Eri KitamuraTakahiro MizushimaAo OniShuta Morishima
Ao Oni the Animation (2016 TV series)
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2016: A
Also known as: Aooni The Blue Monster (2016 TV series)
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2016
Director: Toshiro Hamamura, Chisei Maeda
Original creator: noprops
Actor: Ryota Ohsaka, Eri Kitamura, Shuta Morishima, Takahiro Mizushima
Keywords: Ao Oni, anime
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 13 three-minute episodes
Website category: Anime 2016
Review date: 16 March 2017
This franchise has various different forms, of which I suspect this is the only comedy. I think I chose the wrong one to watch first. The original version is a freeware role-playing horror video game, in which you go into the house of Ao Oni and then try to stay alive. ("Ao Oni" means "Blue Demon".) You have three friends, lots of puzzles to solve and a gigantic but rather cute Ao Oni who keeps trying to kill you. Apparently it's genuinely scary. This game must have been a mega-hit, because it's since spawned:
(a) a 2013 novel series
(b) a 2014 live-action movie
(c) this short-form anime series, for laughs
(d) a 2017 anime movie
Apparently if you play the game and choose your name as SOUTHPARK, all the characters look and act as if they're from South Park. I want to try this. However it's also not inappropriate for this anime, where everyone dies, every week. Ao Oni will kill you. That's not even up for negotiation. It might hang you, bite your head off or bludgeon you into hamburger, but the unavoidable fact is that you're doomed. (I believe you can save yourself with puzzles in the game, but the only puzzle here is in ep.7 and that also ends bloodily.)
Admittedly there are one or two episodes where one of the humans does some killing and/or we don't see everyone die, but fundamentally this series is a loop of violent murder... for laughs. It's not permanent, though. Everyone will be alive again without explanation in the next episode and so the cycle continues.
Paradoxically, though, the killings aren't actually that important. It's not the death itself that's funny, but the way it becomes almost domestic. Ep.4 shows us Ao Oni's typical day, in which he does comfortable, good-natured household chores when he's not serving up humans for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In ep.8, he gets his head stuck in some bars and the humans try to help him get out. In ep.9, another oni called Fuwatty decides he wants to be a mascot character with his own line of merchandise. (Handy tip: it's bad for business for a shopkeeper to eat their own customers.)
The humans don't get that much characterisation, but it's not too bad for three-minute episodes. There's one fun character (the girl, Mika) and the three boys all have traits that let you distinguish them. Mika is cute most of the time, but if annoyed can become an aggressive, threatening thug. There's even a song about it in ep.6, as the boys go to peep on her in the shower. (Bad idea.) She also has a crush on Takurou, which makes her scary in ep.3. She's great. Of the three boys, Hiroshi is brainy, Takeshi is timorous and Takurou is a tough guy.
The animation's very cheap, by the way, but that's fine. It's a horror-comedy with no interest in realism.
It's fun. You'll have to be okay with everyone getting killed every three minutes, but I enjoyed the series. It's cute and it made me laugh. It's more memorable than most three-minute shows. I watched it partly because it only has three-minute episodes, so why not, but conversely I think it does well at inhabiting this format and making each episode feel as if it's the right length. I also particularly liked the way the last two episodes play with the show's format, giving the show a good ending. I'm even now interested in watching other versions of Ao Oni, even though I'm not expecting them to share this comedic tone.
Recommended. I think it entertained me more than any straight short-form horror anime I've seen recently, for a start.