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With a Friend and a Stranger

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When introducing characters, you want to keep the overall number of relationships and names to remember to a minimum. This is why many media start off with only a handful of primary characters, often three. There are many common "stock" variations on the genders and relationships of these few characters.

One of them is the friend and stranger dynamic. The protagonist will have a best friend, often a childhood friend. This dynamic is easy to show in the limited time you have to hook your audience, and easy to add depth to at a later time. The third character will be a stranger to the protagonist and their friend. Their appearance will often serve to drive the plot, and their unfamiliarity with the characters and location helps justify Exposition.

On occasion, it will be the protagonist who is the stranger, also acting as an Audience Surrogate to understanding the setting as well as fulfilling the stranger role in this trope.

The stranger can also put a strain on the friends, since they change their long-standing dynamic, especially if they become involved in a Love Triangle.

Tropes that may play out in these scenarios when both the friend and stranger are female include Childhood Friend Romance, First Girl Wins, and The Dulcinea Effect.

In Eastern RPGs, this dynamic almost always appears as a (male) hero, his childhood friend, and a girl from nowhere (almost always female and a Mysterious Waif).

This adheres to the three-person dynamics in Cast Calculus. They may form a Power Trio.

See also Two Guys and a Girl, Two Girls and a Guy, Tomboy and Girly Girl. Compare to Token Houseguest. If the protagonist is the stranger, he's probably also a Rookie Red Ranger.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Assassination Classroom has Nagisa with Karma (friend) and Kayano (stranger).
  • In Bleach, we have two friends and two strangers: Ichigo meets the strange Shinigami Rukia on the first episode. Then we have the other two protagonists, Orihime and Chad, whom he has known for a longer amount of time, and then there's also a second stranger who gets introduced a couple of episodes later, Ishida.
  • Cowboy Bebop has Spike and Jet working together when the series starts, joined in Episode 4 by Faye Valentine after a rather rocky introduction in Episode 3.
  • In Digimon Fusion protagonist Taiki is sucked into the Digital World with childhood friend Akari, and Zenjiro, who insists the two are rivals despite Taiki not knowing who he is.
  • In the first episode of Girls und Panzer, Miho meets Saori and Hana, who are already friends. In Little Army, she meets Hitomi and Chihiro early in the story.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers gives us (at least during the main World War II plot) Germany, his self-declared friend Italy, and their new acquaintance Japan. An interesting example in that Japan is given a role as both a stranger to their friendship and a stranger to their Western cultures, giving the group an interesting dynamic, especially early on.
  • An interesting example with Higurashi: When They Cry: Keiichi, who seems to be the protagonist at first, is actually the stranger who moved into Hinamizawa about a month prior to the start of the series, while Rena and Mion have known each other for a longer amount of time.
  • In Jewelpet (2009), the protagonist Rinko is accompanied by Minami (childhood friend from before the show) and Aoi (stranger; her classmate whom she befriends in episode 3) in her mission to collect the lost Jewelpets.
  • K has protagonist Yashiro Isana with his cat friend, Neko, and Kuroh, the aloof stranger who's onto him.
  • Kids on the Slope: Similar to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer example, Kaoru is the New Kid and later becomes friends with childhood friends Sentaro and Ritsuko.
  • Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! has Midori and Kanamori, who are on good terms before the series starts, and Tsubame, who shows up to the same film screening as them one day.
  • In Love Live! Sunshine!!, the first three members of the idol group Aqours are set up in this manner. Chika is the protagonist, You is her childhood friend, and Riko is the stranger, being a classmate the other two only just met at the start of the series. The manga continuity also uses this trope as the starting trio of Aquours, albeit with Kanan taking You's place as the starting childhood friend while You would join later.
  • Lupin III: Although the Childhood Friend aspect is usually overlooked, this trope is apparent in the way Lupin and Jigen are trusted allies, and Fujiko is the mysterious stranger, disrupting their camaraderie. Yes, this has fueled some Ho Yay.
  • In My Hero Academia, Mirio Togata and Tamaki Amajiki, two of the three members of the "Big Three" trio of U.A. third-years, are Childhood Friends. Nejire Hado, the female member of the trio, is the stranger, as someone they met at the school, which is partly why the boys are on a First-Name Basis with each other, but a Last-Name Basis with her.
  • In the My-Otome anime, Arika is the stranger as a new student at Garderobe and Nina and Erstin are the friends. In the manga, "Manshiro" is the stranger, and Arika, Nina and Erstin are the friends.
  • Outlaw Star: Gene, Jim, and Melfina.
  • Pokémon: The Series: The Orange Islands, Advanced Generation, and Diamond & Pearl arcs of this anime can fit. In the first, Ash is the main character, Misty is the friend, and Tracey is the stranger, while in the latter two, Brock takes Misty's place and the stranger positions are taken by May and Dawn, respectively.
  • Episode 1 of Puella Magi Madoka Magica introduces Madoka and Sayaka being friends from childhood before they are introduced to the world of Magical Girls via Mami, who intervenes when they stumble into a Witch's Labyrinth. Later on, or rather previously in the first timeline shown in Episode 10, it is Homura who is the Muggle stranger who stumbles upon a Witch's Labyrinth before being rescued by the Magical Girl duo of Madoka and Mami.
  • Ranma ½: Ranma, Ryoga and Mousse started out this way.
  • Reborn! (2004): If you don't count Reborn, who's the mentor, this series plays it straight with Tsuna, Gokudera (the stranger) and Yamamoto (the friend).
  • Star Driver: Takuto, the stranger with Wako and Sugata (childhood friends).
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann has Simon and Kamina meet Yoko in the first episode.

