Anime franchises

When we say we’re into a certain anime, in a lot of cases it doesn’t mean that we’re only into the anime; pretty much all anime series are in some form or other part of a media franchise. They’re an anime but also a manga, light novel, video game, trading card game, collection of toys, or any number of mediums. I wonder how many anime fans get into all the franchise branches of a particular series, or whether they’re content to just watch the anime and nothing more…

Saying you love “[insert name of anime] franchise” has a different meaning than saying you love “[insert name of anime] series.” To me, loving an anime franchise means you’re very much into more than just the anime part of it. In addition to watching the anime, if the series has a manga, light novel, visual novel, or whatever, you’ve also read/played a large portion of that, too. If there’s merchandise to be had for that series, chances are you’ve bought some of it. You follow news and discussion revolving around the many franchise aspects of that series, from what the voice actors are doing to what new products are on the market even if there’s no new anime material. And even within the anime itself, if there are multiple seasons, OVAs, and movies – as Scamp recently detailed – you’ve watched them all. That’s what I think being into an anime franchise is as opposed to just being into the anime series. You view it and appreciate it as the sum of all its franchise parts. Even if you prefer one of the parts over the others (for example, preferring the manga to the anime) or you don’t personally partake in all the parts yourself (for example, you collect the series’ merchandise but don’t play the video games), what’s important is enjoying that multi-universe feeling of a story and characters you love stretching themselves over many different mediums and being expressed in many forms from paper to video screens to game controllers and things to display in your room.

Loving just an anime series, however, gives the impression that you’re mainly interested in just the anime portion of the franchise, and perhaps the original manga or light novel, too. You don’t buy lots of merchandise for the series and you don’t care to follow all the latest news buzz about its multiple franchise mediums. How you relate to it comes down to watching the anime and maybe reading the original source material, then not caring much about it when its popularity as an anime series wears off. You might get into the series again only when new anime material comes out to temporarily rekindle your interest. Or, you might not even care to watch anything beyond the first anime season or any spin-off material that’s not part of the main story.

It’s fascinating to see how some fans try to relate to every anime they watch in terms of being a franchise and others only watch anime, rarely or never going beyond that unless they really end up liking that anime. For every anime they start watching and take a liking to, some fans will immediately start reading the manga too, or play the visual novel or any digital game the series may have. They’ll follow the latest news for the series and maybe even collect merchandise before the anime portion is even over. Then, once these series are no longer new and popular, they’ll indulge in the franchises of the next batch of good seasonal shows. On the other hand, we have fans like yours truly who 90% of the time only watch the anime version(s) of series. But every now and then a series comes along that they really like, and then they go all out with it in terms of its franchise; they’ll watch all anime renditions of it, indulge in the original source material, buy all manner of products for that series, and be wholly into it long after it was popular as an anime series.

To give personal examples, at one point I was really into Evangelion – I watched the anime and movies many times, read and bought all the manga volumes, bought other merchandise, and even played a fansubbed version of the visual novel, “Girlfriend of Steel.” With that, I would say I loved Evangelion as a franchise as opposed to just the anime series. On the other hand, Naruto is arguably a larger franchise than Evangelion, with tons of video games, trading cards, and an extremely long array of anime episodes, movies, specials, and of course, manga chapters. But I’ve always just been interested in the Naruto anime, never caring much to play any of the games, get caught up on the story through the manga, or take part in following news and online discussion about the series. So for Naruto, I would say I’m just a fan of the anime series and not the franchise.

