Prequels, Sequels, Originals: Knowing the Difference

Put yo thinking caps on

Gigan­tic fran­chis­es with mul­ti­ple iter­a­tions often have new­com­ers think­ing to them­selves, “Where exact­ly do I start?”

Usu­al­ly, folks assume that every fran­chise that con­tain iter­a­tions that fall into the same in-uni­verse “time­line” require them to start at the very begin­ning of its chronol­o­gy. And usu­al­ly, all it ends up being is one big incor­rect assump­tion.

What do you mean they're different?!

SAY WHAT?!

It seems that when peo­ple see the words “pre­quel” and “sequel”, they often think of them as “a sto­ry that comes before anoth­er sto­ry” and “a sto­ry that comes after anoth­er sto­ry” respec­tive­ly. It’s not exact­ly wrong, but it’s only half-right. What “pre­quel” and “sequel” both real­ly mean is “a sto­ry with events that occur before the orig­i­nal work” and “a sto­ry with events that occur after the orig­i­nal work” respec­tive­ly.

At first glance, my mod­i­fi­ca­tion there might seem to make lit­tle dif­fer­ence, but the con­text there actu­al­ly changes great­ly. They either come before or after the orig­i­nal work… and by orig­i­nal work, I mean, “the sto­ry that was avail­able to the pub­lic first”. It’s not just some first/second/third non­sense, but an order in which the cre­ators intend­ed the viewers/readers/players to expe­ri­ence the fran­chise nat­u­ral­ly accord­ing to which one came out first.

Pray to the gods that you’ll be able to stay with me here… well, here goes: Let’s say we have [X], the orig­i­nal work, and after it proves to be a suc­cess, “[X] 0″ is released the very next year. Intend­ed to expand on the orig­i­nal’s events by explor­ing events that hap­pen before, it would then be the pre­quel of [X]. But then let’s say “[X] 2″, the sequel to X, gets released some time after, intend­ed to expand the events of the orig­i­nal by explor­ing what hap­pens after. Does this make the orig­i­nal work a “pre­quel” to it? No. Because that’s not what “pre­quel” means. Just the same, [X], the orig­i­nal work, isn’t a sequel to [X] 0, the pre­quel.

Pre­quels may be writ­ten to por­tray events that hap­pen before the orig­i­nal work, but most of the time they’re not meant to be viewed first. In fact, in most cas­es they’re meant to be viewed after. The exact same thing goes for sequels. Thus, the orig­i­nal work is nei­ther a pre­quel nor a sequel to any­thing, because it’s meant to be the work viewed first… obvi­ous­ly, because it’s the first install­ment. Now, that’s not to say that it’s always a bad thing to view things “in-order” in terms of in-canon time­lines for every fran­chise, but expe­ri­enc­ing them from the angle I’m sug­gest­ing is always a safe bet.

If you weren’t a new­com­er and expe­ri­enced the fran­chise from its very roots, it’s not like you were being intro­duced to any game-break­ing spoil­ers. After all, the way you expe­ri­enced it is the way the creator(s) released it accord­ing­ly, with your enjoy­ment in mind.

To use an exam­ple, let’s use Star Wars, in which its spoil­ers are now pret­ty much ingrained into pop-cul­ture (so I don’t think I’m ruin­ing any­thing for… well, the major­i­ty). It’s not like we call Episodes IV-VI the “sequel tril­o­gy”. No. Episodes I‑III are the “(shit­ty) pre­quel tril­o­gy” and Episodes IV-VI are the “orig­i­nal tril­o­gy.” Believe it or not, before the pre­quel tril­o­gy ever exist­ed, no one knew that Anakin Sky­walk­er was Darth Vad­er before the reveal. If one knew noth­ing about Star Wars and they watch the pre­quel tril­o­gy first, then the gigan­tic twist that Darth Vad­er is Anakin Sky­walk­er in the orig­i­nal would be ruined. It’s not like the knowl­edge that Anakin will become Vad­er in the pre­quel tril­o­gy would be a major spoil­er, because the entire point of the pre­quel tril­o­gy is wit­ness­ing his descent to the dark side, i.e. how Anakin becomes Darth Vad­er. You would have to had known about it first, ergo you had to have watched the orig­i­nal tril­o­gy first.

Humanity Has Declined

Human­i­ty Has Declined

Bot­tom-line is… sequels and pre­quels are always writ­ten with you hav­ing had expe­ri­enced the orig­i­nal in mind. So it’s always a safe bet to, you know, expe­ri­ence every­thing in the order of release instead of jump­ing head­first into pre­quels and sequels, because that’s prob­a­bly how the so-called “vet­er­an” fans expe­ri­enced it any­way. This is also why it’s my per­son­al belief that those ani­me fans who jump into ani­me series that require pri­or knowl­edge of some­thing, espe­cial­ly some­thing that might not even be an ani­me, and then com­plain about loose ends/not being standalone/whatnot are, well, idiots. It’s like watch­ing a com­e­dy ani­me that pokes fun at a spe­cif­ic genre that you don’t real­ly know any­thing about and then com­plain­ing about not under­stand­ing any­thing. If it’s a pre­quel ani­me, then what’s the point of com­plain­ing about loose ends being left over? It’s dumb, but I digress.

tl;dr
A sto­ry that comes before =/= Pre­quel
Pre­quel = A sto­ry that takes place before a pre­vi­ous work (usu­al­ly the orig­i­nal work)
A sto­ry that comes after =/= Sequel
Sequel = A sto­ry that takes place after a pre­vi­ous work (usu­al­ly the orig­i­nal work)
Orig­i­nal work = The very first install­ment of a series

Exam­ples:

  • Fate/stay night (visu­al nov­el) is the orig­i­nal work. Fate/Zero is the pre­quel. Fate/Hollow Atarax­ia (visu­al nov­el) is the sequel.
  • Fate/stay night is not a sequel to Fate/Zero and is meant to be read first. Fate/stay night is not a pre­quel to Fate/Hollow Atarax­ia.

  • Ga-Rei (man­ga) is the orig­i­nal work. Ga-Rei Zero is the pre­quel.
  • Ga-Rei is not a sequel to Ga-Rei Zero and is meant to be read first.

  • Rurouni Ken­shin is the orig­i­nal work. Rurouni Ken­shin: Tsuiokuhen is the pre­quel (in fact, it’s adapt­ed from a flash­back that hap­pens in the last arc of the for­mer!).
  • Rurouni Ken­shin is not a sequel to Tsuiokuhen and is meant to be seen first.

  • Gyakuten Saiban is the orig­i­nal work. Gyakuten Saiban 2 is the sequel. Gyakuten Saiban 3 is the sequel of the sequel. Gyakuten Saiban 4 is the sequel to the orig­i­nal tri­ol­gy. Gyakuten Saiban 5 is the sequel to the sequel to the orig­i­nal tril­o­gy. Etc. Should be played in order, peri­od.

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