9

Short-form anime (or tanpen anime, see Is there official terminology for anime series that run less than the standard length?) are relatively common, with at least a few each season.

It seems strange to me that this would be a worthwhile investment for studios. Sure, the production costs will be lower, but there are certain overheads that aren't going to scale with cost, and their DVD sales will surely be lower. So it seems like a losing deal for studios.

Why, from a production standpoint, would studios decide to produce short-form anime over a full-length TV series?

7

Most of the short-form Anime that I've seen are comedies that have little to no character development. So it would be quite difficult to find enough content to "fill up" an entire full-length episode. It's the sort of thing where you sit down laugh for a few minutes and leave.

From another angle, the cost reduction of producing short form Anime is probably even lower than you'd expect.

A lot of short form Anime retain the standard 90-second OP and ED. Since each episode is already short to begin with, 3 minutes becomes a significant portion of the episode to get "for free" - thus even less content needs to be produced.

7

One reason that shows may be very short is so that studios can try some experimental works that production companies would be hesitant to release as a full series. One example of this is Lychee Light Club which took a vastly different approach to the anime than they did with the manga. Characters were chibified and humourous rather than the disturbing horror depicted in the manga. Such a change was likely to spark various backlashes from hardcore fans if it were a full length show

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Often shows like this have a much lower production quality and would be ignored by the viewers if they ran the full length of a show: like Line Offline Salaryman or Naked Wolves which are very low budget.

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The short time slot gives a lot of opportunity to be largely non-committal to plot and shows tend to be more episodic than sequential. Take for example Tonari no Seki Kun which simply takes place solely at the back of a classroom with a similar plot each episode

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6

While the actual reasons and circumstances my vary, usually short-length anime series are created for the following reasons (or combination of them):

  • The adapted content does not have enough content to be adapted to a full length season

  • The studio is pretty new to the industry (even if it's founded and made by industry vets, they've yet to prove themselves to the mass). This can be seen with series like Studio Trigger's Inferno Cop.

  • A studio is trying something new or drastically different from their norm

Shorts have also been a way for the industry to showcase their work like manga authors and light novel writers to do with oneshots and short stories, respectively.

4

Anime festivals have some restrictions regarding the length of the animation. There are usually multiple short films shown, so to fit in more works in a 2-3 hour event schedule, in case of Tokyo Anime Awards Festival 2015 it has to be under 30 minutes.

The work applied must be a 30 min. Or shorter animation film unreleased in Japan whose copyright is owned by the director, producer or applicant. Note short animation films produced mainly for the purpose of advertisement or promotion of any corporation or organization are not accepted. Also note short animation films having already been commercially released in Japan for a certain continuing period are not accepted; however, those submitted just to film festivals or screened only at graduation shows are not deemed as “commercially released”.

4

It can allow a studio a more relaxed production schedule, for a full-length production, like for example Yama no Susume S2 or Kurmajo-san. This could actually result in similar or increased quality, while keeping additional costs down. Production of a 20-minute episode every 2 weeks rather than every week seems to be a more natural pace, as is apparent in the growing number of split-cour series (series that are spread over multiple seasons) and some series, like Sailor Moon, which broadcast on 2-week intervals. Having half-length or shorter episodes serves a similar purpose.

Some examples of shows that have not been able to keep the animation quality up throughout, are "Ore, Twintails ni Narimasu" and "Rail Wars!".

3

Short form anime has several advantages for creators and studios

  • They allow writers to be more "daring" with their story, short forms can contain stories and ideas that will not work on full episodes.
  • Short forms generally do operate on a lower budgets than their "full-fledged" big brothers. While it's true that there are some costs that don't scale, there are also many of those who do.
  • Short forms allows for potentially higher quality episode due to its short length.
  • Short forms can squeeze between the larger shows, allowing studios and channels to fill in gaps in precious air time.

Bottom line, it probably does pay off. Studios wouldn't have done it if it didn't. Short forms led to many great works that gained a lot of popularity and views.

1
  • Short anime usually aren't very popular and since they aren't very popular the budget tends to be smaller. Even though I said the budget tends to be smaller, that might be part of the producers plan, the smaller the budget is, the more profit they'll make of it.

  • Another circumstance might be because there isn't enough material for a normal length season. [This one is rare. Short anime are most of the times kept as short anime, and full length anime are most of the times kept as full length anime]

  • Short anime are also used to promote certain entities, like train stations, cities, Japanese "idols", shops, etc.

  • The most common case might be that the producers realized that the story being used isn't going to make profit (or not enough profit) and decided to use a short anime adaptation, managing the story to get adapted while still making enough profit off it.

  • Another circumstance is when the studio is new to the industry and doesn't have much money or sponsors. They usually make an adaptation in order to promote their studio as well, just using a small budget, affordable to the studio.

  • Shorts are a good opportunity to promote a manga story.

  • Not very popular? Some of the more recent ones have had multiple seasons, which of a direct testament to its popularity. – Makoto Jan 11 '15 at 19:13
  • @Makoto As you can read above, I mentioned "usually", "usually" != "always". – b1GZZ Jan 11 '15 at 23:00

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