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Rotating Protagonist

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Darn, I wanted a Buster episode.
"Between its three main characters, I would say that none of them is the main character."

When a series with an Ensemble Cast has each episode focus on a different character. In other words, a series where every episode is a different character's Day in the Limelight.

Not to be confused with Limelight Series (where the focus stays on an ensemble of previously minor characters). Compare Plot Tailored to the Party, where the overarching story is designed to place each character into the spotlight sooner or later (Rotating Protagonist is more episodic), and Switching P.O.V., where we see different characters' perspectives rather than just them.

If all these stories are happening simultaneously, but shown in different episodes, it's Four Lines, All Waiting.

Not to be mistaken for Spectacular Spinning.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • 7 Seeds does its best at keeping the focus on each Team at times, though it's noticeable that certain characters get more focus during these moments. The Hail Of Corn arc introduces all the members of Team Summer A, but with a bit more focus on Ango, as the arc continues.
  • Bokurano does this. Character arcs may last two or three episodes instead of just one, but the principle is the same.
  • A Certain Magical Index: Touma Kamijou is the central protagonist at the start of the series, and his actions have a big impact in later arcs, but his limited role in the inner workings of Academy City meant that Accelerator, the Breakout Character of the series, would become the protagonist of the Science Side, and is involved in multiple arcs concerning Academy City's Dark Side. In later chapters, Shiage Hamazura becomes the third protagonist, whose involvement in the main events of the story happened because his loved ones become involved in them, whether willingly or not.
  • Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School: Between the two different sides of the anime, there's about 8 protagonists falling in and out of focus. In Side:Future, there's Kirigiri, Naegi and Munakata, and in Side:Despair, there's Hinata/Kamukura, Nanami, Yukizome, Mitarai and later, Enoshima. Besides that, some characters also get A Day in the Limelight, such as Komaru, Fukawa, The Imposter, Kimura and Kizakura.
  • Durarara!! has the POV switch around constantly (a single anime episode could focus on two or three different plot lines at the same time, and a single scene can revisited a couple of times to show the different characters' perspectives), and rarely focuses on anyone in particular. Word of God says that Celty is the true protagonist, though.
  • Family Complex is a single-volume tankoubon made up of 5 one-shots, each focusing on the different member of the titular Sakamoto family.
  • Gohan no Otomo has an Ensemble Cast with no central protagonist, but each chapter follows a single view-point character as they face their various daily struggles.
  • Kiss and White Lily for My Dearest Girl operates like this. While Ayaka and Yurine are the only pairing whose arc spreads over several volumes, the brief focuses on them come between longer arcs where they stay in the background. In volume 1, 3 and 5 they still have a fair amount of screentime, but in volume 2, 4 and 6 they barely appear. Each volume focuses on the couple featured on the cover, who might be new characters or already known but not yet developped ones. Another particularity is that the focus tends to "hop" from a group of character to another after they interact − for example, Ayaka being interviewed by Sawa and Itsuki in volume 5 or Izumi meeting Amane in volume 6. This allows for smooth transitions between the arcs despite the constant shifts.
  • My Hero Academia plays with this. The main group often varies, but Midoriya and Bakugo (initially) were always in the spotlight, while Uraraka, Iida and Todoroki (Midoriya's closest friends) are prone to fall in and out of focus. Aside from that, the other members of class 1-A are prone to become said group. Kirishima often gets the spotlight due to becoming closer to Bakugo, besides various characters such as Shoji, Tokoyami, Tsuyu, Mineta, Jiro, Yaoyorozu, Kaminari, Mei and various others also get attention in some given arcs, even if they aren't in Midoriya's group. After the hundredth chapter or so, Bakugo himself also became part of this and became prone to falling in and out of the spotlight. In the Internship Arc, for example, he had no appearances at all and was missing from the manga for the entire year of 2017. He would also be pretty irrelevant in a few subsequent arcs while getting more focus in pthers.
  • Paranoia Agent rotates through the main cast as each episode focuses on a character's emotional instabilities and eventual confrontation with the antagonist.
  • Pokémon Chronicles, a short lived spin-off of Pokémon: The Series, focuses on everyone except Ash while the latter was in the Hoenn region. It rotates per episode; one episode will focus on Misty, another on Gary, another on Professor Oak, Casey, Ritchie, Tracey, and a few stories solely focusing on Team Rocket. This show might as well be called "Rotating Protagonist: The Series".
  • Seraphim Call focuses on eleven different girls, with the first eleven episodes each following a different girl. Then the last episode reveals that they all know each other and has them all meet up.
  • Seven Heavenly Virtues does not have a single protagonist, instead each of the titular Virtues gets their own episode. After each angel gets their turn, new episodes group some of them to share the spotlight.
  • Sonic X doesn't really have a protagonist. Depending on the episode, the focus may be on Sonic, Chris, Shadow, Tails and/or Cosmo, or Amy, give or take a character or two. This has not been received unanimously warmly; some fans felt this cheapened Sonic's characterization as a dynamic protagonist, especially since he was sleeping and running around without a goal most of the time.
  • Soul Eater, particularly the first three episodes/chapters which introduced each of the three main meisters and their partners (Soul and Maka first, followed by Black Star and Tsubaki, and finally Death The Kid and the Thompson sisters). They then got a few Monster of the Week episodes each before the main plot kicked in.
  • Why the Hell Are You Here, Teacher!?: Every volume of the series focuses on a different couple. The previous main characters never disappear, but they are reduced to a supporting role.

