVAs is not very clear. They all take place before the TV series begins, but in what order? Slayers Excellent takes place first, but since it was written as a prequel, it doesn't give the characters any formal introduction, and it's not recommended to be watched first. The Slayers Premium movie is the only "movie" to take place in the middle of the TV series, but even then... it's not very clear exactly WHERE in the series it takes place...
  • Tenchi Muyo! episodes from three very similar series were broadcast in the same timeslot in seemingly random order.
  • When Tokyo Mew Mew was dubbed into English as Mew Mew Power, not only was episode 12 aired as the premiere, episode 13 was shorn of the references to 12.
  • Transformers: Robots in Disguise is a case of the Justified Trope given in the description: a lot of the episodes were pulled from their intended airdate after 9/11 for being too close to the event in question. Unfortunately, these were also mostly the episodes dealing with the main plot arc. Fortunately, there is a known intended order, and the home video release put them in that order.
  • Tweeny Witches: The Adventures: "A Heart Sealed Away" is the second episode in the original Japanese release. The North American release, however, positions the episode as the fifth.

    Asian Animation 
  • The episode order in the English dub of Z-Squad differs from the original Korean. For example, "Blind Love" and "The Riddle of the Pandora Zoot" were originally episodes 6 and 7 respectively, but in the dub they're episodes 4 and 5.

    Comic Books 
  • Asterix was similarly afflicted, mostly in the case of volumes that the British publishers felt would not translate as well (such as Asterix and the Banquet, which was left until near the end because it was felt many of the jokes about French provinces would be lost on their readers).
  • A lot of translations from Cinebook of French-Belgian comics suffer from this:
    • The translations of Spirou & Fantasio and Blake and Mortimer are released interleaving recent books with older ones, themselves in random order with one another.
    • The translation of Yoko Tsuno started this way before sticking more closely to the original order, which gives the impression that the series was rebooted halfway through.
  • Marvel Comics's Epic Collection line reprints runs of titles from all over the company's fifty-year history, and makes a point of having a disclaimer stating the books are not released in order, in case you're wondering why The Amazing Spider-Man jumps from Vol, 1 to Vol. 17. Additionally, it focuses on more obscure runs than the well-known milestones, which is why major stories like The Night Gwen Stacy Died aren't the first ones out of the gate. The Star Wars Legends version of the Epic Collections reprint the various comics produced by Dark Horse Comics. One would think this would be a good opportunity for new readers to jump in, but while each volume collects stories that take place at roughly the same point in time, the order of the volumes themselves seems to be chosen at random, not one that would actually make sense for them to be read in. As a result, one of the first volumes to be published deals with the aftermath of Return of the Jedi and the much less prominent Shadows of the Empire; another one takes place right after the formation of the Galactic Empire and opens with the conclusion of Sagoro Autem's story arc that had begun during the Separatist Crisis. In both cases, the previous parts remain out of print for the time being (see above).
  • The five-part Superman story "Last Son", written by Geoff Johns and Richard Donner, was published in Action Comics issues #844-846, #851 and annual #11. Issue #847 is an "intermission" story by a different writer set between parts 3 and 4, issues #848-849 are a flashback story set one year earlier, and #850 is a special set across various time periods including a "present day" that never acknowledges "Last Son". Then part 5 wasn't published until ten months after part 4, by which time three other story arcs had already been published in the regular issues of Action Comics.
  • The Belgian comic strip Suske en Wiske serializes all its albums in one unchronological mess. The first 66 black-and-white albums are no longer available, so they simply started again from number 67 (!!) and randomly republished the older albums in color again, together with the newer titles. This makes reading the albums in this new order very confusing.
  • Tintin comics were translated into English in somewhat-random order. The translators altered the dialogue occasionally to try to make the "new" order make sense, but of course that just led to further confusion when the comics were re-released in proper order without the dialogue being fixed.

