29

Around the early and mid 2000's we saw the spawning of a large collection of long running anime series, such as Naruto, One Piece, Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, etc., all of which still are continuing today in its original series, or through some spin-off. Nowadays, we are left with mainly 12 or 24 episode anime, most of which will never see a second season.

Why is it so rare to see new long running anime series these days? What caused the shift in the anime industry to a more "agile" (borrowing a term from software development for lack of a better word) production rate?

My first guess is that the producers base their decision for a long-running anime series on the success of its source manga. However, this is not entirely true, as we see Attack on Titan is a 25 episode series, even though I believe that its manga sales overtook that of One Piece at some point.

  • 4
    AoT doesn't have very much source material to animate... – ton.yeung Jul 14 '16 at 3:44
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    I'd attribute it more to the short attention span of today's audience. – ton.yeung Jul 14 '16 at 3:44
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    I think you've hit on it: "most of which will never see a second season". Shows that make money get a second season. But why commit in advance to running a show for hundreds of episodes if you aren't even sure it's going to make money? Better to do a twelve-episode season to test the waters, and if your return is good enough, then talk about a sequel. – Torisuda Jul 14 '16 at 4:40
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    @Torisuda Just like in Boku no Hero Academia were only 13 episode came so far. – Light Yagami Jul 14 '16 at 4:56
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    Because, by the time a series has been running long enough to be called "long running," it's no longer new. – jwodder Jul 14 '16 at 14:53
30

There are a variety of reasons for this. Some may apply and some may not.

The anime series catches up to the Source Material This is by far the most common problem, faced by long running Anime. Once the source material ends there are two options. Fillers or hiatus. Anime like Naruto and Bleach went the filler route. Bleach ended before the final saga which is still publishing. Naruto has finally ended but for some reason Anime is still prolonged by random fillers (Maybe to increase profit). Shows like Fairy Tail and One Piece experimented. Fairy Tail abandoned the filler model and went on hiatus. Toei has screwed up One Piece with barely showing 5 minutes of new material and now again on fillers. So these long running shows have had their own problems and have overcome them only if the viewership and manga sales continue.

Now why more anime are not in the same model and going at 250+ episodes?

  1. There aren't just that many popular series which can be adapted for hundreds of episodes For a long running perennial series several factors have to align. Not only the series, but its other products should also be popular. Bleach, One Piece and Naruto had Mangaka's which constantly worked hard to put out new chapters and manga sales were good. Pokemon and Yu-gi-oh's trading card games were very popular. Their viewership numbers also didn't fluctuate. Take Hunter x Hunter for example. It had the potential to be right there with the big three, but due to inactive Mangaka its source material was finished way too soon. Even the remake could only adapt a couple extra arcs. More such examples are covered in Ryan's answer below.

  2. The anime is adapted in a bad way.
    Kingdom has 470+ Manga Chapters. It is great source material and decent Manga sales. Its first season had such a bad animation that 90% of people who picked it up dropped it after second episode. Still it has over 70 episodes over 2 seasons. A call for reboot is there but I don't have my hopes up.
    Tokyo Ghoul was given a second season where the writers completely went away from the source material. Even though Season 1 was received well its writers had made several unwarranted changes which led to many plotholes. (MadHouse's Parasyte though got it right. A great short Anime)

  3. Seasonal Structure is less Risky. This is primarily the main reason from the departure from the perennial episodic structure from the big three. This method has lots of benefits with no obvious drawbacks. The studio only needs to commit to next season IFF it made profit the previous season. It also gives source material to continue ahead and some breathing room for the anime scriptwriters without lowering quality or pacing of the anime. The long running anime have many ups and down with the pacing.
    Tbh this isn't exactly new. Major for example ran over 6 Seasons consisted of 150+ Episodes between 2004-2010.
    JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has plenty of source material written from 1986-2004. But instead David Production went with a Seasonal model which is currently on part 3. So it is infact going to be a long running series.
    Haikyuu and Kuroko No Basuke are a couple of other sports shounen which got subsequent seasons. KnK ended with season 3. Haikyuu is renewed for its 3rd season.

  4. People prefer shorter anime This may or may not be true. But being from India and an Anime/Manga fan for over a decade, I didn't expect the sudden fad/growth of the Anime community. Naruto ending and its social network buzz seems to have given people a stimulus to pick Anime. Most of the people who ask me for recommendations want the Anime of lengths 24-25 episodes only.

