Tricky Terminology

I was reading this article by ZeroReq011 (for the Juuni Taisen bits, of course) and I realised that my definition of “oneshot” and theirs differed. So, let’s think about some terms that differ between us anime and manga fans, and why they differ…

I think the biggest term anime fans mix up would be “season/series/cour” (throw in “arc” for long-running shows), but let’s discuss the term “short series” as well in terms of anime and “oneshot” for manga/light novels.

Seasons, Series, Cours and Arcs

“Seasons” and “series” are typically used interchangeably, but what is the difference, if any?

According to my personal definition, in most cases, a series would be the entire franchise and a season would be the subset of it – so the Fate series contains Fate/Stay Night, Fate/Apocrypha and so on, with each entry into the series being a “season” in that sense. A lot of the time, these two terms are used fairly interchangeably with each other, so it’s kind of problematic…

Anime seasons can also refer to the periods of time, like the current “spring 2018 season”. Unfortunately, the only real reason for that is English being annoying and readers have to use context to deal with it.

A cour is specifically a block of roughly 10 – 14 episodes (normally 12 – 13), and it’s how most seasonal shows are delivered. They’re done this way because it’s convenient for TV blocking-out – after all, it’s much easier to block out a certain length of time, especially one that fits neatly with the changing of the TV seasons, than having to scramble to find new content to put on air.

For long-runners, you have 3 possible names, “seasons”, “series” and “arcs”. “Arcs” refer to plot progression since the origin there would be “story arcs”. “Seasons” are often just how they’re aired since anime timeslots need to be bought out in advance. Meanwhile, “series” is either the entire franchise, as stated earlier, or how it’s sold (I’ve seen a Fullmetal Alchemist disc on a shelf that was “series 3”, for example).

Short series

The confusion here seems to only exist in English – is it “a show with short episodes” like Tsuredure Children, or “a show with an overall short length” like Kyousougiga‘s 10 episodes?

Normally when you refer to “TV shorts”, you don’t talk about that which is easy and comfy to wear (sorry, the obligatory Pokémon joke is over now) but you talk about the former. That makes deliberately looking for the latter quite hard, since all the new shows coming out every season means the longer a show is, the more likely it is to stay in the public consciousness (or to look at it the opposite way, the more likely long-time fans will cling to a show). Unfortunately, the only way to remedy this is to elaborate what kind of “short series” you’re looking for. After all, a little more description never hurt anybody, did it?


The manga usage of “oneshot”, which is used in AniList’s categories, is a complete work in one chapter, regardless of the page length. Oneshots are often used to “test pilot” new series. Some of the greatest series of all time, by most metrics, have had preceding oneshots – see Death Note or Boku no Hero Academia – while they can also be fun crossovers of two series, like that time where Saiki Kusuo and his dad went to the home restaurant of Food Wars‘ Yukihira Souma. (Before you ask, yes, that Saiki and Souma crossover actually exists.) Sometimes oneshots stand alone and sometimes they act as bonus chapters, but either way they tend to break up the monotony of checking out bigger series.

Sidebar: The end of this paragraph just begs for me to argue what benefits oneshots have over longer series (and maybe even vice versa!), but I think I’ll leave that for its own post someday…

The term “oneshot” comes from the fact it can be consumed easily, like a shot of alcohol (at least that’s how the word works in my head, and that’s the way it’s worked ever since I first learnt the term as a fanfiction writer). This is probably where the differentiation for this particular term occurs, as people have different alcohol tolerance in much the same way they have different endurance in reading.

The ZeroReq011 definition of a “oneshot”, from the context in the Crunchyroll post I linked at the beginning, appears to be “a complete work in one book, regardless of page length”, meaning it seems easier to apply to a light novel. I don’t really have a term for this aside from “standalone novel”, and even then that’s a description of what it is and not a generic title or category…I seem to remember the use of “oneshot anthology” being used as well, although that means “a collection of self-contained chapters with their own stories” and would more closely align with the previous definition.

Regardless of what constitutes “one shot”, you have to agree there is no “perfect length” for a work with no restrictions, only the one the author deems is the “best length”…right?

To wrap up…

Thus, no matter what definition you use of these words, just make sure you make yourself clear when you’re discussing, or else conflicting definitions will get in the way…

So, are there any other examples of words like these with an anime- or manga-specific context that could be misconstrued to mean something else? Are there definitions of the words I didn’t cover?


Anime News Network 2018. Why Do Some Series Have Long Gaps Between Seasons? Available from:

Stack Exchange 2014. What is a cour? Available from:

4 thoughts on “Tricky Terminology

Add yours

  1. I use ‘series’ when referring to the whole franchise, ‘season’ as it’s the subset or the time it was aired, and ‘arcs’ when referring to, well, the story arcs. I rarely use the word ‘cours’, though. But I love one-shots! I read lots of manga and I love coming across a good oneshot! Thank you for sharing that Saiki x Souma crossover! It was amusing! Hohoho!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, it took me a while to figure out what the heck a “cour” was way back when, because people don’t seem to use “cour” all that often in comparison to the other terms.

      I put that crossover in as a throwaway gag (its brevity makes it a good punchline), but glad you enjoyed it nonetheless.

      Liked by 1 person

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