Pokémon loses its prime time slot as only a pair of veterans cling to theirs.

Except for about a 10-year period from the mid ‘80s to mid ‘90s, historically the most popular anime series have aired in TV. Not only that, many of them aired in prime time, letting fans watch an episode after dinner but still have the credits roll in time for those who’re sticking to a reasonable bedtime.

But that’s definitely not the case anymore. Until the start of this month, broadcaster TV Tokyo showed new episodes of Pokémon Sun and Moon and Boruto, the sequel series to ninja anime Naruto, on Thursdays during what Japan calls “Golden Time,” referring to the period between 7 and 10 p.m. As of October, though, the two series have been shuffled off to early Sunday evenings, with Boruto coming on at 5:30 and Pokémon a half-hour later.

Pokémon Sun and Moon

A mere two series vacating their time slots ordinarily wouldn’t be so significant, but in this case Pikachu and Boruto’s departure cuts the remaining number of weekday prime time TV anime cleanly in half. There are now only two series that still air in Monday-to-Friday Golden Time, both on Friday and courtesy of TV Asahi: Doraemon, at 7 p.m., and Crayon Shin-chan, at 7:30. Both of those have acquired the status of full-fledged cultural institutions in Japan, and their clinging to their time slots is probably thanks in no small part to the decades of goodwill they’ve built up.

Ironically, anime’s exodus from prime time comes in an era of unprecedented TV anime quantity, with more series being produced and shown on free broadcast television than every before. However, the otaku culture boom has coincided with a proliferation of inexpensive video recording devices, not to mention rapidly expanding online viewing opportunities. For as passionate as Japan’s anime fanbase is, they’re also exceptionally techno-savvy, and odds are broadcasters figure they’ll find ways to watch series they’re interested in regardless of when they air, as the scores of successful late-night anime can attest to.

On the other hand, mainstream audiences are less willing to put in significant effort to watch TV dramas, variety shows, and other live-action programming. If it’s not airing at a convenient time, many simply won’t watch it. In terms of sheer numbers, though, the mainstream audience outnumbers the otaku one, making them more valuable to advertisers, and so they’re the ones whose tastes are catered to in regards to what’s going to be airing when they flip on their TV after coming home from work.

Anime, meanwhile, has gotten to the point where advertising revenue is practically a non-factor. Series are instead expected to recoup their costs and turn a profit through sales of Blu-rays and merchandise, and in fact the series’ TV broadcast itself functions like an advertisement for those money-makers, with producers sometimes buying a block of late-night TV time as though it were a weekly infomercial. So while anime has all but disappeared from prime time, we can expect it to continue to be all over Japanese late-night time slots for some time to come.

Source: Oricon News via Hachima Kiko
Top image: YouTube/ポケモン公式YouTubeチャンネル