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A series introduces the main cast by adding them one at a time in sequential episodes, chapters, and/or story arcs.

Usually a tactic by writers to get everyone collected before having any real plot started, and the audience feels they can start paying attention. Also a cheap way to ensure that everyone's relationship to the lead has equal history.

If done badly is sometimes followed by Green Rooming. Can be especially annoying in things like Twelve-Episode Anime series if the cast has more than four people.

Extremely common with Bishoujo Series and Unwanted Harems. Even more common in computer games (namely, RPGs), with many such games introducing a new party member in each area, some even going so far as to have an obvious number of "slots" that are going to be filled up by the end of the game.

The next step to a Debut Queue system is the Character-Magnetic Team. Contrast You ALL Share My Story. If the characters are all present in early episodes but are given characterisation episode-by-episode, see A Day in the Limelight. Characters introduced by Debut Queue may also fall under Hitchhiker Heroes.

Examples of Debut Queue include:

Anime and Manga

  • In the first season of Sailor Moon, Sailor Mercury shows up in the eighth episode, Sailor Mars in episode ten, Jupiter in episode 25, and Sailor Venus, the last of the Inner Senshi who the rest of the series focuses on, in episode 33.
  • In the original OVA version of Tenchi Muyo!, we (and Tenchi) meet Ryoko in the first episode, Ayeka and Sasami in the second, Mihoshi an episode or so after that, and Washuu in the sixth installment. Other versions of Tenchi compress this process, with the cycle of meetings becoming shorter and shorter until they all happen in one fell swoop in Shin Tenchi Muyo.
  • In the One Piece anime, we meet Luffy and Nami in the first episode (though Nami doesn't join up with Luffy until episode 8, and was not introduced in the manga until the start of the Buggy arc). Zoro joins Luffy's crew in episode 3, Ussop joins in episode 17, Sanji joins in episode 30, and Tony Tony Chopper and Nico Robin join in episodes 91 and 130, respectively. Franky joins in episode 322. Brook in 381, in a hilariously perfunctory fashion. Vivi seems like a shoe-in to join, but ends up not doing so after well over a year as a major character. It's debatable whether any characters past Sanji count since major plots already happen after that point.
  • Genesis Climber Mospeada, which was Macekred into the third section of Robotech does this with the real cast, after introducing and wiping out an entire separate cast in its first episode, with only the series protagonist surviving.
  • Cowboy Bebop gets the cast together rapid-fire, with Spike and Jet already established as together in episode #1, Ein joining in episode #2, Faye in #3 (kinda—she deserts at the end, but is back for good by #4), then a brief lag until Ed joins in #9.
  • Keroro Gunsou has the frogs appearing one by one over the first 13 episodes. When the last frog, Dororo, appears only a few episodes after Kururu, Aki notes that someone like that shouldn't appear until "volume seven"—and, indeed, in the manga, that's when Dororo showed up.
  • Tokyo Mew Mew: The team meets Zakuro AKA Renee (their last member) in the 10th episode, but she doesn't join until the next. 4Kids, in order to get the kiddies to know everyone ASAP, premiered with the 12th episode.
  • Gintama spends an entire season as a Debut Queue in flashbacks after an In Medias Res Pilot.
  • Ai Yori Aoshi spends the first several episodes simply developing the backstory and relationship between Aoi and Kaoru, then slowly begins adding the other characters over the course of the first season.
  • We're introduced to almost all the recurring characters in Love Hina in the first few minutes of the first episode, but Shinobu and Motoko only get a minute or so of screen time, just enough to set them up for their more fully developed introductions in the second and third episodes, respectively.
  • Yes! Pretty Cure 5 introduces one new Cure an episode until the full quota of five is met... except it twists it slightly with the last Cure, whose personality flaws cause the Call to reject her, forcing her to use up another episode to learn An Aesop and join for real.
  • The initial story arc of Bleach did this, introducing the main characters while following an essentially Monster of the Week format with lots of comic relief thrown in. After the basic backstories were squared away and the cast laid out, this entirely changed and the plot became much more serious business, in a move resembling Cerebus Syndrome.
  • Samurai 7 did this. Then again, Seven Samurai did it first.
  • In the Ojamajo Doremi series; Hazuki and Aiko both became apprentences in episode 4(though Hazuki is briefly introduced in the first episode, and Aiko just transferred in episode 3), Doremi's sister Pop joins the team in episode 25 (she was introduced n the first episode as well), and Onpu debuts in episode 35 (but is a heel until the finale of the first season). Momoko and Hana-chan transform in the first episodes of Motto and Dokkan, respectively...but Hana debuted in Sharp as a newborn.
