How Are Short Anime Series Shown on Television?

by Justin Sevakis,

K. Anna asks:

I recently got into shorts last year with "I Can't Understand What My Husband Is Saying" and I was actually really surprised by the number of shorts that come out each year. But with each show varying in length starting with anything from two (2) minutes to thirteen (13 minutes, just exactly are these programmes shown on television? Are they shown back to back to fill a normal time slot or is the programme played and they tack on commercials till the start of the next time slot?

Here in North America, we're used to TV schedules that operate in 30-minute blocks. Shows start either on the hour, or on the half hour. As a result, the running time for everything that airs on TV normally has to be in perfect 30-minute chunks, after commercials are added.

Japanese TV feels no such scheduling obligations. If you look at the programming grid for, say, TV Tokyo, you see only a handful of shows starting right on the hour or 30-minute dot. Shows start at :05, :08:, :10, :11, :15, :20... Basically start times and running times seem completely arbitrary. As such, scheduling a show that runs for 2 minutes doesn't seem to be any bigger of a problem than a show that runs for an hour. As long as every episode is the same length, so it the schedule doesn't change every day, virtually any running time is fine as long as the network is OK with it.

While this seems really confusing and hard to remember, one must remember that Japan operates largely on train schedules that follow ludicrously strict timetables, and so everyone is used to memorizing weirdly exact, arbitrary times for things. Remembering that your favorite show is on at 1:23am isn't really such a big deal, especially when you had to take the 4:55 train to a transfer at 5:12 to get a bus at 5:34 to get home from school.

Occasionally, short anime are grouped together to make longer blocks of shorts. This was more common a few years ago, when you had blocks like Akahori Gedou Hour Rabuge (which combined two shows, Soreyuke! Gedou Otometai and Zettai Seigi Love Pheromone), WOWOW's Anime Complex slot (which gave us Neo Ranga, Steel Angel Kurumi, and Adventures of the Mini-Goddess, among others), and of course, Anime Ai no Awa Awa Hour (which gave us Oruchuban Ebichu and two other shows nobody remembers).

Whether they're late-night shows aimed at otaku, or daytime educational shows aimed at preschoolers, short form anime can usually be found on the programming grid, right next to longer form anime. And they could start right at 1 am, or they could start at 1:08. But at least, if you can remember that, it'll definitely stay at that same time every week.

Got questions for me? Send them in! The e-mail address, as always, is answerman (at!)

Justin Sevakis is the founder of Anime News Network, and owner of the video production company MediaOCD. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.

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