Arcs are good. They keep a series moving at a good pace, give it a greater sense of purpose, unity, and forethought, and generally help keep up interest in the story as a whole.
Unless they go on and on. And on. And on. For months, if not years.
Suddenly, the arcs stop keeping up interest and instead lead to fan outcry for a conclusion already! Eventually, the pace of a story may become so monotonously slow and/or repetitious that the fanbase at large basically give up on following the series directly, and instead rely on Reader's Digest versions of the stories, as told by their friends who still give a damn.
When this happens, a story has succumbed to Arc Fatigue. Possible reasons for this are:
Arc Stall: An individual story arc has carried on for an annoyingly long time, and yet there's still no end in sight. This usually occurs when the amount of time taken to tell an individual arc becomes horrendously disproportional to the amount of time that's passed in-universe (for example, taking several years to publish a story whose events supposedly happen within the span of a few hours), leading to a critical breakdown of Suspension of Disbelief. This form of stall is most common in "The Continuing Adventures of"-style stories, which chronicle the many exploits of a character or group of characters, rather than have a set end-goal planned.
Myth Stall: The story has been going on for a long time. A loooooooong time. Your teenager wasn't even born when the story began. And yet the characters are no closer to their final goal than they were five years ago. Mostly, the story is riddled with storylines which may be little more than a prolonged Monster of the Week story with no significant Character Development or Plot Advancement at all. In extreme circumstances, the series might "end" only when the author does... This is, naturally, most common in "quest" stories where the characters have an over-arching goal to achieve or MacGuffin to claim. See The Chris Carter Effect.
Note that in particularly ridiculous examples, a series may suffer from Myth Stall because it's laden with Filler Arcs suffering from Arc Stall. The difficult part is not necessarily the fact that there is a running story, but the fact that the story has a Driving Question that is constantly teased but never resolved.
The reasons for a series slipping into Arc Fatigue are many, but the most common are that either the author is stalling for time while trying to figure out where the series is heading, or that someone higher up wants to carry on the series for as long as it's profitable. Alternatively, the author may be Writing for the Trade. There is also the possibility of a writer-author disconnect: the writer may be thinking he's writing an older-style serial where the myth arc is the motivation for the character to do his episode-to-episode stuff rather than a goal they're actively trying to move toward (characteristic of westerns and detective stories, where the initial unsolved murder-mystery or dishonor is the reason the protagonist is going around doing good, but not something they actually think to be resolvable).
Compare Four Lines, All Waiting, which moves at this speed by definition. Compare Exponential Plot Delay, Ending Fatigue, Prolonged Prologue, and The Chris Carter Effect.
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Anime and Manga
The Namek/Frieza Saga(s) on Dragon Ball Z. While not the most blatant examples, they are by far the most (in)famous. To the point that "Are they still on Namek?" has become the standard meme when referring to any story arc that seems to be dragging on for too long. Also, to the point that this trope's former name was "Are They Still On Namek?"
The Cell Games, too. Midway through episode 190, Cell starts to charge up a Kamehameha. Following a flashback, Goku telepathically tells Gohan that he can still win this, and Gohan starts preparing his own Kamehameha. The two launch their attacks right at the beginning of the next episode—and are deadlocked for the entire episode. Of course, this lasted one manga chapter too, only 14 pages aren't exactly the same as 22 minutes.
In the original manga, the Frieza and Cell sagas were of the exact same length and both the longest arcs (the Buu Saga had more chapters than both, but they tended to be a lot shorter.) The Cell Saga, however, got off lighter than the Frieza Saga simply due to actually being able to change location/scenery.
Lampshaded in Dragon Ball Abridged when Krillin randomly notes at one point that "We're still on Namek!" For reference, that was the start of the eleventh episode where they'd been on Namek, while the entire Saiyan Saga was covered in ten episodes. (For the record, the Freeza Saga clocked in at twenty episodes.)
To make it even more egregious, one of those episodes was not half again as long, not twice as long, but triple the length of the regular TFS parody episodes, which means they actually spent approximately 22 episodes on Namek.
The journey to Elfheim in Berserk. The first time the place was mentioned as a possible destination for Guts and Caska is in a volume released in 2002 (the chapter itself being even older). Fast forward an entire decade, and they still haven't gotten there.
While it was a relatively minor offender compared to later storylines, some fans feel that the Soul Society Arc dragged on for longer than necessary, because it expanded the cast by a factor of about three and all the new characters needed time to be fleshed out. Compounding the problem was the sudden change of tone and format, going from a Monster of the WeekUrban Fantasy to a much more action-oriented High Fantasy. Fans who were particularly fond of the coming-of-age teenage drama of the early chapters found the move towards more standard Shōnen fights disappointing.
The Arrancar Arc spanned chapters 183 through 423, twice the length of the Soul Society Arc. Tite Kubo had never intended for it to run that long. Executive Meddling insisted on the Arrancar each being given A Day in the Limelight due to their unexpected popularity, causing the arc to slow down to a crawl as Four Lines, All Waiting took over and even minion fights were given lavish screen time. The one in-story day the protagonists spend in Hueco Mundo played out over 4 years of publication time (and another 4 for the anime), leading to the meme "Are they still in Mexico?" and a heavy dose of Arc Fatigue.
It got so bad that the arc got interrupted in the anime three times by filler arcs. In mid-action. And two of the filler arcs spanned a whole season. Each.
The anime created a filler arc early in its run—the Bount arc—that also fell victim to Arc Fatigue. Despite introducing a relatively small number of new characters compared to the canon cast list, it managed to take as long as the Soul Society arc, with heavily padded content that was regarded as pointless to both the storyline and the setting in general. It's one of the least popular storylines as a result.
In the Enies Lobby arc of One Piece, the backstory of the main villain, Rob Lucci, is cut down from a full flashback to a brief summary. The author stated that this was because the arc, combined with the Water 7 arc that proceeded it and led directly into its events, was already running quite long, and a flashback in the middle of the climactic fight would have slowed the pacing down even more. The flashback was shown in full in the anime.
The Skypeia arc has also caught some flak for this, given its length compared to, at the time, its relative unimportance note While the arc contributes little to the Myth Arc, it introduces several concepts that would later be pivotal to the narrative to the rest of the story. The real punch to the gut in the Skypeia arc was that Luffy's fight with the Big Bad essentially "ended" a full 17 chapters before the Big Bad was finally "defeated." The seven chapter-long flashback didn't help either, interrupting the arc's climax in favor of two months of exposition.
The Straw Hat Separation Saga and especially the Marineford arc are also considered this, as the concept puts everyone but Luffy Out of Focus and the latter is largely one very drawn out battle. To put this into perspective: When the Straw Hats started heading for Sabaody Archipelago, that was chapter 490. After getting split up, Took a Level in Badass, meeting up again and then finally heading down to Fishman island, it is now chapter 602. For those keeping track, that's been exactly 112 chapters. That's not even including the month hiatus that the manga went on for the time skip.
Fishman Island in the anime. In the manga, the pacing was fine albeit a little disjointed, ending with the arc lasting 50 chapters. Due to the anime's 1 episode = 1 chapter pacing, Fishman Island draaaagged on TV. All subsequent arcs will likely fall victim to this too or worse—some episodes in the Punk Hazard arc used only half of a chapter's worth of story. One such episode consisted almost solely of Sanji, Nami, Franky, and Chopper running across a day care room with little happening besides banter.
With how long it's been going on, (since 1997) and Word of God states we've just reached the halfway point of it, some wonder if they'll ever find the dang treasure.
Effectively every arc following the Orange Islands in Pokémon is prone to this, due to the fact the series' source material (apart from a couple of filler arcs) is a game whose installments are released three to four years apart rather than a weekly manga.
Johto: 160 episodes. Compounded by the fact that there was only one main quest (Contests and the like would not be introduced until the next season). Some contend that the Whirl Islands Tournament and Special Guest arcs could've been removed, but that would have had the tied-for-4th longest gap between badges (27 episodes) succeeded by what would have been the shortest gap (1 episode, usurping Kanto's Boulder-Cascade's and Marsh-Rainbow gaps of 2).note The Whirl Islands arc, in total, lasted only 14 episodes, 15 if you count the battle with Jasmine.
