The Spring 2019 Anime Preview Guide
Short Anime Roundup
This spring feels like the season of shorts, and I dunno if it's because there's so few big ticket full-length offerings, or if so many of the short series this year are over ten minutes long. Either way, we've got a lot to get through, so I'm going to start with all of the ones that run about a dozen minutes long, with the best at the top:
Senryū Girl is a HIDIVE short, and the only one of the season that I'm a hundred percent on board with. It's a painfully charming chronicle of the relationship between two people who have their own unique problems communicating: The titular Nanako has a hard time speaking, so she gathers her thoughts and writes everything she wants to say down in the form of senryu poems, verses written in a 5-7-5 syllable pattern that are similar to haiku. Her best friend (and possible romantic interest) is the gruff Eiji Busujima, a former delinquent whose beastly reputation at school precedes him, so much so that whenever he tries to have an honest conversation with someone they just run away in fear. The two join the Literature Club together, using senryu poetry and the power of friendship to make the most of their high school life. As a poetry nerd and a general sap, everything about this show appeals to me, and while the art isn't the strongest, Senru Girl makes up for its aesthetic shortcomings with intelligence and heart. If you make any time for a short this spring, it ought to be this one.
Next up is HIDIVE's “Why the Hell are You Here, Teacher!?”, which is the exact opposite of Senryū Girl in every way. It's a lewd-as-hell gag anime about the high school student Ichiro Sato, who is constantly put it supremely awkward sexual situations with his very intense teacher, Kana Kojima. I normally can't handle shows that hinge on student/teacher romance, but this one is just so over-the-top, and so unbelievably dumb, that I can't take it seriously enough to be mad at it. The first story of the episode involves Ichiro trapping himself in a restroom stall with Ms. Kojima as she's smack in the middle of a pee break, and the show uses the image of sputtering garden hoses to illustrate the kinky shenanigans that follow. Later, Ichiro discovers a sickly Kana in the school infirmary, and he somehow ends up blindfolded, attempting to insert a suppository in his teacher's sweaty, feverish butthole. This isn't a “good” show, but God help me, I chuckled a little at just how unashamed it was. If you need a raunchy sex comedy that doesn't eat up too much of your time, I suppose this one is as good as any other. You just might not want watch it in the presence of polite company.
AMAZING STRANGER is a Crunchyroll series about a man named Bouida Haruto, who has no love for any girls that aren't six inches tall and made of plastic. His favorite series is Planetary Explorer Girl, and he gets the shock of his life when he purchases a figurine of its heroine, Nona, only for her to come to life convinced that she's the real Nona, on a real reconnaissance mission on Earth. It's essentially “What if Buzz Light Year were a sexy anime girl that Andy was sexually attracted to?” If that premise makes you feel a little uncomfortable, then you're having the exact same reaction to AMAZING STRANGER that I had at first. Outside of some lame fan-service and gags about the figurine's boobs, though, the show is better than initially gave it credit for. Once Bouida realizes that Nona really is alive, he treats her with decency, and the dynamic between a hopelessly awkward otaku and one of his collectables could make for a decent setup, though the implicitly romantic angle is a bit awkward no matter how you slice it. The CG used to animate Nona is pretty sharp too, which means the short is at least okay to look at. This one might grow on me, so consider it worth checking out if you're curious.
Ao-chan Can't Study! is the third of the HIDIVE shorts, and it focuses on the titular Ao Horie, whose father Hanasaki is an infamous erotic manga artist, and also literally the size of a small housecat for some reason. Hanasaki is also an insane pervert, and named his daughter Ao so that she could someday show people her “Ao-face”. Over the years, she's grown to assume that all men are deranged sex pests like her dad, and avoids them at all costs, even her crush Takumi. This show is a real bummer, partially because the art is mediocre and the pacing is clunky, but mostly because it just isn't funny. The jokes are few and far between as it is, and the ones that are there don't land at all. That is, unless you find the concept of a gremlin man screaming about “tiddy pudding”, or the image of a pudding that has been shaped to look like a severed human breast, inherently amusing. Mostly, I just felt bad for Ao, which doesn't make for great incentive to keep up with a series.