    Comic Books 
  • The Brave and the Bold: Starting with issue #74, Batman would team up with a new hero every month. Often, this and other Team-Up Series in its mold were used to test the waters regarding the second-billing character. The tradition would be carried on in a modern Brave and the Bold series, where every issue features two different heroes or groups working together.
  • DC's Great Ten miniseries did this - every issue focused on a different member of the titular team. Since the series was cut short due to weak sales, Mother of Champions and Socialist Red Guardsman shared the last one.
  • This is the hook for the 2011 version of Heroes for Hire: Misty Knight uses her contacts to "maximize the potential of [her] address book", calling in favors from different heroes in every issue. The only constant besides Knight herself is Paladin.
  • Marvel had a counterpart to the above in the original Marvel Team-Up, where heroes would join forces with Spider-Man, and Marvel Two-in-One, where The Thing would have a new partner every issue. As with The Brave and the Bold, a modern MTU series dropped the superstar regular angle and featured new team-ups every time. However, the latest incarnation of the series is Deadpool Team-Up, which naturally features the eponymous anti-hero alongside the issue's guest star. Deadpool Team-Up is notable for primarily featuring more obscure characters such as U.S. Archer and It, the Living Colossus. There is also the Marvel Age Supervillain Team-Up, which features Doctor Doom teaming up with a different supervillain and/or team each issue: the Sinister Six, the Circus of Crime, the (original) Masters of Evil, Magneto...
  • Marvel Comics' Solo Avengers and DC Comics' Teen Titans Spotlight showcased various members who didn't already have their own series. However, during the former's first year or so, the rotating protagonist in question would star in the issue's back-up feature, as Hawkeye was the star of the lead feature.
  • The first six issues of Marvel Comics' Young Avengers each focus on a different member of the team.

