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.