Hoenn: 132 episodes. An aversion on the whole mainly due to the addition of Contests, though a case can be made for the Petalburg-Rustboro & Dewford Island arcs, which were early on and arguably paced somewhat slowly. The Team Aqua and Team Magma arcs suffered the reverse of this, as many felt they could have had more focus and build-up than they got especially as the region progressed.
Battle Frontier: 60 Episodes. Subverted in that most of the filler was in the beginning, leading to a faster pace with the rest of the arc.
Sinnoh: 191 episodes. As much as the above 2-part saga in total. It also holds the record for both the longest and second longest gaps between Gym battles, with 31 episodes between Gardenia and Maylene and 52 episodes between Candice and Volkner.note Kanto actually has the 3rd longest at 28 between Koga and Blaine. Granted, in these gaps we had the buildup and resolution, respectively, of both the Contest and Team Galactic arcs, and the first further justified by the distance between those two Gymsnote the latter having no such excuse, but that still meant that the main quest was demoted to C-Plot status twice.
The Best Wishes series averts this trope with its fast pace, but that results in the 142 episode saga suffering from a different trope. Ash got all 8 of his badges in 84 episodes, though the gap between #3 and #4 was pretty long (27 episodes, T-4th). After the various filler and padding arcs,Details In sequence: the mandatedreappearance by Sinnoh's female companion, a few episodes with a ditzy version of Ash (as opposed to the idealized and mature version) getting his 8th Badge, a short arc with Meloetta where Giovanni gives up his Unfought status, a pair of certified fillers, and a 2-parter with Iris and Drayden, there was the stock-standard Tournament Arc with a stock-standard length of 7 episodesnote including the introduction to the eventual champion and the Axew-centered Breather Episode which was more contentious for its results than its pacing. This was followed by a 14-episode arc revolving around N and Team Plasma which people are heavily divided on. The quick pace ultimately resulted in the last 5 months prior to the release of the Gen VI games having an Orange Islands/Battle Frontier-style round of pure, aimless island-hopping filler, only without a pseudo-tournament like those arcs had. Fans have NOT taken this lightly.
From the beginning of the Battle City Finals in Yu-Gi-Oh! (the finals mind you) to the end took 63 episodes, including a 24-episode Filler Arc that could not have been placed worse. This is almost as bad in the manga, where the entirety of Battle City lasts for fifteen volumes — long enough that readers began to lose interest, thus forcing Takahashi to drop several plot points from the final arc, Millenium World.
The WRGP/ZONE/Yliaster/whatever arc of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds takes this to a new extreme — unlike the fairly paced Fortune Cup arc (26 episodes) and Dark Signer arc (38 episodes), it drags on unbelievably — Episode 65 introduces the audience to the W.R.G.P. tournament, but the actual tournament doesn't start until episode 98, and it doesn't end until episode 137, 73 whole episodes from start to finish. And since the Ark Cradle arc that immediately follows it resolves the plot that started in it, you can add its 14 episodes for a whopping 87 episodes from start to finish.
The School Festival got its third day of "dates with Negi" cut in favor of the Battle For Mahora. At least in this case, there was a Tournament Arc thrown in the middle for variety. Akamatsu had realized the arc was starting to drag and decided to drop a few mini-arcs on the tail end to avoid making the problem worse.
The Magical World arc may have dragged on more than needed as well. It finally ended, taking nearly half the manga's run to complete. It did solve a lot of loose plot ends at least.
Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle suffers from this. It doesn't help that the story is one gigantic Continuity Snarl with one of the most insanely interwoven plots ever attempted in anime (or all of... hell, anything, for that matter).
Haruhi Suzumiya. Endless Eight. Eight episodes of the exact same events with minor variations, adapted out of a single short story. Especially since the novels' "Endless Eight" only concerned one particular time loop (the last one), and was about at most 30 pages. Eight episodes equals almost three hours. Yeah, that won't anger fans who wanted an epic six-episode Disappearance adaption (adapted out of a single novel)...The latter did come out as a full length movie however.
Fist of the North Star - "Is Raoh still alive?" Raoh's second battle with Kenshiro (which came after several near-death experiences for Raoh and several chapters' worth of what felt like padding) felt climactic and final, and Raoh's escape and continued survival for another ~10 chapters after that raised the story arc's Ending Fatigue to new heights. Then in volume 24. Big Bad's gone, everything resolved, story's over, right? Wrong.
Black Lagoon - The Baile de la Muerte arc. It wrapped up at 33 chapters out of 76 total. Not a new trend, however, because previously Fujiyama Gangsta Paradise did the same at 16 out of 37 chapters.
Two simultaneous battles taking place in Guyver last ten entire books with little else going on. For comparison, the first book covered the hero's birth, death, resurrection and initial defeat of the Chronos Corporation.
In Katekyo Hitman Reborn!, the Future Arc, which lasted 146 chapters out of a total of 271 chapters. This means that arc is actually longer than the rest of the arcs combined! The storyline has been stretched to the point where battles have just been rehashed e.g. The choice battle which ended up amounting to nothing other than a bit of exposition at the end as well as introducing new characters that could have only been done to stretch the plot "Let me introduce you to the real 6 Funeral Wreaths!" Thus rendering all of the other battles utterly pointless. The introduction of the motorbikes also adds to the meaningless filler since they were only used for five minutes before being destroyed.
Kinnikuman Nisei is being horrible with this with the Time Travel arc. Said arc has been going on for over five years now and has gone on for more than 160 chapters. To put it in context, Yude has spent more time on one tournament arc than any other arc previously.
In Aoi Hana, there's this whole deal with Fumi's confession to Akira. Since the relationship between the girls is central to the story, this arc is stalled immensely, mostly by having a confused Akira run around in circles.
And then there's the whole story about Kyouko and Kou's engagement, which mainly seems to serve to show that Kyouko is not lesbian after all.
The Chimera Ants arc in Hunter × Hunter, although it seems worse than it is due to constant Series Hiatus. The arc has lasted 125 chapters so far, but it's been over six years. Are they still in North Korea?
This began to happen to the Oh My Goddess!manga; around the time it stopped being a Slice of Life series, it started to focus less and less on the series' old plot— Keiichi and Belldandy'sglacial-paced relationship— and the series as a whole began to slow down significantly, taking four or five chapters to complete an arc that would initially be resolved in one or two. This also started to happen to the anime in the second season... and it was abruptly canceled.
Fortunately, the current Nilfheim arc turns out to be a significant improvement: A lot of stuff is happening, many minor characters from the past make cameos and it looks like the main couple's relationship is finally moving forward.
The Asgard arc in Saint Seiya. One of the main appeals of Saint Seiya is that the fights, while epic, would last about one episode with a couple of exceptions. The problem with the Asgard arc is that every fight consisted of one of the Saints encountering a God Warrior, fight for about three episodes, the God Warrior gives a backstory and it repeats all over again. One fight in particular lasts four episodes. Ratings dropped so much that the series was Cut Short with the comparatively short Poseidon Saga and the no Hades Saga until years later. Unsurprisingly, this is the one arc that is 100% anime-only.
One single fight on the NEEDLESS anime takes nine episodes out of 24.
The backstory arc of Kaze to Ki no Uta takes up six volumes out of a total 17. Usually, backstory arcs take up a few chapters and it does give readers some background to some characters, but that particular arc drags on way longer than it should have been.
For a manga that is generally good at keeping its arcs at a short length without rushing them, Fairy Tail has the current arc, Grand Magic Games, which is pushing 70 chapters. The first part of the arc (which is, essentially, about the Fairy Tail world's equivalent of the Olympic Games) was not too bad with most games and fights usually only lasting somewhere inbetween a half chapter and two chapters. However, the final day of the Games has now been going on for almost 20 chapters, and while it is more than half done plot-wise, it could still be several chapters before we come to a conclusion. Meanwhile, several of the 20 chapters have been spent on a side-plot about Natsu and his friends who are captured in the royal castle. They have done almost nothing but fighting Cannon Fodder soldiers and executioners who just keep returning only to get beaten again, and there certainly is no end in sight for that side-plot.