    Films — Animation 
  • Frozen has Anna setting out to find her sister while joined by Olaf (friend) and Kristoff (stranger).
    • Alternatively, Anna is both the protagonist and the stranger, and Kristoff and Sven are the friends.
  • Monster House follows this dynamic to a T, with the protagonist DJ, his best friend Chowder, and Jenny, a girl they meet that day and who gets too close to the titular house.
  • In Tangled, Rapunzel (main character) sets out on her adventure with the chameleon Pascal (friend) and Flynn Rider (stranger).
  • Aladdin is joined in his adventures by monkey Abu (friend) and the Genie (stranger).
  • Moana is joined by Hei-Hei the chicken (friend, kind of) and Maui (stranger). Inverted in that Moana's pet pig Pua, who was heavily advertised as Moana's Non-Human Sidekick and whom viewers expected to fill the role of friend, is absent from most of the film; instead, Hei-Hei serves the role of Plucky Comic Relief.
  • The Jungle Book (1967): Mowgli is the protagonist, Bagheera is the friend, and Baloo is the stranger.
  • The Emoji Movie: Gene is the protagonist, Hi-5 is the friend, and Jailbreak is the stranger.
  • Coco: Miguel is the protagonist, Dante is the friend, and Hector is the stranger.
  • In Anastasia, the title character is the stranger while con men Dmitri and Vlad are friends.
  • In The Road to El Dorado, Tulio and Miguel are friends from the beginning and they are later joined by Chel.

    Films — Live Action 
  • The Color of Money has an example of the variation where the protagonist (Eddie Felton) is the stranger who meets the established friends (Vincent Lauria and his girlfriend Carmen).
  • In The Kings of Summer, Joe and his best friend Patrick won't tell Biaggio to leave, fearing what he could do.
  • In National Treasure, Ben tries to figure out the clues with his buddy Riley; when they steal the Declaration of Independence, Abigail, a woman who worked with the document, gets dragged along for the ride.
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier teams Steve Rogers with his established friend Natasha Romanoff, and introduces the stranger Sam Wilson. Paradoxically, Natasha the hardened spy is the one with whom Steve has trust issues, whereas he almost instantly bonds with Sam the fellow war veteran.