    Fan Works 
  • A Brighter Dark: A dramatic retelling/Alternate Universe of Fire Emblem Fates. The story covers the events of the war from the perspective of multiple characters on both sides, usually covering about three perspectives per chapter, with their name and location signaling the beginning of their section, adding depth to both sides of the conflict and making the fact that Anyone Can Die all the more heartbreaking.
  • The sheer size of the cast in Change Up requires this. Being a My Hero Academia fanfic with a whole new class requires frequent shifts of perspective in order to get a full view of events.
  • The Elemental Chess Trilogy never puts any single character in the driver's seat for more than one chapter at a time.
  • The First Saniwa: Each half of a chapter between the prologue and the epilogue focuses on a different character/group of characters until all of them meet up for the final battle, and that's not counting the flashback halves.
  • Gensokyo 20XX is a variant of this, with a different character narrating the events of certain chapters from their POVS.
  • In the Vocaloid Fan Fic Good Night, nearly the entire cast trade off the narration role. In the order of doing so for the first part, Tei, Len, Haku, Kiru, Rin, Luka, Gakupo, Neru, Hankyou, Gumi, Miki, Gakupo(?), and Meiko.
  • Infinity Train: Blossomverse: Each story focuses on a different character: Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail is Chloe Cerise, Infinity Train: Knight of the Orange Lily is Gladion Montblanc and Infinity Train: Voyage of Wisteria is Goh Fujihachi.
  • Just Before the Dawn has several main characters that the narration regularly rotates to. Tercio is the closest the story has to a main protagonist, but the narrative regularly switches to follow Celestia, Gilias, and Victus. Occasionally more minor characters find themselves the focus as well.
  • The Mountain and the Wolf: The Wolf is the Villain Protagonist, but the reader never gets his viewpoint. Instead, all his interactions are with other viewpoint characters, be they ally or enemy, and their reaction to him.
  • Sunshine through the Clouds originally focused on Jim and his mother Barbara, but in the second part in expanded to include the other protagonist’s: Toby, Claire, Mary and Darci. It also included less semi/non recurring characters like Strickler or Detective Scott.
  • While the Main Stories of Tokimeki PokéLive! and TwinBee as well as the more important multipart story arcs are usually focused on the female protagonists, especially those who are students at Nijigasaki High, the Side Story arcs on the other hand focus on different protagonists in each arc.
    • "The Ideal Hero", the first arc, is focused on Sonic and N as well as Hilbert and the Miyashita cousins (Coco and Ai) stopping Eggman from attempting to take over a continent using Black Kyurem, the second arc "Duels With Swords!" focuses on Yoko Catherine Osaka White and Elesis "Ellie" Kashiwagi Kousaka helping Crystal Spada, a friend of Míriel's, stop an attack on her village caused by monsters and so on.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • This seems to be a common feature in films written by Doug Kinney, as both Animal House and Caddyshack jump between numerous main characters throughout their runtime.
  • The Big Short follows three groups of people: Michael Burry and Scion Capital; Vennett, Baum, and Baum's employees; Shipley, Geller, and Rickert All three storylines are completely self-contained; none of the three groups ever interact with each other, and seldom appear onscreen together.
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) set up Mark Russell as the main character, though as the film progressed he became much less important to the plot as while his daughter and wife work to help Godzilla take down King Ghidorah and regain control over the other monsters as only Godzilla can stop Ghidorah from puppeteering the other monsters in tearing down human cities. Mark isn't even present at the scene where Emma and Madison form a symbiotic link to Mothra in her larvae form, who plays a crucial role in the final battle.
  • The Jurassic Park films.
    • In Jurassic Park (1993), the main characters are Grant, Ellie, Ian, Hammond, and the kids. Grant was only the main character for the first hour up until he guided the children to safety from the Tyrannosaurus. Ian doesn't do much after getting kicked hard by that Tyrannosaurus but chide Hammond some more about the park's failure. Afterwards, the children get more screen time, Grant and Ellie are just their Big Good physical back-up.
    • In The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Ian is the main character, Hammond and the kids get cameos, and there is a new set of supporting characters. Grant and Ellie are absent.
    • In Jurassic Park III, Grant is the main character again, Ellie has a minor role, and there is yet another new set of supporting characters.
  • Mars Attacks! does have a central antagonist (the leader of the Martians), but not a main protagonist. The U.S. President gets the most screen time for a human, but he dies before the climax, and is quickly forgotten afterwards.
  • The Pusher trilogy follows a different character in each film. Each protagonist is in all of the previous films and none of the future films.


By Author:

  • Brandon Sanderson:
    • Elantris: Each chapter is from the point of view of Raoden, Sarene, or Hrathen, rotating between them until the end, where the breakdown of this rotating scheme is one more clue that things are (as usual for a Sanderson novel) going totally haywire around 5 chapters before the end.
    • None of the others commit to this trope as fully as Elantris, but other Sanderson works feature at least a downplayed version. Warbreaker follows two royal sisters who can both be considered protagonists, and the Mistborn trilogy clearly has Vin as the main protagonist, but in individual books other characters receive equal-ish billing with her: Kelsier in The Final Empire; Elend and Zane in The Well of Ascension; and Elend, Spook, and Sazed in The Hero of Ages.
    • The Stormlight Archive has a number of protagonists, but each book puts one character's backstory center stage (The Way of Kings focuses on Kaladin, Words of Radiance on Shallan).
  • Harry Turtledove's Alternate History novels use this trope to explore different aspects of the world, e.g. a war may be narrated from the perspective of officers and grunts and civilians on different sides. Each chapter includes multiple passages centered around different viewpoint characters.

By Title:

