In today's anime adaptations it is very common for projects to be limited to a production of only twelve or thirteen episodes (depending on their release date in the season), with the exception of a few rare cases that exceed this number. Why has this become a trend in the industry?
1. Temas no convencionales
The vast majority of the productions that are broadcast today do not deal with “conventional” themes of the industry, such as the concept of “becoming the best of all”, which is the most used and used by series like My Hero Academia, Black Clover, among others.
These “mainstream” themes (also known by the term “mainstream”) easily capture the attention of fans, so naturally they have the potential to produce more episodes than normal thanks to this leverage.
A series with a theme more focused on other audiences cannot enjoy this benefit, and in most cases they will be condemned to only have 12-13 episodes, as part of an intelligent decision by the production committee, who determine if it will be worth it. It's worth taking a series "to the next level" and continuing it. A low number of episodes allows them to gauge whether the impact of the series gives it a chance to continue.
2. Prevención de riesgo
For this case, the anime Honzuki no Gekokujou is worth mentioning. With an "isekai" theme, its success was partially assured, but the production committee decided to do only fourteen episodes. However, an excellent reception led the studio in charge to decide to produce a second season, and now even a third.
The same situation happened with Hamefura. The series had such outstanding reception that it now has a second season for the year 2021, which would not be possible if the production had not been so well received (and also the performance in Blu-ray / DVD sales had something to do) .
So why do you talk about “risk prevention”? Precisely because committees do not know if a series will be successful until it is launched. Clearly this is a concept that the second seasons of popular series (like Re: Zero, Fire Force, Tate no Yuusha, etc.) will surely never know. However, the committees cannot risk producing a new series with 24 episodes or more if there is too much uncertainty about its success.
With only twelve episodes, an anime has a lower cost of production, less risk in the market and fewer worries for the production committee. At worst, the series is simply forgotten and the committee focuses more on selling merchandise or uses popularity to push source material.
It is because of this that the original productions will hardly have more than twelve episodes, since there is too much risk when making an anime of which the viewers have no idea about the concept.
As mentioned above, an anime production costs a lot, a lot of money, millions of yen per episode. A few years ago the cost of producing a full twelve-episode anime easily exceeded two million dollars.
Not all animation studios have the same budgets, as they must carve out their name with recognition within the anime industry. Not all animation studios are like Toei Animation or Madhouse, so a two million dollar budget must be managed wisely.
It's too much money to get back if the anime fails or doesn't get a large enough audience to produce a sequel.
Sadly, for most people today, it's much easier and more comfortable to sit down and watch a twelve-episode series than one with a larger number.
Many fans nowadays move away from long series, and it is a (quite ridiculous) pretext that some use to not give series like One Piece a chance. However, they do have some points in their favor, given that a twelve-episode series:
- It moves much faster and can hold fans' attention without the need for filler (depending on the series, if a twelve episode anime stuffs filler it is pretty bad then).
- Much of the target audience has enough time to sit down to watch a twelve-episode series that typically takes four hours.
- Twelve episodes are enough for someone to decide whether or not they like the concept presented in the series and, to continue, they skip to the manga or light novel.
Clearly studies have realized this and used it to their advantage, so everyone wins. Technology, life and the 21st century are lived so fast that “time is money”, so unless a series has tons of original and attractive content for the public, a safe move is only to do twelve episodes.
5. El infame “material de promoción”
Many have read the phrase "the anime was only made to promote the manga / novels" when asking if there will be a second season. The feeling of frustration is quite great, so much so that some decide to continue the story by going to read the manga or light novels.
If the above has happened to the reader, it means that the study fulfilled its mission. Using a twelve episode anime to promote the original material is always enough of a propaganda that the studio makes money and sales increase.
Such is the case with No Game No Life and Hataraku Maou-sama, two animes that became the most popular of their seasons and, consequently, exponentially increased the sales of their respective light novels. Some have the theory that, if there is to be a second season of these animes, then sales must go down for the committees to resort to this marketing technique again, however, it has never been proven.
Source: Anime Motivation