In a strange coincidence I have been partaking an inordinate number of properties that have time skips in them. On the manga front Zettai Karen Children and One Piece have recently had significant time skips. On the video game front Infinite Space has a 10 year time skip between the first and second parts of the game. And that are just what I have seen in the last month. I can also think of major time skips in Claymore, Naruto, Gundam 00, Gurren Lagann, Death Note, Twentieth Century Boys, xxxHOLiC, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. And that is just in series I am aware of. This started me thinking about time skips in general. What is the appeal of the time skip? What does it add to a narrative that it has become such a popular tool?
There are a several very good reasons to skip ahead in the plot several years or more. One of the most dreaded parts of any shonen fighting series is the training arc. The time skip lets characters get stronger while not having to go through the tedium of explaining in detail how they got their new powers. One Piece and Claymore remove the main characters from the plot so they can be on an equal level with the new challenges they have to face. The time skip is also a great way to have a characters mature and grow. They may start the series as children or naive adults but a time skip will show how experience and time has changed the way they look at the problems they faced when they were younger. Those who started as inexperienced adolescents deal with matters much differently in Zettai Karen Children and Infinite Space after the time skip. A time skip will also let the events of a climax in the plot unfold. After a major event in the plot the full ramifications may not be realistically evident until years later. The time skip allows the author to skip ahead to the juicy parts when the dust has cleared. Twentieth Century Boys and Gundam 00 throw the cast into situations were the world has changed and they have to play catchup to deal with it. Of course the cynic can always see the dollar sign reason behind such a decision as well. With a time skip you can make a whole new line of merchandise and sell people an entirely new sets of products they already own. Brilliant.
Like any other literary device a time skip can be effective in a proper author’s hand and aggravating in a different instance. I myself can’t say I have any particular strong feelings on the subject. This was more of a gentle musing. But I know like flashbacks and amnesia it is a literary device that annoys some people to no end. I am curious if any readers could tell me of stories where the absolutely loved or hated a time skip and why.