  • The Afterward: The chapters alternate between Olsa and Kalanthe's perspectives.
  • The Animorphs books follow a pattern to determine who the protagonist (or at least the POV character) is. Each book follows the next character in the pattern, and the Megamorphs books are longer and everyone gets a turn to be the narrator. Originally the Token Non Humans, Ax and Tobias, only got half as many books because it was assumed they would be less popular; it turned out to be quite the opposite, however, and the pattern eventually changed. The Chronicles only have one narrator each except The Hork-Bajir Chronicles, which has a Switching P.O.V. between Aldrea, Dak, and Esplin.
  • The main series of The Baby-Sitters Club rotates the major characters as POV. Lampshaded in the titles, which are "[Name] and the [noun phrase describing major plot point]".
  • The Burning Kingdoms: The chapters shift between the different characters' perspectives, though Priya and Malina, the two protagonists, have the most.
  • The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling has protagonists in the double digits, although Krystal Weedon appears to be the heroine for large sections of it.
  • In Catch-22, Yossarian is the protagonist, but every chapter is titled and focused on a different character (Milo gets three), and Yossarian is often Out of Focus for long stretches.
  • The Chronicles of Dorsa: Tasia is initially the protagonist along with the only viewpoint character. Joslyn becomes another though after a time, and co-protagonist, with the book focused on her equally.
  • In Tamora Pierce's Circle of Magic series, each of the books focuses on one of the four main characters as they live together, learn magic, and become a family, though each book also features scenes from the perspectives of other characters and their own subplots. The second series, The Circle Opens, follows the same format, except the characters are four years older and leave to go travel with their teachers. The latest book, The Will of the Empress is the only one save Sandry's Book which deals with each of the four characters relatively equally.
  • The Dresden Files always has the story told from the point of view of Harry, but generally focused on a different person in his (vast) retinue of friends, allies and enemies. Murphy, Thomas, Elaine, and Michael Carpenter are the rotating allies, while the Denarians, the Red Court of Vampires, the Faeries, and other unexpectedly recurring creatures/foes form the rotating enemies.
  • The Valley of Horses from the Earth's Children series alternates chapters about Ayla and Jondalar until they meet; it's third person narration.
  • Encryption Straffe has 4 POV characters and each take turns being Supporting Protagonist for another: Genie, Roberto, Rich and Pious One.
  • The Everworld books rotate point of view between the four main characters. Senna also gets a book, which results in Jalil having one fewer than the others.
  • The chapters in The Expanse books cycle between points of view for multiple characters, even after they meet each other and team up.
  • The Familiar: This book series has nine color coded (and differently text-formatted - it's a Mark Z. Danielewski book, who's known for his Unconventional Formatting) narrators, and each tells two to five chapters per book. Of the nine, only three know each other / share storylines (as they are a girl, her father and her mother) and in their cases sometimes one begins to tell of an event and another finishes it.
  • Fat rotates every chapter between each of the three protagonists, with the exception of three chapters, one of which is Grenville's recipe for boiling an egg, one of which is an anger management guide and the last of which is a newspaper article about Grenville's not-a-rampage at the Well Farm.
  • Each chapter in Kristine Kathryn Rusch's Fay novels concentrates on a different character.
  • While noncombat councils in Grent's Fall are fairly static, war sections follow a different character every time.
  • InCryptid: The first two books are narrated by and focus on Verity (with Sarah temporarily narrating in the second for a few chapters), the next two on Alex, then another with Verity, then three with Antimony. The ninth and tenth books, which could be considered a two-parter, focus on Sarah (with Artie having a few chapters in the ninth). The as-yet unreleased eleventh book will focus on Alice. And then there's all the short stories, which feature them, their family, and their friends.
  • In The New Prophecy, the second Warrior Cats Myth Arc, each book features the POV of Leafpool and one of the main cast (Brambleclaw, Squirrelflight, Stormfur, or Feathertail).
  • Of Fire and Stars: Dennaleia and Mare are both the protagonists, with every chapter moving alternately from each one to the other.
  • Presidential: Emily and Connie are co-protagonists; in the book, the focus shifts between them.
  • The Queen of Ieflaria: The book alternately shifts focus between Esofi and Adale, the two protagonists.
  • Requiem for a Dream cycles between Tyrone Love, Marion Silver, and Harry and Sara Goldfarb, sometimes in mid-paragraph.
  • Shatter the Sky: In Storm the Earth Sev is the second protagonist, with chapters alternating from showing what happens to him and the primary protagonist Maren.
  • Something Like... Series: Each book switches to a different protagonist.
  • Something to Talk About: Jo and Emma are co-protagonists in the book. Different chapters alternate the two's perspectives.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has each chapter from a different character's point of view, with that character's name or description as the title of the chapter. The first book starts with a small number of recurring POV characters, and each subsequent book adds or subtracts a few.
  • Sweet & Bitter Magic: Tamsin and Wren are both the protagonists, with alternating chapters focused on each.
