Image Source: Netflix Japan on Twitter
When most people think of anime, they think of full-length TV episodes of feature films. But what about all those little short-form anime that come out each season? These were the best 2017 had to offer.
Eureka Seven: AO — Final Episode: One More Time — Road Don’t Slow Me Down
Genre: Mecha, Sci-fi
[Note: As this short-form anime is a remake of the end of Eureka Seven: AO, there are, by necessity, major spoilers for that series in this entry]
Non-spoiler Plot Summary: Unstuck in time as a non-corporeal being, teenage pilot Ao jumps to random points in history in his largely broken giant robot. Unable to touch the world outside of his mecha, he, through words alone attempts to make the world better—changing the past so that his friends have better lives. Of course, this has the tragic side effect that no one will ever realise all he has done as changes to the timeline mean he never befriends any of them in the first place. He is destined to be lost in time, forever alone.
Why You Should Watch It: TV anime Eureka Seven: AO’s ending is quick to say the least. While hopeful, it leaves us (and Ao himself) with nothing but questions. One More Time, rewrites the final moments of the anime and, over the course of five three-to-seven-minute episodes, expands them into a new, satisfying ending to the series proper.
For such a short little series of webisodes, One More Time packs a surprisingly emotional punch. We root for Ao as he helps people across eras. We feel for him when we see his lonely suffering up close. We cheer as people in this new timeline where he doesn’t physically exist begin to put together the clues behind his predicament. And we cry along with him as his journey comes to an end. It’s a welcome surprise that something made simply to promote a new pachinko machine can be so heartfelt.
Watch It If You Like: Eureka Seven:AO
Where You Can Watch It: YouTube (No English subs)
Honorable Mention: Love is Like a Cocktail
Image source: ヤオヨロズ株式会社 on YouTube
Love Rice, Love Rice 2
Genre: Short Form, Comedy, Idol
Non-spoiler Plot Summary: In a world where anthropomorphized brands of rice exist and go to school, five young of them band together to save their school by creating the rice idol —aka “Harvester”—group, Love Rice.
Why You Should Watch It: Love Rice is ridiculous satire. It takes the “anthropomorphic stuff” genre and “idol” genre and mixes them with an unapologetic never-ending barrage of puns. The whole thing is downright goofy from its premise to its execution, and it knows it. Love Rice plays it to the hilt with just how wacky and over the top it can go.
There is a bit of an entrance barrier in that viewers will need to a fairly advanced knowledge of the Japanese language in order to fully appreciate all the creative puns and subtle—and not so subtle—humor. Still, it’s not been since Gakuen Handsome and its amazing B-roll audio track that I’ve had a short form comedy series that I’ve spent so much time constantly laughing at. The second season also manages to maintain the crazy while keeping a constant flow of unending humor.
Watch It If You Like: Gakuen Handsome
Where You Can Watch It: Crunchyroll
Honorable Mentions: Ninja Girl & Samurai Master
Image source: 「妖怪人間ベム」50周年プロジェクト公式 on Twitter
Oretacha Yōkai Ningen
Genre: Dark Comedy
Non-spoiler Plot Summary: The second remake of the 1968 series Yōkai Ningen Bem, Oretacha Yōkai Ningen follows the three humanoid monsters named Bem (a large male and leader), Bera (a the female), and Bero (a small child-like monster) on their misadventures in Tokyo as they try to become humans.
Why You Should Watch It: Yōkai Ningen Bem’s strength is in how it challenges our perception of what it means to be a human and it does this by pointing out the darker side of humanity. While Oretacha Yōkai Ningen also does this to a degree, instead of focusing on dark themes it pokes fun at our vices. These include money, sex, food, and many other things. While some of the comedy is Japan specific, these topics of discussion are universal. This allows everybody to enjoy seeing our foibles made fun of. And the series is very effective at this. For instance, when examining sex the series has poked fun at some men’s proclivities of wanting a larger phallus or the idea of finding relations at hostess/host clubs. Even with money, it shows us a harsh reality of loan sharks and being poor. It’s biting stuff we don’t often see in Japanese humor. The series places a mirror in front of us to let us laugh at things we hold as taboo.
Watch it if You Like: The Laughing Salesman
Where You Can Watch it: Currently unavailable outside of Japan.
Honorable Mentions: Chiruran 1/2 and Lights of Clione
Image source: TVアニメ「ノラと皇女と野良猫ハート」 on Twitter
Nora, Princess, and Stray Cat
Genre: Comedy, Ecchi, Modern Fantasy
Non-spoiler Plot Summary: Nora, Princess, and Stray Cat is a short-form absurdist comedy series based on visual novel game by developer Harukaze. The nominal premise is that Patricia, a princess from the underworld, has come to the surface to learn about humans. She enrolls in a high school with very strange students who will not help her in her goal, and she somehow turns a male classmate into a cat. While all of her cohorts are supposed to be helping to change him back, honestly, no one really cares to do so and it pretty much never happens.
Why You Should Watch It: It’s absurdist humor at its absolute best. Although the series is vaguely episodic, and technically has a timeline, you can jump in and watch any episode in any order. You also don’t need to have any knowledge of the game series on which it is based. If you like ridiculous teenagers doing ridiculous things, with ridiculous magic powers, for absolutely no logical reason whatsoever, you’re going to love these very short episodes.
The series is also very self aware and makes fun of a lot of anime tropes in general. Certain episodes clearly mock entire genres of Japanese pop culture in general and anime in specific. One of the best episodes in the series is where the girls form a giant robot team. There’s no explanation why and they’re absolutely terrible at it. It’s hilarious.
Also goats. Did I mention the goats? You’re gonna love the goats. Trust me. Goats.
Watch It If You Like: Nichijou, Excel Saga
Where You Can Watch It: Crunchyroll
Lights of the Clione
Image source: クリオネの灯り 公式アカウント on Twitter
Genre: School Life, Slice of Life, Mystery
Non-spoiler Plot Summary: Minori, a sickly girl who is often out of school and who is bullied mercilessly, disappears. Her friends Kyoko and Takashi then receive a mysterious email about a nearby town’s festival. The series focuses heavily on the way bullying works in Japan, and especially how it can thrive when students on the sidelines do and say nothing, tacitly signaling support. The series explores the idea behind “all it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing” and how the characters break out of this pattern.
Why You Should Watch It: Lights of the Clione is a mystery wrapped up in a very real depiction of what it can be like to be different in Japanese schools and in society. The situation starts off depressing and yet very normal but slowly builds into something else entirely. Twists aren’t sudden; they are quite gradual. So gradual, in fact, that you may stop yourself and wonder, “wait, what now? How did…? Where is…? HUH?” Prepare to spend time rewatching and being glad you did.
Watch It If You Like: Erased