To further illustrate, here’s a brief list of anime franchises I’m into as opposed to just series:

Franchises (currently into)
Pokemon (video games, anime, movies, merchandise, news)
Haruhi (anime, light novels, merchandise, news)
Angel Beats! (anime, light novel, merchandise, news)
Kannagi (anime, manga, news)

Franchises (not as into anymore)
Inuyasha (manga, anime, movies, video games, merchandise)
Tenchi Muyo! (manga, anime, movies, spin-off series)
Evangelion (anime, manga, movies, visual novel, merchandise)

Into anime series only
Naruto
One Piece
K-ON
Shakugan no Shana
Madoka Magica
Fullmetal Alchemist
and many others…

I know I’ve said this before, but unlike most other fandoms such as Star Wars and Harry Potter that only deal with one franchise, anime fandom deals with thousands of them simultaneously, making it an extremely huge fandom that will naturally attract an extremely wide range of fans with a wide range of ways to relate to and express it. While I personally don’t have the time and motivation to get into the franchise mediums for any but my most beloved anime, I admire fans who try to do so for every anime they like. There are all kinds of anime franchises, from the massive international ones like Pokemon and Naruto, the massive domestic ones like K-ON and Evangelion, and the many moderate ones too numerous to name. Being anime fans, it’s no big shock to find an anime we like, but the real joy comes from discovering a series we love so much that we want to move beyond just watching the anime to indulging in it as a full on franchise. For me, such series are few and far between, but always worth the effort =)

35 Comments… read them or add your own.

  1. SOS says:

    Well, i can’t say that Madoka is a franchise yet, but it’ll surely be one in the future.

    • Myna says:

      The games (Madoka Online, Mobage, and the PSP game), the manga adaptation, two spin-off mangas, the three upcoming films…

  2. Myna says:

    Extremely tired, so I’m just gonna list them for now:

    Franchises:
    Utena (TV series, movie, manga (which is the weakest one by a landslide). Have yet to check out the game, probably never will. :P)
    Pokemon (everything except the anime post-Misty.)
    Evangelion (TV series, movies, spin-off manga)
    Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle/xxxHOLiC (TV series, movie, OVA, manga, Horistuba Gakuen drama CD and manga,)
    Kimi ni Todoke (anime, manga, live-action film)

    Anime only:
    Macross (all. It has a handful of manga adaptations that I have no interest in checking out.)
    Lupin III
    PreCure (See Macross)

    Manga only:
    Shounen three
    Bakuman
    Kuroshitsuji (We don’t talk about the anime.)

    PS. I feel like you use K-ON pictures more often than any other series.

    *Shounen three
    Naruto – seen the entire first anime, up to the end of the Rescue Gaara arc in Shippuden, and the first movie.
    Bleach – finished up to the Rescue Rukia Arc in the anime, seen all the films.
    One Piece – Only seen on Toonami up to the Skypiea Arc.

    • Yumeka says:

      There’s an Utena game? What could that be about? XD

      By “everything” for Pokemon, do you mean you also collect/play the trading cards? I used to be into the cards very much, but stopped sometime around 2001-ish when my mall stopped having card game leagues and none of my friends were into it anymore.

      LOL, K-ON just happens to have a ton of nice official art images that are the kind I like to use for the blog. Trust me, before K-ON I always look up different anime to use images for whenever I make a post. K-ON just has a lot to choose from – but I do make it a rule that for every ten posts I won’t use a blog header image from the same anime unless it really fits the post.

      • Myna says:

        I don’t remember exactly, but it’s called “Four Days in Ohtori” and the opening sequence is hilarious and there are two new characters: another girl-prince character with seafoam hair and a girl who has purple braids.

        Yes, I used to collect the trading cards. Not anymore, but I still have all of them. :)

  3. Artemis says:

    Sometimes I feel like I might be one of the only anime fans out who is just into the anime. Even for those shows that I really, really love, I’ve never collected figurines, doujinshi, etc. Moreover, I’m not particularly into reading manga or light novels either – I’ve tried both and didn’t dislike them, but I’ve never gone out of my way to read or buy them. I have no idea why, but it seems my anime obsession is limited to that one specific medium.

    • TRazor says:

      Same here.

    • Yumeka says:

      Though that is unusual, it certainly doesn’t make you any less of a fan. I’m really very similar too in that I’m into just the anime medium 90% of the time, except for those few series that I really fall in love with. I do buy merchandise from many series though – I’ll buy BDs/DVDs, posters, etc., of series I like but not necessarily favorites, however specialty things like figures and plushies are only reserved for my most beloved characters ^^

  4. chikorita157 says:

    My classification of a franchise is usually something big and has a lot of source material and/or merchandise. I think it heavily depends on popularity as those get the most attention.

    Aside from that, here is a list I’m currently following
    Pokemon (1998-present): I got hook on with the games rather early and I still play many of the games even though I don’t watch the anime anymore. This is probably the franchise I spent the most on overall.

    The Idolmaster (2011-present): This one has been around awhile, but I didn’t pay much attention to it until now since its only in Japanese and I watched the anime. I currently own two games, which are expensive, but fun and three CDs.

    Anything from Key (2008-present): Yeah, I have become a big fan of Key after seeing the adaptations from Kyoto Animation and I have played around with two of their visual novels, Kanon and Clannad.

    Anime Only:
    K-On, Haruhi, Fate series, etc.

    • Yumeka says:

      I think technically the definition of a franchise is a series that has been licensed for use for more than one medium. So I guess that means even a series that’s a manga and was licensed to an anime company for production counts as a franchise, though most people think of the word “franchise” in terms of something huge like Pokemon.

      Speaking of Pokemon, it’s been my longest franchise too and I can’t believe my interest in the games is still as strong as ever after all these years ;) I did stop playing and collecting the trading cards years ago but I still keep up with the anime.

  5. Frootytooty says:

    I got into anime in high school so money was the main barrier against buying franchise goods (mostly figures). And also I think I was partly into anime for the art, so fangirling for long periods over any one anime was not my style. This is even more evident now when all I have time for is to cover as much anime as I can rather than focus too much on one series and watch every spin-off or OVA or play every single related game. I do possess a figure now, but it was a birthday present and it’s Miku who isn’t technically even an anime character. XD

    So in short, time and money seems to be the main barriers against people getting into certain franchises. Of course if you’re the type who isn’t in a hurry to watch lots of anime, you might dedicate more time to one fandom, but it really depends on the person.

    • Yumeka says:

      I’ve been lucky enough to have a very generous mom who was always buying me anime stuff when I couldn’t afford to. But I still can’t afford to spend that much on anime, so even though my collection looks big to most people, it’s a gradual accumulation over many years XD

      I was actually like what you’re describing in that I spent more time with each anime franchise during my early years as a fan because I couldn’t watch that much anime at once. But once anime began flourishing online and more series have been released each season, it’s too hard to dedicate your time and effort to indulge in all the franchise mediums of every series you watch. But yes, if someone doesn’t care to follow all the latest shows and spends quality time with one or two franchises at a time, that works too ;)

  6. jimmy says:

    I generally hear about interesting anime and manga through the course of my day and if I enjoy it look up other incarnations of the series. However, anime is the easiest way to get into a franchise, I think, and so if a show doesn’t blow me away, I’m not generally tempted to look into the franchise further. Combined with the volume of anime you get, I naturally am into more anime series by themselves than I am franchises.

    Looking at a list of my personal favourites on ANN, I’ve watched almost all anime adaptations of my favourite manga (Azumanga Daioh, Blue Exorcist and Kodomo no Jikan but not Death Note – yet) but only the majority of other media based on my favourite anime, though I do intend on viewing them soon. I’d read the Shakugan no Shana novels if I could find them, am currently playing the Higurashi visual novels and intend to read Bamboo Blade, Cardcaptor Sakura, Gunslinger Girl and Gurren Lagann soon.

    Series which I’m genuinely into as a franchise would be:
    Evangelion
    Higurashi
    Strike Witches
    Blue Exorcist
    Haruhi Suzumiya
    Black★Rock Shooter
    Devil May Cry
    Fate/stay night
    YuruYuri

    There are many other anime series with other incarnations I haven’t seen or read or played, but when I really like an anime, I try and see the rest of the franchise (even if it takes me a year to get around to it) and am rarely disappointed.