  • The Village Tales novels are prone to this: probably because they decline to have but one protagonist. The Duke, the Rector, and the Deputy Headmaster get a goodish deal of page-time, but gardeners, farmers, sextons, the Archdeacon, the vet, the railwaymen, and everyone else gets plenty as well. The sub-manageress at the country house hotel gets her own chapter in Evensong, for that matter, and The Day Thou Gavest is specifically geared to this trope, as a Day in the Life novel for the whole Ensemble Cast.
  • The Wheel of Time practically has this as its hat. Every chapter is from a character's perspective (or sometimes a few characters—the intros especially). Although there's a single in-universe messiah character (the Dragon Reborn), he has two buddies note  who have nearly as much influence on the world as he does, and then nearly every other character with authority gets at least a scene or two, but often many recurring ones. It gets to the point that the minor characters' rotation sometimes overshadows the main plot!
  • In Wolfen, the chapters alternate the POV from the human investigators and the predators hunting them.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 6 Degrees does this for its first season, with each of its six episodes focusing more heavily on one of the main students. This is dropped for the second season.
  • As If, the proto-Skins in every way that mattered, averaged four focal episodes per character per season for each of its six characters.
  • Band of Brothers: while Dick Winters qualifies for the central character of the series, in most episodes the plot instead focuses on one of the other members of Easy Company. It goes something like this:
    • Winters is the POV character for episodes 2, 5 and 10, and shares the POV of episode 1 with;
    • Captain Sobel, the original commander of Easy Company, and the other deuteragonist of episode 1.
    • Pvt. Albert Bligh, a young paratrooper suffering from shellshock, is the viewpoint character of episode 3.
    • Bull Randleman, one of the sergeants who gets separated from the others during an attack, is the focus of episode 4.
    • Doc Roe, the company medic, is centred on in episode 6 as he tries to keep himself and everyone else together during the siege of Bastogne.
    • Sgt. Carwood Lipton, is the focus of episode 7.
    • Pvt. David Webster gets episode 8, as he returns from medical leave having missed the Battle of the Bulge and has to reacclimatise himself with the traumatised and hardened men he once knew.
    • Captain Lewis Nixon, the unit intelligence officer and Winters' best friend, is the viewpoint of episode 9.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003) switches focus fairly regularly.
  • Boys from the Blackstuff focuses on a different character each episode, to the extent that other members of the ensemble cast are often reduced to extras or absent from a given episode altogether.
  • The Cosby Show becomes this in its last two seasons. All the regulars get their days in the limelight, and in the end Cliff Huxtable, Bill Cosby himself, is the only one who appeared in every single episode.
  • Dear White People: Each episode is done largely from the POV of one particular character.
  • Degrassi fits this to a T. The limelight focuses on the characters on the A plot and minorly on the B plot, and the other characters are barely even mentioned.
  • Destination Fear 2019: Dakota picks the majority of the locations, but once a road trip (starting in Season 2), Chelsea, Tanner, and Alex get to pick one location, so dependent on who picks the location, they usually take the protagonist/leader role for the investigation.
  • A bizarre example occurs in the third season of Farscape: Crichton is 'twinned', and the two Crichtons then get separated, each taking half the cast with them. For much of the season, episodes alternate between following the Moya-Crichton and the Talyn-Crichton.
  • Homicide: Life on the Street would focus on a different member of the homicide unit each episode. Even then, focus could shift mid-episode, and other detectives would always have B-plots going on in the background.
  • Almost every episode of Lost focuses on a different member of the ensemble cast's flashbacks, later flashforwards and flashsideways.
  • Misfits shifts focus on each member of the gang to explore their powers, their personality, and their psychological baggage.
  • Odd Squad:
    • The series has a variant, where characters are more known for rotating each season instead of each episode. Season 1 has Olive, Otto, Oprah/Ms. O, and Oscar as the core characters, then all of them bar Oprah are rotated out for Olympia, Otis and Oona in Season 2 (with Oprah joining the cast to make a new "Main 4"). Then Odd Squad Mobile Unit rotates them out for Opal, Omar, Oswald and Orla, with Oprah as the Big O joining them to make five main characters.
    • In Season 3, while a majority of episodes feature OSMU as a group, they tend to focus on one specific character and put them in the dominant spotlight.
  • Sesame Street does this, choosing one to three specific Muppet characters to be the primary focus for the street scenes. Elmo, Big Bird, and Abby are focused on most often (the first of these in particular having the most), and sometimes Oscar, Grover, or Telly have their moments in the spotlight.
  • Skins combines this with Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: every episode is named after the character that episode is focused on. It even introduces a new cast every two years.
  • This happens a lot in Super Sentai and by extension Power Rangers, a necessity given both are team shows. Given the way the latter is adapted, this can result in one or more Rangers being the center of the plot (if the Sentai episode adapted focused on one Ranger, but the episode ignores/works around it in favor of another Ranger).
  • The Wire rotates between having protagonists at the Homicide Unit, The Major Crimes Unit, The Pit, the docks, the corners and Hamsterdam, the elections, the schools, and the newspaper.