MÄR, the anime version has this problem not because of the length of the filler arcs per se, but because they threw so many at the most incorrect moments. it basically goes like this; Snow is captured near the end of Round 6, Ginta wants to rescue her but first must fight Ian, okay fair enough. THEN they prepare to leave but Phantom shows up and says they need to do the final round first. Okay, fine, so they go through the Gate of Training, which turns into a filler arc about the cast being sent to a illusion of Tokyo created from Ginta's memories, THEN they get back and some minor villains from way back when are causing trouble so they have to deal with that, THEN the final round starts and goes on for awhile, then once Phantom is beaten, they need a special ÄRM to get them to the castle to rescue Snow, which leads to a filler episode about hunting down the Referee of the tournament, then two more episodes about fixing Babbo who broke in the battle against Phantom and THEN one more episode about Ian for no reason. The ultimate irony is it only actually takes them 1 episode to rescue Snow. But due to so much unnecessary filler padding, it goes on forever. Snow is captured in Episode 58 and not rescued until freaking Episode 84!.
Naruto has usually been good with preventing arcs from lasting too long, but there are exceptions. Most prominent is the Itachi Pursuit arc, which infamously sidelined the protagonist for over 60 chapters in favor of Sasuke. There's also the current Fourth Shinobi World War Arc, which has been going on for over 100 chapters. It's been stuck in this arc for over 2 years!
The fight between Tobi, his partner, and the Ten-Tails against the rest of the world's ninja and samurai have been going on for nearly 100 chapters as of late December 2013 and started in November of 2012. (While other examples are longer, this is not an arc, but simply a battle). The entirety of it has been a tug-of-war with each side countering the other side with increasingly effective techniques with very few lasting consequences.
Magi - Labyrinth of Magic suffered from this during the climax of the Magnostadt Academy arc where the continued use of the Worf Barragestalls the battle against the Medium for the sole purpose of gathering every major character introduced in the story so far. Despite the increase of noteworthy people in the area, the Medium is no closer to being defeated now then it was fifteen chapters ago, and was finally defeated moments after the last two primary characters, Hakuryuu and Judar, entered the fray.
Digimon Frontier suffered from this with the appearance of the Royal Knights. Most of the Digidestined were sidelined in favor of Takuya and Koji, and each encounter with the Knights ended with the Digidestined being defeated, with some angsting from Koichi. Thankfully, the introduction of Lucemon ended this pattern.
Spider-Man's The Clone Saga was originally supposed to be a six-month arc, but after initial sales were good, Marvel's Marketing Department forcefully stretched out the story by nearly three years. Not so bad as some examples until you consider that in US comics an arc is typically three or four issues (with "special events" and Crisis Crossovers generally going for a year). The hate for the Clone Saga didn't really spawn in earnest until the 12-month mark. Plus which, Spider-Man had four separate titles at the time, and the Clone Saga was running in all of them. So the storyline as a whole consists of upwards of a hundred issues.
Another Spider-Man example is of the Superior Spider-Man arc, which lasted nearly fifty issues, or a year and a half in real time. By the end, even people who had liked the premise were pretty tired of Spider-Man acting like a jerk and normally competent characters completely failing to notice Spidey was acting nothing like himself due to being possessed by Dr. Octopus.
The "Thy Kingdom Come" arc in Justice Society of America. It's actually a rather well-written arc, but it's pretty padded out (the three specials towards the end could have easily been worked into the main issues). It took up almost all of (if not every) 2008 issue of the title.
Dark Reign, Dark Reign, Dark Reign! Hope you liked the patently ludicrous idea of America willingly giving Norman Osborn complete control, because every issue of every Marvel book in 2009 dealt with nothing but how Norman Osborn controls the world.
The Iron Dominion Arc. A saga that lasted well over a year, encompassing 17 issues, and left even die hard fans of the series and its writer screaming for it to end. Why? Two things are universal: it suffered from a grievous overabundance of Pacing Problems and Snap Backs.
The New Krypton arc in the Superman titles unfortunately went down this path. The introduction of a wholly new population of Kryptonians was a strong and daring idea. The entire status quo of the Superman family was reworked and people were pleasantly surprised that writers had actually done something with the eternal MacGuffin that was the Bottle City of Kandor. But at some point along the way, it became apparent that the story was literally not going anywhere, that the entire World of New Krypton title was in a holding pattern while the associated titles (Superman, Action Comics, Supergirl, later Adventure Comics) were engaged in crossover storylines. In the end, most of the arc served as setup for successive event stories.
Superman was killed off because Lois And Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman was in production and the executives wanted to have them marry at the same time in both media leading to a stalled marriage arc. This led to The Death of Superman which, if you include the return, ran over a year generating huge sales and leading the writers to run long event arcs for the remainder of the decade at which point the fans were finally tired of it.
Many of the X-Men's outer space stories feel like this, since they're always a departure from the book's mutant theme and are almost always economy-sized story arcs.
Many fans were hoping the Phoenix: Endsong miniseries would be the last Phoenix story after writers ran the concept into the ground. It wasn't.
Ultimate Spiderman arcs tend to get accused of suffering from this due to Bendis' ridiculously slow pacing.
The Culling in the New 52 Teen Titans. The first eight issues (most of a year) were built to get to this crossover with Legion Lost, and at the end they don't even manage to defeat the bad guy.
The "Back From The Dead" arc from X-Statix, in which a generic celebrity suddenly returns from the dead and, for no clear reason, takes over the team and forces them to do charity work, dragged on for months thanks to Marvel's Executive Meddling, and it seemed increasingly evident that Peter Milligan had no idea where to go with it. It almost singlehandedly killed the series (the move to the Marvel Knights line and the lackluster subsequent crossover with the Avengers finished the job.)
A Song of Ice and Fire, Daenerys' prolonged arc in Essos, while teaching her a lot of useful lessons about effective rulership and politics, has got a lot of readers tearing their hair out waiting for the dragon battles already!!
In truth this happens to several different characters once they are separated from the War of Five Kings. Bran in particular has wandered around accomplishing nothing.
This trait of George R.R. Martin's is parodied in the South Park "Black Friday" trilogy, where he has a habit of promising people things and drawing it out for as long as possible as a way of getting people to listen to him ramble.
Larry Niven's novel The Ringworld Throne did very little to actually move the plot of the overall series, but did manage to use its last couple of chapters to set the next novel up pretty handily.
The second book in the Left Behind series was based on the idea that the second year of Tribulation would be completely uneventful. The worst part is that, according to the authors' eschatology, the tribulation doesn't even begin until near the very end of the book. The book is mostly spent on Romantic Plot Tumors and other pointless diversions.
The Black Magician series seems to have a problem with this, particularly in the second book, Novice. Most of the over 500 pages consists of a bog standard bullying story. The overarching plot only makes an apprearance halfway trhough, and then only in the form of a hostage situation that remains at a perfect standstill both when it comes to understanding motivations and resolving the situation until the epilogue. By contrast, there is another subplot in Novice that conists of a scavenger hunt across the world, a budding romance and a major character development and exploration of the character and the politics of the world that is given 50 or so pages to develop, flashing by on one or a couple of pages in between dozens of pages of yet more bullying and blackmail.
Live Action TV
The on-again, off-again romance between Ross and Rachel that went on for the entirety of the ten-season run of Friends. It was largely forgotten about in later seasons, (except when the show needed a season finale cliffhanger naturally) until it came time for the show to end, whereupon Ross and Rachel were reunited in a manner that seemed somewhat forced.
In fact, it was lampshaded in an episode when Joey wants to date Rachel, but doesn't want to upset Ross. When they talk it over, Ross realizes that they hadn't gone out for six years and that it was just ridiculous for him to keep holding on.
And to give some comparison: Monica and Chandler's relationship only spanned 6 seasons during which they had started dating, had a Secret Relationship, fell in love, moved into together, had a year-long engagement, got married, went long-distance for a while and had children. Even Phoebe and her boyfriend - who was only introduced in the penultimate season - dated, fell in love, broke up, got back together and got married, before Ross and Rachel considered sorting themselves out.
