Otaku O'Clock

Anime aired from around 11 p.m. until the wee hours of the morning, occasionally indicated by the odd-looking "22:00-27:00" annotation. They are almost universally watched by an older male audience, and often mocked by any shows aired earlier.

This sounds like a rather strange time to broadcast a show that's trying to make money, but it works for several reasons. These kinds of time slots are usually bought by production companies (generally a span of three months, called a cour) who end up as their own sponsor. This is cheaper than depending on someone else's advertising money. These shows have a strong, if unusual, Merchandise-Driven concept that help pay for themselves. This is supplied by the often small but dutiful fan base. The TV station gets to fill an otherwise crappy time slot.

Unlike the United States, the TV in Japan is still driven heavily by the six free-to-air broadcast networks (like many other large Japanese corporations, they're practically government). Satellite channels exist and do air anime (either first or second run), but they only account for about 10% of overall viewership. This more competitive atmosphere means that very few series can pull the ratings necessary to stay in the lucrative after-school or prime time timeslots.

There is also, like in many other countries, a concern over content; when Neon Genesis Evangelion aired in the dinner hour in 1995 to massive numbers of complaints over its sexual and violent content, many networks dropped anime programming from similar timeslots.

This also creates the infamous tendency to neuter, literally or figuratively, the broadcast in an effort to get you to buy DVDs; shows may not even supply the 'full' finale. In fact, many small companies don't even release OAVs anymore unless they've done a TV run, just to make sure their audience wants them.

Interestingly, distribution in the fansub community largely removes this time restriction, as does DVR technology (which allows people to set their TV to record a show at, say, 3 a.m., and then watch it whenever they like it) and streaming. An unexpected demographic can take interest in a show, or a larger fandom is created for a series that originally had a much smaller one.

See also Watershed, Safe Harbor.


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  • Despite being a shoujo series, the first season of Maria-sama ga Miteru aired at Otaku O'Clock, while the second aired on a more intuitive Sunday morning timeslot. Aside from testing series potential, this was probably a safety device to see how far they were allowed to go and because the producers are well aware of the net created by its Periphery Demographic loyalty. After a "third season" of OVAs, the fourth season again aired at Otaku O'Clock.
  • Str.A.In.: Strategic Armored Infantry aired around midnight.
  • Macross Frontier was aired at 1:25 AM (rendered on Japanese TV as as 25:25) in spite of having a ridiculous amount of mainstream promotion. This is just one small part of the Noachian deluge of "25" references the series made to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Macross.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha originally showed somewhere around this time, which, considering the otherwise mostly tame content of the show, is the main clue it wasn't originally marketed for little girls.
  • Invisible Girl Ea (Toumei Shoujo Ea) was shown during this timeslot, although it is a live action series (but based on a game).
  • Code Geass' first season aired at 12:30, which apparently allowed them to get away with bloody violence, swearing, a girl masturbating with a table corner, and the massacre of a stadium full of people. The fact that the second season aired at 6 PM on Sunday, a timeslot typically reserved for news programming, required them to drastically alter the plot.
  • Hayate the Combat Butler's first season was on a Sunday morning kids' show time slot, but the second season moved here. Perhaps because of all the references and otaku nature of the show.
  • Last Exile was broadcast at around 1:00 AM during its first run in Japan.
  • In Lucky Star, Konata is known to lament the fact that shows airing in this slot on normal channels often don't air at all when sports broadcasts run long, in addition to shows airing earlier being bumped into it temporarily.
  • Serial Experiments Lain aired at 1:15 AM, which in 1999 was one of the earliest attempts at broadcasting anime in this timeslot. Coincidentally, much of this anime takes place at night or in otherwise surreal circumstances, so the decision to air it at night may have been to enhance the viewing experience.
  • According to the Japanese commercials, GUN×SWORD appeared at 1:30 AM. Despite this, American audiences frequently tag it as a shonen series.
  • The second season of The World God Only Knows airs around 1 AM or so.
  • Umineko: When They Cry got this sort of time slot when it came out.
  • Attack on Titan first aired on at 1:58am on MBS. Toonami is airing the dub at 11:30pm, which is close enough to the trope.
  • Some Toku and Dorama programs that are most definitely not for younger audiences also aired during Otaku O'Clock:
  • In Japan, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is one of the absolute pinnacles of Shounen anime. But due to how violent it is, the 2012 TV anime adaptation is aired at 12:30 AM.
  • Persona 4 Golden: The Animation got amazingly dead time slots after 1:30 AM on both channels it aired on, due to being an expansion on the original Persona 4: The Animation, that only fans of the original show or the games would understand and want to see.

