The Origins of 'Cour' and What it Means for Anime

Is Cour Different From Regular TV Seasons and Series?

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What Does Cour Mean?

Cour is a word used to describe a span of anime episodes during their initial Japanese TV broadcast. One cour runs for three months and typically consists of anywhere between 10 to 14 episodes and sometimes will contain a full season if the season is short enough.

How is a Cour Different from a Season?

A cour is essentially one production block of episodes that may or may not have a break in between it and the next block.

It’s very similar to what Western TV shows, such as Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, do when they produce and air one batch of episodes, take a break for several months and then return with the remainder of the season in a second batch of episodes. There are two production blocks of episodes but all of these episodes make up one season and are released as such on Blu-ray, DVD, and digitally.

An anime cour really isn’t any different than saying, “A batch of anime episodes” or “The first/second half of an anime season.” Each three-month cour block in Japanese broadcasting is fairly defined however with each one starting in the months of January, April, July, and October and often named after their starting month or correlating season.

Example: The first cour of the year can be referred to either as 1月クール (Ichigatsu Kuru / January Cour) or 冬クーFuyu Kuru (Winter Cour) or even 1 (Daiichi Kuru / Cour 1).

Why are Anime Series Produced in Cours?

Planning an anime series in a cour rather than a full-blown season provides the production team and the broadcasters with a more flexibility. For instance, if a show airs one twelve-episode cour and has good ratings, the show runners may elect to produce another cour as a follow-up.

On the other hand, if the first cour airs and it doesn't perform well, then the show can be considered concluded (i.e. not renewed), and the production team loses less money by continuing to work on a less-profitable show.

Where Does the Word Cour Come From?

The original Japanese word is クール, two course which is pronounced, kuru (funnily enough, the same spelling and reading as cool when using the English word in Japanese). It is thought to come from the French word cours which means lecture or course and it can be easy to see how the word could have been reinterpreted in much the same way we have in English when discussing meals. We two-course meal, ​meanwhile in Japan they can enjoy a two course anime series. Sometimes if it’s extra popular, the cooks may even make an extra course!

It’s a bit of a mystery as to why some of the English language anime fandom is using the word cour over kuru. It’s possible they’re referencing the original French origins of the word.

Should I Start Using Cour?

Usage of the word is very niche in anime fandoms and most fans simply use phrases such as Spring Anime or Summer Anime to talk about different anime series airing at different times of the year. The terminology also becomes mostly redundant once an anime series is released as a full season commercially.

Any splitting up of an anime series on DVD or Blu-ray outside of Japan is mostly due to budget, marketing, and physical disk space and has no relation to how it originally aired in Japan.

1 Cour (11-14 episode / season show) Examples

  • Tokyo Ghoul
  • D-Frag!
  • Love Live! School Idol Project
  • Silver Spoon

2 Cour (23-26 episode / season show) Examples

  • Attack on Titan
  • Sword Art Online
  • Space Dandy
  • Log Horizon

4 Cour (50-54 episodes, continuous, or year-long series) Examples

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Yegulalp, Serdar. "The Origins of 'Cour' and What it Means for Anime." ThoughtCo, Feb. 19, 2017, thoughtco.com/the-origins-of-cour-144802. Yegulalp, Serdar. (2017, February 19). The Origins of 'Cour' and What it Means for Anime. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/the-origins-of-cour-144802 Yegulalp, Serdar. "The Origins of 'Cour' and What it Means for Anime." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/the-origins-of-cour-144802 (accessed November 20, 2017).