Monday, February 22, 2010

DVD Look: Animation Runner Kuromi

Today's anime is none-other then the hilarious Animation Runner Kuromi. This is straight out of the mind of Akitaro Daichi, so you just know it's going to own. Daichi is a director I've come to respect over the years. He's show his ability to do off the wall comedies like this, with a lot of heart and care towards it's characters, great comedy-dramas like Fruits Basket and Jubei Chan The Ninja Girl, and even dark (and some-what disturbing) dramas like Now and Then, Here and There (one of my all time favorite series). To be able to direct anime series that are such polar opposites, is a true sign of Daichi's great talent.

Animation Runner Kuromi is a 2001 OVA, about Mikiko Oguro (nicknamed "Kuromi"), who gets a job at a small animation studio in Japan, only to end up having the job of Production Desk Manager thrown on to her. While interviewing her for a job, the previous manager got sick and had to leave, and gave her the job out of desperation! It's pretty amusing to see a job like this falling onto someone as inexperienced as Kuromi. The studio has fallen drastically behind schedule (as usual) for the next episode of Time Journeys, and Kuromi must inspire the artists to work hard enough and fast enough to meet the deadline. The rest of the anime follows her around trying to do her job the best she can, and learning a little about anime studios, and the artists who work at this studio. In essence this is an anime, about making anime, and it's incredibly fun to watch! There are many downright funny scenes in this anime, and they all are fast paced. The characters are very interesting, and very well developed for such a short OVA. A testament to Diachi's skill no doubt. Of course Kuromi is the star of the show, and she's a very cool person. She's very active, sometimes talking incredibly fast, and running around like a chicken without a head. But she has many calmer moments, like when she's at home just thinking about her job, or worrying about finishing the episode in time (something Daichi admits to doing often as well). Her ambition comes from watching an anime while she was in high school Luis Monde III (a reference to Lupin III no doubt). She's a very understandable character and very likable. Many of the other characters she interacts are the key animators for the studio. They all have their own little quirks, habits, and interests and together make a very interesting and diverse group of people. And it's very interesting to learn (from Akitaro Daichi's commentary on the DVD) that most of these characters are based on a few people (combined together to make one person).

The animation in this is pretty good. There are some really fast paced scenes, and they are handled very well. This is an OVA and the animation really shows it. Although this isn't exactly mesmerizing, it's very good artwork. The music is all right too, with a cool ending theme that I enjoyed. There is also a certain background music song that keeps popping up, that's really catchy! I love listening to that! But as far as the rest of it goes, it's pretty standard background music. However the dub is nothing but standard! This is a really good dub. Lisa Ortiz manages to do an excellent job at capturing every essence that is Kuromi. And she's incredibly funny at times! Rachael Lillis and Eric Stuart play two of the key animators and do a wonderful job. They both impressed me a lot with this anime. The other actors are spot on in their roles as well. This is a dub to show to those sub-only guys!

The special features on this disk are amazing. Central Park Media really outdid themselves with this one. The interview with Akitaro Daichi is very informative, and interesting. We get to learn some of the ideas behind this OVA, and some interesting tidbits of facts. There is also an interview of Lisa Ortiz, which was a great extra as well, at least for any dub fan. And as if the interview with Daichi wasn't enough, CPM even got him to give a commentary of this show for the DVD. In the commentary he goes into detail about many of the scenes, and how anime is really created in the real world. There is also a "Director's Diary" which is a bunch of pictures and recordings of this OVA being created and the people behind it. Which is a fun watch. And there is also an interview with an "animation runner" (or someone who has a similar job to Kuromi's only in American Animation) that's pretty interesting to watch as well. This gives you some insight as to how realistic this anime is, and the differences between how anime is created and American Cartoons. There's also an alternate angle with the storyboard that I didn't check out, but is worth a watch if it's anything like the one on the Now and Then, Here and There DVD's. There's a bunch of other stuff here too, and as many trailers as possible. The menus are also pretty cool, just another bonus for this DVD. The only problem I can find with this release is it's rated 16 and up! That's insane, I'm not really sure what they were thinking. There's nothing objectionable at all in this anime! (Well one character smokes, but really I think even a 13 and up rating would be overdoing it for this one. I find it funny that Maze got a 13 and up rating with all the sex jokes and fanservice, but this is 16 and up and it’s all very clean). But this isn't really a big problem.

The humor in this anime is fast paced, and really had me laughing out loud multiple times. Yet it's not all about the comedy, because by the end of this anime you will look back and go "Wow did I just learn something about how they create anime in a small studio?" . So overall a fun plot, great characters, and an amazing dub. There's no reason not to buy this DVD right now. I highly suggest it to anyone looking for a good time.
For some more info about this great show, or some previews of the extras and trailers go to the official Central Park Media website (sorry the link is dead now) for this show.

1 comment:

  1. There’s a four panel manga of Kuromi which appears in the Japanese anime magazine Animage every month. Can’t remember which came first, the manga or the OVA. I think this is my second favourite self referential anime after “Otaku no Video”. I suppose this show is a lot less pretentious though. I loved how she comes in all enthusiastic and ends up riding home dejected every day. Also the crappy anime who did the really bad key animation was hilarious. He got the keys done in time but they were awful. I think I bought the Japanese DVD of this which came out a couple of years before the CPM disc. Had English subs on it. This one and the sequel OVA where independent productions. Daichi did a few of those. There was also meant to be a third OVA, but it never happened unfortunately.