    Comic Strips 
  • Rare newspaper example with Pearls Before Swine. The creator often keeps certain strips in back burner, either because he thought they were weak or because the content could cause problems, only to run them years later. This often leads to the art style being inconsistent with modern strips, due to Art Evolution.
  • In-Universe; one Zits strip sees Walt complain about an audio book that Connie gave him, saying it jumped around in time so much that it left him confused. Jeremy figures out that the reason for this is that Walt had his car stereo set on "shuffle" while he was listening to it.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Darkman had two direct-to-video sequels, Darkman II: The Return of Durant and Darkman III: Die Darkman Die. Due to scheduling issues with Larry Drake, who returned from the first film as the villain Durant, The Return of Durant has shot second but released first. However, there are still a few details in that movie that make it feel that The Return of Durant was supposed to release as the third film while Die Darkman Die was supposed to be the second. The first is when Darkman's machines state this latest test is in the 4000s whereas in Die Darkman Die his latest test is in the 3000s. Another is when Brinkman tells Westlake he broke the 99 minute barrier to 127 minutes and explains to him how he did it, when in Die Darkman Die Westlake is still trying to figure out how to break 99 minutes.
  • The direct-to-video movie series Josh Kirby Time Warrior had its first two story arcs switched before release. It is *painfully* obvious that the "Human Pets" arc was intended to be the first adventure in the series, with plenty of dialogue developing the new allegiance between Josh, Irwin, and Azabeth, the introduction of the "Codes of Kang", Doctor Zoetrope brainwashing Prism, and various other minor bits of continuity that continue straight into "Planet of the Dino-knights". However, at some point the decision was made to have Dino-Knights be the first story arc, with barely anything but a slightly reshot introduction scene for Azabeth used to cover up the difference.

  • The Bible:
    • An interesting example is the New Testament — few Christians realize that Paul's epistles, although they describe events after Jesus's death, are actually the oldest Christian writings. 1 Thessalonians was written around AD 51, while by all accounts, the gospels were written after AD 59 at the earliest.
    • Concerning the gospels themselves: Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the "synoptic" or same-POV gospels, all appear to have the same source—namely Mark, which is nonetheless positioned second.
    • The Old Testament exhibits this kind of thing as well: what most Christians call the Books of History were originally from two different sections of the Jewish Bible, the Nevi'im (which puts Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings alongside the books of the prophets) and the Ketuvim (which has nearly every other Old Testament book), but early Christians reordered the Ketuvim so that all the story-like books were all together and ran (roughly) in chronological order.
  • In the Bob Morane series, The Yellow Shadow was translated to English before Treasure of the Golcondas, despite being an obvious sequel to the latter.
  • Target's Doctor Who Novelisations, which covered most of the classic series, were released without much concern for the original story broadcast order, resulting in Doctor and companion introductions and departures getting seriously scrambled up (not helped by the novelisations' own changes to events - notoriously, Ian and Barbara join the TARDIS on two separate occasions, once in the novelisation of An Unearthly Child and again in the novelisation of The Daleks). Target's official numbering order wasn't much help; it listed the first 73 novelisations in alphabetical order (that is, all the ones up until the institution of the numbering system), then all subsequent releases in the intended release order, which didn't always work out as planned. When BBC Books relaunched the novelisations to cover the revival series (and finish off the remaining classic series stories), they kept tradition with Target by not worrying much about original broadcast order.
    • The "Day of the Doctor" novelization tells its chapters out of order. It begins with Chapter 8 (adapting the prequel minisode that featured the Eighth Doctor), then Chapter 11 (featuring the Eleventh Doctor), then Chapter 1 (featuring the unnumbered War Doctor), Chapter 10 (featuring the Tenth Doctor), and Chapter 12 (where the War, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors first meet), followed by Chapters 2 through 7, and finally Chapter 13 (an epilogue featuring the Thirteenth Doctor). There is no Chapter 9, reflecting the Ninth Doctor's absence from the story.
  • It's Kirby Time: The first read-along uploaded to YouTube was for Kirby's Tiny World, the fourth book. Take Courage, the third book, had its read-along released second.

