The Fall 2018 Anime Preview Guide
Fall 2018 Shorts
Himote House – So setting aside the basic CG animation of this 12 minute endeavor, this is a pretty bizarre variation on the whole “protagonist gets a bunch of new roommates” concept. Lots of extreme personalities, followed by a scene where the five young women decide to show off their panties to each other in an effort to distinguish them for laundry duty. Okay, so that's odd (and it's not fanservicey either), but then super-powers are suddenly thrown into the mix, including the central character having one that she didn't know about. Where the heck did that come from? The episode recovers at the end with a naturalistic scene about a kiss-faking game, but between its unpalatable visuals and its nonsense concept, I can't see watching any more of it.
Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san – Despite having equally basic animation (though in an entirely different style), Honda-kun is everything that Himote House isn't. Within just the first couple of minutes, I easily understood why it got voted in for weekly coverage this season despite being only a 12-minute short. The skull-headed guy isn't necessarily the oddest of the booksellers, and all sorts of bizarre stuff seems to be going on in the back room, but the slightly exaggerated tone is consistent, poking fun at all sorts of shopper stereotypes and odd requests without being mean-spirited; just about anyone who's ever shopped in a bookstore can probably recognize themselves as “that person” at some point in their lives. The biggest key to its success is probably the pacing, though. Whereas Himote House tried to be funny by charging ahead at breakneck speed, this one carefully measures its comedy steps, and it comes off much better for it. As long as you don't expect any stellar animation quality and don't mind a lot of jokes about BL, it's well worth checking out.
Jingai-san no Yome – At a mere 3 minutes, it's the shortest of this season's shorts and also the only one of the lot with a more standard animation style. It's easily as weird as the other two, but in an utterly different way; a teenage boy has suddenly found himself as the appointed wife of some big furry creature. The changeup of gender expectations is quite interesting and takes some getting used to, but it's somehow nowhere near as perverse as it seems like it should be; it's even a bit charming and funny.
First up for this season's shorts roundup, we've got the wonderfully absurd Jingai-san no Yome, which seems determined to take the monster girl genre all the way to its logical end. In Jingai-san, our protagonist Tomari Hinowa swiftly learns he's going to be marrying a giant monster that looks something like a cross between a yeti, a mudkip, and a bean bag chair. That's pretty much all we get in this episode; with its three minute runtime half-consumed by its adorably strange OP, there's really not much room for storytelling. Fortunately, that OP is itself so delightful that I left this episode with very warm feelings on the whole, and quickly jumped to the next one. In Jingai-san's second episode, we get a much better feel for how the show will play out, as we ran through a series of domestic situations that basically all ended in either Tomari being enraptured by his new wife's fuzzy fur or having his head chewed on. Jingai-san manages to send up the inherent absurdity of the monster girl subgenre while also succeeding as an earnest and very silly slice of life in its own right, making it an easy recommendation among this season's shorts.
Next up, we've got Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san, which manages to fit its whole hook right there into the title. Honda-san is, unsurprisingly, about a bookseller who is also a skeleton. His skeleton-ness isn't particularly remarked-upon or even necessarily remarkable—his coworkers include all manner of costumed monsters, so he actually fits in pretty well. Honda-san's deadpan approach to its own premise is basically the show's comedy in a nutshell; Honda himself is a very mild-mannered and altogether reasonable guy, and his supportive but fatigued reactions to a battery of foreigners' book requests made for a pretty charming watch. I didn't feel Honda-san quite had the legs to support an eleven minute running time, and the show's so visually conservative it basically just looks like a flash cartoon, but the style of comedy presented here is unique and well-executed enough that I'd definitely recommend it to anyone seeking more comedies this season.
Finally, I also checked out the visually abominable HIMOTE HOUSE, which features the worst use of CG character models I've seen in recent memory. The show's character models possess a stiffness that never threatens to graduate into Kemono Friends' style of charming incompetence, instead simply looking dead-eyed and inhuman from start to finish. The storytelling is all very generic slice of life setup as well, so you're not really missing anything by skipping this one.