The rest of the shorts are all equally terrible, and I don't think you should watch any of them. They're much shorter than the other series on this list, thankfully, so let's get them over with:
Yatogame-chan Kansatsu Nikki is a three minute Crunchyroll short about a guy named Jin who moves from Tokyo to Nagoya, which is located in Aichi Prefecture; it's a part of Japan that has a some unique customs and a dialect that many Japanese people apparently find to be humorously odd. According to Wikipedia, the pronunciation of a lot of words in the Nagoya dialect is similar to the sounds cats are associated with in Japanese, which I guess explains why the girl Jin makes friends with, Yatogame, looks and sounds like a cat. The whole show is about how people from Nagoya sound funny. That's it. The short even has a disclaimer up front about how it means well and isn't trying to offend anyone, which is always a good sign in 2019. It stinks. Avoid it, unless you have a deep need to learn about old-fashioned Japanese stereotypes.
Joshi Kausei is a three minute Crunchyroll Short that claims its gimmick to be that it doesn't feature any dialogue, but that masks the series' true focus: Thighs. Seriously, this who short was just a bunch of voyeuristic thigh shots of a high-school girl, strung together in a bit involving her friends trying to close her legs, because she's lying on her desk with them splayed open. Then a mosquito bites this girl's thigh, and she smacks it, leaving a handprint that makes other people she got spanked, I guess. That's literally the entire show. Also, the animation is awful, but whoever was in charge of this episode made sure to animate the main girl's thighs jiggling throughout. Throw this one out with the trash, please.
Nobunaga Teacher's Young Bride is the worst of the list, largely because its twice as long as the Thigh Anime, but just as gross. The Nobunaga featured in the title is a supposed descendant of the actual Nobunaga, except instead of a famous warlord he's a teacher who has no love life to speak of. That all changes when he discovers a young girl in his parents' storage shed one day, and learns that she is the real life spouse of the original Oda Nobunaga, Kicho. Kicho was a real woman, only here she's fourteen, and the heavens sent her to our Nobunaga because of some kind of clerical error or something, so here she is, offering her body to our bewildered protagonist. Hijinks ensue. I silently weep, and mourn the seven minutes of my life I will never get back from this ugly, lurid mess.
This season I have narrowed down the shorts category to its very essence. After much evaluation and a few sleepless nights, three distinct categories emerged with minimal crossover. I give you The Good, The Bad, and The Horny. One of these categories has far more entries than the other, can you guess which one? I won't keep you in suspense.
The Good: Senryū Girl. Admittedly this is a pretty weak “good.” Senryū Girl is sweet little romance between a delinquent that everyone misjudges because he's intimidating and never figured out how to smile properly and a girl who doesn't talk. Instead she communicates through senryu poetry that's similar to haiku. Both kids are in the same literature club where they goof off and try to write poems. The anime does a decent job of giving speechless Nanako a personality that isn't just a timid shrinking violet. This is a charming little romance but it's mostly fluff, so I wouldn't expect any capital-D drama.
The Bad: Yatogame-chan Kansatsu Nikki Tokyo boy moves to Nagoya and hopes to take in all the Nagoya culture but is disappointed that everyone doesn't talk with a thick dialect. He meets a cat-like girl and does his best to goad her into speaking and doing “Nagoya” things. Honestly, most of the humor flew over my head. If you aren't familiar with the stereotypes, nuances, and sites that make Nagoya different from Tokyo this will probably fly over your head too. The only successful joke that landed for me is when Yatogame accidentally said “chin chin” because I knew it was baby talk for penis but this wasn't explained with any kind of on screen TL note. Your mileage is really going to vary.
The Horny: Nobunaga Teacher's Young Bride I'll start with this one because it falls under my cross-section “bad horny.” Perpetually single 28-year-old teacher Oda Nobunaga is ready to settle for anyone, including his students. Lucky for him that a willing wife falls out of thin air and wants nothing more to sex him up. ALSO she's a 14-year-old time traveler, in this case the legendary Nobunaga's wife Kicho. Kicho doesn't even like her new “husband” but wives gotta fulfill their wifely duties and for that means bearing his children. So, hey, this is is all kinds of ick and I'm just not here for it. Nobunaga seems resistant to the idea of having a wife that young but he was more than touched when another student offered to date him if he's still single after she graduates. Your students aren't your potential dating pool, buddy, and I'd rather not get my fanservice from barely pubescent teens.
Ao-chan Can't Study! If Happosai had a daughter, she'd be Ao-chan. The poor girl as decided to get herself out of the horny hellhole that is her lewd father's house by ignoring romance entirely and becoming an academic whiz. It's working for the most part and she's managed to rebuff her classmate Takumi's interest in her, something she's sure is entirely sexually motivated. Except it's not. Takumi's a good dude! The show also a unique angle of being one of the few rom-coms where the female lead has a reasonable amount of sexual awareness. The relationship itself is pretty cute and while there's bound to be some sexy shenanigans, I'm rooting for these two.
