The question of the longest-running anime series in history has always captivated anime aficionados. Anime, whether made through hand-drawn or computer-generated techniques, claims great appeal worldwide. From original concepts to adaptations from manga, anime appeals to a varied audience, extending from youngsters to adults. Undoubtedly, anime is a booming industry.
Certain anime shows have achieved tremendous popularity and have persisted for several decades. For example, “Nintama Rantaro” originally graced screens in 1993 and is presently in its incredible 31st season. Similarly, “Lan Mao” made its debut in 1999 and impressively claims almost 3,000 episodes.
Yet, when it comes to choosing the ultimate longest-running anime series, there is only one undisputed champion, and that honour goes to “Sazae-san. This anime is the television version of Machiko Hasegawa’s “Yonkoma” manga series of the same name, which made its debut in 1946 in Hasegawa’s local newspaper, the Fukunichi Shinbun.
In 1949, when Hasegawa went to Tokyo, “Sazae-san” was taken up by one of Japan’s four main newspapers, the Asahi Shimbun. The characters in the manga also travelled from Kyushu to the capital city, Tokyo, with the first comic strip appearing in the newspaper on November 30th, 1949.
Although the manga stopped with Hasegawa’s retirement in 1974, the anime adaptation aired its premiere episode in October 1969 on TCJ (later known as Eiken). As of late 2022, “Sazae-san” still maintains the distinction of being the longest-running anime series, with an astounding run of almost 53 years.
“Sazae-san” chronicles ordinary events and simple social situations in both urban and suburban Japan from the perspective of its heroine, Mrs. Sazae. She is presented as a free woman who assertively leads her household, bucking the conventional assumption that the husband should be the head of the family. In this way, “Sazae-san” demonstrates a progressive position.
While the series retains a comic tone, it also digs into deeper socioeconomic themes inherent in East Asian societies. The animation is divided into three vignettes, each with its own distinct plot. These vignettes are presented on television every Sunday between 6:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
The earlier seasons of “Sazae-san” skewed more towards slapstick humour, but with time, it evolved into a more complex family drama. As the longest-running anime series in history, “Sazae-san” stands as an important cultural item in Japan, earning widespread recognition and exerting a lasting effect on the public.