Most soap operas do this on a daily basis, if only so that the "climax" of a particular segment will happen on a Friday. Full story arcs are sometimes drawn out for weeks when in any other media they'll be resolved in hours. A conversation between two characters on General Hospital back in the 1980s took two weeks in real-world time to finish, despite having an in-show length of only a couple of hours.
The X-Files has got to be the worst offender. Mulder's sister, Cancer Man's relationship to Mulder, etc.
It could be argued that important arc progress occurred throughout every season. Except maybe seven. Though many frequently argue that the myth arc is properly tied up in mid season six two parter "Two Fathers/One Son" where in the conspiracy is more or less unraveled and a great many of the villains killed off. As such Arc Fatigue may set in at full force whenever the Myth Arc more or less begins anew.
The second half of season three of Battlestar Galactica. After the dramatic escape from New Caprica, the show lapsed into a series of filler episodes with little development. This was from two apparent factors: Executive Meddling and budget restrictions. 'Dropping The Bucket' in "Exodus Part Two" wasn't cheap.
Gaius Baltar's character arc in Season Four. Even if we grant that the focus was not 'turning him into a good person' (which many fans already believed him to be) but rather into a full-fledged hero, he manages this feat by the end of the season premiere when he offers his own life for that of a young child who he's seen maybe twice in his life. Later episodes in the season pose questions such as "Does Gaius Baltar have the courage to get hit by a guard?" and "Does Gaius Baltar have the courage to shoot enemy Cylons from a safe distance?" usually to be answered with a resounding and nonsensical 'no,' when he'd already committed himself to far more dangerous things in the past. The entire arc could have been concluded in the episode it was introduced.
Season Six of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Every plotline and character arc seemed stretched out without any developments or changes. It took Buffy literally the whole season (21 episodes) to get over being dead and resurrected. The last time she died and was brought back to life (in season one) it took one episode of angst before she was back on her feet. (In all fairness, though, the first time she merely flat lined and was revived. The second time she was literally yanked out of Heaven against her will and brought back to Earth and forced to claw her way out of her own grave, after being buried alive had been established as her biggest fear.)
Season Seven with the First Evil storyline suffered in a similar way, mainly because the First Evil itself barely did anything productive or meaningful throughout the entire arc.
Even Season Five suffered from this. The Glory arc was slow and plodding with whole episodes going along without anything progressing in the plot. Glory isn't introduced until the fifth episode, is forgotten about for another three episodes and if you cut out all the filler from that season you have about twelve episodes where the plot progresses normally. The penultimate episode of the season was just complete filler because they needed to wait another episode until the finale.
The telepath colony arc in Babylon 5 went on and on. And on. And on. And on. (The story was originally intended to only last three episodes but due to behind-the-scenes issues ended up taking up all of the fifth season's first half.
The Dahak Saga that dominated the fifth season of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and simultaneous third season of Xena: Warrior Princess. While his daughter Hope was an endearing villainess, Dahak annoyed fans for being a generic God of Evil whose true form is never seen, and whose plans revolved around a very convoluted prophecy where he knocks up Gabrielle with Hope, who then gets knocked up by Ares, then their children are supposed to bring about the end of the world.
For many Glee fans, Kurt leaving the club and transferring to Dalton Academy counted as this, since it was supposed to be temporary from the start, but had been extended due to high ratings, even though there were many episodes where Kurt added nothing to the story and the Dalton scenes felt like Big Lipped Alligator Moments.
Averted on True Blood by the Time Skip at the start of Season Four, which sped up some of the slower-moving plotlines like Arlene's pregnancy, Lafayette's romance with Jesus, and Jason becoming a cop.
Then the fifth season played it straight with the Vampire Authority. The season is considered a low point in the series since it had no Big Bad and no central plot beyond "Bill and Eric join the Authority. Hilarity Ensues!"
Sons of Anarchy Season 2 has the plot of the first couple of episodes resolved in the last three of the season, thus first time viewers will wonder if it ever gets resolved at all.
In season two of The Good Wife, the storyline of Blake investigating Kalinda's secret past was only supposed to last through the season's first half. Scott Porter, who played Blake, turned out to have a more demanding schedule than they realized, so they were forced to progress the story in random fits and starts until it ended up dragging on through almost the whole season.
The second season of The Walking Dead. The problem was that the entire season was basically one long Safe Zone Hope Spot, but the season was 12 episodes long. This meant that Season 2 had, at best, slightly more plot progression than Season 1 despite being twice as long, as many of the episodes featured the characters standing around on the farm and talking. This is further explained in this Cracked article.
How some felt during 24's fourth season in regards to Marwan's Gambit Roulette, a plot originally intended for five or six episodes that instead got expanded into seventeen for the remainder of the season. Many people got tired somewhere around the third or fourth time he made an illogical escape just to start another plan.
Who killed Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks which lasted one and a half seasons. Or at least according to the network at the time but this actually caused a drop in quality as the series struggled to come up with another focus for the show.
Some fans of Once Upon a Time feel this way about the Neverland arc at the beginning of season 3. While most like Peter Pan as a villain, some people tired of it quickly since it was essentially the same scenery every single episode, and because the arc is more of a Character Study than plot-based, the action moves at a very slow pace through 9 whole episodes when it really could have taken half that long with less character-based detours. In any case, the cast finally returns to Storybrooke in the 10th episode of the season, so it's not as bad an example as it could have been.
Season 6 of Mad Men had a bad case, with nothing really happening for most of the season, but the last few episodes were widely acclaimed.
The premise of The Mentalist is that a man who has mastered the Sherlock Scan joins the police to hunt Red John- the serial killer who murdered his wife. Jane finally caught Red John... in the sixth season. It was particularly clear the writers were finally actively trying to wrap up the arc when Jane gets his first real lead in Season 5, has narrowed down his suspects to a list of seven by the end of Season 5, and- well aware audiences were tired of the arc- the sixth season was marketed as "Red John: the Final Chapter."
The arc was stretched to ludicrousness when Jane killed Red John at the end of Season 3 only to discover he'd killed an imposter in season 4.
It's particularly clear that the writers wanted to end the arc quickly in Season 6 when you consider that a vast conspiracy involving all levels of law enforcement is introduced and wrapped up over the course of a few episodes, when you'd think such a premise would be ripe with story possibilities.
Season two of Terminator The Sarah Connor Chronicles spent A LOT of time with three basic plot points: John has a girlfriend that Sarah disapproves of, John's Uncle has a secret girlfriend, and Sarah has cancer and debilitating insomnia. Not much happened through the bulk of that season except for meandering and developing those three plot points. The time in Season 2 that wasn't spent angsting over these internal conflicts was spent showing the origins of a self-aware AI that was clearly intended to be Skynet. However- due to the show's cancellation- the show needed to have an improvised ending to wrap things up and the AI ended up being a completely different computer, effectively making the entire second season a waste of time. Plus- compared to the unbearably slow pace of the second season- the improvised ending came extremely quickly. John's Uncle dies, Cameron dies, John is taken to the future to guarantee that he survives Judgment Day, and Sarah stays in the present to die alone of cancer. That all happened with zero buildup in two episodes.
The Phantom is one of the biggest, and most famous, offenders. A single story arc, told daily, may take up to a year to tell, and this isn't including the unrelated Sunday strips.
Perhaps an even worse offender is Prince Valiant, which is only printed on Sundays, and each issue represents maybe a few seconds of time in the story. It doesn't help that the size of comics has been steadily shrinking since its first issue in the 1920s, from half-page size to maybe 1/8.
Dick Tracy arcs are also notoriously slow-paced. Sometimes two thirds of a comic retell the contents of a previous comic with one new panel. One day of Dick Tracy's life takes several months of comic strips.
The new creative team is moving a much quicker pace of about one case a month.