  • Judy Blume's Just as Long as We're Together: Stephanie's relationship with her best friend, Rachel, starts getting complicated right after she makes friends with Alison.
  • The PROX Transmissions: Aston is more of a source of constant embarrassment than a friend for Stephen, but the two do know each other. Dana, on the other hand, only comes into the picture when Stephen and Aston contact NASA about the transmission.
  • Blue Balliett's The Wright 3: Calder, his childhood best friend Tommy and his comparatively new friend Petra.
  • In A Wrinkle in Time, Meg's companions on her journey are her baby brother, Charles Wallace (age six, but acting much older than his age) and "stranger" Calvin O'Keefe, the popular boy at school whom she assumes is just a Jerk Jock until she gets to know him. The next book, A Wind in the Door has Charles Wallace more as a Distressed Dude, and now Calvin is the friend, and the singular cherubim Proginoskes is the stranger, assigned to be Meg's partner.
  • Along The Winding Road from Arthur's perspective, though he starts with the stranger and reunites with the friend later.
  • InCryptid: The first two books' main characters are Verity and Sarah, who have known each other for over a decade (and are adopted cousins), and Dominic, a stranger and member of the Covenant (their family's sworn enemies).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel starts out like this. Angel moves to LA and joins up with Cordelia, whom he knew in Sunnydale for the three previous years, and "stranger" Doyle.
  • Babylon 5: For the military command staff of the station, the first season presents Sinclair and Garibaldi as old friends from Mars, with Ivanova as the (relative) stranger. When Sinclair was reassigned, he was replaced with Sheridan, who was previously stationed on Io with Ivanova but was entirely new to Garibaldi. (Later, it is revealed that he worked with Sinclair on Mars as well. The military can be like that.)
  • Black Books: Bernard and Fran are old friends, while Manny meets them both for the first time in the pilot episode.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • The series starts out like this, with new girl Buffy becoming friends with Willow and Xander, who have known each other since childhood. Slightly different in that the "stranger" is the protagonist, not one of the friends. The group grows and shrinks over the seasons, but these three remain the core.
    • The slightly creepy variant here is that Willow and Xander were actually already part of a Two Guys and a Girl group; Xander's best friend since even before Willow, Jesse, gets turned into a vampire and staked in the premiere and is never mentioned again. Buffy replaces him, except that she's Willow's best friend instead of Xander's, and their lives now revolve around her world-saving gig. It's kind of like a less-extreme version of that season spell Jonathan did.
  • Detectorists: Andy (main), Lance (friend), Sophie (stranger).
  • Dawson's Creek: Jen (stranger) is new in town in the first episode, catching the attention of Dawson (main) and driving a wedge between him and Joey (friend), who has had a long-standing crush on him.
  • Doctor Who (counting backwards):
    • Doctor (main), Yaz (friend), Dan (stranger).
    • Ryan (main), Graham (granddad), Yaz (acquaintance), Doctor (stranger).
    • Doctor (main), Nardole (friend), Bill (stranger).
    • Amy (main), Rory (husband), Doctor (stranger).
    • Rory (main), Amy (wife), Doctor (stranger).
    • Doctor (main), Amy (friend), Rory (stranger).
    • Doctor (main), Donna (friend), River (stranger).
    • Donna (main), Doctor (friend), River (stranger).
    • River (main), Doctor (friend), Donna (stranger).
    • Donna (main), Doctor (friend), Martha (stranger).
    • Martha (main), Doctor (friend), Donna (stranger).
    • Martha (main), Doctor (friend), Jack (stranger).
    • Jack (main), Doctor (friend), Martha (stranger).
    • Rose (main), Doctor (friend), Sarah-Jane (stranger).
    • Sarah-Jane (main), Doctor (friend), Rose (stranger).
    • Doctor (main), Rose (friend), Harriet (stranger).
    • Rose (main), Doctor (friend), Harriet (stranger).
    • Doctor (main), Rose ([wished to be more than a] friend), Jack (stranger).
    • Rose (main), Doctor ([wished to be more than a] friend), Jack (stranger).
    • Doctor (main), Rose (friend), Mickey (stranger).
    • Rose (main), Mickey ([ex-boy]friend), Doctor (stranger).
    • All the way back to the beginning; Doctor (main), Susan (granddaughter), Ian and Barbara (strangers)
  • H₂O: Just Add Water has an all girl set-up for both main trios. Season 1-2 trio has Emma and Cleo as a set-up friendship, joined by new girl Rikki. Season 3 has the set-up restarted with Cleo and Rikki's friendship stabilized by two seasons, and Bella fills out the newcomer role.
  • Inverted in Haven, with Audrey as the protagonist and stranger and Duke and Nathan as childhood enemies who grew up together. Duke used to pick on Nathan because he was a "troubled" child who couldn't feel pain, i.e. like say... Duke sticking a bunch of pushpins in his back for no reason. They hate to spend anytime near each other, but end up doing it a lot of the time after they both (separately) befriend the stranger, Audrey. Eventually, they start to rely on each other, if only to help out Audrey and the all the other Troubled people. By season two, they become a bit of a inverted functioning comic, Freudian, Fighter/Mage/Thief Power Trio as Magical Savior and Ego Audrey always comes up with the plans to help the troubled people that kinda make sense but shouldn't work, Nathan the logical Superego and Feel No Pain cop who is surprisingly willing to trust Audrey and try the plans and Duke, the smugger Id who is almost always like - "Seriously? There's no way in hell... oh, it worked!" Nathan and Duke occasionally switch roles depending on their faith in the plan, but the Freudian dynamic between the three stays the same.
    • Season Three has a bit of a reset, with Nathan again being distrustful of Duke, when he finds out that Duke's father wants Duke to kill Audrey and/or other Troubled people. Ironically, Audrey still trusts him as he understands what it's like to have a "destiny" in Haven that you don't necessarily want. She sees him as just another Troubled person.
  • iCarly downplays this a bit. Carly and Sam had been friends long before the show began. And while they both knew who Freddie was, he didn’t become part of their friend group until the events of the episode.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • Kamen Rider Fourze: Gentaro (main character) forms this dynamic with Yuki (Childhood Friend) and Kengo (the stranger) early on, before the rest of the main cast joins.
    • Kamen Rider Build: The initial heroic trio - Sento and Misora have both known each other for a while, but it's Ryuga's introduction to them in the first episode that kickstarts the plot.
    • Kamen Rider Saber: A twist, with Touma (main character) and Rintaro (the stranger) in the same role. Mei and Kento (the latter a Childhood Friend) both occupy the friend section of the dynamic.
  • Lizzie McGuire: Lizzie (the main character), Gordo (the Childhood Friend Love Interest of Lizzie) and Miranda (the stranger).
  • Power Rangers Jungle Fury has Casey (Rookie Red Ranger), Theo, and Lily (friends).
  • What I Like About You: Holly (main character), Gary (the friend), and Tina (the stranger).
  • Preacher has Jesse and Tulip, childhood friends and sometimes-lovers, teamed with Cassidy, whom they meet at the beginning of the show.