  • Soul Eater has the first three episodes each introducing one of the main weapon/meister sets before the first Arc begins.
  • The first two volumes of GetBackers focus on the titular duo and introduce their support staff, but they were kind enough to introduce the other four major characters two by two in back-to-back Story Arcs.
  • Pokémon introduces Ash in the first episode, which also features Misty, but she doesn't properly join him until the next. Team Rocket are introduced in Episode 2 and Brock joins the team in Episode 5.
    • Ash's party is also introduced in this fashion: Pikachu in Episode 1, Pidgeotto and Caterpie in Episode 3 (of which Caterpie quickly becomes a Butterfree by Episode 4), Bulbasaur in 10, Charmander in 11 and Squirtle in 12.
    • Also invoked by the later series as well. In Advanced Generation, we're introduced to Ash and May in episode 1, Max in episode 3 and Brock returns for episode 4. Episode 1 of Diamond and Pearl introduces us to Dawn before bringing Ash and Brock back in episode 2. And Black & White gives us Ash in episode 1, Iris in episode 2 (though she made a brief appearance in episode 1) and Cilan in episode 5.
      • As well as again lining up the full team rather quickly—Pidove in episode 2, Oshawott in episode 3, Tepig in episode 4, Snivy in episode 7 (after having a Gym Battle in episodes 5 and 6), and getting the egg for his sixth Pokémon in episode 12.
  • In Fushigi Yuugi, the whole beginning plot was pretty much jumpstarted by this - find all the seven Celestial Warriors that are scattered around the empire.
  • Katekyo Hitman Reborn loves this. Pretty much the whole light fluff comedy beginning consisted of introducing a bunch of new characters that try to kill Tsuna. After the Genre Shift, it's still done by introducing the Varia and who Tsuna's guardians are. Even in the latest chapters, it's still introducing more Bishonen to interest fangirls ( "Let me introduce you to the real six Funeral Wreaths!").
  • Yuusha-Oh GaoGaiGar is accused of starting s l o w l y because it took so much time introducing several characters and tools, one at a time, about every other episode. After the final piece was in place, the battle with EI-01 happened and the awesome began.
  • Chrono Crusade introduces the main characters this way. Chrono and Rosette (and in the anime, some of the other members of the Order) are introduced in the first chapter/episode. The next arc then follows them saving Azmaria, who later joins them. After that arc is over, a plot triggers flashbacks concerning the Big Bad and introducing Rosette's brother, around whom Rosette and Chrono's main motivations are centered. The gang takes off to find Joshua, and at the start of that arc is when the final main character, Satella, is introduced.
  • Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei does this with the students in Itoshiki-sensei's homeroom class. They're all technically members of the class from the beginning, but they each get focus episodes that introduce them to the audience and show off their particular brand of insanity.
  • Zoids Genesis tries to play with this a bit, by making characters take one episode or so to actually join the team, but otherwise is the usual: The series starts with Ruuji, the first episode has Re Mii and Ra Kan (Not that one) appear as somewhat ambiguous figures (Even if the OP ruins this) but are revealed as good guys next episode. Kotona Elegance appears in ep 4 and joins in ep 5, Garaga appears in ep 5 and joins by 6, Ron appears AND joins in 6, even if he doesn't gets his Zoid until ep 9, and then there's a small gap until Seijuurou joins in ep 10.
  • Dragon Ball, to varying definitions of "main character" as many of them become Ascended Extras and/or Demoted to Extra. The first episode of the anime introduces Goku, Bulma and the arc's villains. Over the next fourteen episodes Oolong, the Turtle, Master Roshi, Yamcha & Puar, Chi-Chi & the Ox-King, Krillin and Launch are gradually introduced.
  • Rave Master begings with Haru aquiring Plue. In the next volume (since the first volume all happens around his house) he runs into Elie, and has come across Musica by the end-though it takes another volume for Musica to join.
  • Inuyasha started this once it was a couple arcs in, acquiring Shippo, Miroku and Sango in that order, and introduced Naraku immediately after Miroku.
  • The Digimon series generally introduce one new evolution per episode in arcs where a new type or level of evolution is introduced.
  • In Bakemonogatari characters are usually introduced one at a time in own story arcs, after which they become part of the main cast.
  • The main girls in Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? are introduced this way. In the first episode, main character Ayumu is already living with the necromancer Eucliwood, and is quickly joined by Haruna, a "Masou Shoujo" ('magical-equipment girl'). Vampire-Ninja Seraphim is introduced in the next episode. Mael Strom, the final main girl vying for Ayumu's attention, isn't introduced until halfway through the series.
  • In Rosario to Vampire, Moka, Kurumu, Gin, and Yukari each get a chapter/episode dedicated to their introduction, plus a chapter dedicated to them deciding which club to join. Mizore and Ruby followed a bit later.