Joshi Kausei In Senryū Girl the lead character only spoke through poems but in Joshi Kausei no one talks at all. The first episode is weird and it's hard to get a gauge on the characters' relationships to one another just through...thigh slapping. I mean, I guess they're familiar enough with one another that they CAN just give the ol' legs a jiggle? It reminded me just a little bit of Asobi Asobase in its unabashed humor but I can't say it was as successful.
AMAZING STRANGER Okay, this is thirsty Astro Boy. An otaku programmer comes to possess a figure of his favorite sci-fi anime heroine only to discover she's the real deal or suffering from a Buzz Lightyear type situation. He promises to help her continue her quest to collect data on planets while simultaneously hiding that it's all a ruse. The character designs for this show are very outdated; they would have been standard in the early 00s but this kind of hair and eye design aren't very common now. I specifically dislike the main guy's hair a lot but otherwise this could be kind of fun show if it moves beyond its Barbie nudity.
Why the Hell are You Here, Teacher!? This is porn. If Nobunaga's Young Wife is teasing the teacher-student scenario, Hell Teacher is fully committed to taking it all the way. You can't walk back asking a student to put a suppository in your butt. You are no longer in the “rom-com” zone, you are in “you better buy the Blu-ray for the real goods” territory. Which is what this is, it's edited porn airing on a Japanese satellite station. We've reached maximum horny.
Also Sumire Uesaka's voice is very good in this, I have nothing else to add.
Alright folks, the seasonal deluge is beginning to slow down, and it's time to assess some anime shorts! There were a truly absurd number of short anime releases this season, with many of their running times stretching beyond the four-minute standard into nearly half-episode lengths. But were any of them any good? Let's find out!
First off, I checked out Nobunaga Teacher's Young Bride, which opened strong by forcing me to click through no less than two (2) “are you over eighteen” barricades before revealing its smutty secrets. This show introduces us the twenty-eight-year-old Oda Nobunaga, a high school teacher who's apparently the descendant of the renowned general. When he breaks an old teacup in his shed, it transforms into a woman in a formal kimono, who introduces herself as Kichou, and explains she is destined to be Nobunaga's wife. Normally this is the point where hilarity would ensue, but this episode's sense of humor was incredibly basic, mostly leaning on stuff like loud overreactions and random nudity. This premise would theoretically lend itself well to culture clash shenanigans, but the only real example of that here is “this fourteen-year-old feels she must have sex with this twenty-eight-year old.” Moving on!
Yatogame-chan Kansatsu Nikki falls into an increasingly popular brand of anime short: goofy advertisements for various areas of Japan. In this case, the area in question is Nagoya, which we learn about through two high school students, Jin and Monaka. This episode is mostly spent making fun of Monaka for her Nagoya accent, which would presumably be hilarious if I already possessed a bunch of humorous preconceptions about people from Nagoya. Seeing as I have no preconceptions about Nagoya whatsoever, basically all of this episode's gags flew well over my head, except for “Monaka is like a cat.” That one was pretty cute. Continuing!
Next up we've got Joshi Kausei, a high school club show about three girls whose gimmick is that none of the characters ever talk. That could theoretically lead to a pretty compelling reduction of this genre to its fundamental tonal/emotional intent, since shows like this are often more about creating a warm atmosphere than outright jokes. Instead, it turned out to just be a very horny advertisement for one of the girl's powerful thighs. Weak production values, no jokes, and middling success even in terms of straight fanservice. Next!
I also watched Why the Hell are You Here, Teacher!?, which is a sex comedy that is basically summed up by its own title. Protagonist Ichiro Sato keeps coming across his teacher in increasingly compromising situations, with this episode's entire first half taking place with his teacher on the toilet. Unlike Joshi Kausei, this episode definitely knows how to set up a sexually charged scene, and even has the production values to make its characters look genuinely attractive. That, plus its general understanding of comedic escalation (something facilitated by this show having a long enough running time to actually let things escalate), placed this one at the top of this season's many horny comedies.