To point it out, Lamont got Roxane pregnant around 2003. It took six or seven YEARS of strips, including the revelation that Roxane's a vampire, for them to break up and even then it was only after It was revealed that all of the vampire stuff and a giant monster destroying Mexico were just Lamont's delusion while he was in a mental institution. He then promptly prepared to sue her for custody of his child.
It gets even worse when you get to Lamont and Susan, who spent years of Will They or Won't They? finding out they have feelings for each other, but besides the Roxanne thing another thing has come up. After pretending to date coworker Dick Fink in order to teach Lamont a lesson about the Roxanne thing, Lamont seems to think it's real and it becomes the cause of his Heroic BSOD and that he would be horribly betrayed if he found out the truth, stalling it LONGER. And now Lemont's in a Facebook relationship with a woman he had a crush on in college, who's also married with kids but says her husband's abusive. And people say the Ross and Rachel thing went on too long!
Apartment 3-G was like this, at least according to a throwaway bit in an episode of The Golden Girls when Blanche mentions wanting to see the latest strip.
Dorothy: I haven't read "Apartment 3-G" since 1972!
Blanche: Oh, let me bring you up to speed! It is later that same day.
Gasoline Alley started as a daily-gag strip but only became popular when main character Walt Wallet found an infant boy on his doorstep, providing a springboard for serious story arcs. The boy (named Skeezix) grew to manhood without ever learning who his parents were. About 80 years later, with Gasoline Alley still running, and with Skeezix Wallet now well into his eighties, the strip's latest artist/writer finally decided to reveal who Skeezix's parents were.
Sister strips Judge Parker and Rex Morgan MD run at such a glacial pace that readers who have been reading for years may realize that, at tops, a week has actually gone past. The comics themselves don't seem capable of keeping track either. For one example, in Judge Parker, while in the real world, it had been several years since Neddie went off to school in France, the comic internally moved ahead roughly a month of time. Yet when Neddie returned in mid-2010, the characters acted as if she'd actually been gone a significant period of time. Rex Morgan, meanwhile, spent the better part of a year on a weekend cruise.
The "Tiger Tea" arc in Krazy Kat, which went on for ten months without stopping. Not as big as some of these other examples, but when you realize that it's a humor strip, unlike most of the strips mentioned here, which are serious strips...
Though some fans found the original Fingerpoke Of Doom hard to swallow, it basically reset the nWo storyline back to where it was in 1996. No wonder it was the beginning of the end for the WCW.
Similarly, the "Higher Power" story from WWE was disliked since it revived the Austin-McMahon rivalry which had long since stopped being fresh and interesting.
At the expense of the far more interesting Ministry of Darkness storyline at that. Even The Undertaker admits that was when it Jumped the Shark in a later interview.
Made worse by Cole frequently getting away with his villainy and constantly gaining the advantage over Lawler. Not even the King humiliating Cole at Over the Limit (along with an assist from both Jim Ross and Bret Hart) brought a satisfying ending.note It also didn't stop Cole from being an overbearing jerkass, unfortunately, and it only ended once his colleague suffered a heart attack.
The latter part of the fifth season of WWE NXT became this after months of no eliminations. They then dropped all pretense of it still being a contest and it became like C show with their lower midcarders. When season 5 of NXT finally ended on June 13 2012, it had aired 67 episodes. It was then retoled into a show that showcases talent from their developmental system.
And lest you think that the original ECW gets a clean slate from this, it doesn't. Two notable feuds that went on way past their expiration date (even if they did result in some still good matches) were Mike Awesome's ridiculous amount of "We got nothin' else booked so just go out there and wrestle Masato Tanaka with tables and chairs again" matches, and the absurdly long standing Tommy Dreamer vs Raven feud that still never actually did quite end.
Technically, the storyline between Tommy Dreamer and Raven did end at some point, it just got revived when they both went to TNA.
The "Anonymous GM" of Raw might be this, might be a Myth Stall (since it's supposed to be the overarching essence of Raw itself), or something altogether different (since WWE is making no effort to explore the identity of this GM, meaning it's not even a storyline). A few wrestlers have interacted with the laptop that the GM sends emails through but no one since Chris Jericho has actually demanded the GM reveal themselves. The "character" is disliked by the viewers not because it's heel (it has a track record that skirts the line between heel and face), but simply because people are just tired of it. It's almost like a vehicle to make Cole look bad.
This may be because there isn't supposed to be a storyline there. They may have once planned one involving the GM's identity, but it really doesn't matter who's sending them. Besides, it's pretty widely accepted that Michael Cole is, at the very least, sending some of the emails to himself ("Michael Cole is the epitome of manhood," indeed).
Thankfully, ever since Triple H took over as COO, the GM seems to have vanished.
WWE's controversial Invasion arc, which technically kicked off when Shane McMahon (in Kayfabe) bought out WCW in April of 2001 through to Survivor Series in November of that year likely counts, largely due to how the majority of former WCW and ECW talent weren't pushed. The initial concept seemed somewhat meaningless towards the end, where "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Kurt Angle, The Rock and Chris Jericho were feuding with each other, all of whom were with the WWE at the start of the arc.
TNA's monster masked wrestler Abyss, portrayed by Chris Parks, was attacked after a match in January 2012 and disappeared from the show. In March his identically-built brother Joseph Park showed up on the show looking for him. Joseph's search for his brother and supposed legal training allowed him to get involved in a few storylines and he eventually went to wrestling school and was able to compete in matches (albeit poorly due to his mild manner and lack of experience). However, after suffering enough punishment or getting cut open he would Hulk out and/or perform his brother's finishing move. This went on for almost two years until December 2013 and the not so shocking swerve that Abyss and Joseph were the same person. Not only had all but the dimmest viewers known or at least suspected this for months but it effectively meant that Chris Parks had been forced to wrestle badly for an extended period of time. It didn't help that it was a combination of Kaz, Daniels and Eric Young who worked out the secret since they were not exactly portrayed as the brightest members of the roster.
Tales of Legendia has a major problem with this in its second half of the game. While it does resolve the plot threads and character arcs for all of the side characters, all you do is just retread the same dungeons you cleared in the first half of the game. This lasts until the last hour or so, and even then, The Very Definitely Final Dungeon is little more than a Boss Rush with the True Final Boss at the end.
Pirate101 has some of this problem with the Cool Ranch books. These were actually the first stories written when the writers thought that each world should have five books. The writers even realized that looking at the same landscape for that long would be boring so they helped mitigate the problem by adding another book that takes place elsewhere and giving the haunted skyway a major makeover to make it more of a ghost story.
Achewood recently entered this realm. Creator Chris Onstad has never been a stranger to long, doublewide strips, but as of late most of the strips have been this way, with week-long waits between many of them. Everything came to a head as the strip entered one of its patently surreal arcs that might have been better received if it moved at a better pace only to get halted prematurely for an indefinite hiatus, with strip standards "Fuck You Friday" and "Roomba Cinema" filling in. This was also around the time Onstad renewed a plea for donations. Needless to say, the fandom was not amused.
The MS Paint AdventureProblem Sleuth has the interminable Demonhead Mobster Kingpin fight, which lasted for longer than the rest of the story. Lampshaded when he seems to fully regenerate with growing more health meters and the view pans to the comic reader considering suicide.
Lampshaded *again* when Problem Sleuth writes a Strongly Worded Letter containing the phrase "and where do you get off being so difficult anyway, we spent more than half the game fighting you".
The Hivebent arc got some flak for taking too long, especially since the End of Act 4 immediately before it ended on a Cliff Hanger with the kids. Then Act 5 Act 2 began and showed no signs of stopping, to the point where by the end Act 5 as a whole was longer than the first four acts combined. It grew so long that it may have inspired the "damaged disc" arc where Terezi accidentally scratches Homestuck Disc 2, prompting Doc Scratch to narrate the story while the disc is repaired. At first Scratch says his narration will be abbreviated, but A LONG time (just over three months) later, Hussie himself is so fed up that he breaks through the "fifth wall" and attacks Scratch with a broom to put a stop to his "condescending self indulgent narrative style". Finding that the disc had been repaired for quite some time, Hussie comes to the conclusion that Scratch "Likes the sound of his own voice." All Played for Laughs.