Tl;dr As the market became more money oriented and people moving on too quickly. The seasonal structure of Anime production gave the studios and production houses more flexibility to hedge their risks by producing more anime but only prolonging the release of the more profitable and popular titles. This also seem to orient with the requirements of the newer generation of fans who seem to prefer the shorter, high paced and high quality of anime.

  • 1
    Interestingly, the Naruto anime series isn't over yet, since there are still roughly 30 (non-filler) chapters to go. But the filler arcs are so damn long that many people have either given up on the show or thought that the actual plot ended already. – Jeffery Tang Jul 14 '16 at 5:57
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    @JefferyTang Exactly. I highlighted this point. I believe this is what happens when Studio wants to squeeze every last drop of profit from a brand. – Arcane Jul 14 '16 at 6:40
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    I think 4 is a big one. I read an article talking about how otaku culture is driving the industry now as kids are spending less and less on anime goods. And because most of them compete for lucrative time blocks, the model has changed to allow more rotation and keep sales up as well as adults generally having less time to invest in watching. – Jake Jul 14 '16 at 15:58
  • On point 4, not only people prefer shorter anime, it seems that people are preferring shorter TV series and movie as well, so I think it is likely to be true. – cytsunny Jul 20 '17 at 11:37
7

In addition to what Arcane said in their answer, I think there's another major factor:

A lot of anime shows are based on manga, which themselves may or may not be built for a long-running series. Some of the things published as manga are simply not created to be an open-world for exploring stories.

For example, consider The Green Mile written by Stephen King (I know, not a manga but go with me here). It is a wonderful novel which was originally published as a series. I mention this because it was a serial novel, but it wasn't a long-running serial novel—which is similar to many manga. Each piece in the series plays its part, but it decidedly reaches an end, and that's that. There's no room to expand on the story of The Green Mile. The author told the story he wanted to, and there's nothing left to talk about. If they continued to produce 'episodes' of the series that talk about other prisoners, or other events in the same prison, I feel it would sort of lessen the story told in the 'original'.

(Side note: if you like the movie for The Green Mile, but haven't read the book, then I can't possibly recommend the book enough. It is by far one of my favorite books/movies of all time.)

Some mangas are like that—they have a story to tell, they tell it, and then it's done. There's no more. Things like Death Note come to mind in that regard. The manga series has ended, and the story has been told. I don't know the chronology of the releases for the movies, TV episodes, and manga, but it's all 'done' at this point in time. It's a good read and a good story, but I think it would be lessened if they had tried to crank out episodes that fit the universe, just for the sake of making episodes.

Some shows are great for regular, periodic episodes. Others just tell a story, and when the story ends there's nothing left to do but move on. In fact, I kind of hate it when they 'test the waters', like Arcane mentions, and season 1 ends on a cliffhanger because they were seeing if season 2 would be a thing. Then you get a story that's left unfinished, and you may not get the end at all (from the show or written material). If it's one thing I hate about a story, it's an unfinished story.

Just imagine if a show like Breaking Bad had just continued until viewership fell below a certain threshold, and then the next season doesn't come out just because it wasn't approved by the network. That would be horrible, and the ending that Breaking Bad had was some of the best TV I had seen in recent years. Sometimes getting that complete resolution to everything is the best thing for the show, series, and audience.

So, to bring this all back to your question: I think part of what you're seeing is a lot more authors trying to tell a specific story, and doing it well enough to become really popular, but then the story is done. There is a lot of manga out there these days, so the market is saturated with really great stuff to read/watch. Getting a long-running series going then hits the issues that Arcane mentions, so what we end up seeing as 'successful' end up being the short/limited run series which may only run for 13-25 episodes, but they reach their conclusion and the audience is happy. And we consider an attempt at being long-running to be a 'failure' when it doesn't make it past the first or second season even though the episode count is the same as the short/limited series.

And there are only so many hours in a day, so at some point that comes into conflict with how much people can watch. If we all end up watching really high quality anime that is 1-2 seasons long, then we simply don't have time for that 5+ season series. Perhaps there are such series out there that just haven't reached your attention yet, or maybe if you did see such a series you would think it's 'too childish' and let it pass you by.