All in all, this season's shorts seem to be occupying their usual role of filling out the season's comedy contenders. While HIMOTE HOUSE was a bust, both Honda-san and Jingai-san each nailed a unique and fairly charming style of comedy. They both get solid recommendations from me!
There are only a scant few shorts to cover this season, so let's get right down to it!
First up is Himote House, which follows Minamo, Enishi, Tae, Kokoro, and Kinami, five girls who all possess supernatural powers and need to figure out how to get along and live together under one roof. While this might sound like an ideal setup for a fast-paced short sitcom, I'm sorry to say that Himote House is not good at all. The art and animation are the first and most immediate issues; the CG on display is simply dreadful, mixing a low frame count with textures and facial animations that look straight out of a budget PS2 title from the mid-2000s. This isn't a case where strong writing can save a poor aesthetic either – Himote House's script probably could have accommodated a regular half-hour series, but the show makes the unfortunate decision to simply deliver all of the jokes twice as fast, and almost none of them are funny. Late in the episode, the girls get into an extended conversation about how they wash their bras and what kind of underwear they all favor; not only is this bit not funny, but it also feels like it's trying come across as a “realistic” conversation between women while also working way too hard to pander to an audience. Himote House may have only been twelve-minutes long, but it felt like it lasted for hours. Avoid this one at all costs.
Next up is Jingai-san no Yome, which is mercifully short at only three minutes long. This is a strange one, and even after watching two episodes, I still haven't wrapped my head around it. The first episode isn't even what I would call an “episode”; it's just a single scene showing our protagonist Tomari Hinowa waking up and walk to school, where he is called to the faculty office and informed that he's being married off to a furry beast we only catch a glimpse of before the credits roll. It isn't until the second episode that we get the gags from the four-panel manga in their proper context, with Tomari having suddenly become the “wife” to Kanenogi, a giant bear-dog-otter-thing that eats concrete and apparently doesn't know how to use doors. The only real joke outside of the bizarre nature of the situation is that Tomari is becoming enamored with his new spouse's fur. Honestly, this premise just raises far too many questions for me to be able to enjoy it as a slice-of-life gag series. Do all high-schoolers get married off to monsters in this world? Do Tomari's parents know or care that he's become the child-bride to a concrete-eating demon that doesn't even speak? Is Tomari's obsession with Kanenogi's fur supposed to be read as sexual? What about the “love bites” that Kanenogi gives Tomari?
What I'm saying is, Jingai-san no Yome is likely going to haunt my dreams with its thinly-veiled horror story about a young boy trapped in an arranged marriage with an otherworldly abomination that may or may not crave human flesh. I don't even know if this is a recommendation or not – just take it as you will.
Last but most certainly not least is Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san, which is about exactly what is says on the tin. Take one awkward but well-intentioned skeleton, make him a clerk in a book store, and then toss as many equally well-intentioned middle-aged men and foreign fujoshi into the mix, and you have a recipe for a fun and likable eleven-minute short. I really dug the series' animation, which reminded me of the old Flash animations I used to gorge myself on as a kid – it fits Honda-san's quirky tone, and it works well with the script's comedic pacing. The voice actors were all top notch too; not only does Sōma Saitō perfectly capture Honda's frazzled likability, but the use of English for the foreign characters works surprisingly well. Despite playing up well-known stereotypes about Westerners, especially the otaku amongst us, both Honda-san the show and Honda-san the skeleton have a genuine respect for the customer base that balances out the awkward comedy. I'm glad at least one short series this Fall will be worth keeping up with, and it feels appropriate that it would be the one about the dorky skull-boy and his many piles of (non) “Special YAOI!” books.
I'll say this for Jingai-san no Yome – the creature designs are adorable and just creative enough to stand out. The big, fluffy monster is of course the highlight, even if we don't get to see her do much more than show up at school and pick her husband out of a yearbook. (What the hell kind of school provides that service?) But her ferret-like body wiggles amusingly when she's dancing in the ending theme, and it looks like she and her new hubby get along well enough, so…sure. It's very cute. Likewise the one-eyed crow girls and the mummy without knees make for interesting takes on the usual creature designs, so if nothing else, this looks like it will be a visually unique piece, even if it doesn't seem set to use its three minute runtime in a particularly efficient manner.