Act 6 is even worse, where it's already longer than Act 5 in page count by about 600 pages and still ongoing, and by dates it may make up a little around half of the comic's life once its finished. To name a more specific example, it took the original main characters over a year's worth of updates to get from their old session to the one of the newer characters.
The "Oceans Unmoving" arc from Sluggy Freelance attracted a lot of this sentiment, largely because it focused around a brand new cast, with most of the main characters stuck off-screen for months at a time.
The "4U City" arcs did this as well, as Riff is the only major character present for them aside from all the alternate reality versions of other characters. The entire arc took place over several years, started and stopped randomly to return to the antics of Torg and Co. in the prime universe, and was particularly annoying since it not only kept Riff out of the main plotline for all this time, but also refused to resolve the dangling plot thread about Zoe's fate until, literally, the last panel of the last arc.
The B-Movie Comic's second "movie", Attack of the [Description withheld in order not to spoil the surprise], lasted from January 2006 to June 2010, with 471 pages. By comparison, the first "movie" totaled 91 pages.
El Goonish Shive spent well over a year of updates covering a single party. The reaction amongst fans was mixed. Some liked the Character Development, especially for Justin, Susan, and Nanase, while others felt a year-long arc with few wacky antics and no action sequences was not what they signed up for.
The "Risen Reaper" arc was pretty much the same thing, only replace "Justin, Susan, and Nanase" with Ellen, Nanase, Mr. Raven, Magus and Pandora/Chaos. Again, reactions were mixed.
The reaction to the last few strips of the Q&A (which only lasted about a month) was so hostile that the author actually left his own forums for a few days. Evidently the fans had enough.
The fact that El Goonish Shive had been riddled with Schedule Slip for years didn't help. All of these fatigued arcs would probably have been easier for insufficiently patient fans to put up with if the comic didn't miss so many updates.
Chapter 2 of Captain SNES began in 2002. It ended on the November 13, 2009. That's over four years after this comic right here. It was then retroactively split into two acts of roughly equal strip numbers, but with Act 2 ending at the end of 2003 and Act 3 lasting from 2004 to 2009. As, with the exception of an early sideplot which was temporarily dropped (but resolved in Act 4 in early 2011) and a flashback or two, all of the action in the latter act happened in the same area, it could indeed be asked "Are they still in Nexus?" (And, if you're asking about the Gamemasta only, the answer, as of comic #786, is still "yes".)
The March Across Maltak storyline from Dominic Deegan. Said arc started January 2009, with an accompanying blog post wishing everyone an "epic new year", and wrapped up at the very end of January 2010.
The Storm of Souls was also accused of this, but that was more forgivable since it was the culmination of everything that had come before.
The massive Castle Heterodyne arc of Girl Genius, which have all been about Agatha trying to get into Castle Heterodyne to fix it, or Agatha trying to fix it, or other people trying to reach Agatha while she fixes it. Agatha entered the castle proper on February 8th, 2008, and didn't set foot outside again until November 2, 2011, three and a half years later.
Definitely speaking for the audience there... and naturally, it's right before a holiday break.
Then she spent over another year running around defending the castle, which was like the previous three years, but outdoors instead of indoors.
Girl Genius has always been slow moving comic with lots of detail and development, but just to put this in more perspective, the comic launched online April 18th, 2005, although the date given on the first comic is Nov 4th, 2002. Given the 2005 launch, more than half of the comic has been spent in the Castle. On top of that, the Foglios have said that everything before Volume Nine, which started in January 2009, is the first season of the comic.
Played for laughs in Irregular Webcomic!'s "fantasy" arc. As of 19th of December, 2009 they're not far from where they started (surely the GM would have pulled something by now? That said, de hasn't been seen since August 2007) and they started the quest on 25th of June 2004, over five years ago!
This arc finally finished on 31st August 2011 - seven years, two months and six days later.
In a daily webcomic.
Of course, do remember that Irregular Webcomic shifts between different themes every day, and since there's at least 10 themes that are active, it can take several days for the next strip of a particular theme to come out.
Goblins. The Brassmoon arc took two years and eleven months to complete, not counting Fumbles' arrival. Made worse by the fact that, as always with Thunt, the battle scenes go into completely unnecessary detail on the same one-three-pages-per-nineish-days schedule that everything else does.
Forgath: Um, okay. I guess my first question would be, how did Brassmoon get a talking wall? Talking Wall: Oh geez, you don't want to know that. The answer is a story arc that goes on for, like, ever. Ask me something else.
Bordering between this, Myth Fatigue, and likely Ending Fatigue is 8-Bit Theater's final arc, which was getting really long if not drawn out before it spent several months on the Light Warriors' failed attempts to get strong enough to defeat Chaosin 24 hours. However, this turns out to have been completely intentional, just for the sake of making the Anti-Climax that much bigger.
With almost a hundred pages coupled with sporadic updates, episode four of The-FAN took almost two years to complete. In fact it was so long, that the the author had to part it halfway. Even he was glad when it finally ended.
Collar 6's initial story-arc took over a year to reach its climax (no, not that kind). This isn't really Myth Stall, since it hasn't fully developed a Myth Arc yet. The stall did get better, however, when the update schedule moved from twice a week to three times a week. Furthermore, unlike many example of this trope, the author has been consistent in his updates.
The second arc was even worse, beginning in March 2011 and lasting until February 2014 and that's with minimal slip and a further increase near the end to five days a week. It also had a lot of world building and new characters, which were handled in the form of Info Dumps that lasted up to a month at a time.
The Adventures of Dr. McNinja began getting complaints of this when the progression of storylines started slowing around "D.A.R.E. To Resist Ninja Drugs and Ninja Violence." By the end of the many connected horror storylines, even the authors admitted their plots were taking too long. After another extremely long plot wrapped, the comic barreled right into "Judie Gets A Kitten" - which ran for one week. Many fans have considered the shock brevity a slight jab at the complaints over this trope.
The kitten arc was filler before a crossover with Axe Cop, and the ending was retconned.
The muffin arc in Original Life went on for almost half a year, which is a lot for a comic that doesn't usually go over three pages before moving on to a new topic. According to most fans, it long overstayed its welcome.
Wonder Woman's birthday party story in JL 8 started in November of 2012 (August if you count the buildup) and did not end until July of 2013. An infrequent update schedule was part of the problem, but what really dragged the story out was that it turned the Love Triangle between Superman, Wonder Woman, and Power Girl into a Romantic Plot Tumor.
Jack: The second half of the "Megan's Run" arc alone is the longest arc the series ever had, but adding the two halves up, it comes to a whopping 257 pages. Adding Schedule Slips to the mix, some fans felt like the arc would never end.
'The Search for Splinter' is an interesting case in that the arc itself— by that name— only lasted two episodes. It was interrupted before reaching a conclusion, though, by the five episode long 'Turtles in Space' arc, finally coming to a close at 'Secret Origins'note Part 1, anyway, seven episodes after 'Search' had begun. Putting one story arc on hold for a while will have that effect, though.
The Avalon World Tour arc in Gargoyles. The creators weren't pleased about that, however, and when it was coming to a close, made some clear hints that the end was indeed in sight.
Note that it didn't have so much to do with episode count, but airdates. Due to production issues, episodes couldn't be aired one after another. Hiatuses had to be endured, stretching twentysome episodes over several months rather than weeks.
It wasn't helped by the fact that for most of this arc, half the main cast was absent.
In the Secret Invasion adaptation in The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, it takes the Avengers seven episodes longer than the viewers to realize one of their members became replaced by a Skrull, and another five to discover which Avenger fell victim.note It's Captain America, by the way. This wouldn't feel as bad if not for Disney XD taking inexplicably long breaks in between certain episodes, or the possibility that this arc contains more filler than any from the first season.
Disney's DVDs arrange the episodes in production order. Because of this, the Avengers discover eight episodes in that an alien lives among them, and take another five to find out who exactly the alien replaced.
By the way, we don't get to see what happened to the victim until after they notice a member has been replaced.