Small note about Attack on Titan: there are still more episodes coming, but it seems to have a long cycle to create, much like Rick and Morty. Perhaps continued support and revenue will allow them to hire more people to speed things up, but that's an issue with their business/development cycle more than it is with the content. You could have a super awesome business idea that would make you billions, and let your descendants live in luxury for generations to come, but it doesn't mean squat if you can't get it to market. Unfortunately, there are likely many great untold stories that fall into that category for one reason or another.

  • 1
    This is also a good point: most anime nowadays comes from manga and light novels, and not all manga and light novels are structured in such a way that the story can continue for twenty years. Especially drama and romance: you can keep an action series going by tossing stronger and stronger villains at the characters, but dragging on romantic tension for too long when it's the entire basis of the story just gets tiresome. – Torisuda Jul 14 '16 at 19:12
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    I think though you have given many relevant examples. This is covered by point 1... "There aren't just that many popular series which can be adapted for hundreds of episodes" – Arcane Jul 15 '16 at 3:31
7

Length of the anime highly depends on who sponsors (提供) the series.

There are 3 common sponsored types.

Sponsored by TV station

Example: Case Closed, Pokemon or many NHK animes

This business model is: TV station pay money to anime studio and get money from commercial. The copyright of anime is held by TV station.

In this model, TV station can decide to continue current series or not. But even if they stop the current series, they need to find a new series. In most cases, they decide to continue the current series because they don't want to get risk that the new series can't get enough attention.

Then many anime in this business model have very long series like more than one years.

Sponsored by one (or few) company.

Example: Pretty Cure, Gundam, Cardfight!! Vanguard or Sazae-san

This business model is: One company pays money to an anime studio to create an anime and also pays money to a TV station to air it. Usually, the copyright of the anime is owned by the company instead of the TV station.

The reason why company does it depends on case, For example, Gundam from Bandai, the main goal of the company is selling toys (plastic model). They create the anime itself for commercial purpose.

For the case of Sazae-san from Toshiba, they just want to sell the name of the company, but they keep the anime series for more than 50 years.

If they create an anime for commercial purpose of toy, they finish the series based on the renewal of toys. Usually, they renew the series each year.

Sponsored by committee (制作委員会)

Example: most 12-24 episode anime.

This business model is pretty new, but become very common these days.

Multiple companies create and join a committee. Each company has different interest area, like: one company want to sell music CD, one company want to sell manga, etc. They agree to create one anime series. Companies then pay money to create the anime and share the copyrights.

In this model, the committee doesn't need to air the anime by default. But usually, they try to air for commercial. For commercial aspect, shorter is better because the committee needs to pay by miniatures to the TV station.

Conclusion

So, the length of the series depends on business model and length for each model is not changed. But the ratio of the business model was changed.

4

While I personally believe that animation has become more in-line with the original author's wishes and has largely elected to follow the original author's storyline, which doesn't always equate to a very long running series, I'm going to take this from a slightly different angle and pick on a notorious long series that you mention, Pokemon. I do this for a couple reasons:

  • The manga and anime are divergent; the characters are largely similar but the plot is nowhere near the same. This gives everyone - including mangaka and studios - liberty to create a new story in the same universe as opposed to following the one universe.
  • The games largely drive the manga and anime, and one generally sees a new season of Pokemon around the same time they see a new Pokemon game. This keeps the theme and releases relatively consistent, with the same goal roughly in mind.

It is my belief that we don't see longer-running anime because we don't have universes that allow this kind of freedom. Naruto had come close, but not quite on the same scale as Pokemon.


Divergent storyline between manga and anime

There is a list of different manga in regards to the Pokemon franchise, and not all of it is done by the same author, nor does it follow the same storyline as any of the rest of them. The environment and some of the characters may be similar, but the storyline doesn't line up.

The more important point here: it never has to.

What happened in The Electric Tale of Pikachu doesn't apply to Pokemon Monsters ReBurst, and someone new to the franchise can read either of these and enjoy them as they come, without having to wade through days or weeks or even months* of backstory.

That's actually been one of the franchise's major strengths in that the anime isn't inherently tied to the manga, thus filler is mandatory. We've seen and/or live[d] through that with the Dragon Ball franchise, Bleach, Naruto, and others, in which a major plot line in the anime is blocked by the manga, which slows the pace of the anime down and adds more filler, making it harder to keep pace without knowing which parts it's "safe" to skip watching.

