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Alto: "You were that girl..."Sheryl: "You just realized?"
—Macross Frontier: The Wings Of Goodbye
After years of episodes and movies it's the Final Battle, the Grand Finale, the Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny and The Hero descends emotionally to save the Second Girl in the Love Triangle from impending doom. After all that's happened it looks like just maybe the Second Girl is actually going to win the Love Triangle, but as their eyes meet The Hero suddenly has a flashback to his childhood from out of nowhere. There's a girl in it, and as she turns around her face is revealed and... It's the Second Girl! They first met when they were children! But wait! This could only have possibly happened BEFORE he met the First Girl. This can only mean that the girl everyone thought was the Second Girl is the First Girl After All.
First Girl After All can be used as a narrative technique of concealing a character's first Love Interest for as long as possible until the moment when she (or he) is finally revealed to the audience, usually at or near the climax of the plot. This is usually accomplished either by never making it clear who the First Girl is, or by misleading the audience into believing that another character is the First Girl. It often goes hand-in-hand with First Girl Wins, but rather than subvert it, a writer uses First Girl After All to embrace it without giving the romantic resolution away to a Genre Savvy audience. In a romance plot, this can be considered a Plot Twist if this happens before a romantic resolution is reached.
The trope can also be used as a Continuity Nod if this is revealed after they get together, such as bumping shoulders in a hallway during a flashback that was on screen for a completely different reason, an encounter which can have the byproduct of being this trope.
As this is generally only revealed toward the very end, the example list is generally filled with spoilers and potentially ending spoilers'. Read at your own risk.
- Macross Frontier pulls this in the movie version. Almost immediately in the first part we find out that Alto and Ranka already know each other and Sheryl was only just arriving on the fleet for the first time. It seemed pretty clear that Ranka was the first girl, but then near the end of the second part Alto has a flashback to his childhood when he was still in Kabuki, when he met and inspired a young and unknown preteen singer named Sheryl Nome, establishing that she was the first one all along and the girl who gave him the sky. It's also implied that Sheryl realized her and Alto's actual bond quite before Alto did...
- RahXephon is an extremely odd example of this: Ayato lost his girlfriend when they were separated by the creation of Tokyo-Jupiter. Much later, he realizes that his lost love was none other than Haruka Shitow: he couldn't recognize her because she was 12 years older, while he still was a teenager..
- Martian Successor Nadesico has this within series continuity with Inez Fressange, aka cute prologue girl Ai displaced in time by 20 years, give or take a few millennia. However, she's still not the first girl if you count Akito's backstory, and still doesn't win. Yurika still has both spots.
- Oddly played with in the Detective Conan movies, regarding the love life of one Heiji Hattori:
- In an early movie (Crossroads in the Ancient Capital), the guy was looking for a girl he once saw in Kyoto several years ago, the closest to his First Love. He found her at the end... and it turns out that she was Kazuha, his primary Love Interest. She ahd been given a makeover by her relatives back then, so he didn't realize that she was "that girl" until he heard her sing a song that she had sung that afternoon.
- Another movie (Crimson Love Letters), however, implies that there is another girl who can fill in that role: his Self Proclaimed Love Interest Momiji Ooka, who claims that he gave her a Childhood Marriage Promise when they were tiny kids. It turns out he promised something else and she *thought* he had told her to marry him later.
- In a non-Hattori related case (and one that fully counts as canon), there's Inspector Ninzaburou Shiratori and Conan and Co's homeroom teacher Sumiko Kobayashi. They met as kids and she made a VERY strong impression on him, enough to inspire him to become a policeman, but theirs was a single meeting. Shiratori pursued Sato because he mistakenly believed her to be the girl who changed his life, but few after Sato chose Takagi over him, he met Sumiko and realized that she was the girl he believed to be his fated love
- In Naruto, the first girl introduced in canon is Sakura Haruno, whom Naruto has a huge crush on, and the second girl is Hinata Hyuuga who has a huge crush on Naruto. In the anime and in The Last movie (which is considered full-blown canon), it's shown that Naruto met Hinata before he met Sakura, right before they enrolled in the Academy (the scenes are depicted differently, but the Last version is the one that counts).
