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While most characters are introduced at the beginning of the series or the beginning of an Arc, sometimes somebody doesn't get to show up until the end of the last episode; they may not even get to speak. This can be a not-so-subtle way for the team creating a series to ask for another season: obviously, the fans will want this character to actually be in some episodes. Or it could be done when the team knows that another season is planned, and they will be able to incorporate this character in the new season. Occasionally, it'll be a character from the manga that the writers weren't able to otherwise fit in.
If a sequel is not planned, the new character may provide a sort of living closure via Passing the Torch.
Anime and Manga
- Bontenmaru in Samurai Deeper Kyo, who gets no dialogue, despite being a major character in the manga.
- His appearance in the anime is more along the lines of The Cameo.
- Maiho in Maburaho, who gets one speaking line.
- In the last episode of Mazinger Z (and in the Mazinger vs Great General of Darkness movie), Kouji Kabuto and his friends were defeated, Mazinger-Z completely destroyed, and their base demolished. Before Kouji got killed, though, showed up Tetsuya Tsurugi riding the newer and most powerful Great Mazinger, and easily defeated the new enemy. We were introduced to new characters, enemies and locations would star in the sequel, Great Mazinger.
- While the goddess Rind appears surprisingly early in the story, Urd's mother Hild only appears in the last episode credits of Ah! My Goddess. (She does get a larger role in the second season of the TV series, though.)
- Ogiue is introduced at the end of the ending animation sequence of the last episode of Genshiken, and (obviously) has no lines; she then shows up in the OVA.
- In Mai-HiME Arika is literally the very last character visible on screen in the final episode, although she never says anything and plays no part in the action. She then appears in Mai-Otome as its lead. (Sunrise also created a fake "movie trailer" for Mai-HiME that had her being a villain and taking over the school.)
- Subversion: Before airing, it was highly expected that Slayers Try would make use of Lina Inverse's mysterious sister, Luna. Once it aired, she merely made an appearance in the opening, with an accompanying humorous apology note to the fans. Click Here for image.
- In the horrible sequel to Dangaioh, Great Dangaioh, in the last five or so minutes of the final episode, an entirely new hero in an entirely new robot shows up to save the day, while telling the current heroes that they aren't needed any more. While he did appear very briefly in earlier episodes, he only had one, maybe two lines (of no more than ten words total) and was always wearing a long coat and sunglasses before he made his true appearance.
- All this possibly being a reference to Mazinger Z.
- In the ending montage to Rozen Maiden: Traumend, a new character appears who may or may not be the resurrected version of another character; likely, it's actually the as yet unseen one that she had been impersonating.
- Due to time constraints, the Toei version of Kanon stuffed Mishio's entire story into the last episode of Makoto's arc, with no previous explanation.
- A strange example occurred in Love Hina, where Naru and Kaolla's siblings appear in the television series but not the manga. However, Naru's sister was given a cameo in the final pages of the manga.
- The original Love Hina manga also ended with an epilogue that that introduced a brand new character, who was actually the main character of the two chapter story.
- Pan, Oob and Bra in Dragon Ball Z, though Pan becomes a regular character in the anime-only sequel Dragon Ball GT. Oob goes from "Gokou's hand-picked student" to "Overshadowed by Awesome" entirely off-screen, and Bra is basically a Living Prop whose Crowning Moment of Awesome was making Daddy Vegeta lose that awful mustache.
- Borderline example is the manga-only Konatsu of Ranma ½ who had a full introduction arc, but only appeared again in a single chapter story and a cameo at the end which together weren't even half as long.
- The last story arc introduced not just the Mt. Phoenix tribe (who, like the Musk Dynasty, work just as well as one-shot enemies,) but also the Jusenkyo Guide's daughter, Plum, an adventurous and smart little girl (smarter even than the teens and adults) who never really got much screentime.
- The animated version did this by introducing Ranma's mother, Nodoka, as the final, two-episode story in the TV series.
- The manga version of Tokyo Mew Mew ends with a never-before-seen girl (later identified as Shirayuki Berii) looking through the window at the party inside the Cafe Mew Mew.
- In the anime adaptation of Amatsuki, Kanzou appears for the first time in the ending credits. However, the identity of this mysterious man is hardly the only question viewers are left with after watching the last episode.
- In Penguin Musume Heart, the very last shot shows a girl who is perhaps Sakura's sister, looking just like her and also going by the same name, but acting a lot more dignified.
- Reinforce Zwei of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, whose first appearance in the frachise was in the Distant Finale of the second season.
- Konomi Yuzuhara's (from To Heart 2) appearance in the sixth Omake of To Heart:Remember My Memories may count as this.
- Tateo Mochizuki makes a cameo at the end of Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro, after the arc he appeared in was cut from the show.