  • Funeral for a Friend's concept album Tales Don't Tell Themselves tells a story over each track, but the track order was chosen for flow rather than telling the story in order. The opening track Into Oblivion (Reunion) is clearly the last part of the story, as most of the album is about the perilous time at sea - this one is about how he has now escaped the dangers and is coming home. The narrator says he 'stared into oblivion and found my own reflection there', which indicates he's past the oblivion that other tracks such as 'Out Of Reach' detail.
  • The first two serially-released LPs of the triple vinyl edition of Blue Amazon's The Javelin album had their tracklists swapped: Part 1 has tracks 3 and 4, while Part 2 has tracks 1 and 2.
  • Nick Drake's Bryter Layter features "Hazey Jane II" as track 2, but "Hazey Jane I" doesn't appear till track 5. Whilst I is a stark acoustic song much closer to his later Pink Moon work (albeit with a string section similar to Five Leaves Left), II is a bouncy song with horns that was designed as a single, the likely reason for its prominence in the tracklisting.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • During the pre-cable and kayfabe eras, where the internet was still things of science fiction, many title changes weren't aired on television until several weeks — sometimes six weeks — after they happened, but the former champions will continue to defend their titles until the title change airs on television. One frequently cited example is Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard, the WWF Tag Team Champions, losing to Demolition, at a television taping in early October 1989, but the title change did not air until November 4 of that year, but the two continued to defend their titles (usually against Demolition but also the Rockers and the Hart Foundation) in the meantime. WCW's Disneyland tapings in 1993 caused considerable havoc with the company's continuity that year.
  • After losing their distributor due to the RF incident, Ring of Honor DVD releases came out two to three months after a show had already taken place, much longer than previously, and weren't made available in the order they chronologically happened in.

    Tabletop Games 
  • For the physical version of Sentinels of the Multiverse, the Vengeance expansion came out before Wrath of the Cosmos. The video game released Cosmos first, however, because Vengeance includes a whole different gameplay style that is more difficult to adapt to the electronic game.

    Video Games 

  • Square Root of Minus Garfield:
    • "Andrew Garfield 2: Tom Hardy Edition" was published two months before "Andrew Garfield".
    • The description for "Garfield's History of Cats" contains a reference to a similar comic by the same author, which had not yet been published at the time.
  • Sunstone was constantly this in the strip's older days; the strips were posted in the order they were completed, not in the order of chronology or even in the order they were thought up. Word of God lampshaded this but rarely gave help. These days this is mostly averted as the comic is updating chronologically and in chapters. Previously standalone strips have been absorbed by the progressing narrative. Though future strips and pin-ups are still released, these are kept in galleries separate from the chapters now making the comic much easier to navigate.
  • Andrew Hussie made at least three Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff comics as part of a discussion on the Penny Arcade forums; when they went up on the newly-established SBAHJ site months later, they were in a different order from the order in which they were made. The famous stairs comic, the first in the site's order, was the third made; the actual first made was the I Banged Your Mom comic, the second in the site's order.

    Web Videos 
  • The Cocomelon compilations on Netflix sometimes do this. For instance, the song where Jellybean the hamster goes missing plays before the song where Jellybean is introduced, and videos depicting JJ's old bed still showed up even after the song introducing the new bed was played.
  • In the second FruityStories YouTube Poop collab, HundleysOnABirdDiet makes a "ho ho ho" joke, then shows text saying that a certain other pooper already made that joke. However, due to the collab playing the entries in alphabetical order of the poopers, the poop that is referenced in this text doesn't show up until later.
  • Party Crashers:
  • Foreign dubs of the SuperThings webseries often are dubbed late into the toyline's lifespan. As such, they focus more on the release of the "Kazoom Kids" era of the series, Series 8 of the toyline. Despite this, some of these foreign dubs give an early dub to the episode "Back To The Origins", which takes place in the "Neon Power" era of the series, Series 11, due to it being a recap of the franchise's story from before that point.