    Video Games 
  • In Ar tonelico II: Melody of Metafalica, Croix is the main character, Luca is the friend, and Croix' boss Cloche is the stranger.
  • Chrono Trigger has hero Crono, his childhood friend Lucca, and stranger Marle.
  • The ClueFinders 3rd Grade Adventures: The Mystery of Mathra has Joni and Santiago as the friends and LapTrap as the stranger.
  • In the first Detectives United game, the three player characters fall into this once they're all acquainted. By the time Agent Brown and James Blackthorne meet Anna Gray, the two men have been working together for a little while and are on their way to being friends, while Anna is a stranger (save by reputation).
  • Disgaea has our "hero" Laharl and his childhood friend... er, vassal, Etna. When they are joined by Flonne, the main plot kicks off.
  • Dragon Age:
    • Dragon Age: Origins has a few instances of this.
      • During the Mage origin, after completing their Harrowing, the player will be skulking around the mage tower with Jowan (friend) and his girlfriend Lily (stranger). It's a variant because Lily and the future Warden are strangers to each other but not to Jowan, so the trope is in play from either of their perspectives but not from his.
      • At Ostagar, the Human Noble Warden fights alongside their dog (friend) and Alistair (stranger).
      • All the origins have it after the prologue, when the party consists of the Warden, Alistair (now friend) and Morrigan (stranger).
      • The first-draft new recruits to the Wardens in Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening fall into this, as Anders is a stranger and Oghren is a returning character from Origins.
    • Dragon Age II does it twice. First, during the prologue, after the deaths of one of Hawke's siblings and Aveline's husband, Hawke fights alongside the surviving twin and new acquaintance Aveline. Later in Kirkwall, once they meet Varric, the entire party consists of him, Hawke, and the sibling (until they go to get Aveline from her job).
      • It's also seen in the Mark of the Assassin DLC, because Tallis (stranger) is a required companion, so only two of Hawke's friends can accompany them on the mission. If the DLC is done in the second or third act and the surviving sibling is one of the companions, the trope is especially in play because they don't join the party until the wyvern hunt; Hawke travels solely with Tallis and the other companion.
    • The advisors of Dragon Age: Inquisition are also this trope. Leliana and Josephine have been friends for years, while Cullen is a newcomer.note 
  • In the first Dynasty Warriors: Gundam the Power Trio of Judau Ashta, Roux Louka and Paptimus Scirocco are this. Judau and Roux are The Hero and love interest of Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ respectively (and all of Judau's childhood friends are along for the ride as secondary characters), while Scirocco is the Manipulative Bastard Big Bad of Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam who comes out of nowhere to be the stranger.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, any time the Dragonborn brings a follower who is not merely a hired hand, they fall into this whenever they perform a quest which has a required companion. The follower is the friend, while the quest participant is the stranger.
  • The third Epic Battle Fantasy game has Matt as The Hero, Natalie as the friend (who has been with him for the previous two games), and Lance as the stranger (who joined at the end of the previous game and tends to be a bother to the aforementioned friend).
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy III's remake for the DS starts the game out with childhood friends Luneth and Arc, who very quickly meet Ingus and Refia.
    • Final Fantasy VII has this dynamic twice in your earliest parties. Childhood friends Cloud and Tifa are joined by stranger Barret and, later, Aeris(th).
    • Final Fantasy X has a variation where the hero is the stranger, with Yuna, Waka, and Lulu filling in for the friends.
      • In the sequel, Yuna and Rikku are the friends, with Paine as the stranger.
  • Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade's main story has this, if you play Hector's path. Eliwood is the childhood friend, while Lyn is the stranger he's only heard of through word of mouth.
  • In Fire Emblem: Awakening, the Player Character is the stranger joining siblings Chrom and Lissa, as well as their devoted knight Frederick.
  • Freedom Planet starts with Lilac and Carol, two best friends who knew each other for almost entirety of a lifetime. They are soon joined by two strangers: Torque, an alien who crash-landed on their planet while going after Lord Brevon, and Milla, an orphaned puppy who, after rescuing Carol from a collapsing cave, befriended the duo, who decided to take her under their wing.
  • Golden Sun starts with all three being friends (Isaac, Garret, and Jenna) until Jenna gets kidnapped. Soon after, Ivan shows up and later joined by Mia, both strangers.
    • Similarly, Golden Sun: The Lost Age has Felix, the hero; Jenna, his sister; and Sheba, the girl from nowhere. (Literally.)
    • Likewise, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn features the children of the previous games: Matt, Tyrell and Karis (sons of Isaac and Garret and daughter of Ivan respectively), who are then joined by Rief (Mia's son). Later still the party is join by Eoleo (son of Briggs, a pirate met in TLA) and Himi (daughter of the Yakumo princess saved in TLA), with the other two complete strangers being Sveta and Amiti (who turns out to be Big Bad Alex's son).
  • Grand Theft Auto V:
    • The primary Power Trio consists of Michael and Trevor, two former partners in crime reunited after several years, as the friends, and Franklin, a young and ambitious gangbanger looking to rise to the top, as the stranger.
    • During the mission "Hood Safari", you have Franklin and his fellow gangbanger and Vitriolic Best Bud Lamar as the friends and Trevor as the stranger who only recently became acquainted with Franklin through their mutual friend Michael and has never met Lamar.
  • The Legend of Dragoon switches this up with a guy from out of nowhere and the childhood friend being the Mysterious Waif. This holds until Rose joins the party, which results in the trope played fully straight with the previous guy from out of nowhere being an extra.
  • A variation in Mass Effect, where Shepard and Kaidan had already been serving on the same ship for some time, run into Ashley very early in the game and bring her into the Normandy.
  • Master of the Monster Lair starts the game with Owen, who starts adventuring with a magic talking shovel and soon meets an intelligent slime named Gloop. After completing the second floor of the dungeon, he's joined by his childhood friend, Kate.
  • Mega Man series: Blues/Proto Man and Rock/Mega Man are brother robots who reunite in Mega Man 3. Forte/Bass is a rival and an on-and-off ally and is much younger. Duo is another stranger to join shortly after Bass's debut.
    • X series: In the manufactured-reploid era, X and Zero are the two original blueprints and lifelong friends. Axl comes into existence much later.
  • Persona:
    • Persona 4: The founding members of the Investigation Team include the Player Character, who moved to Inaba recently, and Yosuke and Chie, who have known each other for a few months.
    • Persona 5: The founding members of the Phantom Thieves of Hearts include the Player Character, who moved to Shibuya recently, and Ryuji and Ann, who have known each other since middle school. Morgana also counts as a stranger since the player and Ryuji had met him during their first outing in the Metaverse.
  • Skies of Arcadia has childhood friends Vyse and Aika, joined by newcomer Mysterious Waif Fina.
  • Soul Nomad & the World Eaters: Hero Revya, childhood friend Danette, and stranger Gig.
  • Tales of Eternia has the protagonist Reid and his childhood friend Farah leave their village after Meredy, a strange-acting and different-looking girl who speaks an entirely different language, crashes into their lives.
  • In Tales of Graces, The hero Asbel and his brother Hubert meet the stranger Sophie at the beginning of the game.
  • Wild ARMs 5 has Dean and his friend Rebecca meet Mysterious Waif Avril.
  • In World of Warcraft, you are the "stranger" to Fiona, Tarenar and Gidwin in their caravan quest chain in the new version of the Eastern Plaguelands. This dynamic happens quite often when guild groups queue in the Random Dungeon Finder and the empty slots are filled by randomly selected individuals.
  • In Xenogears, Fei starts adventure with his mentor Citan and the mysterious mecha pilot, Elly. In a major subversion, Elly turns out to be not so much a stranger to Fei after all, while Citan may be less a friend than he appears.
  • The first non-prologue arc of Xenoblade Chronicles is this, with Shulk joined by his best friend Reyn and a new medic they just met, Sharla.

