My thoughts on this are: questions with lack of research effort are not by default off topic. But this can be set by the community. Asking any question without providing your effort will make this site a sort of "Do this research for me, I'm too lazy to type on Google".
I don't think we should be too lenient against those. And by the way, it's not true that the General Reference has been totally removed. It still exists on EL&U, for example:
Besides, episodes numbers aren't necessarily the same across countries (Japan and Italy for example are different). But your points are even more compelling:
- It asks for one-word answers... Not the best, but perhaps this can be fixed by making the question look for a more deep answer.
- They usually show lack of research, unless the OP proves their own research.
So the point is: Should we decide what questions are too basic?
For me, any question that is really too basic such as What is Naruto's last name? should be closed (if we decide this, the close reason would be off topic) and let other questions opened when the question might look basic but is more complicated, and especially if the OP shows some effort on their part.
So, General Reference being there or not, as long as it won't be there, we should probably close as Not A Real Question or Too Localized.
We're not here as a sort of quick encyclopedia resource.