For some fans, the yet-unresolved continuing grand scheme of The Light has become this in the second season of Young Justice. So the heroes foil the season-long plans of the Light - surprise, all that was only Phase 1! And some other fans were already thinking this during the first season. Most of the show has a problem with this, actually: there are so many intertwining plotlines going on at the same time, all of them saturated with characters that only seem to be there for the sake of having another new hero/villain, that you can easily get lost between everything or get sick of it.
Made all the worse that, by the season finale of Season 2, it's obvious what The Light's plan was: 1) use the Justice League's attack on Rimbor to alert the universe and The Reach to the presence of Earth as a major world 2) use The Reach to instigate Mongul into bringing War World to Earth 3) Destroy The Reach's plans and give The Guardians a reason to try them for war crimes, in order to take them out of the picture 4) Use The War World around Rimbor to alert the rest of the universe that Earth is hereby off-limits 5) All this is in preparation for Darkseid (Wherever There is Light, There is Always a Darkseid) and the legions of Apokolips to invade Earth... Season 3 would have been Apokolips invading Earth. The show was canceled before this could possibly have become more complicated.
It really doesn't help that, thanks to multiple hiatuses, the show spent more time off the air than on.
Anime and Manga
Pokémon. Ash/Satoshi is no closer to being a pokemon master than he was over a decade ago, despite still being 10 years old; some say that he looks younger than when he started. It doesn't help that with each new Arc he hits a Reset Button on his team, his Pikachu's level, and his own experience as a trainer.
InuYasha. Ten years long, and from years three-nine the story progressed... well, it didn't progress. Character relations changed, somewhat, but every time the story finally seemed to be coming to a climax, a Diabolus ex Machina on the part of the Big Bad, Naraku, would set everything back to square one. It's generally accepted even by fans of the series that over two thirds of the chapters could be removed entirely and nothing would be impacted at all, as most of what wasn't just repeating itself is relatively brief.
D.N.Angel. The manga started November, 1997, and the only closure we have as-of-yet is the anime, which completely branched out into its own after it ran out of source material. But the fangirls are still waiting. Oh, yes, we're still waiting. As a matter of fact, Yukiru Sugisaki is infamous for her habit of starting another manga before finishing the one she was working on. The only manga she's ever actually finished is Rizelmine, which was a one volume series.
Berserk has its first two volumes In Medias Res, with an insane Casca, Griffith turned to The Dark Side as Femto, and an enraged Guts. Several years and volumes of flashback later, and Guts begins setting off on a quest to restore Casca to sanity. This was in 1997. He's still not there. Of course, that's not nearly as long as it sounds chapter-wise, but an insanely detailed-artstyle has led to a very slow and irregular release schedule. There have been only about 300 chapters total since the series started back in 1990.
Vinland Saga seems to be heading this way. Chapter 54 ends with the line "End of Prologue." If 54 chapters of a weekly-turned-monthly-comic being a "prologue" doesn't give you an idea of how long the author plans to write this, then nothing will. Guess he's living up to the name Vinland Saga.
The so-called Farmland Saga arc certainly exhibits this. Since the author wanted to separate Thorfinn's life in slavery from his former life as much as possible, the pace is veeeery deliberate, and it takes several chapters for anything significant to happen. Stuff has started happening, however, and the pace has quickened once again.
The entirety of Gunnm/Battle Angel Alita: Last Order qualifies as a Myth Stall. More specifically, there's the infamous "vampire" flashback arc that lasted two volumes, and the "Zenith Of Things" Tournament Arc has been going on since volume 4 of Last Order, and has yet to finish despite the sequel now being longer than the original manga.
The Myth Arc of Mahou Sensei Negima! revolving around Negi's quest to find his father doesn't really start until around volume three, and even then it doesn't become the focal point of the series until volume 18 or so. Several volumes later, Negi isn't even close to finding him and although some details of the backstory have been revealed, they don't help much to figure out what happened to Negi's father, especially after he's revealed to be the Lifemaker's current host. At the end Negi manages to save his dad somehow, but the whole problem is resolved offscreen with many unanswered questions.
One Piece, especially since it was supposed to be five years long, but Oda having fun with the plot stalled the bigger story's progression. A lot. It's no wonder so many people have Commitment Anxiety when it comes to this series.
The infamous case of Fishman Island, probably one of the most anticipated arcs of the story. Around 2001 or so, a fan asked if it would ever feature in the story. Oda's response: "Soon". Six years later, the Straw Hats set sail with Fishman Island as their next destinationnote it's revealed to be the last place in the first half of the Grand Line, which you pretty much have to pass through to get to the New World or else go through the freaking capital of the World Government, only to spend a year's worth of story on what boils down to a side trip. Then, they're finally one stop away from the elusive underwater island, all they need to do is finish preparations...and the story gets epically sidetracked yet again, and after another year, the focus has still not returned to the Straw Hats' travels. As of late 2010, they've finally made it!
Regardless of which you consider the myth arc of Hajime No Ippo, Ippo fighting Miyata again or Ippo becoming the world champion, the series has reached its 900th chapter with no signs of progress with either. In fact, the rematch with Miyata has been steadily delayed for over five hundred chapters or in other words, a decade. Not to mention how Ippo and Kumi have been dating for about as long and haven't even kissed yet.
Glass Mask has got to be some kind of record holder - despite the fact the comic started in the 1970s, we still have yet to find out who will be cast as "The Crimson Goddess". Oh, and on top of that, the Love Triangle hasn't actually resolved either. That's thirty years folks. The severe bouts of Schedule Slip haven't helped any either. There have been three different anime that have come out in that time, none of which even attempt a Gecko Ending to provide some semblance of resolution.
The Wallflower. 28 volumes and counting, and Sunako and Kyouhei still haven't confessed seriously or even admitted they feel romantic love. That drumming sound you hear is the fans' heads banging against the wall.
Detective Conan is as of writing this at +70 books and +800 chapters, although if you removed all the cases which don't progress the main or side plots, the numbers would likely be closer to 20 and 250.
Oh Naruto, the failed first attempt to retrieve Sasuke ended in 2005 after six volumes, and for years they are still no where near close to getting him back. It finally happened in 2013.
The anime, where it has over 200 episodes in the first half and over 300 in Part 2, good luck trying to keep up.
Attack on Titan. We are at least 47 chapters in, and we are still no closer to figuring out what the hell the titular Titans are, or just what the hell Eren's father hid in his basement.
A common criticism of X-Men is that the mutants are no closer to their dream than when they started. And whenever they do come close—say, the time in the early 2000's when an influx of mutants went public and the books started to explore what it actually means to be a minority—the Reset Button gets hit hard.
This is also a common criticism of other mainstream comics. Decades of publishing (in DC's case, before their current reader's parents were even born), yet nothing ever changes. Nothing is ever really resolved, and if it is, you can bet there's a Reset Button about to be pressed. There's only the illusion of change, and some writers, such as Alan Moore, feel this is what's keeping the characters from attaining legendary status like the Greek and Roman mythology they're often compared to.
Moby-Dick, arguably, suffers from a bit of myth stall. The full book lasts 135 chapters, with only nine of them being critical to the plot— the rest are just the main characters reflections on whaling and... stuff. The book, however, effectively captures what it would be like to be on a ship in the middle of the ocean for a year, though.
The Wheel of Time. The plot kept getting slower and slower and slower over the course of ten books, and then when the eleventh suggested that things were looking up... the author died. They're piecing together an actual ending from the notes on his computer, though, so at least the fans will get some sort of resolution.
Book 11 had as much actual plot development as the previous three combined, and book 12 (the first part of what was intended as the final book but was split into three), continued at a similar pace.
The most egregious case was Book 10 "Crossroads of Twilight" which is a multiple hundred page long book about peoples reactions to the finale of the previous book. It plays out the day of and its following day or so over and over with all the main characters and most of the significant side ones. And this took place just after we had gotten out of 3 books wherein the 3 main protagonists had maybe 5 chapters between them, and had focused solely on the exploits of the Power Trio of Elayne, Egwene and Nynaeve, and all their various doings. Which were important admittedly, but still should not have displaced the main 3 protagonists roles.
