Life’s Great Mysteries: When to stop the season

Haven’t written one of these in a while. Not an April Fools joke, I swear. The question today is pretty simple: at what point is it appropriate to cut off and start a new season as opposed to ending an arc and continuing the season? Let me use an example. Code Geass spans two seasons, each 25 episodes long. Meanwhile, the first season of Gundam SEED (which honestly can stand alone) spans 50 episodes in one season. Why is it that one show decides to stop the season and restart again while another show keeps going?

The obvious answer is funding. These shows are usually planned out pretty far in advance, so sometimes you can only get funding or you can only justify a certain number of episodes. This would also explain things like inconsistent season lengths (the first season of Darker than Black is 25 episodes while the second season is only 12). I can definitely understand companies only wanting to invest in a certain length. If you embark on a 50 episode show and it starts tanking at episode 8, you’re in a lot of trouble. But is that it?

My next concern is arc completion. Let’s look at shows like Guilty Crown or Death Note. They are both longer than a typical one cour show (just for clarification, a cour is a measurement of season length, usually 13 episodes) like The World God Only Knows or K-ON!, but the latter two shows are stopped and later given a second season, while Guilty Crown and Death Note run to completion, despite having very distinct points where an arc can end. I might even argue that K-ON! didn’t have that sort of distinct stopping point.

Let’s assume that it isn’t all about funding. Is there a certain level of arc completion that has to be attained in order to end a show? Was Guilty Crown’s first arc insufficient in some way as an ending? I’d say that the ending of Code Geass season 1 didn’t give nearly enough answers, but it was still stopped there. I can’t argue that Code Geass ran longer either because The World God Only Knows and K-ON! are one cour shows. If there are certain qualifiers for season completion, I can’t imagine what they would be.

For example, it can’t be a time skip, as Gurren Lagann uses a time skip without a second season, while Gundam 00 uses a time skip with a second season. Even Naruto uses a time skip to separate the seasons. It’s not enough to say “when the story ends” because any arc could be argued as a stopping point for a story. What could it be? Is funding simply the answer to everything? I refuse to believe that it’s the only thing determining how this is. What is your input on this? Am I over-thinking things? Is there some hidden aspect or meaning that I’m missing? When do you think is an appropriate time to end a season? Do you think that Guilty Crown or Death Note should have been two seasons? Or maybe you thought that Code Geass should be one glorious season (I don’t really think that >.>). Personally, I think that 24-25 episodes is a nice number for season length as long as there is a decent place in the story to stop.

15 thoughts on “Life’s Great Mysteries: When to stop the season”

  1. I think it’s fine to finish a season on a cliffhanger as long as we know there will be a second season. And hopefully they give us a solid date. Having a season to plan and complete the anime should give us better quality over all. Finishing on a cliffhanger just means they have to have an interesting series.

    If they do end up deciding not to continue a series after one season, just imagine it as advertising for the manga or light novel which is further along in the story or actually finished. Of course, this is annoying for anime fans who don’t read.


    1. hmm…wonder if that has anything to do with it. Split the show into smaller seasons to make it seem less intimidating. Or make it all one season to make it seem less intimidating…could go either way


  2. Well with Death Note, the manga had already concluded around when the anime came out, so I think it was easier to get the episode count they wanted.

    For 1-cour shows, I think it is usually to test the waters or whatever, but there are quite a few cases where that doesn’t seem to apply. I can never understand why shows like Fate/Zero or Jormungand have single season runs spaced out the way they do.


    1. I dunno…maybe they invest in the first season and hope that the gap gives them enough time to make enough money to invest an equal amount in a second season. Or maybe they just like to torture us with cliffhangers.


      1. Indeed.A season usually has 13 or 24 eps which continously air for 1 episode per week. But what about Fate/Zero? Why did it take a pause in the middle of the season!? They are indeed torturing us with those cliffhangers!


  3. Sadly, I really do believe that funding plays the main role in determining the lifespan of an anime series. I’m sure that if the Anime industry had an infinite supply of money and man power, we would be able to see quality anime adaptations of nearly everything imaginable. But sadly this isn’t the case.
    For example, take a look at the multiple attempts that were made to adapt Ken Akamatsu’s massive series, Negima into a show. They were all complete flops, but I’m sure that if one of them was a break out success, we’d still have episodes coming out on a weekly basis.

    Like you suspected, I’m assuming that most companies decide for a season length, one or two-cour and based upon the results after the season’s completion, decide whether or not to go for another season. It seems like they pick a point in the story that serves as an satisfactory ending for the collection of arcs they decided to animate. Sometimes the subject material makes it easy (SHAFT creates seasons of the Monogatari series by book, Suzumiya Haruhi did something kind of similar).


    1. yeah…you’re probably right. I guess they would try to pick a satisfactory ending, but I guess I was kinda wondering what they would use as criteria or what their justifications would be.


  4. I’m not particularly bothered when two cour shows are broken up the way they are. If it allows the quality of the show to be consistently good, then by all means should the studio take the time they need to properly complete a show. I’m not sure if the way CG is split in two is due to budget issues. Could just be a clever way to market the second season for all we know. Either way, I still enjoyed CG as it was. Thankfully, I watched it all after it was finished so I never had the frustration of watching it ongoing to see what would happen next. =p


    1. Haha…I watched it while it was ongoing…the cliffhangers were so brutal. But it made everything so interesting!


  5. Sometimes I think its also some kind of wait-and-see approach in order to check how the sales of the first season goes in order to see how much to invest in the second.
    See for example Rinne no Lagrange split-season approach…:P


    1. I hate the idea that they would consider just outright cancelling a show if the first season doesn’t sell well enough. Like you’ve shown before, there are plenty of really good shows that just don’t sell as well as you would expect. You’re probably right, but I just dislike it >.>


  6. I got the feeling that the decision was mostly made by people behind the scene and for reasons unrelated to the flow/continuity of the show. Yeah, it’s all about marketing and profit which is understandable. I can only hope that the shows I like won’t get left in cliffhanger (like kuragehime).


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