  • An early version of Otaku O' Clock relates to different reasons in the years before anime was mainstream in the US. During its initial 1985-1986 runs, Robotech was shown mostly during the early hours of the morning such as 6:30 or 7:00 am, alond with many other syndicated import shows. This was believed to be due to the tendency for parents to still be asleep and unaware of the mature content of what was supposed to be "just a cartoon". It should be noted that Robotech was originally broadcast on NBC affliates before their Saturday Morning Cartoon lineup, which at the time usually began around 8:00 am. At that time, NBC broadcast an annual primetime preview special giving glimpses into the season's soon-to-start Saturday Morning Cartoon lineup, particularly highlighting new cartoons. Robotech was not mentioned in the fall 1985 special.
  • In Australia, anime is most prevalent on public children's channel ABC3 where it airs in a block at the latest point on the channel's run on Saturday (Astro Boy, Deltora Quest, Fruits Basket, and other kids shows). Being a children's channel, however, ABC3 stops at 9pm. Otherwise, anime airs at either seven in the morning on a commercial channel (Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokémon, Digimon and other kids' programs) or around midnight on the multicultural channel SBS (the collected works of Hayao Miyazaki, Ghost in the Shell and so forth).
  • .hack//Roots on Cartoon Network fits (or rather, used to fit) this bill, airing pretty close to midnight — though only on one day of the week (Friday), and it eventually got, of course, Screwed by the Network in the middle of the latter half of the anime. It was moved to 4:30 AM EST without any warning or advertisement. It would eventually finish airing in it's entirety, but the final few episodes were deliberately put on hiatus for a few weeks to coincide with the release of the first Dot Hack GU game due to spoilers involved in the plot.
  • Near the end of its life, the short-lived UK channel Anime Central consisted of a two-hour block on another channel by the same owners, starting at about 1 AM- on the site for the audience ratings board in the UK (BARB), showings were referred to as "25:00".
  • The Sci Fi Channel's Ani-Monday block ran from 10PM to midnight Eastern time. They adjusted it for time zones for the standard channel but not the HD channel, so on the west coast you could see it at 7PM, potentially averting the trope.
    • It was relocated to Tuesdays in January 2011.
  • Logo's "Alien Boot Camp". The website helpfully calls it "where LGBT fans of video games, sci-fi, comics, horror and cool techie stuff collide".
  • This is the theory behind [adult swim], which airs between 9 PM and 6 AM and devotes its Saturday night broadcast to anime.
    • They've started a new segment called "DVR Theater" which shows some of the older Cult Classic programs around 4:00 AM.
    • And the revived form of Toonami now takes the place of the anime block on Adult Swim, running from 11:30 PM to 6:00 AM on Saturday night.
  • During the years when being a Doctor Who fan meant you were an anorak of colossal proportions, the Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas were played on Radio 4 at painful hours of the night (and in the years before iPlayer and Listen Again made this less important) - especially cruel seeing as they were still, essentially, children's programmes. As the revival series started and the show's profile improved, the BBC gave it more sympathetic time slots - in particular, broadcasting the first season of the Fourth Doctor Adventures in the traditional Fourth Doctor-era time slot of 5:15PM on Saturday.

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