    Video Games 
  • In Bravely Default, each of the four protagonists is a different stock JRPG hero, and each takes center stage at different points in the story. Edea is the protagonist of sections involving the evil empire, Agnes takes over during sections about her duties as Vestal, Tiz is the focus of the beginning of the game and is the general "default" protagonist, while Ringabel takes over near the end.
  • Dragon Quest IV is divided into chapters, with each one starring a different protagonist. Originally, you didn't even get to see the main hero/heroine until you reached their chapter; later versions added a Prologue.
  • This is how Ensemble Stars! works - each story will be told from the POV of a particular character, often rotating among characters episode-to-episode even within stories.
  • The Final Fantasy series:
    • In the first half of Final Fantasy VI, the story frequently switches from one character to the next, and there is no clear protagonist.
    • In Final Fantasy XII, each of the six main characters more or less have a period where the story focuses on them, although Basch, Ashe, and Balthier do have more focus then Vaan, Fran, and Penelo.
    • Final Fantasy XIII switches between at least three groups of main characters all the time, mixing them up every now and then to let each one interact with every other. It also likes to shift about the leader role (the only character you control in combat), making sure you don't get too comfortable with any given combination of skills and classes. Once you leave Cocoon and reach Pulse, the full party is assembled, and all six characters start getting relatively equal time, though Lightning eventually establishes the protagonist role once again.
  • Fire Emblem: Awakening: Chrom is the protagonist of the first two arcs, but during the third arc Robin takes over as the story begins to center around the events of the premonition that they prevent and Robin's connection to the Big Bad Grima. In a case of Two Lines, No Waiting, Lucina's arc happens concurrently with these arcs as they also attempt to prevent the events of the premonition.
  • GHOST Squad: Operation GHOST switches between the teams depending on the vantage points.
  • Occurs in Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, where the plot focuses on different members of the large party at certain stages (Sveta is arguably the most important character overall, but doesn't join until the halfway point) and the Heroic Mime main character never gets extra focus, unlike Isaac and Felix in the first Golden Sun games.
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails into Reverie marks the first time the Trails Series opted for multiple protagonists in a single game, with the player being able to switch between three routes focusing on Lloyd Bannings, Rean Schwarzer, and new character <C>. The only way to proceed to the next chapter is by completing the same numbered chapter in all three routes, and sometimes the player will be unable to continue one route's chapter until they reach a certain point in another route.
  • Live A Live focuses on different characters over the course of multiple story arcs spanning different time periods:
    • Pogo, a caveman from prehistory who is exiled from his tribe after saving a woman who was to be offered as a sacrifice.
    • An aging martial arts master in imperial China, who is in search of a pupil to carry on his teachings.
    • Oboromaru, a shinobi in feudal Japan tasked with rescuing a hostage from a castle fortress.
    • The Sundown Kid, a wandering gunslinger in the Wild West who is roped into helping a village under siege from bandits.
    • Masaru, a present-day street fighter who wants to prove to the world that he's the strongest fighter around.
    • Akira, a psychic prodigy in the near future who struggles against a devious conspiracy.
    • Cube, a robot in the distant future who finds itself struggling to survive on a space ship with an escaped monster.
    • Oersted, a knight in the Middle Ages who is tasked with rescuing a princess from a demonic lord.
  • Mass Effect 2 is like this: each character on your crew gets an (optional, but skip it at your own risk) personal Loyalty Mission, which is custom-tailored to their combat style and inconspicuously reveals enough of their backstory and personality to make you care about them.
  • Happens quite often in Mother 3 as there is usually a different protagonist per chapter. The prologue has Lucas for a tutorial battle but then switches to his father Flint for Chapter 1. Chapter 2 has Duster who is tasked by his dad to find a treasure inside an old castle. Chapter 3 has Salsa who is joined by Fassad who forces the poor monkey to do his bidding. Once Chapter 4 is reached, Lucas is the protagonist for the remainder of the game.
  • NetherRealm Studios has a way of using almost the entire starting roster during Story Mode, which each chapter focusing on each playable character. The Mortal Kombat (starting with MK9) and Injustice: Gods Among Us series are main examples of this.
  • Odin Sphere. Each of the first five "books" features a different character, and the sixth book rotates between all of them for the finale.
  • Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom takes place over three generations, with a different protagonist and variations in the cast for each.
  • Sonic Adventure has six different protagonists, each with their own motivations and endgoals, whose stories occur concurrently and intersect with one another at different points. These include Sonic, who is once again fighting to thwart Eggman's schemes; Tails, who joins along with Sonic, but also has some adventures of his own; Knuckles, who is seeking out the scattered fragments of the Master Emerald; Amy Rose, who is trying to protect a bird from the clutches of one of Eggman's badniks; E-102 Gamma, who is seeking out the other E-Series robots to liberate them; and Big the Cat, who is searching for his missing friend Froggy.
  • Sonic Adventure 2 focuses on different characters per stage depending on the story you choose. The Hero Story shifts focus between Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles, while the Dark Story revolves around either Dr. Eggman, Shadow, or Rouge.
  • In Spud's Adventure, after each rescue, Spud is swapped out with whoever he just rescued.
  • Suikoden III Has a trinity sight system where the player chooses one of three characters to play as, they ultimately have to play as all of them eventually to progress the story. But choosing who to play as first is optional; there are also three un-lockable characters as well. Obtaining them either has to do with meeting them, or by doing a special task.
  • Tales from the Borderlands has two protagonists, Rhys and Fiona, and the player periodically switches between playing as one or the other. They even have different fonts for their internal dialogue and action option text.
  • Story mode of Them's Fightin' Herds uses a different fighter for each chapter. With Arizona being the playable Champion for the first chapter and Velvet being the one in the second.
  • In Weird West, the player is a mysterious entity Body Surfing through five different individuals and going through their respective plots. Heroes of previous storylines (provided that they're alive by the end) will show up in the world as recruitable companion characters.
  • Certain games in the Yakuza series features other playable protagonists aside from series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu, with each chapter rotating between them. Eventually, the game reaches a point where you are free to swap between the protagonists in order to complete any side objectives exclusive to said character.

