The Curious Case of Short-Form Anime

Normally one of the biggest things that stands out about anime when one thinks about it is sweeping large-scale narrative of a type that, until recent decades, has been harder to find in mainstream Western animation. But in reality, anime is a very diverse breed, and today I’d like to dedicate a little time to examining a different and in my mind highly interesting subset that we have been seeing more and more of lately: short-form anime.

In the simplest terms, short-form anime are series with very short episode lengths; unlike the usual 22-24 minute episodes, short-form can run from 15 minutes to as little as 2 minutes per episode, and as such they will often be presented more as a series of vignettes loosely connected by the cast of characters, or as a very basic story-line made up of such vignettes or even individual scenes. Quite a few are adaptations of manga, particularly 4-koma strips as these lend themselves easily to a short episode length; others are spinoffs of existing anime  or live-action franchises. A more meta concept are the likes of Studio Trigger’s Space Patrol Luluco, which is set in the connected universe of the studio’s other properties, acting as a kind of whistle-stop tour of various Trigger worlds, including another of their short-form series Inferno Cop, yet it has its own individual story.

kaijugirls_fi

This season’s Kaiju Girls is based on minor monsters from Tsuburaya Productions’ live-action Ultra series.

The subject matter of short-form shows can vary widely, but the vast majority of them are firmly planted in the comedy genre and can range from general jokes and funny situations to madcap screwball antics delivered at a machine-gun pace. Speaking personally I’m not so fond of the latter; the Japanese comedy trope of delivering lukewarm comedy dialogue at a pace that is almost too fast for subtitles to keep up with is something that I’m simply not grabbed by, and thus shows like Teekyu tend to lose me very quickly.

Oshiete! Galko-chan 8 4-noscale.jpg

Galko-chan is both funny and strangely enlightening. Highly recommended!

For me what appeals to me the most about short-form is the wide breadth of unusual concepts that likely wouldn’t be able to  stand up in a full-length anime production. Orenchi no Furo Jijō explores the daily trials of a young man who has a needy merman living in his bathtub, Bananya is a hidden camera documentary about tiny cats living in banana skins, and Please Tell Me Galko-chan features a trio of high-school girls discussing… feminine biology (but seriously, watch Galko-chan, it’s a great show). And if surreal situations aren’t really your thing there are always simpler concept anime like Bonjour Sweet Love Patisserie (a recommendation from my partner who often prefers her anime more on the sensible side) or the classic high school slice-of-life show Azumanga Daioh! which, while released as compiled full-length episodes in the west, was originally broadcast as short segments in keeping with the original 4-koma and can easily be watched in its individual parts if you so wish.

1181364121998

No really, Azumanga is one of the more everyday short anime I’ve watched so far.

Since I’ve started keeping a finger on the pulse of the current anime scene in the last year I have begun to develop a fondness for short-form as a concept. As a Western fan watching a lot of these shows after their original air-dates and thus having access to an entire series at once, the short, sharp bursts of fun are great ways to kill a few minutes, and their brevity even allows you to watch a little anime on the go without worrying too much about losing track of time if you need to be somewhere; I once found an odd sense of amusement from watching Galko-chan in a Subway on my lunch break! Before bed, on public transport, while waiting for friends or family to arrive, the opportunities to get in a quick blast of anime are everywhere, and short-form shows are ready and waiting to fill in these little voids. I highly recommend that you check some out, after all, it won’t take you very long!

Advertisements

9 Comments

  1. I find it really hard to connect with short form anime. There are a couple of shows I’ve watched through to the end in this format but normally after a couple of episodes I’m over the gimmick of the show and just kind of stop watching. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this format.

    Like

  2. Initially, I didn’t pay much mind to these shorter anime formats but as time passed and they grew more frequent and varied a couple attracted my attention. I think this change in style is indicative of the medium changing – there’s a lot of different ways anime is being produced and aired these days and I think these shorter shows are a part of this shift towards a more diverse format.

    Luluco was the show that pushed me into believing these shorter shows had real potential. The brevity and pacing of Luluco really lent itself to and embodied Imaishi’s style and I can’t imagine a more perfect formatting for the show. I still have to get around to watching Galko-chan. I’m still a little skeptical of the 3-minute shorts that make their rounds every season as most of them have failed to impress but I’m none the less excited about these changes and the promise some of these shows represent. Thanks for the write up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I must admit I haven’t actually seen Luluco yet; I’ve only heard about it from anime podcasts so it’s good to get a positive opinion on it outside of those particular voices!
      As for the glut of super-short series, I totally see where you’re coming from. I don’t believe many of them are designed for general viewing; rather they appeal directly to an audience with a specific taste. For example I admit that Kaiju Girls is a fairly generic comedy web series, but since I was a big Godzilla fan as a child I find the concept more appealing than someone who doesn’t much care for Kaiju.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I never considered that the format supports plots or themes that probably wouldn’t hack it as a full-length anime series. Being able to increase the variety of series that can receive anime adaptions sort of makes short form anime kind of special in a way, doesn’t it?

    Thank you for sharing.

    Like

  4. As a HUGE fan of ONE PIECE…which as we all know, is one of the longest-running series airing today with a constantly expanding universe, you can say that I prefer long series over the short ones. However, that doesn’t mean to say that I don’t appreciate short series. I notice, though, that I don’t connect as much with shorter anime compared to the longer ones. For this reason, I don’t really go out of my way to look for and prioritize watching short anime. But when I’m in the mood, I do watch them here and there. Anyway, this has been an interesting post to read. Thanks for sharing this post to my blog carnival. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the input Arria! Usually I find them a fun, low-effort distraction more than something I can connect with per se, but there is always the odd exception. Azumanga for example gives me fond memories of my university days as I first watched it with new uni friends. For the most part though, I find short-form something quick and fun, sometimes something common for my girlfriend and I to laugh about together!

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re very welcome. I understand. Indeed, short series are mostly low-effort way to pass the time. I watched some Azumanga when I was in my early teens, but I don’t remember much of it anymore. I don’t think I appreciate it before. Perhaps I’ll check it out again one of these days. Anyway, thanks again. Cheers!

        Liked by 1 person

Trackbacks

  1. Last Week Today: Week End Recap- Nov. 6th to Nov. 12th | Nice Job Breaking It, Hero
  2. Best Posts Round-Up of the 7th Fujinsei Blog Carnival | Fujinsei

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: