Image source: 劇場版ポケットモンスター on Twitter
There are a lot of long-running anime franchises out there. However, the list of long-running anime franchises is extensive. In fact, the list is so extensive it’s kind of impressive how many franchises keep entertaining fans week after week and year after year. But, what are the longest continuous anime franchises ever made?
The answer may surprise you. Let’s take a look together.
[Note: The start year is when the franchise began its continuous run, not necessarily the year it first aired. There may be slight discrepancies with the Episode Count due to different sources including or not including TV specials and movies as episodes.]
1969 – Present (48 years)
2514+ Episodes (7542+ when accounting for the fact that each 30 minute episode airs 3 individually numbered episodes)
Sazae-san is the quintessential slice-of-life anime and follows the Isono family in their daily lives. From going to school and work, playing with friends, interacting with colleagues, shopping, among other activities, the franchise has stayed the course for nearly 50 years.
Because Sazae-san is a family show, in that everyone can watch it, it’s able to cover multiple sub-genres of the slice-of-life genre. We get to see school life with the children, work life with the adults, and home life with the titular character and her mother. But, what makes this franchise beloved by so many Japanese people is how the Isono family is a representation of a classic Japanese family. Each family member plays their respective roles and there’s a nice familiarity to it. This makes the franchise timeless. It’s a classic in virtually every sense.
Where to watch: Sazae-san is currently unavailable outside of Japan.
Image source: DoraemonTheMovie on YouTube
1979 – Present (38 years)
Doraemon follows the life of Nobita Nobi and his misadventures. When he gets into trouble he runs home to his closest friend named Doraemon, a cat-type robot from the 22nd century, to get future-gadgets to solve his problems.
For many Japanese people Doraemon is the first anime franchise they watch. As such, it stays with fans for many years. What makes fans engrossed with the franchise, though, is the imagination behind all of Doraemon’s gadgets and the lessons Nobita learns from using them. It’s a franchise that truly reminds us there are consequences to our actions and that sometimes we need to take responsibility.
There are also a number of iconic stories within the franchise that have been remade multiple times over the decades. It’s not because the production team is running out of ideas, but to expose a new generation of children to those stories. This makes the Doraemon franchise beloved by Japanese people of all ages.
Where to watch: Doraemon is available on DVD through Amazon.
Image source: アンパンマン on Facebook
1988 – Present (29 years)
In Soraike! Anpanman, a superhero with anpan (Japanese bean-past filled sweet roll) for a head battles the forces of evil. His many friends and allies are also have foodstuff for heads.
Much like Doraemon, Soraike! Anpanman is one of the first anime franchises Japanese children are exposed to. While it’s harder for older fans to stick with the series, there’s a nice nostalgia factor to it. But, it’s core demographic is children. And like any good franchise for a young audience, the episodes are designed to teach children valuable social and moral lessons. Its colorful cast of imaginative characters has captured the hearts and minds of multiple generations in Japan, making it a good starter anime for any child.
Where to watch: Soraike! Anpanman is available on DVD through Amazon.
Image source: クレヨンしんちゃん【公式】 on Facebook
1992 – Present (25 years)
Know as Crayon Shin-chan in Japan, the franchise follows the daily exploits of the Nohara family, especially the oldest son, Shinnosuke.
If Sazae-san is a portrayal of a classic Japanese family, Shin Chan portrays a modern Japanese family. As such, the franchise often covers things that are currently popular in Japan. While this dates some of the episodes, the core of the stories always revolves around common Japanese culture, making it timeless in its own right.
What makes this franchise so interesting, though, is how the tone has shifted since it first aired. During the 1990s the humor surrounding Shinnosuke was crass and rather low-brow. However, as the franchise has developed the crude humor has all but disappeared. That doesn’t mean toilet humor isn’t utilized any more, just that it’s far less prevalent. This makes Shin Chan a “wholesome” franchise for the entire family.
Where to watch: Shin Chan is streaming on Funimation.
Image source: 忍たま乱太郎【公式】NEP on Twitter
1993 – Present (24 years)
A staple of young Japanese anime viewing repertoire, Ninjaboy Rantaro takes an all to familiar scenario of school life and places it in the chaos of the Sengoku Period (Warring States) of Japan. The episodes follow a boy named Rantaro Inadera while he and his friends attend a ninja school.
Despite Ninjaboy Rantaro being a franchise for children, it’s filled with lovable characters people from all walks of life can enjoy. The setting of the Sengoku Period also adds a nice flavor to the slice-of-life genre by placing what we consider ordinary in a historical setting. While the franchise tries hard to keep the setting as accurate as possible, there are instances of modern technology creeping into an episode, making the franchise fun to watch.