- Hikaru Sakuraba only appeared in the last episode of the Lucky Star she featured more prominently in the manga though.
- Maria Holic has Enjouji, the hot swimming instructor. Kanako lampshades this. Later subverted, when it's revealed that she's entirely in Kanako's dream.
- Tsukiyo Ooba from Sketchbook has some inconspicuous cameo appearances throughout the series, but only gets a few lines in the last episode, which gets lampshaded by her vocal complaints about this treatment. There is also a glimpse of Soyogi-sensei, who doesn't get a speaking part whatsoever.
- In the manga version of Aria, Ai.
- Working has Maya, the glasses-wearing girl who had been in shots sprinkled through the entire show, introduced and finally speak in the final episode. This also happens in the manga to a certain extent, since she's only properly introduced in Volume 5.
- Several Pokémon from later generations will often tend to appear toward the end of certain story arc of the Pokémon anime, with the sole exception being Ho-oh, which appeared at the end of the show's first episode!
- In the last chapter of the Death Note manga, a new guy named Yamamoto is shown to've joined the National Police Agency.
- The second Durarara OVA, the last part of the season, introduces Mairu and Kururi Orihara, who feature in the Light Novels not adapted by the anime.
- Shiage Hamazura in To Aru Majutsu no Index II, which would be an Early-Bird Cameo, except he was actually introduced in that arc in the novel. This, presumably, is a tease for a third season of Index.
- While it's technically the second to last episode, Aqua of the Back and Terra of the Left (voice only) also count.
- At the end of season 1 Laura Stuart appears.
- Tiger and Bunny has an in-series example. Barnaby decides to make his debut in the last episode of HeroTV's most recent season (in episode 1 of the actual anime) as a way of making a stellar impression on the in-show audience.
- In the last episode of the anime version of Giant Killing there are lots of group shots. A couple of players who've never been seen before are in the crowd, acting like they've always been there. And logically they should have been seen, when the whole team was shown training. Of course, the original manga was months ahead with the story, by the time that last episode was made.
- Right before the end credits of the last episode of the anime version of Kemeko Deluxe! we see Kamishiro Yukina, miko and nanoball prototype, who appears in the manga a couple of chapters after the last anime episode.
- The final issue of the DCU version of The Web introduced Fly Girl and War Eagle, who were part of The Mighty Crusaders in their mini series!
- The final issue of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight introduces a new character: a young villain with round sunglasses which some speculate to be Ripper, Giles' persona during his rebellious youth.
- In Book 40 of The Railway Series (which, then, was Christopher Awdry's final book) the final story features a new engine, who is named "Ivo Hugh" on the last page. Unfortunately, the publishers scuppered the plans to publish any more Railway Series books until recently, meaning that Ivo Hugh hasn't had his personality developed.
- In the Warrior Cats series, Dovepaw and Ivypaw are born at the ending of Sunrise (the last book in the third series), with Jayfeather realizing that one of them is the third cat in the prophecy. Both of them are main characters in the fourth series.
Live Action TV
- Nova Ranger shows up halfway through the final episode of Power Rangers SPD, apparently because they remembered at the last minute that they had a spare costume left over from Dekaranger.
- At the end of Ninja Storm, Expies of the Wind Rangers as they were at the beginning of the season appeared to help out. They don't appear again, but the next season's Red Ranger is basically the goofiest member of this trio given a new hair color. He's eventually handwaved as being his twin brother, as they were played by the same actor.
- Tanya Sloan made her first appearance in the two-part finale of Season 3 of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. She ended up becoming the new Yellow Ranger in Power Rangers Zeo and the first part of Power Rangers Turbo.
- In 24, the character of Morris (Chloe O'Brien's ex-husband) is introduced in the Episode 23 of Season 5.
- Several of the Doctor's regenerations in Doctor Who take place at the end of a series. This has happened to the Third, Fourth, Ninth and Tenth Doctors. (The Second Doctor is sentenced to forced regeneration at the end of season 6, but we don't see the Third Doctor until the beginning of the following season in 1970) Although the 'new' Doctor is technically the same individual, in terms of personality and actor he's fundamentally a new character.
- Ryan on Joan of Arcadia, who would have played a big role in the third season, had there been one.
- On Angel, Gunn, Fred, and Connor were introduced in the last three to four episodes of the season before the one in which they were bumped to main character.
- During the final episode of the Metal Heroes series Space Sheriff Gavan, the baddies are ganging up on Gavan and are about to win when a new Sheriff suddenly pops up to even the score. He turns out to be Sharivan the new hero of the upcoming sequel show Space Sheriff Sharivan which would start airing the next week. Also surprisingly he would turn out to be a character that had been featured before. A previous victim of the day who had been sent to the Sheriff planet for treatment several eps before and forgotten about.