    Visual Novels 
  • Higurashi: When They Cry changes protagonists every arc. The viewpoint, however, is almost always Keiichi, but he rarely remains as the focus of the narrative in the second half of the series (he stops being the point of view character for the first time a short arc before it, in fact).

  • City of Trees alternates between the characters of Ophidian and Jasper, though many scenes focus on one of the many supporting characters.
  • Homestuck's Geodesic Cast has led to rotations within rotations: cast focus typically rotates between:
    • John
    • One of the other three Kids (which is in itself on a rotating basis: during Act 5-2, for instance, this has rotated from Jade to Dave to Rose).
    • Various Trolls
    • Other characters (rotating between the Exiles, the Guardians, Doc Scratch, the villains... and so on). Four Lines, All Waiting is a simplification of the situation. So do many MSPAFanVentures, which are in the same style as Homestuck. Examples are Be The Seadweller Lowblood and Adult Stuck.
  • Recent story arcs of Rumors of War pair up characters for their day in the limelight. It makes for a veritable Cast-Go-Round, not unlike a Soap Wheel. The most recent (read: third) arc explored some of the consequences and repercussions of the very first story arc through the use of several Whole Episode Flashbacks (Chapters 13, 15, and 17).
  • The Meek shifts its focus between the traveling Angora, the emperor Luca, and the rogue Soli.
  • Superego, itself an MSPA Fan Adventure, rotates between its ten characters and their experiences in a not-quite-normal hospital.
  • In Twistwood Tales, each comic centers on a different group of characters that live in the Twistwood Forest, while a lot of them tend to reappear in future comics, there overall isn’t a central character in the series.

    Web Original 
  • After the first few Welcome Episodes, Combat Devolved develops into this.
  • Dino Attack RPG does this regularly, seeing as it is written by multiple people on a forum that does not allow one user to make two posts in a row. Basically, this means that one player writes a post depicting a certain series of events from the point of view of a character. The next post, written by another player, is written from the point of view of a different character, which depending on the circumstances can range from further explaining the events written by the last person to being entirely unrelated. Considering this is an RPG in which every player has their own slew of characters, a single post can include segments focusing on several different people in different places, doing things that may or may not be related.
  • Each chapter of Land Games shifts to a different perspective of the Players and even a few of the planet natives.
  • The Gumdrops promotes Laura as the lead, but will miss the occasional episode, allowing another of the girls to take the lead.
  • Solar Wind's focus shifts from Tav, the alien main character, to Jaden, one of their stoner friends, in Act 3.
  • Tales From Dev Null's story Ads For You follows 5 people as it tells the story of an ad-serving AI.

