“Hardcour” Pedantry; Annual Patterns in Nukige Sales; Tycho’s Linear Abstraction

Random comments about random things:

I can get my panties in a knot about words otaku use. So what’s this “cour” thing? ANN Zac asks

 When did anime fans all decide to start using ‘cour’ instead of ‘season’? Is ‘season’ too confusing or something?

I’ve witness the word taking over for “season” over the past few years and I am sort of ambivilant because the word season is more confusing. Is it too confusing? Probably not. I just remember on more than one occasion I had to explain or ask about what “season” specifically refers to in a particular case. It is simply an easier way to explain something, unless you are saddled with the problem of explaining of what it means (as it is in this case).

While I may find Zac’s average nonsense beneath the common grind of what goes on in my mind, the way the term “cour” took off and its practical advantages deserve a go-around. Basically there’s more to it than this kind of simple answer. What is perhaps the most interesting thing about the word “cour” (besides how it can be taken as French) is that it is a term that allows us (people who use the word fluently) to be both more precise and less precise. What do I mean by this? For example:

1. Season 2 of Aria TV is 2-cour, seasons 1 and 3 are 1-cour.

If we were to use the word season instead of “cour” then now I have a pretty confusing sentence:

2. Season 2 of Aria TV is 2-season, seasons 1 and 3 are 1-season.

Rather, the much less confusing way to phrase this is to say:

3. Season 2 of Aria TV is 26 episodes, seasons 1 and 3 are 13-episode.

So, okay, that is not counting the OVA episodes. Alternatively you could say:

4. Aria the Animation is 13 episodes, Aria the Natural is 26 episodes, Aria the Origination is 13 episodes.

Or in the inverse,

5. Aria the Animation is 1 season, Aria the Natural is twice as long, Aria the Origination is 1 season long.

I highly dislike #5 because it is easy to misread it. You can probably get the same idea across using any of those 5 examples, but there’s an elegance when you can use both “season” and “cour” in the same sentence to describe two different things that the term “season” can both describe.

This gets complicated when you have things like “split season” shows which muddy things even more. So we are already seeing the main benefit of the term–we can be more precise.

Using the term also allows us to be less precise because now we don’t need to rely on episode counts to describe how long a show is. Imagine if we are back in 2006 and we don’t know how many episodes Aria the Natural will run for. How do you describe it is 2-cour? Season 2 of Aria will run for “two seasons”?  That might work if you’re a twitter curmudgeon. I’m going to take a step further and guess that the word took off precisely because the need to have this distinction becomes increasingly necessary.

I picked Aria for example because not only it serves as a good example, but it also marks around the time when the term “cour” become more commonly used (2005-2007). If we assume people like Zac doesn’t dabble so much in the waves of new shows every 3 months to the extent that we need to catalog episode counts in order to describe the nature of each tri-monthly offering since, oh I don’t know, 2001, when there are like upwards of 30+ new shows each season, it makes sense that he wouldn’t really miss not using the word. For those of us who are feet/arms/neck deep in it, it is a helpful term to describe how complicated some of these broadcasting schedules can be. I think that’s the real drive for the term’s adaptation.

That, and the fact that you can get away with not remembering the episode count of every forgettable new anime between now and the last 12 years, makes the use of the term “cour” quite compelling.

One more curious thing: In Japan they use the word seasons too. Except they also use the word cour. So I don’t know if this is a case where we’re actually doing the same thing, or something else is happening.


Mangagamers are running a sale. A fellow editor has caught on, but maybe he just got it from the PR like me. I quote from their PR:

Exams are over, reports are in, and universities, academies, and colleges alike are out for summer! Everyone’s kicking back, cranking up the AC, and enjoying their new-found freedom! And girls! Girls, girls, everywhere! Girls at the beach, girls the park, girls at the local cafes! But you know, why leave the comforts of home when you can practice alchemy, start a rock-band, and still enjoy all the girls you want? We’re here to help with that! From now until June 15th, we’re putting all of the following titles on sale, so come on by and enjoy these girls of summer!

Do people buy more games during the summer? Do people get the urge to buy these kinds of games more so in the summer?

I don’t know. That said I might just pick up that hard copy of Deardrops at AX.


Speaking of fringe games, I saw today’s Penny Arcade rant and I liked it. It’s a topic and approach that resounded with me and I think it has a lot to do with why I read Penny Arcade in the first place ever since whenever years ago. Please do read it if you haven’t. Their approach on this genre and medium nonsense wholly translates to what anime fans have to deal with ever since there were things like otaku. The problem and solution as Tycho posted are attractive, to say the least. But after reading this for the nth time I thought it was just not going to cut it:

The answer is always more art; the corollary to that is the answer is never less art.  If you start to think that less art is the answer, start over.  That’s not the side you want to be on.  The problem isn’t that people create or enjoy offensive work.  The problem is that so many people believe that culture is something other people create, the sole domain of some anonymized other, so they never put their hat in the ring.  That even with a computer in your pocket connected to an instantaneous global network, no-one can hear you.