That's a world away from Himote House, which has some singularly unpleasant art in the clumsy CG style. The twelve minutes I spent watching this felt interminable – as if I was watching a show about young women made by people who had never actually met a young woman. By the time the full-on laundry discussion started and devolved into “let's show each other our underwear so we can see if we're going to mix them up,” I was ready to hit my head against a wall. (I grew up in a house with five women, and I can assure you this was literally never an issue…and also that it wasn't a big deal to walk someone's misplaced laundry to their room if I got my sister's shirt or something.) By the time the psychic powers were revealed, it was too late – the chief gimmick feels more like it's going to be about the five ladies and their cat being five ladies and a cat rather than the fact that they can read minds, shoot energy beams, etc. Thanks, but no thanks.
By far my favorite short, however, is Skull Face Bookseller Honda-san. Not just because he's a guy who looks like a skeleton working in a bookstore, which is entertaining in and of itself, but because the episode so perfectly captures what it's like to work someplace where people come looking for books. I help out at my local library, and there are definitely similarities, from the parent coming in looking for something they don't understand that their kid wants to the enthusiastic fanboys-and-girls gushing over in the teen or manga section, this show really gets it. Honda's encounters with the foreign fujoshi is also interesting because of the way it highlights differences in cultural reactions to what you read. While some people certainly aren't comfortable reading or buying BL or similarly sexually explicit books in the US, I've just as often seen people openly reading them on public transportation or loudly discussing them in the romance or manga sections of bookstores. Honda's reaction to this type of fan is funny without feeling like he's deprecating the readers, and that speaks well to the kind of bookstore humor we can expect to come – non-judgmental, but pointing out the silly idiosyncrasies of readers that, while maybe not strictly universal, are certainly relatable.
Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san is easily the most intriguing of this season's new short titles. As the title suggests, it's the story of a skeleton who works in a bookstore, specifically one that specializes in manga. The series makes the simultaneously odd and brilliant decision to completely ignore the fact that Honda is a skeleton, along with the fact that his coworkers all seem to wear bizarre masks. As a result, we're treated to the bizarre image of a skeleton in a bookstore uniform having relatively normal conversations with a variety of zany patrons. The first episode clocks in at around twelve minutes, which is enough time for him to deal with a befuddled foreign dad shopping for his daughter, a rogue's gallery of BL fans, and a few other folks thrown in for good measure. It's weird, it's funny, and it's nicely paced to draw plenty of jokes out of each interaction without running too long. I'm hoping Honda-san will find enough time in the season to poke fun at manga readers of all types, and I enjoyed the first episode enough that I'll probably stick with it.
Jingai-san no Yome comes in with another unusual premise, but its three-minute episodes are proving to be a problem at the moment. The show's premiere is particularly rough, as it dedicates half of its time to a standard-length theme song. That leaves just enough time to introduce the basic setup of a high school boy getting married to a giant fluffy creature, which is apparently no big deal. The second episode wisely cuts down the length of the credit sequence, but even it barely manages to cover the two newlyweds moving in together. I want to like this show, but it's clearly in desperate need of a longer format.
On the other hand, Himote House seems entirely too long for its own good. Clocking in at around the same length as Honda-san, this comedy follows a quintet of girls with zany personalities who all live in the same house. The catch is that they all have unusual abilities, like mind-reading or self-multiplication. The other catch is that, apart from a few still-frame flashbacks, the whole thing is animated in bargain basement CG style. Character models are awkward, motions are stiff, and holy crap it's hard to watch. If this were just a low-budget series about five roommates shooting the breeze, it might just be tolerably bland. Factor in the visuals and it becomes actively bad. Stick with the skeleton dude and steer clear of these ladies.
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