- In Bleach, Rukia is the first girl outside of Ichigo's family that the audience meets. But it turns out that Ichigo met Orihime when they were in junior high, and that he's known Tatsuki from even earlier. And he falls for and marries Orihime, his "second" girl.
- This trope serves as The Reveal in Candy Candy: A very young Candy once was comforted by an older boy whom she dubs the "Prince of the Hill", but she never learned his true identity. She believed that her First Love Anthony was him and even asked him about it, but Anthony denied it. She also wondered if her Second Love Terry could have been him, but nothing came out of that "lead". And at the very end of the srries, she finds out... that her and Terry's Big Brother Mentor, Albert Andree, was him. He is Anthony's uncle who strongly resembled him, plus he also was/is her Mysterious Protector and The Patriarch] of the Andree clan (for very complicated reasons). This means, Candy's "Prince of the Hill" she had been looking for through all of her life has always been by her side in one way or another.
- Darling in the FRANXX uses this between Hiro and Zero Two, since he was the boy that was kind to her when she was a tiny prisoner and "lab rat" and tried to free her.
- Ayashi no Ceres uses this too: Aya Mikage actually met Tooya when she around 8 years old and he had just been created.. Sharp-eyed viewers will realize that this was actually shown in the opening of the anime
- Used in the first Sailor Moon anime, specifically in the R movie. Mamoru and Usagi actually met when they were little children: On the day when Usagi's brother Shingo was born, a tiny Usagi snuck into a very young Mamoru's hospital room and found him crying over the also young Fiore's departure and his orphanhood. She comforted him and gave him a rose, which is the same one he'd give to Fiore as a parting gift later...
- When Mary Jane Watson's origin was finally written in the mid-1980s, it was revealed in Amazing Spider-Man #259 that though they did not meet face to face before their first date in ASM #42, Mary Jane had been aware of Peter for years before, having observed him raking leaves through the window of her aunt's house and even feeling a bit attracted to him while in her early teens. Later the graphic novel Parallel Lives revealed that she even had figured out that he was Spider-Man in the night Uncle Ben was murdered.
- In Babylon 5, we go the entire series believing Lennier came first in the Sheridan-Delenn-Lennier Love Triangle, as Lennier appeared in the first season, while Sheridan was not introduced until season two. The Prequel movie though has a scene where Sheridan and Delenn actually did meet, very briefly and without introduction (or seeing each other, but they did exchange a few lines), during the Earth-Minbari War, ten years before Delenn met Lennier.
- Coupling sort of has this. The episode "Remember This" shows how Patrick met, and was interested in, his final love interest Sally before he started with Susan. Before this point, it was assumed that Patrick had only been with Susan before breaking up in the first episode and taking an interest in Sally.
- Played with in King of Queens: a priest that worked at Camp Unity, the summer camp where Carrie and Doug attended as kids recalls seeing the two meeting, which they don't recall. Carrie latches on to the memory, which she interprets as a sign of fate. Hoever, Doug later talks to his mother who reveals that he never attended Camp Unity at all: his parents sent him to "fat camp" claiming it was Camp Unity. The kid Carrie met turns out to be Danny. Doug then agonizes as to whether he should tell Carrie the truth.
- Total Recall. We're first introduced to Melina during an opening dream sequence, but the First Girl seems to be Quaid's wife Lori. Later in the film, we find out that not only the marriage is made of Fake Memories, but he knew Melina years before the story proper began. Assuming it wasn't all "just a dream", of course.
- Araxie Haldane in King Kelson's Bride. After events conspire against Kelson's first two attempts at matrimony, he decides to propose to his cousin, and we learn he and his other cousins played with her (and her sister) when they were children. Kelson hadn't seen her since then, and there's no portrait of her among the other portraits collected for his consideration, so he spends a lot of time wondering what she looks like before they meet again.
- A later episode of The Simpsons reveals that Homer and Marge met as kids, and even shared a kiss, but for a long time believed that they met in highschool. They didn't remember due to specific circumstances: little!Homer had an eyepatch after an accident, little!Marge had a different hair color after failing to style it. Lisa even hangs a lampshade when she finds out, saying how romantic she finds all of it.