I also read a few pages of the book that was linked. I think it is a good starting point to talk about the same problem that anime fans have come to terms with years ago. The video game equivalent issue is much more murkier. Or rather, the anime problem is just a cross-section of a larger problem so it seems neater for analysis.

I say it doesn’t cut it because it is a chicken-egg kind of thing. The pervasiveness of narratives in popular culture translates to that every individual can tell their story, and we do; but it becomes a “why tell story X in medium Y” kind of a question. What makes a video game more compelling than a comic book has everything to do with what is defined by the genre or medium or format or whatever “shared characteristics” are. It is no different than why Mozart didn’t draw a picture of his Sonatinas. For every 10th cheese & whiner/Zac Bertschy/Tycho, there is a Sturgeon with something to say, and it doesn’t matter how it’s said as long as someone who should hear it gets to hear it. I think if people like Carmack and Hideo Kojima define what games are about, as creators, it is natural that people who take after the same game, the same medium/genre/target audience segment will tell similar stories. And that’s a self-correcting system of exactly what I just described. It has reached some twisted kind of equilibrium. The commercial nature is sort of the thing that, for the most part, capitalism takes care of. In other words, plenty of people are putting their hats in a ring, just not that one.

I mean, com’on, didn’t you buy in to the latest Humble Bundle? I mean, yeah, I like frameworks, but who else does? Nerds? My grandmother? I am not sure exactly how to apply artistry to video games, industrial or otherwise. I suppose that is the job of creators to figure it out. Meanwhile I know how people apply artistry to drawings and music; it’s like how at Comiket in a couple months, the stuff being sold is going to be like 99% illustrated, photographic or text. The rest are then music, and you get a little bit of games and anime. Simply because there are so many hats and rings out there. To me, it’s more about the meta and how one hat links to the next, and how the rings travel from one to the next in a series of tubes.

This is why games like these are very cute and, to me, the sort of thing we need more of. Unfortunately it also has no value unless you are already a part of that particular scene.

9 Responses to ““Hardcour” Pedantry; Annual Patterns in Nukige Sales; Tycho’s Linear Abstraction”

  • Fencedude

    Zac, arbitrarily deciding that something is pointless because “Otaku” like it? Perish the thought.

    Anyway, entire post, 100% agreed. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  • one

    Zac never has and never will understand anything about anime. He is a hack, and I would ask my grandmother for anime advice before turning to Zac.

  • Caitlyn

    Based on my limited excursions into the wilds of 2ch, I’m pretty sure the Japanese pretty much use cour in exactly the same manner we do. It’s only used to describe how long a series will run. Iterations of a show are designated with 1期, 2期 etc.

  • dm

    Why do you think “season” and “series” are synonymous? Aria the whatever was two seasons long. It was a series, not a season. If it was a season, which was it? Was it a spring series? A winter one? A summer one?

    Of course, given the length of the Martian year, I guess it’s natural for a season to be two cours long.

    • omo

      Why do you think season and series are synonymous? Aria the whatever was two seasons long. It was only one part of a series, not a whole series. More importantly, that is Season 2 of Aria.

      There are “series” (in quotes because they aren’t) labeled as “season 2” etc. I think you’re showing senile signs again?

  • dm

    I take it back. If Wikipedia is to be believed a “season” in the US is generally 26 episodes long, running from September to May, though lately TV has done a lot of 13-episode “half-season” things (also called “seasons”, sensibly enough because they correspond more closely to the four season of the year).

    So, yeah, cours is a pretty good term for a unit of approximately-13 episodes.

    • omo

      “Season” in US TV terms is more like just a run, which usually spans more than one chronological season (24-26 is common but often it is more, and it’s only until recently that we’re seeing the 13 sort). Most importantly, the term season only really works best when we’re talking about a show that runs regularly throughout the year with stoppage. For example, how do you divide up One Piece seasons? It never stops. But pretty much every US TV shows pause or stop at some point.

  • dm

    I see that RightStuf/Nozomi do indeed list the three Aria series as “season one” (13 episodes), “season two” (26 episodes), and “season three” (plus OAVs) on the box, so it turns out there is some basis in fact to your otherwise odd-seeming choice of words.

    I don’t see any problem with referring to seasons of One Piece, beyond the ambiguity in episode count (and agree that “cour” reduces that ambiguity). I’m not sure if “cour” shouldn’t be spelled “cours” or kuru, though.

    • omo

      so it turns out there is some basis in fact to your otherwise odd-seeming choice of words.

      Sometimes it makes me wonder if you are actually watching the same anime as I do.

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