Anime Format

Part of the Weebing 101 Series

There’s a formula that almost all anime follow in regard to structure.

-Seasons and Cours-

Anime is released (on TV in Japan, and therefore simulcast to streaming platforms internationally at the same time) in sync with the seasons. January-March is the “Winter” season of anime, April-June the “Spring” season, etc. A new episode will come out each week for each show, which means that the length of most anime is measured in “cours,” or how many seasons (literal) that it spans. It isn’t uncommon for a show to be only one cour (12-13 episodes) long. Almost equally common is a two-cour “season,” as we Americans like to call them.

Another thing to note is that it’s very common for there to be long breaks between seasons of a show, and so additional installments will have a slightly different name, despite being the exact same show. E.g., Sword Art Online ran a two-cour season, and then a few years later came back with another two-cour season, but it was named Sword Art Online II, despite it not being a spin-off at all, but a direct continuation. Same thing happened for Overlord, Wagnaria, and the tangled web of the Monogatari Series.

The main takeaway is that anime “Seasons” can refer to a single-cour (12-13 episodes) or two-cour (22-26 episodes) installment. I’ve rarely seen more episodes get categorized as a “season,” though it does happen. Sword Art Online: Alicization is referred to as the 3rd Season of SAO and has already run two cours and has another two coming up in October that some refer to as SAO Season 3B, but this seems to be an exception.

-Episodes-

Anime episodes are almost always 22-24 minutes long and have opening and closing credit sequences that are about a minute and a half with music playing over them. These are referred to as the OP and ED (opening and ending, respectively). Sometimes the credits will roll over actual episode content if that particular episode needs the extra time, for both the beginning and ending sequences. It’s very common for the OP or ED to change between cours, or even to have there be slight changes to the visuals as new plot points develop along the season, which can be fun to notice. Sometimes the ED will have a different song/sequence depending on the emotion at the end of a particular episode, e.g. if the ED is usually upbeat and happy, but the episode ended with a main character meeting a tragic death, they’ll usually have a different song.

On the subject of Ending Songs, it’s become more and more common of late to have there be extra episode content after the ED, and not just the usual “Next time on Naruto:” previews, but substantial important things that won’t necessarily be recapped in an “In our last exciting episode” sequence. So feel free to mostly tune out during the sequences, but it can be dangerous (more so now than 10 years ago) to completely skip the OP and ED.

Plus, so many of the OP and ED songs just slap and are part of the anime experience, so why are you skipping in the first place? Unless of course the OP hasn’t changed in five seasons, then y’know, go for it.

An OP’s job is to get you psyched for the show. One Punch Man does that quite well.

-OVAs-

You’ll see me use the term “OVA” a lot in referencing the episode count for a series. OVA stands for Original Video Animation, and are literally just bonus episodes that studios will add to Blu Ray and DVD releases as a bonus to sweeten the deal / convince you to buy it even though you’ve seen the main series. More often than not they aren’t plot critical, but will explore a minor character, or just be bonus goodness. Sometimes the OVAs will make their way to a streaming platforms listings, but more often than not they won’t.

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