Shinya TakahashiSuzuko MimoriMinami TanakaShuta Morishima
Hitorigurashi no Shougakusei
Also known as: Latchkey Grade Schooler
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2017
Director: Haruki Kasugamori
Original creator: Koichiro Matsushita
Actor: Haruka Fushimi, Minami Tanaka, Raiko Sakamoto, Shinya Takahashi, Shuta Morishima, Suzuko Mimori
Keywords: anime
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 10 three-minute episodes
Url: https://myanimelist.net/anime/35235/Hitorigurashi_no_Shougakusei
Website category: Anime 2017
Review date: 7 September 2018
Hitorigurashi Shougakusei
It's one of eight "Tate Anime" from Production I.G. "Tate" means "vertical". They're for smartphones. I believe they're all in the same format (10 three-minute episodes), running for a fortnight with a new episode every weekday.
This makes them look weird on anything that's not a phone, but you used to it. You might find some of them on YouTube. I think it's a good idea, although obviously I'm not the target audience since I don't own a mobile phone. Anyway, this particular show's based on a four-panel manga from Amazon Kindle. It's about a nine-year-old girl called Rin who lives alone because her parents are dead. She doesn't let it get her down, though. She's cheerful. She runs the family cafe on her own, which raises the obvious question of "WHY ISN'T SHE DEAD YET???" because she's terrible at it. She can't cook and she's at school half the day anyway. She hardly has any customers, but the vanishingly few people you'll see in her cafe fall into two categories:
(a) first-timers who are in for a shock,
(b) customers who come back out of pity and will react with horror to being given extra food for free. It's tough enough just eating the stuff you've ordered.
It's amazing that Rin hasn't starved to death for lack of money, but there she is. The last episode even suggests that she'll still be running her cafe in three years' time, perhaps thanks to improved cooking. (Nine-year-old Rin has a sweet tooth and will use chocolate as a surprise ingredient.) She's dirt poor, mind you. Her clothes are patched, she's usually hungry at school and she makes erasers out of gum tape. However she's always cheerful and I think she survives because everyone likes her. They'll do things like bringing an extra lunch to school to give to her.
The show's secret ingredient, I think, isn't Rin herself, but the effect she has on the world. People she meets turn into better versions of themselves. Her business is obviously at risk of bankruptcy, so they return to her cafe and eat her food. They give her free stuff. In one episode, they make clothes for her. Ep.6 is about a grumpy-looking taiyaki seller who eventually manages to smile because he's been laughing in a good-natured way at the ridiculous onigiri Rin made for him. Ep.10 pits Rin against a burglar.
Rin's living off charity, essentially, but she never realises. Indeed, she's the kind of girl who could find a coin in the road and would hand it in to the police.
The show has two kinds of episodes: cafe and school. The latter gradually overtake the former, because they have a stronger supporting cast. Rin's classmates include Mie (a rich snob who tries to be a bitch to Rin but can't keep it up and is quickly worn down to reluctant niceness) and Ryou (enthusiastic, energetic and insensitive). Mie will misunderstand Ryou using the word "love" in ep.8, for instance, while Ryou has an unfortunate habit of throwing out "rubbish". This is pretty stupid of him, given the kind of bags Rin might be forced to use for, say, a packed lunch.
This anime is charming because it's depressing. Rin's situation is really dark. A more realistic show would probably be hard to watch and I wasn't kidding when I said I was surprised that she hadn't died yet. Each episode packs a lot into three minutes and you'll find yourself in a strange place when you watch it. It's heartwarming, but it's not. It makes you feel good by showing you something very bad. However Rin herself is a lovely little girl and she makes other people get lovelier too. The show's short format and lack of plot means it's really just a slice-of-life throwaway, but as an emotional experience I think it's quite complicated and interesting. Will it make you happy? Is it sad and dark? Essentially the former, but with lurking undertones of the latter, I think.