Comic Books

  • John Byrne's Alpha Flight did a variation; all eight team-members were in the first four issues, but after that, each story until #11 was a solo story. #s2-11 ('cept 4) also had back-up features showing the origins of each character.
  • This is how the original X-Men got together, but it's only revealed in flashbacks. Professor Xavier recruited Cyclops, who in turn recruited Iceman. Together, they met Angel, and then the Beast. We see Jean Grey join them in their very first issue.



  • Roland's ka-tet is introduced in this manner in Stephen King's The Dark Tower. In the first book, we meet Roland, then Jake (who is subsequently lost). In the next book, he's joined by Eddie, then Susannah. In the third book, Jake reappears, and he then adopts Oy.
  • Despite being one of the two protagonists of the His Dark Materials trilogy, Will is not introduced until the start of the second book.
  • In The Belgariad David Eddings uses Debut Queue quite skillfully, using three books out of five to get them all lined up (The last duck doesn't join up until the final pages of Magician's Gambit.)
    • And he does it again in its sequel The Mallorean, where the last duck is only confirmed in the second half of the last book (though she was introduced in another form earlier in the series).
  • Dave Barry's novels Big Trouble and Tricky Business introduce all of the primary characters in the first chapters before their plot threads start to (insanely) intertwine.
  • Harry Potter, Hagrid, the Weasleys, Neville, Hermione, and the professors are introduced in that order.

Live Action TV

  • In Doctor Who, this is the way the Doctor picks up companions. Randomly lands somewhere, finds someone half-sensible who doesn't die by the end of the story, and then invites them along to travel with him. Usually you can predict when this will happen, due to the fact that a previous companion has just left, but sometimes it can be a little more random.
  • Lost did a variation: the episode "Confirmed Dead" introduced a character of the "rescue team" (although one appeared in the previous episode finale) in each act.
  • The first sixteen episodes of Kamen Rider Den-O follow a pretty obvious trend: a two-parter introducing an Imagin, followed by a two-parter to establish his personality and skills, followed by a two-parter introducing a new Imagin...
  • The same can be said for the Kamen Rider Club in Kamen Rider Fourze. The club starts out with three members. All of them are shown as early as the first episode, but the other main characters don't join until their A Day in the Limelight (a two-parter each), up to episode 10. The Second Rider, Meteor, gets introduced in 16, joins the club the next episode as a False Friend, but only becomes a full-pledged member (i.e. he starts being more friendly) in episode 32.
  • Power Rangers RPM had an interesting variation, in that newcomers were introduced in the premiere and then everyone, old and new alike, (except the one with Laser-Guided Amnesia, who was the focus of the premiere anyway) had a flashback episode explaining their origins. Strangely, this meant that the newcomer characters were focused on before the original ones were.

