Thursday, August 13, 2020

REVIEW: Animation Runner Kuromi 2 (anime OVA)

Animation Runner Kuromi 2 is a comedy. I reviewed the first Animation Runner Kuromi way back in 2009 (when my posting style involved many more spoilers - I pretty much lay out the whole thing, so beware if that would bother you).


Kuromi is still at Studio Petit but now has more experience. Unfortunately, this time around she has been given an impossible task: act as head of production for three anime series at once, all done by Studio Petit, with no corresponding increase in staff. As usual, most of the animators continue to make excuses and leave before all of their work is done. There's no way they'll manage to simultaneously complete three series when they could previously barely manage one.

In steps veteran producer Takashimadaira to show Kuromi how to handle the situation. Unfortunately, his way of doing things involves drastically speeding up the schedule and cutting lots of corners. Everyone at the studio is unhappy, and the animation quality is suffering. Is there some way the situation could be saved?

I first watched this back in 2009, shortly after watching the first Animation Runner Kuromi. I recalled disliking it, but I must have been in a reviewing slump or I got behind on my reviews, because I never wrote anything for it.

This didn't seem to be quite as terrible the second time around as I recalled it being when I first watched it, but it definitely wasn't as good as the first Animation Runner Kuromi. This entry in the series aimed for more drama and even more exaggerated humor than the first, and I don't think it worked as well. 

That said, it at least worked as a glimpse into the kinds of things that can lead to shoddily done anime, like series with scenes so bad that they literally have to be redrawn before being released to disc (or that are just released as-is) - you can see a few examples here. Takashimadaira was painted as a villain, willing to sacrifice quality in order to increase the studio's output. He was part of the problem, sure, but so was the boss who agreed to have his studio handle three series at once without adding to their overall staff. And based off of some articles I've read over the years, the economics of anime were also probably at fault - I don't know how so many studios and animators manage to limp along considering how little many animators get paid. 

Again, though, the focus here wasn't on all of that, but rather on terrible producers - really only a part of the overall picture. And although the anime had a happy ending, what the studio managed to do clearly wasn't sustainable - they'd probably have to rely on Takashimadaira's solutions again at a later date. Or, you know, die of overwork.

I found it somewhat ironic that I spotted some corner cutting tricks in this anime about animation corner cutting. For example, some characters didn't always look quite right, and the scene where Kuromi was somehow gasping for air despite her mouth not moving at all was downright odd.

I didn't regret the rewatch, but I don't know that this needs to stay in my collection. I liked that it provided a slightly different view of the Japanese animation industry than the first Animation Runner Kuromi, but it wasn't nearly as much fun or as funny.


The anime itself may be short, only 45 minutes, but there are lots of extras: an alternate angle storyboard feature, an interview with Akitaroh Daichi (the director), "A Day in the Life of Kuromi" (featurette starring Kaori Asou, the voice actor for Kuromi, and Koji Ishii, the voice actor for the president of Studio Petit), an art gallery video with stills from the anime, a sketch gallery video with production sketches, and various Kuromi trailers.

The "A Day in the Life of Kuromi" featurette was okay, although I wondered if some of the animator folks wished they could just be left alone to do their jobs. Kaori Asou and Koji Ishii ran around and spent a day doing the kind of work that Kuromi would do in the anime. The bit that made me laugh was when they went to pick up the background art and brought a tub, because they thought it would be big and heavy, and were instead handed a CD.

The interview with Akitaroh Daichi was pretty good, and confirmed my suspicions that several of the characters, and character affectations, were based on real people. I wonder which producer Takashimadaira's funny walk was based on?

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