The world of anime is so vast that you will never run out of new shows to discover and enjoy! One of the appeals of anime is how it’s so different to how modern TV series are produced and aired in the west. Having the anime seasons explained shows this unique production trait that keeps the anime production line moving in Japan.
If you have questions about how anime seasons work or just want to learn more about why your favourite show only run for a certain amount of episodes, this article will explain!
Related: What Are OVAs in Anime and How Are They Different Than Specials?
What is a Season in Anime?
An anime season is a three-month block where a particular anime show will air weekly at the same time on the same channel in Japan. Seasons help to organise when shows will be aired in Japan and across the world.
In the western world, streaming has largely taken over show production, with many hit series available immediately in full on certain platforms. However, this isn’t the case in Japan.
Anime series are usually given 12-week blocks known as ‘cours’ by a broadcaster in which their show can be aired weekly. That’s why most series are designed to deliver a complete story within that 12-episode runtime.
What Are the Anime Seasons?
Anime seasons are divided in line with the weather seasons, although some of the dates are slightly different:
- Winter: January - March
- Spring: April - June
- Summer: July - September
- Fall: October - December
The first anime season in any calendar year is Winter, and the last is Fall. If that sounds strange to people who are used to the year starting with Spring, consider this like those calendars that start the week on Sunday.
Related: The Best Upcoming Anime 2022
Why do Anime Have 12 or 24 Episodes?
The majority of anime either have 12 or 24 episodes to fit within the three-month cours allotted by Japanese broadcasters to certain shows.
As most anime are aired weekly in Japan, a three-month cour allows for an episode every 12 weeks. Depending on the show’s popularity or expected audience, broadcasters might give the show more weeks, or take some away.
Some of the biggest series that are likely to dominate viewership figures may be given two broadcasting seasons to air across, giving them 24 weeks. On the other hand, some smaller series only have 10 or 11 episodes.
Broadcasters usually have a rough schedule in mind many months in advance, so there is little leeway to change these plans. You may notice, similar to the film world, that many of the highest-profile series come out around the Winter season when people are going to be spending more time watching TV.
An example of broadcasting cours in action is the delays to 86 Part 2 – after the series missed two weeks on air, it couldn’t show its final two episodes until after the following season three months later, as a new show was already lined up in its place.
Why are Anime Seasons Split into Parts?
Anime seasons are split across two separate parts either so they can be accommodated into Japanese broadcasting schedules or due to the production company’s capabilities.
Before we explain any further, though, it’s important to reiterate the difference between a season and a cour in anime. A season relates to the anime’s story (e.g. season 1, season 2), whereas a cour relates to the three-month period where the anime is aired (e.g. Winter, Summer).
An anime season’s story needs to fit into the cour it has been allotted, otherwise, shows would be left on unsatisfying cliffhangers. In most cases, this continuous run will be classed as one season. Then, if they decide to continue the series at a later date, the next stage will be the next season.
Occasionally, though, the series will have a split-cour run, where the first 12 episodes of a story are aired, then the series goes on a break before returning with more episodes.
Sometimes, if a single-cour series is an unexpected success, plans will be made for it to return as soon as possible. However, because another series has been lined up for the next three months, there usually needs to be a break. Plus, the production studio will have their plans for the next broadcasting cour.
Another reason for a split-cour run is the production company itself. If the show is likely to be popular, the broadcaster may want the series to run for 24 episodes, but the studio might not have the capabilities or time to do it all in one run.
Many of the most-anticipated anime series have had split-cour runs to ensure the studio can maximise the animation quality without having to hit one-week deadlines for six months.
Hopefully, this article helps explain why anime runs in seasons a little bit more! Now, with this mini-lesson out of the way, why not treat yourself to some of our favourite 12-episode anime?