Where to watch: Ninjaboy Rantaro is currently unavailable outside of Japan.
Image source: ちびまる子ちゃん【公式】 on Twitter
1995 – present (22 years)
Chibi Maruko-chan follows the life of a girl named Momoko “Maruko” Sakura and her family in 1974.
For as much as Chibi Maruko-chan is set in 1974, the series has an ageless quality to it. Many of the episodes are about simple, everyday Japanese things, making it easy for people of all ages to enjoy. But, the 1974 setting also gives the franchise a nice look into what life was like during that time period. Because of this, we hear many references to idols, TV show, Movies, and many other cultural touchstones of the time. While this may make it difficult for younger audience members to laugh along with the jokes, the idea behind them still ring true today. It’s a nice little anime a family can enjoy watching together.
Where to watch: Chibi Maruko-chan is streaming on Netflix.
Image source: 劇場版名探偵コナン【公式】 on Twitter
1996 – Present (21 years)
While on a date, a high school boy named Jimmy Kudo sees an some sort of illegal transaction taking place. As he tries to report it he’s caught and given an experiential drug that turns him into a child. In order to hide his identity from those mysterious men, Jimmy uses the alias Conan Edogawa. Now, he’s on a mission to find these mysterious men and bring them to justice.
While there’s a larger narrative in Case Closed, the franchise usually uses self-contained one to two episode stories. This gives the audience new and exciting mysteries to solve each week. Although many of the mysteries are murder-mysteries—making Japan seem like a violent country—this adds a bit of excitement to each episode. But, in the plot-moving episodes we not only get the fun mystery, but also some suspenseful drama of whether or not Jimmy’s cover will be blown. This always keeps the franchise fresh and the audience excited to see the next episode.
Image source: 劇場版ポケットモンスター on Twitter
1997 – Present (20 years)
Based on the popular videogame of the same name, Pokémon follows a 10 year-old boy named Ash Ketchum as he travels the world to become the best Pokémon trainer. During his journey, Ash befriends many people and Pokémon and meets new rivals.
The Pokémon anime franchise is a beautiful piece of work. It takes elements from each installment of the video game series and adapts them ingenious ways that are entertaining and at times heartwarming. In fact, every Pokémon fan has that one episode that will always bring a tear to his or her eye. But, the most exciting aspect of the franchise is certainly the Pokémon battles. They’re exciting to watch and truly demonstrate the bond between Ash and his Pokémon, especially his trusty partner, Pikachu.
While the franchise has gone through many title changes, Ash’s journey always remains the same: become a Pokémon master. He still has a ways to go, though.
Image source: NHK on YouTube
1998 – Present (19 years)
In Ojarumaru, a fairy prince from the Heian Period of Japan named Ojarumaru Sakanoue steals the powerful scepter from Great King Enma, the judge of the dead. As Ojarumaru is fleeing from Great King Enma, he accidentally time travels to modern Japan. Amazed by everything around him, Ojarumaru enjoys his new life all while avoiding the forces of Great King Enma.
While the franchise technically follows a pompous thief with Ojarumaru, we can’t help but love watching him. It’s not that he’s grating, he’s just generally aloof about those around him. Despite this, the episodes generally have Ojarumaru learning a moral lesson of some sorts through humorous stories. This comes from how the franchise is geared towards a younger audience.
There’s also a wonderful cast of supporting characters from Ojarumaru’s servant, his friends in modern Japan, to the three Oni who chase after Ojarumaru. This allows for a variety of episodes and always keeps things interesting. While it may be franchise for children, an adult in the right mood can be enjoyed it as well.
Where to watch: Ojyarumaru is available on DVD through Amazon.
1994 – 2013 (19 years)
One day two aliens named Ronpapa and Run-chan descend to Earth and begin living with the Hansaki family. During their stay, Ronpapa and Run-chan learn about Earth’s manners, tips for daily life, and different cooking recipes.
Although Oyako Club has extremely short episodes they’re jam packed with helpful tips for everyday life and story. Each short story is handled very well, especially considering five minutes is allotted to each one. This means the writing is sharp, quick, and gets us through each act at lighting speed without disrupting the natural flow of the story. The helpful tips also play a role in the stories and often are about simple things we can do to use household items more efficiently. This makes Oyako Club a fun little series and well deserving of its longevity.
Where to watch: Unavailable outside of Japan
It’s surprising how some franchise like One Piece and Naruto didn’t break into the top 10 longest continuous anime franchises list. But, that doesn’t mean they’re not long in and of themselves. They’re just not 19 or 20 years long… yet.