Finally, I checked out Senryū Girl, about a girl whose gimmick is that she only communicates through a specific kind of haiku. Our heroine here is Nanako, who has a crush on a guy named Eiji. In spite of its contrived premise, I had the most fun with this of any of these premieres - the comedy was lukewarm, but it was at least coherent, and Nanako and Eiji already have a very charming rapport. I'm generally a fan of romances where the characters are actually friends with each other prior to any romantic developments; setups like that allow them to establish genuine chemistry, as opposed to just pining for each other from afar. This episode did a very solid job of developing their relationship, and when you couple that with the show's generally compelling production values, you end up with my easy pick for the top short of the season. Congratulations Senryū Girl, you get the gold star this time!
My goodness there are a lot of shorts this season!
I decided to start with AMAZING STRANGER, and it's a little like a watered-down and fanservicey version of the movie GalaxyQuest. Tiny space-exploring robot Nona may or may not be a real person, which is what's intriguing about the premise – is she really who she says she is and she's been in stasis for far longer than she ever imagined, or is she simply a highly advanced figure who thinks the story of her anime series is real? The latter is what Haruto is going with, but it seems just as likely that the “giant carver” she met when she arrived on Earth somehow put her to sleep and then used what she told him to pen a popular show. Whatever the case, Haruto is determined not to let her know that her supposed origins may be fictional, and it could be interesting to see how long he can pull that off. The twelve-minute format makes it possible that the series could work with the plot well enough that it doesn't drag and still develops. I don't love the CG used for Nona or the random boob-and-butt shots, but this does feel like it has some potential.
Joshi Kausei, on the other hand, doesn't quite work. The entire premise is that it's about silent high school girls, and while that could be funny, this just left me with a nasty taste in my mouth. The entire three-and-a-half minute episode is about how one girl, Momoko, is sitting with her legs apart on the desk, apparently scandalizing the other two girls in the show, Mayuri and Shibumi. Because it's a no-words story, Mayuri and Shibumi both just grab Momoko's legs and try to slam them shut. Even if I wasn't annoyed by the poor girl not being able to sit how she wants by herself in a room, it all just feels like an excuse for lame yuri-flavored fanservice shots of girls and open legs, with bonus mosquito slapping. I'll pass, thanks.
Nobunaga Teacher's Young Bride was also kind of annoying, albeit for different reasons. Parts of the premise are kind of fun – the fact that Nobunaga's family somehow has the same names as the original's (did his dad specifically look for a wife with the right name?) and that our hero is actually well aware that he's really not his famous ancestor both work. I also like that Kichou's view of sex is completely fine for her time period and absolutely not okay today, at least in terms of her age. But then Nobunaga's family starts blaming him for Kichou's actions in one breath while sending him home with her in the next, and I just got irritated. If you're into ecchi harem comedies, I think this may end up paying off, but it hits on a few too many of my least favorite aspects of the genre for me. As a point of interest, I did watch the uncensored version because I don't like censorship (even if I don't want to see it, I'll be damned if someone tries to tell me I can't), and at this point that really only matters for one scene where Kichou strips.
How familiar you are with stereotypes about Nagoya will probably determine how much you enjoy with stereotypes about Nagoya will probably determine how much you enjoy Yatogame-chan Kansatsu Nikki, because that's where the central conceit is: a guy moves to Nagoya and only one person fits his preconceived notions about what people there are like. It's cute-ish, but Yatogame's catlike looks and nature have been overdone by this point, and apart from the fact that she's only a regional stereotype because she was raised by her grandmother (implying old-fashioned and out-of-touch), there's really nothing special here. At least if you're as unfamiliar with Nagoya as I am.
I was tentatively looking forward to Ao-chan Can't Study!, because I've been reading the manga, which Kodansha is releasing digitally. The episode itself, one of the longest shorts at almost fourteen minutes, showcases more of what's off-putting than fun about the story. Ao's dad mostly fills out the former category. Presumably drawing him as a perpetual chibi is meant to indicate that he's harmless and funny, but I just find him to be a contender for Worst Parent in an Anime or Manga. He's an erotic novelist, but rather than keeping that as just his job, he allows it to influence how he raises his daughter. We're not talking that he's just sex-positive; rather he uses phrases like “she's in heat” and humiliates her in front of a boy at school, to say nothing of the “tiddy pudding” and telling her that her name is Ao as in “show me your ah-oh face.” Poor Ao herself is horribly embarrassed by him and uncomfortable with his crap, and he's mostly gotten in the way of her having friends or seeing guys as human beings. As a manga reader, I do know that things get better as she starts to get to know Kijima, the guy who likes her much to her discomfort, and she realizes that life and love is far from what her dad sells in his books. If you've got a low tolerance for the dad, the manga's more the way to go, or if you want to see “erotic novelist as career” used in a lighter way, read Peach Heaven.
