You think One Piece is Japan’s longest running anime? Maybe only beaten by Detective Conan? You would be way off. Surprisingly, those two aren’t even the longest running anime series that have found their way to the west. They are just the most well know because they are the type of shows that western audiences can stand to watch. The true longest anime series in Japan have been chugging along since the 1970s and show no signs of ending. Typically they deal with more everyday-type situations in Japan. This means that any comedy is hard to translate, and there simply isn’t a market for it. So why in the world would they bother to put subtitles on 2,000+ episodes anyway?
Still, want to know what the longest running anime series ever is, and what those who would challenge it are all about?
One Piece – 745+ Episodes
The Shounen Big Three tend to go on a bit, with Bleach at around 300 while it waits for the manga and Naruto ending up with 442 episodes, sometimes it seems like they will never end, but none more so than One Piece. Centered around pirates, aside from its art style, its sheer length is part of the reason a lot of people hate it, or at least don’t watch it. I mean who has time to watch 700 episodes to catch up to a series?
Regardless, it is the kind of story that just compounds upon itself. New characters join the crew, each one has their own dreams, those dreams must be explored, and it just goes on and on while the main story keeps moving forward. Conservative fans believe the anime may wind up after 1,200 episodes, while most fans believe the mangaka will die before he finishes things up.
Detective Conan – 823+ Episodes
Several years ago, Funimation brought the first 100 or so episodes of Detective Conan to the west and dubbed them, getting us all hooked, and then devastating us when we realized they wouldn’t be showing the other 700 or so episodes. Although the anime has slowed its pace in recent years, it is still going. With its mystery of the week plot, it can pretty much go on forever, especially since it has addressed the overarching plot of turning Shinichi back into adult throughout the series and in its many movies already. However, it is kind of at the point where it could end, but it could never be a satisfying ending to wrap up such a long series.
Crayon Shin-Chan – 895+ Episodes
Crayon Shin-Chan was, for awhile, the longest anime series to ever be brought over to the west. However, western audiences will only be able to watch about three seasons, to which Funimation actually gave it an official end. Regardless, over in Japan, this anime apparently may never end. The manga technically ended in 2009 when the original author died. However, members of his team then took over and it lives on.
Typically the humor in Shin-Chan centers around Shin’s weird and inappropriate use of language, which actually made it pretty easy to dub. Just replace mixed up words with swear words, and BAM!
Chibi Maruko-Chan – 1,041+ Episodes
Chibi Maruko-Chan is more typical of what Japan’s longest running series are about. Often they focus on simple, slice of life concepts, and feature simple animation that is cheap to create. Based on its shojo manga, Maruko-Chan follows the daily life of its titular characters in the southern city of Shimizu. It is the type of show that people can turn on, not pay much attention to, have a beer, and relax. Its simplicity and relatable themes are the key to its success.
Anpanman – 1307+ Episodes
There is Sesame Street or Dora the Explorer in the west, and there is Anpanman in Japan. As the most popular children’s show, it is easy to see why Anpanman has lasted so long. It also might have to do with the fact that the characters are super marketable. Since they are super cute created made of bread (inspired when the author was starving during WWII, interestingly enough) they are not only perfect for plushes, but make great snack food icons.
Ojarumaru – 1557+ Episodes
Ojarumaru is about a young prince from the Heian era who, after getting sucked into and escaping Enma World, finds himself in present day Japan with King Enma’s staff that lets him judge the dead. While the plot occasionally focuses on King Enma’s three demon kids trying to get the staff back, mostly it is just about Ojarumaru discovering things in the modern day.
I honestly can’t give any insight as to why people have tuned in twice a week for new episodes from 1998. Especially since the audience is a baffling children/adult hybrid, but semi-historical shows usually do well in Japan.
One depressing tidbit that has ruined this show for me is that the creator of the manga, Rin Inumaru, actually committed suicide by jumping from her 14th story building because working on the manga was stressing her out so much.
Doraemon – 1787+ Episodes
Starting in the later 70’s, Doraemon has been going strong in Japan with its multiple anime series. It is now, as of 2015, the longest anime series to ever make a debut in the west. Beating out Crayon Shin-Chan when it made its appearance on the Disney Channel with a new western series. Doraemon is a factory rejected toy purchased by Sewashi Nobi to go back in time and help improve his currently dismal life. Although not quite what Nobi has in mind, Doraemon comes with a bunch of gadgets and good humor to boot.
Aside from its anime and manga being showered with awards, Doraemon was also promoted to Cultural Ambassador by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He is also lauded as the cuddliest of Asia’s fictional heroes.
Nintama Rantarou – 1,883+ Episodes
Currently holding strong to the title of second longest running anime series in Japan, Nintama Rantarou series follows the titular character and his friends as they train to become ninjas. Heavy on comedy and thick with references to other Japanese media personalities, Nintama Rantarou is essentially the Naruto for those who don’t want to put in the commitment in keep up with a plot. However, keeping up with the staggering list of characters is kind of a task in and of itself.
The Longest Running Anime Series?
Sazae-San – 7,400+ Episodes
I know, right? 7,400 episodes!? It’s crazy, but it does make it the longest animated series in the world. Based on a manga (though more like a comic strip) that started in 1946, Sazae-san follows Mrs. Sazae, her bumbling husband, her two elder parents that live with her, and her three kids as they go about their daily dysfunctional family life. Essentially, Sazae-san is the Japanese version of The Simpsons, if The Simpsons had been running since the 70s.
Sazae-San’s continued popularity is due in part to why shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy stay on the air over here – people like watching families as dysfunctional as themselves. However, another large part of it is that, because the series has been around so long, it is comfortable and nostalgic.