AKA: Animation Seisaku Shinko Kuromi-chan, Animation Runner Kuromi-chan
Year Released: 2001
Distributor: Unlicensed (DVD formally available by Central Park Media)
Running Time: OVA, 35 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: 13+
Related Films/Series: Animation Runner Kuromi 2
For Fans Of: Dojin Work, Comic Party, Kodocha, Genshiken, Who’s Camus Anyway?
-The Japanese language track was used for this review.
-UPDATE: This review was written before the sexual harassment allegations from (as well as my knowledge about) voice actress/singer Hiroko Konishi against her former as well as director Akitaro Daichi.
-Animation Runner Kuromi is an original screenplay from director Akitaro Daichi. You might know him for his work directing Kodocha, Jubei-chan, and Fruits Basket.
-Voice actress Kaori Asou has voiced Tikal from various Sonic the Hedgehog games and media, and she’s done dubbing work by providing the Japanese voices of Jasmine from Aladdin, Thumbelina, and Odette from The Swan Princess.
As a fan of animation (particularly anime), there are times I wonder about how everything is made or how many kinds of animators there are. I have no such talent on animating things although I’ve tried a tiny bit of stop-motion, but a lot of it was for naught. I have a lot of respect for the artists, in-betweeners, directors who are making animation for the right reasons. Despite my disdain with the Big 6 companies that have their own pre-packaged movie projects, I do have appreciation of animation as a legit form of cinema.
Funny enough, I happened to check out a little anime short film that is about animation and it’s none other than Animation Runner Kuromi.
This OVA is about a twenty-year old woman named Mikiko “Kuromi” Oguro who gets a new job at a local animation studio called Studio Petit. They are tasked with animating the TV show Time Journeys. There’s one big problem though, the old boss Masato Oppama bails on her and leaves her in charge of the entire studio. Not only that, but most of the other animators don’t even show up to work in these offices and they are dreadfully behind in animation the next episode. It’s up to Kuromi to motivate these animators to get off their lazy or reluctant butts and to make this anime series.
I never considered myself an Akitaro Daichi fan despite seeing some of his works, but one thing he knows how to do is use humor effectively. The humor is over-the-top and quirky, but it feels like an exaggerated version of things I can actually believe could happen in an animation studio. There are deadlines and a number of cuts needed to make a full TV episodes, but it’s done in such a funny way. You want Kuromi to succeed to make this little studio actually be productive for once. The humor does get to slapstick levels and one scene that really had me laughing is where she catches one of the animators on the beach. She literally runs across the sea to grab the animator from his surfboard and forces him to draw all the remaining cuts. It needs to be seen to be believed in it’s animated humorous glory.
Kuromi is quite a quirky and likable protagonist. She can be hopelessly naive, but she is certainly the hardest working person on the team as she tries to unify everyone to finish an episode of Time Journeys. She’s fresh out of animation school, but she realizes that she can be over her head as she willingly takes this job at Studio Petit. One of Kuromi’s main reasons for getting into animation is because she’s a hardcore fan girl of the anime series Louis Monde III (an obvious Lupin III parody) and has a poster of that character in her room that she “talks” to sometimes when she needs motivation. Another character of note is the chain-smoking Hamako Shihonmatsu. She’s cold, callous, and quite snarky, but she is good at her job. The first piece of advice that Hamako tells Kuromi is “Don’t die.” in a voice flatter than five-day old cola. There’s actually more to her than meets the eye when it comes to her attitude and animation prowess.
Animation Runner Kuromi is fun, but not everything was all there. The biggest flaw I could figure was that besides Kuromi and Hamako, most of the background characters could’ve used more fleshing out. I had to look up all of their other names to remember who was who. Some of them can come across as caricatures though. There’s Mai Horaguchi who’s the hikkikomori woman with severely low self-esteem or the man-hating Aoi Fukami who gets motivated after Kuromi lures her into confessing her hatred for her husband. There’s also one severely obese animator who’s like Dr. Tokita from Paprika, but with none of the charm and personality other than the fact that he’s fat and has a huge anime figurine collection. Besides the animation staff, I thought the animation quality was a bit variable. There is some fluidity during the comedic scenes, but those who get turned off my SD moments when it comes to comedy may want to look elsewhere because there are times where there are anime deformities used a ton. I also thought the ending theme was mediocre and it was lazy for them to use recapped footage as the animation during the ending credits. That is a pet peeve of mine when people use recaps as ending theme animation. There should’ve been more effort done.
This little OVA is good for a few laughs, but it’s far from my favorite anime comedy. The comedy that is used is quite serviceable and there are some laugh out loud moments sprinkled throughout. Kuromi and Hamako are the most developed characters which was nice as they were foils for each other, but I wish the other characters would be more three-dimensional. The background music was funny with it’s usage of ska guitars, but the ending theme was quite lacking. Animation Runner Kuromi was a fun half hour or so, but there’s some better comedies out there.
Adjustable Point System:
Add 1-2 points if you like meta-fiction elements
Add 1 point if you like parodies
Subtract 2 points if you don’t like SD stuff or random anime deform effects
-Kuromi and Hamako are the most developed characters
-Nice jabs at the animation industry
-Underdeveloped background characters
-Variable animation quality
Final Score: 6/10 points
Content Warning: I’d say older kids to teens and up. There aren’t many objectionable things since I didn’t notice any swearing or major violence (but the violence here is really just slapstick stuff like Looney Tunes). Some of Aoi’s comments will fly over the heads of younger viewers as she describes how useless her husband is.
Photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws.
In the chubby guy’s defense, I respect that he actually tried to negotiate for how many anime figures he could take to the office. I should try that with my work some day…
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Fair enough. Hahaha! Let me know how that goes at your job.
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