The prologue of the first book of A Song of Ice and Fire, featured a Night's Watchman encountering an Other, a creature long thought extinct, and it's appearance heralding an oncoming apocalypse. 5 books later, the Others have still not reached the Wall, on the northermost end of the seven kingdoms.
Animorphs was never meant to go on as long as it did, and it really shows towards the end - other than a single Megamorphs and Visser, nothing between books 35 and 45 contributed to the overarching plot at all, instead defaulting to filler books the entire time.
Monk has been looking for the man who killed Trudy since the series began. Every season he has only an inkling of a clue to lead him in any real direction. In this respect, much of the series can be seen as filler - entertaining filler, but filler nonetheless. The show's final season was specifically advertised with the fact that it will finally wrap up Monk's hunt for the killer, delivering on that promise in the final episode.
Her murder was only solved when Monk discovered he had, in fact, possessed the clue he needed the entire time ( actually, a video message she recorded just before she was killed, spelling out who she thought was coming after her and why, left in the form of her Christmas present to him he did not want to open).
In How I Met Your Mother the driving question of the show has had virtually no progress. They leave hints like the yellow umbrella and meeting her roommate, seeing her ankle, and knowing they meet at a wedding where Ted is the best man. Often lampshaded on the show, usually either by the future children ("I feel like you've been talking for a year!") or by Ted ("When I have kids, I'm gonna tell them the WHOLE story of how I met their mother!"). It has become somewhat of a meme with the line "Tell me who the mother is already!"
The show was on the verge of cancellation for the first 4 seasons and as such they actually seemed to be making progress with interconnecting the stories in such a way that it makes sense why Ted would start at a certain point assuming that Stella was intended to be the end game (Meeting Robin, dating Robin, breaking up with Robin, got an accidental tattoo in the aftermath, met Stella looking to get the tattoo removed). The sixth season opened with a Flash Forward to a wedding day that was conclusively stated to be the day Ted meets the mother, but other than token gestures at the beginning and end of each season (for three years) such a tease has only drawn out the angst even worse.
Lampshaded in the joke teaser for the final season. It features David Henrie and Lyndsy Fonseca reprising their roles (every episode since season 2 has been using stock footage) as Ted's kids going on a tirade on how they've wasted 8 years listening to the story and just want him to wrap it up.
Thankfully, the finale of the eighth season has finally revealed who the mother is, and the ninth and final season will be about how she and Ted truly, finally, properly, freaking meet.
Babylon 5 has its principal myth stall completely in the middle of season four, when the Vorlon/Shadow war comes to an end, due to issues with the network they were on (PTEN) going under, and only being saved by TNT at the last minute after steps had been taken to wrap everything up before the expected end of the series.
Smallville to the nth degree. They ran out of material from before Clark was Superman, so he was currently a member of the Justice League, works with costumed superheroes, and had fought most of Superman's Rogues Gallery (including friggin' Doomsday) long before the end of the show. Clark started working with Lois Lane at the Daily Planet in Season 8, and was well known as a superhero in Metropolis (under the name of "The Blur"). But no, he still couldn't fly or be Superman until the very last scene of the very last episode of Season 10. Because that was a rule the head writers had imposed on the show A DECADE earlier.
In a similar vein as Smallville, Merlin works on the same "before he was famous" idea, and has Merlin's magical abilities remain a secret from all of the cast. Three seasons in, and the writers' determination to stall and stall and stall this reveal has resulted in Merlin's co-stars looking like complete idiots.
Extended through series four. Although Arthur finally becoming King and marrying Gwen ended some of the myth stall on their part, the fans are desperately hoping that the words "five-year-plan" mean "we're not going to know if we've got another season until we finish writing this one so we're going to do the reveal.".
Most forms of role playing that have the story arcs go on for a long time can fall into myth stalling. Conflict is what keeps the story going, though if said conflict never gets resolved, it can then feel like the characters' actions won't change anything.
Malifaux' has an arc relating to the return of the Tyrants, but any actual progress is glacial. The Mass Empowering Event that occurred in Book Two had its immediate aftermath (a matter of about a week) stretched out over three years of books.
Dragon Quest VII suffers from this. Much of the game is spent saving villages filled with completely helpless inhabitants from monsters, and, after each village is saved, you find can find puzzle pieces that unlock portals to yet another village in which you do exactly the same thing. You end up doing this over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, until it goes way beyond the point of tedium.
Just to let you know how long this takes, your average clock time after liberating the winged people (the last instance of this before the real plot begins) will read on the order of 80 hours...and that's if you're not trying to twink jobs during that time.
Those who criticize the premise of World of Warcraft often cite this. In each expansion, the Alliance and Horde have faced enemies that threatened both of them, and instead of working together to end the threat, they bring their war with them everywhere they go. The fact that both factions are currently lead by a couple of belligerent warmongers does not help matters, either.
In The Burning Crusade, the blood elves and the draenei (and their respective allies) put aside their differences to fight the Burning Legion under the naaru. In Wrath of the Lich King, the orcs and humans escalate the war while inside of the home zone of the Lich King, though the Argent Crusade still manages to create a successful joint offensive. In Cataclysm, the war escalates to a full-scale war while Deathwing is trying to destroy the planet. In Mists of Pandaria, the war is the primary plot, while the evils of Pandaria are dealt with and become weapons of the Horde later.
The Kingdom Hearts series seems to be doing this with "the Xehanort arc", which is essentially eight games on over six different consoles and fans are still waiting for the last installment Kingdom Hearts III (Kingdom Hearts II was released in 2005.)
In preparation for Kingdom Hearts III (FINALLY announced at E3 2013), Square Enix is releasing collections of every Kingdom Hearts game so far on the PlayStation 3. This may help some of the fatigue wear off by removing the requirement to own multiple consoles just to get the whole story.
"Bittersweet Candy Bowl". When are they going to stop moaning already? There's not even a single arc or subplot to point to; the drama has gone on with no end in sight for at least the last five years. Get back to the funnies!
Drowtales, via retcons and sidestories, has suffered minorly from this. Many fans were quite amused when one forum-goer noted that one character had been carrying around another dead character's body for the better part of three years.
El Goonish Shive has introduced a character called Lord (Alpha) Tedd in one of the first arcs, back in 2002. He gets a single appearance again in 2004, when one of his minions is introduced to pull what many consider a Deus ex Machina. He's shown a completely different side than what we were familiar with. A little later, hints of his backstory were dropped, and he's forgotten. He was mentioned in passing in 2006 during the infamous birthday party arc (which suffered of slight arc stall in on itself) but nothing is revealed beyond what we already knew or guessed. He was last heard of in 2008 when it's made clear that he's NOT related to the current plot, which has been going on ever since then.
Acording to this Q&A comic the author doesn't plan to focus on him anytime soon.
Misfile, it has taken six years to cover about six months worth of story and there is still six months worth of story ahead. Three entire chapters (of about 120 pages each) of pure filler and padding and no plot advancement, which took about a year and a half to play. Even the hardcore fans were beginning to rebel.
As of this entry it's taken 17 volumes to advance 9 months and it has been admitted in comic that the only way the Misfile can be resolved is through some divine miracle that is unlikely. As Word of God has stated the series won't end until Ash graduates high school, it's quite clear it will not be moving forward any time soon.
Sugar Bits which started off with an interesting premise and a trip to a nightmare world. Things came to a screeching halt once the protagonists meet Licorice and have since been in battle with her forces that, (as of this entry) is still going. Granted this is mostly due to the artist flip-flopping between this and his other comics. But one could cover three story arcs in the time it takes for the characters of this series to strike a blow.
As of 2012, this fight has finally ended, but the artist has fallen into this with another one of his own series, Powerpuff Girls Doujinshi, which has been stuck on one fight scene for several months.
Sluggy Freelance: Despite the fact that Pete's been saying that he's wrapping the strip up since 2007, the main characters haven't gotten any closer to defeating Hereti Corp or Oasis, or figuring out the mystery of Oasis since 2009. The gang has looked like they were about to get somewhere with this multiple times, only to go off on one diversion after another.