This Shonen/Shoujo Series Has HOW Many Episodes Again?!?!

I hate January. It’s the month with the least amount of sunlight, which means I’m at my bitterest and most-sluggish. It’s the coldest month of the year, which doesn’t help. The film industry is usually shoveling out its leftovers, which means that most of what’s releasing in theaters is garbage. It’s the beginning of Oscar buzz, which means I have endure the internet’s petulant whining over how X movie sucks, yet will win all the awards anyway because “The Academy is comprised of old farts”. And finally, it’s the beginning of the most heavy-duty part of work and school, a problem not helped by the first two points.

In other words, January can kiss my skinny, frost-bitten, hairy-


Anyway, since I don’t have to worry about the last point this year, due to me graduating, I finally have some time to catch up on anime shows I’ve either missed or never seen yet. So I decided to use this January to marathon a series that, due to its recent re-dub, I now have the time for…or, at least, I would have the time for, if it weren’t so long: Sailor Moon.

Most of you reading this probably know more than I do, but I’ll inform those who don’t with a basic summary. See, Sailor Moon is kind of a big deal in the world of televised anime, much like how Studio Ghibli is a big deal in the world of anime cinema. Syndicated between 1992 and 1997, and based on a beloved, long-running Shoujo (or “Young Girls”) Manga series in Japan, the show set the standard for the Magical Girls genre in the decades that’d follow. It was a bold, feminist-friendly series with a cast of well-rounded, female characters possessing powers that stemmed from the different planets in our solar system, and it even arrived overseas in a heavily edited form to North America during the mid-late-90’s. It’s a Toei Animation show, meaning that its animation is cruddy, but its impact is no-less important.

That’s all fine and dandy, but here’s the problem: Sailor Moon is 200 episodes long. No jokes, you can see that for yourselves here. If you round each episode to roughly twenty minutes (which isn’t entirely-accurate, but work with me,) you get 600 hours of content. Divide that by twenty-four hours in a day, and you get twenty-five days, which can further be converted to three-and-a-half weeks of content sans breaks. That’s a lot of content, and I’m not sure I have the patience for it.

“But that doesn’t automatically make it bad!” you say. “It’s really only how many episodes there are.” True, 200 episodes doesn’t automatically make a show bad. But when I’m expected to sit through 200 episodes to get to the end of a story, then I’m not sure it’s for me. Because I may have the patience for a long-running series, but not one that’s that long! Heaven Almighty, I’d be drained to the core!

And this is the part where I say that, honestly, this isn’t the only example of an anime series that’s too long for its own good. Take Dragon Ball Z, another Toei Animation show that ran from 1989 to 1996. Like Sailor Moon, the show is wildly popular and set a benchmark in modern Shonen (or “Young Boys”) anime. The show is also 291 episodes. And if you factor in its predecessor, i.e. Dragon Ball, and successor, i.e. Dragon Ball GT, you’re adding another 153 and 64 episodes respectively. That’s 508 episodes in total, or 10160 hours/roughly 423 days/almost a year and two months of content. I don’t have time for that! I might be a nerd, but I’m not that big a nerd!

Such is the trend for many big-name Shonen/Shoujo action shows, in that they’re too long for their own good. Bleach, for example, has 366 episodes, one for every day of the year…plus an extra for February 29th. Naruto will end its syndication with 610 episodes when both of its shows are merged. Even One Piece!, which is still not halfway done, is at 678 episodes as of me writing this. And I haven’t even covered Pokémon, which has been going straight since 1997. How anyone can sit through these long-running shows is beyond me, but I can’t do it myself.

Seriously, it’s not like I haven’t tried with a few of them. The Dragon Ball franchise, for example, is one I was quite fond of as a child, but even then I always knew I could take long breaks and not miss much. Why? Because roughly 70% of the show was charging attacks, screaming and drawing out fight sequences. It’s no wonder Dragon Ball Z was recently rebooted as a much leaner, much tighter show with fewer episodes, i.e. Dragon Ball Z Kai. Granted, at 137+ episodes, it’s still way too long, even though it’s a massive improvement.

