As fans of anime might know, new anime series tend to run for a finite number of episodes per season, generally around 12. And of these series, many anime don’t ever get more than one season. However, older anime, like One Piece or Naruto, have ran for more than 100 episodes. So why exactly are anime released in shorter seasons?
The obvious answer would be that when adapting from a manga or light novel, there is simply not enough material for a long anime. In the case of older long running anime, when the anime was up to date with the manga, there were two solutions to this problem. One was to simply create filler episodes until there was more material to adapt from the manga, as is the case with Naruto, which had a high number of filler episodes. The other solution was to create an entirely new plot that ends up being different from the manga, as seen in the case with the 2003 version of the Fullmetal Alchemist anime.
However, newer series don’t really do this anymore as it is much easier to simply have an open ending at the end of the 12th episode. Not only is this a lot easier on the animation studio, but it is also a lot cheaper, which ties in to the next point.
Simply put, the anime industry doesn’t have the money to continue the trend of long running anime. A lot of this has to do with the change in demographics of who anime was marketed to. In the beginning, anime was often directed at young kids. To create revenue, the production company would sell toys or other merchandise to these kids alongside the anime. The money they got from sales would be used to produce more episodes of the anime. This would continue for as long as they could sell merchandise, or until the anime came to its conclusion.
However, this began to change in the early 2000s, as the demographic switched from young kids, to teenagers and young adults. Unlike kids, they were less likely to buy merchandise and toys even though they like a series very much, which is why sales went down. Because of this, production companies were losing the money they needed to support long running series. This is why they began to create shorter seasons, as it s more economically beneficial. By making short seasons, the anime production company is also essentially testing the waters, seeing whether or not the anime is popular enough to continue. If it’s not, then ending it at 12 episodes is less cost inducing than if the production company were forced to cancel the anime midway. This is why popular anime often get another season, such as My Hero Academia, which is already up to its third season.
Besides shortening the length of a season, many anime are also starting to have shorter episodes, going from as long as 20 minutes instead of the usual 30, to something as short as 3 minutes. The reason for this format is also tied into the new demographic of anime fans. A short show is often meant for those who don’t have the time to invest in a new anime series and who want something quick. It’s also for this reason that Production I.G created the Anime Beans app.
The app contains 3 to 4-minute-long anime for people looking to watch something in transit, or while on a quick break. Although this short format normally works best with comedy or slice of life genres, the app contains a wide variety of genre from dramas to thrillers.
While it’s unfortunate that some anime series don’t continue beyond one season, what fans have to understand is that this isn’t because the anime industry is being lazy. Obviously, they want to produce anime that fans can love and enjoy. But it just isn’t possible for them to keep long running shows anymore, especially if not that many people are watching. Especially in this day and age where we are having an information explosion, and everyone has shorter attention span and less time to indulge in a long anime show. The best thing a fan can do is to support the production companies that try so hard to create anime that anyone can enjoy.
Just your average con-going, cat-loving, JRPG and Idol game fan doing the best as one possibly can.