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I've always wondered this, but why do anime series titles change so often whenever it gets a new "season"?

I mean, I understand that the title stays the same for long running series, like Bleach or One Piece, but why do new "seasons" for one or two cour anime have slightly different names? For example...

  • To Aru Kagaku no Railgun, To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S
  • Zero no Tsukaima, Zero no Tsukaima: Futatsuki no Kishi, Zero no Tsukaima: Princesses no Rondo, Zero no Tsukaima F
  • Medaka Box, Medaka Box Abnormal
  • Sword Art Online, Sword Art Online II
  • Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai, Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai.
  • K-On!, K-On!!

I'm particularly interested in the last two, where the only noticeable difference in the title is a punctuation mark. They're all direct sequels, so why not just give it the same name as the first season, like in American television? The source material keeps its name throughout its entire life (e.g. there was never a Naruto: Shippuuden manga or a Shakugan no Shana III light novel), so why do their anime adaptations get different titles?

Is there a legal thing in Japan which disallows a production for one "season" to have the same name as another, for clarification purposes? Or do the producers/whoever chooses the names just want to attract more fans by making a distinction between different "seasons"?

Some insight into how the airing of anime works would be much appreciated.

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1  
Dragon Ball - Dragon Ball Z –  Sam I am May 14 at 1:01
    
Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai is there twice. –  Hakase May 14 at 1:20
    
@user1306322 Observe the period at the end of the second one. –  senshin May 14 at 1:21
    
I asked a related question at Movies & TV. –  senshin May 14 at 2:20

3 Answers 3

up vote 16 down vote accepted

Okay, based on what I've learned here, I think I understand why you're asking this question - it looks like it boils down to the fact American television and anime use the word "season" differently.

The way anime is produced nowadays is that the production of a second season is almost always strongly contingent on the commercial success of the first season. As such, production will typically halt completely in between seasons - different seasons are different productions. What this means is that what anime watchers call "seasons" are what American TV watchers call "series".1

And this, I think, is the important insight. It is rare for American television to feature shows that have multiple series (separated by halts in production) set in the same continuity, since American television production functions differently. American shows typically semi-continuously churn out new content (a la The Simpsons) until they get cancelled.

In the specific cases you used as examples (Railgun, Zero no Tsukaima, Medaka, SAO, OreImo, K-ON), it looks like all of them experienced halts in production between each season.

I mean, I understand that the title stays the same for long running series, like Bleach or One Piece...

Right, and the key factor here is that Bleach and One Piece are each one continuous production - because there was never a halt in production, they never got a new title.2

The source material keeps its name throughout its entire life (e.g. there was never a Naruto: Shippuuden manga or a Shakugan no Shana III light novel), so why do their anime adaptations get different titles?

So again, this boils down to the fact that the Naruto manga and the Shakugan no Shana light novels were each one continuous production (as basically all manga series and light novels are). There's no logical breaking point at which to change titles in these cases.

I'm particularly interested in the last two, where the only noticeable difference in the title is a punctuation mark.

The practice of using a punctuation mark rather than a subtitle or other designation to identify a new season is a stupid practice that has been "trendy" recently, and should (with any luck) die out eventually. Still, the idea is basically the same - K-On!! could just as well have been called K-On! 2 or K-On!: This Time It's Cuter or whatever - anything to indicate that it's a separate production from the original series K-On!.

Is there a legal thing in Japan which disallows a production for one "season" to have the same name as another, for clarification purposes?

I'm no expert on Japanese law, but I would be astounded if this were the case.


Addendum: the case of Fairy Tail is interesting - it ran from Oct 2009 to Mar 2013, then stopped for a while, and picked back up again in Apr 2014. Despite this, the name of the series did not change - it was called Fairy Tail both before and after the break in airing.3

My suspicion here is that the break in airing had been planned in advance, and that the producers had planned to resume airing once the manga had had some time to get ahead.

If this is in fact the case, there would have been no reason to halt production during the break in airing - it was already known at the time airing stopped that they would be making more episodes. Contrast this with e.g. Railgun - when the first season finished in 2010, they didn't know (for sure) that they'd be making a second season (which didn't end up happening until 2013).


Notes

1 In most cases, anime has no notion that is equivalent to what American TV watchers call "seasons"; the major exception would probably be long-running children's anime (think Doraemon, Sazae-san, etc.).

2 This explanation doesn't really work for Naruto vs. Naruto Shippuden, though, and I'm not familiar enough with that show to posit an explanation. You might like to ask about that particular case separately if it interests you.

3 Regarding which, see this question.

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Thanks! I was wary about using the word "seasons" (hence why I put it in quotes) since I knew it could potentially have a different meaning when it comes to anime. I figured that one possible reason was because of halts in production, but didn't know why a restart in production would change the title. If it's just to indicate a separate production, then I suppose it makes sense. –  erpmine May 14 at 4:20
    
Though, Fairy Tail recently underwent a halt in production, as well as a restart - although the fans have dubbed the new one Fairy Tail (2014), the official title is just Fairy Tail. Does that indicate the producers intend the restart to be a continuous production? –  erpmine May 14 at 4:21
    
@erpmine I added some commentary about Fairy Tail. –  senshin May 14 at 4:36

Bellow is from my observations, i have no credible sources for this

Some of the title changes are a meaning to their new season, ie.

  • Naruto Shippuuden: Shippuuden means hurricane and Naruto in it is becoming for of a wind style Chakra User.

  • Maria Watches Over Us: the second season is subtitled Printemps which means Spring in french which symbolizes not only the time the season is set but the "blooming" of new relationships after the Lady Roses graduate and the further blossoming relationship between Yumi and Sachiko

  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha: the second season is A's but it is pronounced as Ēsu which could a lot like Ace. it was the Book of Darkness incident which saw Nanoha, Fate and Hayate be seen by lower TSAB agents as Aces at their young age.

the use of a number (or in Sword Art Online roman numerals II) is more indicative of a new season since it just omits the word season in there (ie. Sword Art Online Season II, Shakugan no Shana Season III). i more or less think K-On is doing the same with the ! since if you flip it it's a lowercase I which when capitalized would be the roman numeral.

A different name can also be used to show a distinction between 2 series such as story (Fullmetal Alchemist, Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood), being a re-release (Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball Z Kai) or having a new writer (Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball GT). for uses like S or F these could actually be words Second and Further

name changes can normally be a result of long "hiatus" periods between seasons as alot of anime is adapted from manga and light novels, as such a manga or light novel which would continue on long after the anime has stopped wouldn't have a name change but the anime would choose to adopt a subtitle when it resumes (if it resumes)

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It's simply a way of indicating to the viewer that the episodes are new. TV ratings wars are extremely ferece in Japan, as are DVD sales wars. The producers want even the show's title to scream "new!" at you.

To give you an idea of how bad it has become, TV channels often start their programming at weird times like 3 minutes to the hour or 7 minutes past the hour. The reason for this is to discourage people from changing channel. At 3 minutes to the hour everyone else is still showing adverts, so you start watching what they have. At 7 minutes past the programme you were just watching overran the start of other channel's shows. They will do pretty much anything to get viewers it seems.

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