Mikiko "Kuromi" Oguro has always wanted to work in animation. She loves the industry. She adores it. She wants to hug it until it squeaks. At last she lands her dream job at Studio Petit, the creators of "Luis Monde III" and other fondly remembered classics. Can she survive a day without spontaneously combusting in excitement? What will Studio Petit make of her? Finally and most importantly, can Kuromi make their incompetent, lazy and/or insane animators get cracking and actually finish their anime "Time Journeys"?
The only thing you need to know about Animation Runner Kuromi is that it's directed by Akitaroh Daichi. Kodocha
? Fruits Basket? Admittedly not everything he directs is a classic like those, but he's still one of my favourite directors working today, in any medium. This is one of his more lightweight works, but as fluffy and joyful as anything by anyone else I can think of. It's a love letter to the animation industry from people all too aware of its eccentricities and lunacies. Kuromi is a rookie, still head-over-heels in love with anime and incapable of not giving 200%. The comedy is simple enough. It comes from splattering Kuromi against her brave new world and then seeing who wins.
Oh, and the series isn't a series. They surprised themselves by making the sequel and don't expect to make any more. The show depends on Kuromi being too naive to know when something's impossible, so continuing yet further would mean either reducing the (insane) energy levels or making their heroine look like an idiot.
I admire its focus. A one-off OVA can charge straight at its target at full speed, never having to slow down for the sake of next week's episode as would a TV series. The results are crammed full of detail and always closely observed. The sequel's script kept growing throughout the production process because the animators would keep tweaking the script to make it more true to life. Everyone working in the industry has described its lampooning as lethally accurate, with the whole cast being built up from real-life personality types and quirks. That's fun to know, but just as importantly it always feels real to an audience. The cast is extreme, but plausible.
However none of that will be your first reaction to it. It's funny. No, make that really funny. I can't think of anyone better than Akitaroh Daichi for this kind of character-based humour. I think I preferred the second OVA, which is more of an ensemble piece and has more of a story, but as light-hearted souffles they're both lovely. Apart from that, there's not much to say about them. The second OVA gives Kuromi an enemy, a cynical producer for hire who'll cut any corner to get the job done on time, but the first OVA can hardly even be said to have a plot. This isn't the kind of anime that lends itself to lengthy reviews. Studio Petit has to make an anime. They do so. The end. Oh, was that it? Yup, afraid so. Kuromi will sweat blood to achieve this miracle, blazing hotter than a supernova as she tries to wring the work from her animators, but that doesn't mean this isn't a one-line story whose jokes are arguably all variations on a single gag.
Most of the cast are mad, but the star of the show is of course Kuromi, the anime megafan who knows nothing but thinks it's all wonderful anyway. Welcome to the ghastly truth. Her unstoppable energy reminded me of Kodocha
's Sana-chan, even if the throwaway nature of these OVAs means she can't match Sana for emotional depth. She's a human dynamo. The show's visuals are reminiscent of Kodocha
I'm not a fan of one-off OVAs, which in some ways are even worse than anime movies. As sequels to TV series, they can be the narrative equivalent of a diseased appendix. If unconnected to anything else, as here, it's even harder for them to attain any kind of significance and stick in the memory. In their own carefree way, these two Animation Runner Kuromi OVAs succeed about as well as you'll ever see from OVA one-offs. They're charming, they're funny and if you're interested in the inner workings of animation, they're even educational. They're lightweight, but what did you expect at that length? At least they know it and are concentrating their impressive energies on an attainable goal. I haven't watched them in years, but I still remember them well enough to be able to write this review, which is more than I can say for many well-respected longer shows.
Admittedly I'm a Akitaroh Daichi fan and I'd probably want to watch almost anything he made, but I'd still strongly recommend these. Oh, and I like the music too.