Video Games

  • Multi-character games in general do this. Final Fantasy in particular ever since 4. You typically get half the cast or so in the first section of the game and then the rest are spread over the midgame.
  • Knights of the Old Republic goes so far as to have silhouettes of EVERYONE that will join the party just after the start of the game.
  • So does Jade Empire.
    • There is a slight aversion, however, in that, unlike KOTOR, you may not actually recruit every character shown on the silhouette screen. In fact, two of the characters, Death's Hand and Prince Kin are mutually exclusive.
  • BioWare loves this trope for their RPGs, because it pops up again in Dragon Age: Origins. You can meet each of the playable characters in sequence. Depending on what order you choose for visiting certain areas, though, you can dodge this trope.
  • The first stage of Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves occurs chronologically right before the final stage, showcasing (albeit in Sound Only mode) all of the new characters (well, new except for two who were originally villains!) and their skills: everything in between explains how Sly assembled his A-Team, one stage at a time.
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl - The Subspace Emissary introduces all the characters like this, even flashing their names on the screen in a freeze frame as they appear.
  • This is done in Elite Beat Agents, and for the climactic final character, essentially everybody in the game (except for those in the fourth chapter) gathers together to help the EBA fight against an army of aliens.
  • In Mass Effect, each new squadmate is met as Commander Shepard trucks down the main plot and runs into them. They all have a short bit of characterization showing their personality and/or badassery before they join up, with the exception of Kaidan Alenko, who is with you from the get-go.
  • In Dragon Quest IV, you spend a chapter with each playable character (or a small team of them) other than the hero before you get to do anything significant with the hero. Then you get to collect their companions in the exact reverse order that you played through their chapters (so you get Chapter 4's Meena and Maya first, and Chapter 1's Ragnar McRyan last.
  • Fire Emblem games have a habit of giving you a new character or two... or three or four... each chapter.
  • The Sakura Wars series does this every time. Even in the second game it introduces the two new characters in a chapter each.
  • In Baldur's Gate II you gather Imoen, Minsc, Jaheira and Yoshimo all in the same dungeon, once at a time and all in a row.
  • Touhou Project has the stage 5 bosses (typically the Battle Butler of the Big Bad) typically undergo Defeat Means Friendship and join up as the third (or fourth) heroine in the next game, although they frequently drop out after a game or two, just because there seems to be an upper limit on the number of shot and bomb types that will be used per game.
  • Vandal Hearts does this too. You start with Ash, Clint and Diego. You quickly meet an NPC ally and two villains, then gather four characters in three battles. Three more join in chapter 2, and two more in chapter 3 to round out the cast.
    • Much the same in the sequel.

Web Original

  • ARCHON's first few parts are this, introducing one or two characters then taking the time to explore them before introducing another few.

Western Animation

  • Most Transformers series does this. Heck, in Beast Wars, new cast members do, in fact, fall from the sky, generally in stasis pods. The upside of this is twofold: one, it makes introducing new product go down smoother and easier; and two, if there's any race in the universe that knows how to make an entrance, it's the Transformers.
    • With Transformers Armada, it was more that "reinforcements" for both sides were either late to the party or weren't summoned until later. Apparently Megatron thought he could handle things with three mediocre soldiers and Optimus with two.
  • The Five Episode Pilots of DuckTales and Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers revealed the main characters throughout the episodes. In each case, only the original main characters (Scrooge and his nephews, Chip and Dale) were featured in the very first episode, with the other characters appearing later on in the stories.
  • The first five episodes of X-Men Evolution are almost solely devoted to this, generally with both the X-Men and the rival Brotherhood recruiting a new member in each episode.
  • The computer-animated show Shadow Raiders, this is rather conspicuous. The main character and the plot-driving character are introduced in the first episode, along with a couple more important characters. Then, within the span of five episodes, you've seen everyone of note. If the character wasn't introduced in the first five episodes, they're cannon fodder.
  • If you don't count the micro-episodes, which merely established several character arcs, Avengers Earths Mightiest Heroes does this. Six episodes were spent gathering eight superheroes together to become the Avengers. Meanwhile, enemies of the heroes also gathered together, to become the Masters of Evil.
  • The first five five-minute episodes of Egmont's stop-mo series Little People based on Fisher-Price toys, collected on the Friendship Collection DVD, introduce Eddie (and Freddie and Sarah Lynn), Maggie, Sonya Lee, and Farmer Jed respectively.