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I've seen many anime but faced with a word I could not find the meaning of - anime "franchises" such as Fate/Stay Night.

What does "franchises" mean in this context?

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Definition #11 of "franchise" at en.wiktionary is what you want:

The loose collection of fictional works pertaining to a particular universe, including literary, film or television series from various sources.

I would dispute the notion that this sense of "franchise" necessarily involves "an authorization granted by a government or company". This is certainly true of franchises in the legal sense (the McDonald's sense), but in common parlance today, we would refer to Fate as a franchise even if all of its component works were produced by the same corporate entity (Type-Moon, say).

I would say that a defining feature of a "franchise" in this sense is the existence of a wide variety of media constituting the franchise. For example, it would be odd to describe a standalone novel as a franchise, but if there was also an associated manga or anime or something, it would be more "franchise-esque".

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Franchise

an authorization granted by a government or company to an individual or group enabling them to carry out specified commercial activities, e.g., providing a broadcasting service or acting as an agent for a company's products.

What this means in the context of anime is that someone has an original idea, usually a manga, and has given the right to make anime, merchandise, extend the idea/story as they see fit, etc. to a second person/entity.

This blog post talks extensively about what a franchise means to an anime fan:

They’re an anime but also a manga, light novel, video game, trading card game, collection of toys, or any number of mediums. I wonder how many anime fans get into all the franchise branches of a particular series, or whether they’re content to just watch the anime and nothing more…

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The more general term for this is "media franchise" which is also famously known as "media mix" in Japan.

Quoting Wikipedia,

A media franchise is a collection of related media in which several derivative works have been produced from an original creative work, such as a film, a work of literature, a television program or a video game.


In Japanese culture and entertainment, media mix (wasei-eigo: メディアミックス, mediamikkusu) is a strategy to disperse content across multiple representations: different broadcast media, gaming technologies, cell phones, toys, amusement parks, and other methods. The term gained its circulation in late 1980s, however the origins of the strategy can be traced back to 1960s with the proliferation of anime with its interconnection of media and commodity goods. It is the Japanese equivalent of a media franchise.

To conclude and reiterate, it is when an original work (e.g. anime) has derivative works on other media (e.g. manga, game). Recent media includes manga, anime, light novel, game, music CD, TV drama, movie, web radio, figures, talent (Love Live!), trading card (Yu-Gi-Oh!), plastic model (Gundam) and others.

Example:

  • Tenchi Muyo!: an OVA spawning TV anime, game, radio drama, light novel, manga, etc. (considered as the pioneer of media mix in Japan)
  • Code Geass: a TV anime spawning manga, game, light novel, drama CD, radio, live-stage and musical performance
  • Guilty Crown: a TV anime spawning light novel, manga, game, web radio

Some references were taken from Japanese Wikipedia counterpart

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