    • Yumeka says:

      Yeah, even if I like an anime, unless I really like it, I’m rarely tempted to look into its other franchise mediums. Like you, anime is what I enjoy the most and is the easiest way for me to sample series I may or may not like. Plus there’s just so much anime available nowadays that I’d rather spend my time watching new and potentially good series than reading the manga of a series I’ve already watched and didn’t get totally into.

  7. Kal says:

    Hum… I guess I’m just an anime fan then, not much of a franchise fan. I will start with anime, and if it is interesting, I’ll look for some background info on the internet, and might read the manga/novels, but that is about it. I’ve only read the Haruhi light novels, and I’m reading the Hayate no gotoku manga, nothing else.

    So I’m just the basic “anime fan” I guess :)

    • Yumeka says:

      Yeah, I’m more or less like that too except for series I especially love. If I like the series but nothing more, I just stick with the anime. If I love it, I may read the manga/novels, like I have for Azumanga Daioh and Lucky Star for example. And if I really love it, I’ll definitely read/play all the source material, like I have for Haruhi and Pokemon =)

      • jimmy says:

        I was blown away when I first read the Azumanga Daioh manga – I’m sure that’s tautologous in at least one language – by how consistently laugh-out-loud funny it was. I prefer it to the anime, to be honest.

  8. du5k says:

    This isn’t exactly anime, I’m mostly into the Vocaloid franchise nowadays, particularly all thing Miku related. I used to be into K-ON and Haruhi, but not anymore.

    There’s a ton of titles where I won’t really regard as a franchise, where it’s just the source material + adaptation… almost every title is something like this. But there are some titles that I can see myself going for, if it really becomes a full franchise… Like Kure-nai or Hanasaku Iroha.

    • Yumeka says:

      Like I said to chikorita157 above, I think the technical definition of a franchise means that there’s licensing to at least one medium beyond the source material. With that definition, then pretty much every anime series is part of a franchise. But most people think of it as something bigger than that. Though HanaIro is actually getting a movie and is thus closer to being a franchise, it’s hard to think of something like Kure-nai as a franchise in the same way as Vocaloid. “Franchise” just has the connotation of being something very popular and largely encompassing.

  9. Justin says:

    I think there’s only two things I can really consider myself really into: Fire Emblem and Golden Sun. Oh wait, sorry, none of them are animes (though there was an anime), and only one manga version of FE, and 1 one-shot of Golden Sun :D

    Well, I did grow up with shows like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh, so since I was in love with them both, in addition to the shows I got the games, cards, etc. Then of course, I fell out of love with both of them. I think the only real franchise I’m following is Gintama since I love both the show and the manga…

    • Myna says:

      Golden Sun! (Where’s my Dark Dawn sequel, dammit?)

    • Yumeka says:

      Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I was also into Yu-Gi-Oh! as a franchise back in the day; I watched the anime (including seeing the terribly mediocre movie in theaters), collected the cards, and played some of the video games. I’m not really into it anymore though I still enjoy playing the card game casually if I can ever find someone to play with. Pokemon on the other hand I’m still very much into (both the anime and the video games).

      I also really just have just two franchises I’m totally into: Pokemon and Haruhi. I think two is a good number – any more more than that might take up too much time and money ^^,,,

  10. Nopy says:

    I’ve never really thought of anime as franchises before, I’ve always just taken them at face value. I’m one of those people what will watch an anime and once it’s done, move on to something new. There are very few titles where I get into other adaptations or merchandise. Sailor Moon and Martian Successor Nadesico are probably the only two series where I’ve gone beyond just the anime and manga, and have tried to get ahold of everything I can involving them.

    • Yumeka says:

      Yeah, I’m pretty much the same; judging anime at face value and only indulging in other adaptations for the few series I really like.