Why such long shows?

Well, the common answer is that these were based on then-unfinished manga. The source material was so popular it warranted an anime series, and the series in question became so popular that more episodes had to be pushed out. However, since anime shows go by a weekly schedule, and Manga serials a monthly schedule, often there wasn’t enough time for the latter to catch up to the former. So filler padded the show and allowed the Manga to be updated. As an audience, we adapted.

That’s fine and dandy, but two issues arise from this: firstly, most of the filler in question isn’t really all that interesting. Now, I’m not against filler as a concept. Filler isn’t inherently bad, and it can help build worlds and characters when done right. But that’s the key: when done right. The problem is a lot of the filler in these shows is a waste of time. Sailor Moon, for example, has an unnecessary filler involving one of the sailor scouts, unsuccessfully, trying to take care of the other sailor scouts when they fall sick on the same day. Dragon Ball Z has an unnecessary filler involving Goku learning how to drive. One Piece! has entire filler arcs that detract from the main story, and I’m pretty sure Bleach has been on filler autopilot for years.

Editor's Note: Dragon Ball Z also had the Garlic Jr. Saga that reused a previous movie villain. As for Bleach, the series has had about five major filler arcs. Because much of the arrancar arc was drawn out fights and splash pages, Pierrot had little to work with to draw things out as the series went on.

And secondly, why do shows need so much filler to keep in-line with their respective Manga? One of the great/important parts about adapting something to another medium is making changes that suit it best. This includes shortening arcs, stretching loose plot and character details and, hey, even changing the story to make the incomplete become complete. One of the places where this was most-prevalent was in Fullmetal Alchemist. Considering the Manga it was based on was only three fourths of the way finished, the show made up a conclusion that worked perfectly. Sure, fans of the source material whined that it “didn’t follow the comic”, leading to the eventual redo several years later, but it was better than the alternative of stretching the story with copious filler!

Better yet, there are other ways of circumventing this problem should a show decide to be faithful. Yu Yu Hakusho, for example, waited until its Manga was almost finished before starting its TV run, hence it had no filler whatsoever (granted, it was still 112 episodes long.) Digimon Tamers, which was based on a Manga too, waited until its source finished before starting its TV run. And I’m sure there are other ways of working around this problem that I haven’t thought of. Remember, TV isn’t Manga, so there’s no excuse to not be creative.

But I’m one guppy in a big sea of fish, so what do I know?

I get it, long running Shonen/Shoujo are a big deal. And I’m sure a lot of them are fun and clever too. But I can’t get into them if they’re that long. Say what you will about American cartoons being cancelled prematurely, but I’d much rather that than a show that spans eons; in fact, one of the reasons why The 65th Episode Rule, amongst others, exists in the West is because a show doesn’t need to overstay its welcome. The same came be said for anime, hence why Fullmetal Alchemist and Digimon Tamers (51 episodes each) are my two favourite Shonen series.

And besides, how many shows need to be long-running to tell a coherent story anyway? Ignoring Sailor Moon Crystal for a minute, did Sailor Moon really need to be 200 episodes? Was the filler worth it? Or could it have made do with less? You be the judge.


  1. what about the shonen that have a lot of episodes, but very little filler?

    1. The problem of length is still an issue. If you can tell your story in fewer episodes, take advantage of that. I don't need to spend weeks on a single show, it's not healthy...

  2. I myself stay away from anything over 52 chapters long. Heck, even 52 is too much for my taste. Between 12 to 26 is the perfect length, and 6 can work great, as in Gunbuster. A long-running series forgets why it's there and its length magnifies its flaws. Besides, how much time are you willing to dedicate to just one anime?

    Great article. I'm loving the site, by the way.

    1. I don't mind 52 episodes if it's done well, which some are. But the trick is knowing how to think small and big simultaneously, which many shows can't.

      That said, the fewer episodes you can make your show, the better. There's no reason to stretch a story beyond what's necessary, and that's something a lot of writers forget...


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