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From what I've been able to follow, the seasons of anime shows have been tied to thirteen week blocks, directly correlating with the actual season in Japan (for instance, this is the Winter 2013 season).

However, there are instances in which shows with more than 13 episodes are considered to have only run for one season.

Which is the correct definition - are seasons 23-26 episodes, or are they 11-13 episodes?

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The 13 week "season" that refers to a time of year or when a show starts airing is sometimes referred to as an "airing" season or a "television" season. This is like "Winter 2013 season". But since shows sometime span different television seasons, even if it's 13 episodes long, this run of a series can also be referred to as a "season".

Sometimes shows get cut off, go on hiatus, or for whatever reasons (e.g. financial) have a significant break between certain episodes such that the TV series runs through multiple "television seasons" (e.g. Girls Und Panzer) yet the show itself is still referred to as the "first season", and this is sometimes referred to as a "cour" or "series". The usage of "season" comes down to semantics. Multiple "seasons" of a TV series can also be called "series", like Galaxy Angel and it's multiple (different lengths) "seasons" are sometimes called "series 1", "series 2", etc. "Cours" however, usually refer to a 12 or 13 stretch of episodes. So a 26 episode series can be referred to as "2 cours".

But as far as the length of an anime "season", a 12 episode series run can be referred to as a "season", yet sometimes a 26, or 36, or 201 (Gintama) episode run is called a "season". It's technically not tied to a specific length, which is why some people prefer to use "cours".

  • This is probably one of the reasons my head is spinning on the matter. "Season" is too loosely defined a term, so it's better to use "cours" instead. But then, I introduce new language to mean practically the same thing. Thank you for distilling it, but I'm going to need a few seasons to digest this properly. – Makoto Jan 15 '13 at 3:56
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A "season" is pretty much whatever the producer defines as "season".

The traditional size of a season in a periodic TV show is 24-26 episodes, but this is not written in stone. Frequently a "test run" will be 12 episodes.

There is another reason called "Broadcast Syndication" - a bundle of either between 88 and 100, or exactly 65 episodes is sold to a TV network.

So, season sizes are often adjusted to these: two seasons of 26 and one of 13 episodes will create a bundle of 65. Three seasons of 25 and one of 13 will create 88. Four seasons of 25 will create 100.

And of course there are exceptions: two-episode stories, extras, OVA and so on which may or may not be included in the number.

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