    Visual Novels 
  • Spirit Hunter: NG:
    • The dynamic between Akira, Seiji, and Kaoru. Akira is the protagonist, Seiji has been his best friend since childhood, while Kaoru is a newcomer to the dynamic (though she was already friends with Akira's younger cousin).
    • Akira's companions for the Screaming Author case are Ban, a journalist that he already has a tentative partnership with, and Rosé, a mysterious supernatural expert that Ban brings into the case.
  • Okabe Rintarou of Steins;Gate begins the story with childhood friend Shiina Mayuri by his side and encounters the stranger Makise Kurisu at a conference on Time Travel.
  • The dynamic between Sara and her two main partners Joe and Keiji in Your Turn to Die. Sara is the protagonist, Joe has been her best friend since high school, and Keiji is the stranger they've only just met in the Deadly Game.
  • Zero Time Dilemma has this dynamic with all three of the main groups.
    • In Team C, Carlos is the stranger to childhood friends Junpei and Akane.
    • In Team Q, Q is the stranger to lovers Eric and Mira.
    • In Team D, Diana is the stranger to time-travelling apocalypse averters Sigma and Phi. It's played with a bit in that due to the extraordinarily messed up nature of Sigma's personal timeline, he has already met and fallen in love with a future version of Diana.
    • In a meta-example, Team Q as a whole can be considered the stranger to Teams C and D's friends; Akane, Sigma, and Phi are all collaborating in their goal to prevent whatever is going down at DCOM, and the player has already met Team C in Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and Team D in Virtue's Last Reward.

