The Winter 2019 Anime Preview Guide
Winter 2019 Shorts
With the season's premieres all basically done, it's time to round up some short anime. Let's see what this season has to offer!
First up, we've got Rinshi!! Ekoda-chan, which is unfortunately almost impossible to evaluate based on its first episode. Starring the rambling and frequently naked Ekoda, a young woman with a pile of part-time jobs, this first episode was mostly just a series of vaguely amusing disconnected anecdotes, detailing the trials of her daily life. While this first episode was pretty unremarkable, this production's gimmick is that every single episode will be handled by a different studio and in a different dramatic/visual style. I didn't find this premiere great, but the show's overall concept is fascinating, and I might return just to see how completely this show reinvents itself every week.
Next up, there's Katana Maidens: Mini Toji, a spinoff to a show that itself never really made any waves in the first place. There's nothing to really sink into here if you're not a fan of the original Katana Maidens, and even then, this is mostly just a procession of hyperactive and underwritten gags, along with little sequences designed to highlight the show's various quasi-romantic pairings. This one's about as easy of a skip as they come.
We've also got a second spinoff this season, a Rainy Cocoa side property called “Side G.” Whether this one is intended to stand alone or not is honestly hard to tell based on this premiere - it's only two minutes, half of that is taken up by the opening song, and the rest of it features several girls engaging in the first third of a conversation. As in, they're talking about working part-time, one of them asks “why do we have to work part-time anyway?”, and then the episode ends. Chopping your short anime up into incoherent fragments for weekly release is certainly one possible strategy, but I can't say I found it an effective one.
Finally, the last major short of the season is How Clumsy you are, Miss Ueno, a half-length quasi-romcom about a middle schooler named Ueno trying to get her crush Tanaka to notice her. Our heroine Ueno is certainly something, but I'm not sure clumsy is the word for it - in this first episode, for example, she spends the whole first half trying to get Tanaka to drink her purified pee. The show's consistent gross-out humor is executed pretty well, with the comic escalation of that first skit naturally leading to a surreal conflating of pee-drinking and romantic dedication. Miss Ueno also has a fairly attractive aesthetic, with its simplified character models allowing for lots of wildly expressive faces.
On the whole, while none of these shorts truly grabbed me, I'd say Ekodachan's very unique production method makes it the most compelling of the bunch. Between its diverse episodic style and the inclusion of lengthy director interviews with each episode, it seems like Ekodachan will at the very least provide a uniquely thorough glimpse into the anime production process.
This season's new shorts include a couple of spin-offs, starting with Katana Maidens: Mini Toji. Based on last year's “girls with swords” action series, Mini Toji features the chibi versions of main and supporting characters having comedic misadventures. The first episode is a recap of the main series and is entirely too short to be useful for newcomers, but the content of the second episode seems like it could be amusing enough to merit three minutes a week if you're a returning fan. The art and animation aren't exactly stellar, but they're good enough to make the relatively static conversational scenes work.
Then we have Rainy Cocoa side G, which is a sequel of sorts to the various seasons of Rainy Cocoa, but swaps out the male characters of previous versions for a predominantly female cast. I'm not entirely sure what the thinking behind that change is, since I'd imagine that if you watched the original for the handsome anime boys, the new characters probably won't do much to rekindle your interest. The show's technical merits are more or less average, but the short running time seems to be working against it; after two episodes, SideG still hasn't quite gotten around to explaining its premise. I assume the characters will eventually end up working at a café, but at this rate it'll take them another month to get there.
Rinshi!! Ekoda-chan is more of a remake than a spinoff, as it's apparently the second anime adaptation of a manga series. This one's potentially interesting if you're in the market for something completely different every week, as its main selling point is that each episode is being put together by a different production team. If you're curious about who made each episode, don't worry; while the episodes themselves are about three minutes in length, each one is followed by enough cast and crew interviews to pad the total running time out to around twenty-six minutes. I'm not sure I have the patience to sit through that much behind-the-scenes material, but it could be interesting to see what each team does with the same basic premise.
Finally, we have How Clumsy you are, Miss Ueno, which runs longer the rest at around twelve minutes per episode. It sets up a fairly standard comedy dynamic with science club president Ueno trying to find a way to confess her love for her clueless classmate Tanaka. Rather than just coming out and saying what's on her mind, Ueno comes up with a variety of elaborate inventions to force Tanaka into potentially intimate situations. Many of the jokes land on the raunchy end of the scale, but the timing and delivery are good enough to make the show work as long as you're not put off by its sense of humor. Of the season's new short series, this one might be the most appealing for the average viewer.
Rinshi!! Ekoda-chan is the sort of anime meant to appeal to women around my age that doesn't actually work for me. It's very caught up in the perceived realities of being a single, childless woman who works a lot, and while I don't doubt that it holds a lot of truths (you know, not wearing clothes would save on laundry!), she mostly comes off as kind of annoying. That may also be the result of the stream-of-consciousness style of storytelling; she's basically narrating the episode in bed with her boyfriend. That's neat, and her statement about life in the countryside being kind of like the Urashima Taro story is funny, but she herself in both the first and second episodes didn't do it for me. The idea behind the show – different directors for each episode – and the fact that there's 23 minutes of commentary after 3 minutes of animation – is neat, but this one just isn't working for me.