- On Lost, Ana Lucia had a flashback cameo in the first season finale before returning in the second episode of the second season as a regular.
- Jacob's appearance at the end of Season 5 also qualifies. Lost actually does this a lot during season finales, even with locations and situations rather than people, in part due to the disjointed order of the narrative.
- The last two episodes of Season 1 of Desperate Housewives gave a glimpse of the Token Minority Applewhite family moving in, implying that they'd get more focus in Season 2 (sort of happened) and perhaps become permanent members of the cast (definitely didn't happen).
- Kamen Rider Kiva: Wataru's son comes to interupt Nago and Megumi's wedding to warn them of the Neo-Fangire. Four Riders and three Monsters Kick ensue!
- Molly Evans, aka Trudy's daughter in Monk.
- In The Prisoner, two entirely new characters were introduced in the last episode to make the already Gainax Ending even more of a Mind Screw. They were played, however, by actors who'd already appeared on the show (in wildly different roles, and pretty much unrecognisably).
- Bobby Singer was only introduced in the final episode of Supernatural season one, and proceeded to stick around forever.
- Inverted in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Dawn was introduced at the end of the first episode of the 5th season, and her sudden "I've always been here" appearance was not explained for several more episodes.
- Stargate SG-1's Jonas Quinn showed up in the last episode of season 5 and became a main character next season.
- Teased, but ultimately averted (because Real Life Writes the Plot) in That 70s Show. Charly was introduced towards the end of the seventh season as a future Suspiciously Similar Substitute for Eric, but as the actor had landed another role before the season eight premiered, his character was unceremoniously killed off and was only seen in flashbacks in the season 8 premiere episode.
- In Charmed, Chris was introduced in the final two-parter of the season five. He was a regular character during season six.
- True Blood has done this in every season; in the last couple of episodes new characters and tiny bits of new storylines are introduced, this is of course a Cliff Hanger in disguise as they know another season is coming. This often leads to rage from fans because, well, Waiting Sucks.
- Percival was introduced in the last episode of season three of Merlin.
- And season four does it again, introducing Tristan and Isolde in the first part of the season finale. Tristan survives, but Isolde is killed in the second part's battle.
- Zaf was introduced in the last episode of season three of Spooks and became a regular for the fourth series.
- Sherwood Montague on Little House On the Prairie shows up in the last episode of season nine and is intended to be a regular character. The series was canceled, but he does appear in the three post-series TV movies.
- The final episode of Ultraman introduced Zoffy, Ultraman's superior officer from Nebula M78. Zoffy goes on to become a key recurring character in subsequent Ultra shows and movies.
- Although calling it the last "episode" is not quite accurate, in Super Smash Bros. Brawl: The Subspace Emissary, Sonic makes his first appearance at the last possible second, showing up in the cutscene immediately preceding the final boss.
- While he's briefly mentioned early on, King Mickey Mouse never actually turns up until the ending sequence of the first Kingdom Hearts.
- Jade Empire: Death's Hand can be recruited 5/6 of the way through the game if you are a Magnificent Bastard.
- Super Mario World has a... pretty active ROM Hack community. With this said, one of them, "The Essence Star", near-unanimously considered to be one of the best, has been slightly criticized by one reviewer because it's a bit "anime-like". By "anime-like", the reviewer meant there are too many characters appearing late in the game... indirectly referencing this very trope.
- Brave Young Layna shows up in Soul Nomad and The World Eaters for only a few maps (storyline ones at least, not counting the random dungeons) when Revya and co. arrive in Drazil.
- In the seventh Fire Emblem game, the final character available doesn't appear untill the final chapter.
- In Mass Effect 3, The Catalyst plays this role, much to the irritation of the fanbase.
- In Transformers: Beast Wars, Tigerhawk shows up in the episode before the two-part series finale. He doesn't make it to the sequel series, Beast Machines, having died going toe-to-toe with a warship. He might not really count given his being a fusion of Tigatron and Airrazor though. Similarly, the Constructicons first appeared in the final episode of the first season of Generation 1.
- What about the multitude of new characters appearing in the three-part series finale of Transformers Generation 1? Of course, it turns out that it was going to be the premiere of a fourth season, but reworked into a series finale when the plug was pulled on the show at the last second.
- Cooper from Ben 10. Presumably didn't have a greater role than one guest appearance in the sequel series because he was generally disliked by the fandom.
- Since "Secret of the Omnitrix" is technically the real Grand Finale, Azmuth also qualifies.
- In Chowder, there is his apprentice, Scraps.
- In Ed Edd and Eddy, Eddy's brother shows up in the series finale movie.
- Taken in consideration, this character has been brought up by mostly Eddy since Season One.