Some recent anime episodes led me to discuss flashbacks in a bit more length; I think this topic is interesting enough to devote more time to. The discussion and examples used will follow anime, western television, films and books. It is not an anime-only topic, but anime might get a bit more space and examples because I have examples on hand and it’s what made me revisit the topic conceptually.
Flashbacks obviously can come in the form of showing us content from earlier episodes, say, so we’ll remember what happened. An anime infamous for flashbacks in this way, which had episodes where up to a third of the content was recycled was Naruto – this was done because the anime was catching up to the source material and they wanted to use as little content per episode as they could. We’ve even had some examples of a flashback within an episode to something that happened the very same episode.
Note, however, that sometimes such “remembrance” sequences aren’t only required, but drive a point home – you can see it where someone is surprised by a new development and the flashback serves to have them narrate to us what actually happened, or show it again now that we’re armed with new knowledge and can put in the proper context – it’s very common in thrillers – think of the resolution of The Usual Suspects, The Sixth Sense, Fight Club, or recently in anime the case of Akatsuki in Log Horizon thinking of how Shiro and Nyanta had defeated Demiklas – we’ve seen the content we’ve just seen, in slow motion, accompanied with her trying to work out what happened which we’ve missed.