  • In Soil That Binds Us, the longtime friends Petunia and Dandelion are joined by the spirit Faye.

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin: The show follows Teddy and his friend Grubby as they go on an adventure in the land of Grundo. Once they get there, they meet and befriend Professor Gimmick, a Grundo native who helps them understand the strange land they're venturing into.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • The main trio for Book 1 consists of Aang (stranger) alongside Katara and Sokka (sister and brother). As with Buffy, the stranger is the main character, though we're introduced to the siblings a few minutes before him.
    • The Legend of Korra follows suit - new Avatar Korra quickly teams up with pro-bending siblings Mako and Bolin.
  • Ben 10: Alien Force: Ben joins up with his cousin Gwen, obviously a friend, and former enemy Kevin, a stranger, to wage war with the Highbreed and their army of DNAliens.
  • Hilda: Has this setup for the main trio of Hilda, David and Frida, with the twist that Hilda, the main character, is the stranger while David and Frida are the friends who have a history together dating back to at least a year before the start of season 1.
  • The Dragon Prince: Callum and Ezran, the two human princes, are half-siblings and friends, Rayla, the elven assassin, is the stranger who joins them.
  • Megas XLR, with all of its anime tropes being parodied, plays this one rather straight. It begins with Coop and his Hetero Life Mate Jamie, who are soon joined by Kiva, considerably more intelligent supersoldier future chick.
  • Mighty Max does this in reverse. Max, despite being the main character, actually starts out as the stranger in the group, while Norman and Virgil have been good friends for thousands of years.
  • Milo Murphy's Law has Milo, his close friend Melissa, and new student Zack (who's new to Milo's condition) as the main characters.
  • Ultimate Book of Spells: Cassy and Gus are already friends by the time the series starts while Verne has yet to be introduced to them.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: While the Princess Alliance has a substantial cast list, the core group of three that are the Best Friend Squad consist of Adora (stranger), Glimmer and Bow (childhood friends).
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars starts with brothers-in-arms Anakin and Obi-Wan, who are then joined by newcomer Ahsoka. Due to having his own duties to perform and Ahsoka being Anakin's Padawan, Obi-Wan is sometimes not a part of their relationship.