To tie this to my main point, the vast majority of series today are driven by their predecessors in manga; the story is being created generally by one person and generally they have their thoughts on how the story should progress, but the network and executives have to continue the series somehow. With Pokemon, one of the longer-running anime series, this issue is largely avoided by not requiring the anime to be based on manga.

This isn't new in entertainment; most, if not all of DC and Marvel comics are being written in new and exciting ways by people who grew up enjoying the series, and they may involve certain people, or cut out entire plot lines from other universes. The main point there: it all stays canon, and none of that work has to rely on anyone else's to sustain it.

Predictable series storyline; generally focused around regions

I will say that Pokemon does kind of suffer from a bottleneck in that its series largely depend on a new game release. However, this doesn't mean that the anime strictly follows the events of the game at all; the writers are free to interpret the world as they see fit with some idea that Ash/Satoshi progresses through to collect all of the badges and catch some unique 'mons.

Studios in charge of the more popular anime series don't really have this liberty; generally, one of these things could happen:

  • The author treats it as non-canon and progresses forward (ignore it)
  • The author incorporates it into canon (think Hayate no Gotoku and the addition of Kayura Tsurugino after the movie) (embrace it)
  • The author decides to reboot the series entirely, which may include some components of the original one and may not, with the liberties largely removed (Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood vs Full Metal Alchemist) (allow both to exist)

Depending on the series, this may be a risk worth taking, or may wind up backfiring. There are plotholes in Bleach due to this; given that there was an entire arc in Season 7 in which a soul reaper was surviving in Hueco Mundo, and given the events that have happened recently, has either died or been completely forgotten about.

*: Assuming reading or watching media for 18 hours straight per day, 6 days per week. Y'know, binge watching.

1

It's because the TV slots for long running series are already filled. To get something new one of the existing ones would have to stop, otherwise it would have to compete with what is already there for viewers. Shorter anime run at night lots of the time or in the early morning hours. Not much of a chance to reach a broader audience in those slots and even if they do, more often than not the story just isn't made to go on indefinitely.

Also, maybe they save long running source material for when one of the existing long running series eventually stops.

  • I disagree with this. There's nothing that says that Boruto (which is what replaced Naruto) will be long-running, and there's nothing realistically stopping a long-runner from being outmuscled by another popular series. – Makoto Aug 14 '17 at 22:15
  • The TV slots are made this way. Boruto is just Naruto with a new name. Still the Naruto slot. It's impossible to "outmuscle" the TV slots. That's not how these slots work. That's backwards. The slots make a series popular, not the other way around. And those series get money by selling merchandizing, not by people buying the show on disc. Once the merchandizing stops selling, the series will be taken off rather ungracefully and replaced by something new that can be dragged out for decades selling new merchandizing. – Ocean Sep 3 '17 at 8:34
-2

Well, you have to think about how much time money and effort it takes to make an anime. It's like a manga, only with more pages, and it has to be coloured in and edited to fit smoothly into a video format. It has to have voice-overs and for people who can't speak Japanese, they need to either dub it or sub it, making it take a good couple of days and you have to pay everyone. Plus, they have to have inspiration to build something from, because let's be honest, some of the long anime have filler episodes like in Yu-Gi-Oh! when they have certain flashbacks that recap recent events instead of unknown information.

Some people say it's just that my generation has a short attention span (and I'm one of the ADHD members so mines even shorter). My sister says, with short animes, you can watch more, but if there are only say 5 animes in existence with 12 half-hour episodes, even if you watch only the recommended 2 hours of TV a day, that's only 4 episodes a day and you would run out fast.

  • 1
    Your answer is a bit incoherent...I'm not sure what point you're driving at here. – Makoto Jan 22 '18 at 1:49
-3

My guess is that in most cases the studios do not earn much profit. These days, rather than purchasing DVDs or watching the shows on TV, we simply download it for free. Without DVD sale or any TRP, where are they supposed to get any profit?

  • 4
    Odd, i don't recall Crunchyroll, Funimation, Animelab or like legal sites allowing you to download for free. if there was a download you certinally do have to pay either through a subscription or per episode/Set (as with the case for The Legend of Korra series on Playstation) – Memor-X Jul 14 '16 at 4:31
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    your guesses cannot apply here. show proof or references. – tenten Jul 29 '16 at 12:23
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    So in other words, piracy? Well, then, don't do it. – Aki Tanaka Jan 21 '18 at 8:29

protected by Makoto Jan 22 '18 at 1:48

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