  11. Adziu says:

    For me, it depends on what’s available in the fandom. I’m generally content with watching the anime, plus reading the manga if the story is incomplete or if I want to progress with it faster. Sometimes I’ll be reading a manga that gets adapted.

    But very occasionally I’ll fall into a fandom and start listening to character song and drama CDs, collecting fanart and even buying figurines. This has only happened once or twice, though – for example, with Rozen Maiden and with Hikaru no Go.

    • Yumeka says:

      Usually, if the story is incomplete in the anime, I’ll still only continue it with the manga or novels if I particularly liked it. For example, I liked Kannagi enough to read the manga from where the anime left off, but I never liked Bleach enough to read the manga even though the anime has now ended.

      I don’t really buy CDs anymore but figures are generally only reserved for characters I really love =) And since it doesn’t cost anything, I’ll be glad to download a good fanart for any series I like.

  12. LovelyAngel says:

    Thoughtful post, Yumeka – as usual. Thank you! You’ve inspired me to make my own post on Anime Franchises.

  13. Savo says:

    Most of the time, I just stick with the animes. I don’t usually see enough value in getting into all the aspects of a franchise unless there is some particular reason to. Take for instance, manga side-stories to anime series tend to be irrelevant to the overall story in my experience. For example, the Code Geass manga or light novel series that I dabbled in last year seemed pretty pointless to go through because they added little to nothing to the story.

    However, there are exceptions to everything. I have built a few Gundam model kits before, as I love the mecha designs featured in the various Gundam series. Also, I might consider reading the manga version of a story if the anime version is unfinished. When I get a chance I am currently planning on reading the manga of Elfen Lied, being as how the anime only gets through half the story and is very unlikely to ever receive a sequel.

    • Yumeka says:

      Yeah, when the anime is the original source, I have even less inclination to read any manga that comes after it. So as much as I love Wolf’s Rain, I’ve never cared to read its manga (plus I usually don’t like the character designs in manga as much as anime). But if the manga/novel is the original source, and the anime is left with a feeling of incompleteness, I may continue the story through the original, but again only if I really loved the anime.

  14. Mikoto says:

    Very interesting topic. There are quite a few franchises that I only like a part of. Yuugiou is a good example. I”m only into the manga, not the anime or spin-offs (in fact, I loathe them), though I used to be big on the card game. And in that case, I saw the anime first, and tried out the source material, which I thought was loads better in quality. So, in retrospect, I’m not a fan of the Yuugiou media franchise, but I like the manga.

    Usually I try to go for the source material first whenever I find out about a series that interests me, but since anime and manga are much more obtainable, series that originated as light novels and visual novels usually force me to try out the former two, usually the anime. But even in those cases, I make an attempt to get into the rest of the franchise by reading/watching the adaptation/source material or spin-offs, because there is still a chance that I would enjoy them just as much. Trying is better than not trying at all.

    Series that I’m definitely into as a franchise are Evangelion, Haruhi, Puella Magi, FMA, Dragon Ball, and Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai.

    • Yumeka says:

      I was never into the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga but I watched the (ridiculously bad) dub when it was on TV and I also enjoyed the card and video games. I don’t partake in the franchise anymore (besides the occasional Yu-Gi-Oh! Abridged episode) but I still have my cards and I enjoy playing casually if I can find an opponent.

      • Mikoto says:

        Well, that’s kind of a shame since the plot is much more clarified, down-to-earth, and less saturated with advertising in the manga. xD Funnily enough, the ridiculously bad dub was what got me into delving into the franchise as a kid. It’s pretty amusing how a lot of people were actually introduced to a huge franchise through a bad dub. lol

        I think I would still be into the card game today if it wasn’t for the fact that they were accidentally thrown out during cleaning. ):

  15. omo says:

    Everything anime except independent stuff is a franchise, basically.

    But I suspect you might be aware of this!

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