Japanese
Kowabon
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2015: K
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2015
Director: Kazuma Taketani
Writer: Hiromu Kumamoto
Keywords: anime, horror
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 13 three-minute episodes
Url: http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=17206
Website category: Anime 2015
Review date: 19 July 2016
kowa bon
It's a short-form horror series, a bit like multiple three-minute reinventions of Ringu. That involved killer VHS tapes, while this is the same but with the internet. It also has a white-clad girl who's a bit like Sadako and looks as if your online video's picture quality just went wonky.
The show's problem, obviously, is that these are only three-minute episodes. They work, mind you. They're often very good. I was impressed. However they don't have an overall plot, they don't add up to anything and all you're getting is a bunch of strong but similar vignettes. Afterwards, my reaction was, "Oh, is that all?"
What's more, there's easily enough invention here to support a longer story. It feels like a showreel. I wonder if the director isn't now trying to pitch a full-length movie, with these as a proof of concept. That would explain the non-ending, come to think of it, if these episodes are just a taster for the director's real plans.
So what are we left with, then? Answer: thirteen little horror movies. That's it. The protagonist of ep.13 seems to have watched ep.12, but otherwise they're all standalone. We see internet video chats, security camera footage, mobile phone videos and so on. The quirks of these electronic media are reproduced faithfully, in a manner that would have made the animation cheaper had it been animation (see below) but actually makes the little films a lot more effective. Video and audio can lag a long way behind each other. Screens can display the wrong signal. What you're seeing on-screen won't necessarily match what you'll see if you go and look for yourself, although this usually means that reality is playing tricks on you and someone's about to end up dead.
They're all rotoscoped rather than animated, by the way. Actors were filmed by cameras, after which rotoscoping software used this footage to make images that look hand-drawn. Each episode's closing credits show us the cast and crew behind the scenes, which is interesting if only for how different everyone looks in real life from their cartoon counterpart.
It's also surprising how immediately effective a three-minute horror film can be. They can be unintentionally funny (e.g. ep.5), but it only takes a moment for any given episode to draw you into its reality. They have some good ideas. If you're in a lift (ep.2), what don't you want it to do? The video call from that student's lovable parents in ep.10 is really creepy if you think about it afterwards.
Then we have the episodes that do something a bit different. There's a pattern to most of them. Someone is in a situation involving the internet and/or cameras. Not-Sadako is there. Someone dies. However there are episodes (e.g. eps.4, 12) where the horror might ultimately lie in becoming, rather than simply being attacked.
There's not much to talk about with these, really. Scary things happen. People die. They're horror movies. (The show was announced as one of two short-form horror anime from a small studio called ILCA for the Kyushu Asahi Broadcasting channel, incidentally, and the other show sounds even more interesting. It's done in the style of black-and-white 1960s anime.) Each of these episodes is also a little three-minute showcase for an actor, by the way, and some of them are fun. The guy in ep.12 has so much charisma it's not true. In short: pretty good.