    Western Animation 
  • This is how things work in Arthur, so different members of the cast get their own Episode Title Cards.
  • Each of the first five episodes of The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes focused on different hero before the team is finally formed in episodes six and seven.
  • The five kids on The Backyardigans take turns leading the adventures, meaning each character has episodes in the spotlight. That said, Uniqua is the only character who appears in every episode; according to the series' creator Janice Burgess, Uniqua is the "ringleader" of the Backyardigans.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold has an interesting variation on this trope, where Batman remains the protagonist nearly all of the time, but each episode focuses on him teaming up with a different obscure character from The DCU. Though, in some episodes (like "Aquaman's Outrageous Vacation!") even Batman himself gets pushed into the background.
  • G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero is well-known for this trope. Throughout most of the series, each episode featured a different Joe, sometimes in a personalized storyline.
  • Goof Troop has this format, and the show's tone changes significantly depending on who's in focus. Max's episodes are more exciting and have more wit-based humor, Goofy's tend to be the most light-hearted and filled with slapstick, Pete's are often plain sadistic, though he does usually deserve it, if not for his episodes then for PJ's which spend much time not being funny at all. It's not uncommon for the episode forms to overlap, and everyone is capable of starring in heartwarming episodes (though Pete does it significantly less often than the other three). It also gives A Day in the Limelight to its secondary characters.
  • Hey Arnold!: During the first seasons, Arnold alwasy the protagonists, with a few exceptions for some of his friends. Once characterization marched and he became a little too perfect, most of the episodes were about how Arnold would help someone else. And therefore most episodes of the later seasons were actually about different characters, to the point that almost every named character had at least one episode focused on them.
  • The Magic School Bus changed which of the students took the lead on the plot focus and whatever topic was being talked about episode to episode.
  • Episodes in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic focus on one or two of the Mane Six, or the Cutie Mark Crusaders, either as a group or one of their members. Spike and Discord get occasional episodes as well. Season 8 adds the Young Six (or Student Six) into the roster.
  • Infinity Train is an anthology series that uses a variant of this format, with the protagonist of some seasons being a supporting character from a previous season. Season protagonists never reappear after the conclusion of their story arc, however.
  • Justice League and, particularly, Unlimited are the kings of this trope, focusing on new previously-obscure DCU characters (both villains and heroes) in every episode. Although The Question does get a Character Focus, too, what with being the Ensemble Dark Horse.
  • While Korra is always the protagonist of The Legend of Korra, who the rest of the main cast is rotates in and out throughout the series. Book 1 focuses outside of Korra on Tenzin, his family, Korra's friends, and Da Chief Lin Beifong in that order. Lin and the rest of Korra's friends take a backseat in Book 2 to Korra's family, her boyfriend Mako, and Tenzin's daughter Jinora. Book 3 shifts Lin & Tenzin back into the forefront and puts Asami into focus for the first time. Zaheer, the Big Bad, is arguably the third most important character. Korra herself becomes a bit Out of Focus in Book 4 and Kuvira becomes the Deuteragonist along with Asami. Tenzin & Lin have their least amount of focus this season.
  • The Loud House: While the first season generally had Lincoln as the protagonist and central focus of every episode, the show would gradually shift to having focus episodes on the rest of the family, with the show all but officially becoming an ensemble series with all of the Loud family and even Lincoln's classmates sharing the limelight from season three onward.
  • South Park always gives an Day in the Limelight to each resident of South Park. These range from Stan having to deal with his dad's antics to Kyle trying to stop Cartman's next audacious scheme. There are even episodes where the role of protagonist will shift to someone else.
  • Teen Titans: While Robin was the clear Badass Normal leader of the group, no one Titan really took on the role as the "main character". Rather, most episodes generally focused on the issues and progression of a particular team member. It can roughly be said that each season is also focused on a particular Titan, with it having more episodes dedicated to a specific Titan than any other: Robin has Season 1, Cyborg has Season 3, Raven has Season 4, and Beast Boy has Season 5. Starfire is the only character to have her focus episodes more evenly spread out throughout the run, though Word of God states she would have gotten Season 6 had one happened.
  • This is common in the Animated Adaptation of Rosemary Wells's Timothy Goes to School. Each episode would focus on a different student of Hilltop School. Most of the episodes would usually focus on Yoko, Lilly, or Nora.
  • Thomas & Friends follows this dynamic (in part due to being adapted from the lead-less The Railway Series novels), with every main engine (along with several supporting ones) getting a spotlight episode on a regular basis. Some seasons tend to give Thomas the lion's share of lead roles (especially later on) but many other engines still get their turn.
  • The Transformers does this in similar vein to Star Trek and Stargate. Optimus Prime plays the role of Captain but each episode may focus on the Autobots as a team or a specific (group of) Autobots rather than Optimus Prime as a protagonist.
  • Season 1 of X-Men: Evolution revolves around a different character each episode.
  • Young Justice does not have a set main character. It focuses on The Team, a group of younger heroes who go on covert ops missions for the Justice League, and each get their own episode or at the very least they'll be prominent supporting characters. The Team itself is constantly in flux, as it eventually forms to six members (Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, Superboy, Miss Martian and Artemis), only to add more before Invasion completely changed the roster. It comes to head in Outsiders, where The Team itself is Demoted to Extra and focuses on the Outsiders, the Contrasting Sequel Protagonist group. When you consider the sheer magnitude of the cast, focusing on one person only would be a liability.

Alternative Title(s): Shifting Spotlight