Like Joshi Kausei, Senryū Girl tries just a little too hard with its central conceit. This time it's that high school girl Nanako only communicates in senryu poems, a three-line format with a 5-7-5 syllable count. She explains it as she's got too much going on in her head to organize her thoughts and therefore has a hard time speaking, and senryu force her to make sense by making her adhere to a specific rhythm. I'm willing to buy that; we all have our own weird little coping mechanisms, after all. But thirteen minutes of senryu-based jokes is a bit much, especially since the friendship/romance between Nanako and her thuggish-looking classmate Eiji takes a back seat to it. This may develop into a cute romance or friendship story now that it's established the whole poem thing, but if it doesn't only fans of this specific form of verse may find much to enjoy.
This season saw the biggest batch of shorts that we've had it at least a couple of years, including the biggest batch of half-episode series that I can ever remember seeing at one time. I covered a couple of the latter separately, so here's a breakdown of the rest:
AMAZING STRANGER – This one might actually have some potential. At 12½ minutes long, it spins the tale of a supposed galactic explorer unit called Nona who's the size of a doll and has wound up in the home of an otaku. The conceit here is that she's unaware, unlike her otaku host, that she's actually a character from an anime series, so he decides to play along. The mystery is, of course, how this happened, but for the moment that doesn't matter. Everything is in place for this to be a fun little series, including the promise of additional figures Nona's size coming to life.
Ao-chan Can't Study! – This is another 12.5 minute series which also looks like it's going to feature some fan service. In this case titular Ao hates all men (in part because of her father, a famous erotic novelist) and tries to avoid them to stay focused on her study goals. The problem is that one of her male classmates seems to take an interest in her, and her efforts to discourage him not only flounder comically badly but give her the first few flutters of romance. Decent, but nothing especially inspired.
Joshei Kausei – This 3½ minute short focuses on the random activities of a trio of girls, with the gimmick being that there's no dialog. In this case the first episode focuses on explaining why one of the girls is being looked at funny by a male passenger on a train, with the eventual revelation that he was looking at a slap mark on her leg that could easily be mistaken for a molestation attempt but which actually resulted from her attempting to swat an insect. It also has some mildly funny scenes involving the same girls laying on desks in a way that could expose herself and how her friends react to that. Lightly amusing overall and with solid technical merits.
Nobunaga Teacher's Young Bride – This 7½ minute short, which is available in uncensored form, is kept mercifully short, and even that is too long. Its basic premise is that a family in the modern era shares names with the Sengoku-era family of Oda Nobunaga, so when the original Oda's 14-year-old bride somehow shows up in modern times, she immediately pursues what she sees as her wifely duties by trying to get the modern Oda (who had been lamenting not having a girlfriend) to impregnate her. It's trying to pitch the contrast between modern and centuries-old sensibilities about marriage, but it mostly comes off as crass, and the scene where Oda is happy that a student agrees to date him once she graduates doesn't help. Best to have a high tolerance for fan service which may include lolis for this one.
Senryū Girl – In terms of being purely charming, this 12 minute entry is easily the strongest of the shorts and will compete with Helpful Fox Senko-san for the seasonal title. It features a girl who, when she speaks at all, only speaks in senryu (poems similar in construction to haiku but far less serious and typically about human foibles rather than nature). A weird gimmick, to be sure, but it works because of her bright, winning smile, cute methods for getting around having to say much, and camaraderie with the boy who's widely seen as the class delinquent but is something of a poet himself. It's fluff and shares some of the same delinquent jokes as Kono Oto Tomare!, but just try to watch a full episode and not be won over by its sweetness.
Why the Hell are You Here, Teacher!? – This 12 minute series is a fan service-laden affair about a male high school student who keeps accidentally finding himself in embarrassing and compromising situations with a female teacher. In this episode it's one who has a reputation for being demonic normally, though other sexy female teachers are featured in the opener. If you find suppositories and someone holding in pee to be sexy then you might like this one, but it's definitely aimed only at a certain kind of kink.
Yatogame-chan Kansatsu Nikki – This 3½ minute short seems largely predicated on a boy who moves to Tokyo from Nagoya and has fun teasing a girl over her regional accent. It's even less funny than it sounds like it isn't, I think in large part because a lot of the jokes not only don't translate well but also require intimate regional knowledge. Easily the most forgettable series (much less short) of the season.
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