Rainy Cocoa side G, on the other hand, doesn't give itself nearly enough time to do much of anything. With a two-minute run-time, the first episode doesn't even really manage to introduce the plot, although we can guess that Yoko needs her friends to help her out at the café from the original series. It's more like “bite of life” than “slice of life” at this length, and while it certainly looks pretty, I'd hazard a guess that this will be much more enjoyable binged when the whole thing is out than watching it week by week.
I barely got through all twelve minutes of How Clumsy you are, Miss Ueno, mostly because I found it off-putting and annoying. (In fact, I kept turning the volume down as the episode went on.) When the opening gag is the eponymous Miss Ueno trying to get her crush to drink her purified urine because she made it, my gag reflexes kicked right in. I can see what the joke was going for – it's a gag based on the romance trope of girls baking or knitting or otherwise making something themselves for the guy they like. Miss Ueno's romantically inept and scientifically-minded, so this is her version of it. Likewise her attempts to get Tanaka to be excited to look up her skirt are a variation on the “this is my new bikini” plotline, and I admire the show's commitment to creativity on both fronts. But by the second half of the episode Ueno herself annoyed me so much that I wanted to slam my laptop closed. If she doesn't irritate you, there's probably a very funny send up of romance tropes here. It's just not for me.
Katana Maidens: Mini Toji – This series of 3½ minute episodes is based on 2017's full-length Katana Maidens, albeit with all of the characters in chibified form. The rapid-moving first segment pokes fun at just about all the major cast members and looks like it should be a silly diversion for fans of the original series. Those who haven't seen the original will have trouble keeping up. Pretty funny if you have seen it, though!
RinshiII Ekodachan – Actually this one is 3½ minutes of animation attached to 23 minutes of a live-action discussion of the topics and behaviors brought up in the animated part, done by the director and titular voice actress for each episode. Yep, the big gimmick here is that each episode has a different director and seiyuu, with some big names among them; so far through two episodes they've included Akitarō Daichi and Romi Park. The animated content isn't shy, either, with Ekoda usually shown naked and often with a different guy in her bed each time. Looks like the series is going to traverse the realities for young single women. While the animation has been hit-or-miss so far, the content shown is interesting. It definitely isn't your typical anime fare.
Rainy Cocoa side G – These shorts are a mere two minutes, including a 30 second opener, and that isn't enough time. Though an extension of a multi-season franchise, this new installment changes things up by featuring all female characters in a semi-serious, normally-animated content. There could be an actual story here, but the abrupt episode cut-offs and running time are severely constraining so far.
How Clumsy you are, Miss Ueno - This one had two 12 minute episodes available by the time I had to submit this, but my tolerance level for it only barely got me through the first. It's about a middle school boy dealing with the high-strung Science Club President who's a genius inventor and has a serious crush on him, but he's oblivious. While I'm assuming that this is supposed to be funny, the first half of the first episode was an unentertaining routine about drinking filtered urine and the second half was an equally eye-rolling sequence about at what angles you can successfully look up a girl's skirt. Hopefully real humor enters the picture eventually because the first episode definitely doesn't cut it.
We'll start this recapping this season's small list of short series with with How Clumsy you are, Miss Ueno, which is streaming on HIDIVE. It's easily the longest series on this list, with the first episode clocking in at fifteen minutes, and it's also easily the raunchiest short series of the season. The basic premise is that the titular Miss Ueno is a middle-school-cum-mad-scientist who uses her technological savviness to rope in her crush, Tanaka, as an assistant, in increasingly bizarre attempts to woo him. The first skit of the episode involves Ueno trying to get poor Tanaka to drink her own pee, which she has passed through a hyper-efficient filtration system; the second skit has her developing a projection system that fills any void with imagery of the vast expanses of the universe, and Ueno tries to goad Tanaka by having him test out whether he can see up her skirt with it on. However you feel about that crass kind of juvenile humor will tell you everything you need to know about this show. Ueno and her friend Yamashita are fun characters, though it's hard not to feel a little put off by how often Ueno's schemes for Tanaka step straight over the line into harassment. The poor kid is just so dang obvious that worst he ever feels about it is mild annoyance, but I could see plenty of viewers struggling to find the charm in Ueno's deranged form of affection. It's not the worst comedy ever, but I don't know if I would go out of my way to watch it again.
The rest of these series can be found on Crunchyroll, and next up is the much shorter Rinshi!! Ekoda-chan. This one has a great conceit, where every episode has different creative teams explore the life of the titular Ekoda-chan, a Japanese millennial who's just trying to get by. Granted, her method of “getting by” is spending all day hanging around her apartment naked (to cut costs on laundry), while toiling through the night at a variety of unsatisfying gigs. Honestly, I loved this weird little show – Ekoda's brazen approach to just doing whatever the hell she has to so she can get through the day is relatable and endearing, and the free-flowing absurdity of the script makes the whole episode feel like a jazzy spoken-word poem that someone made some animation for – if you had told me that this episode was a deleted scene from Pop Team Epic, I would have believed you. This week's director is Daichi Akitaro's, whose unique visual energy is perfect for the material, and actress Ishida Haruka gives Ekoda a satisfying edge of world-weary smarm. The episode includes a lengthy interview with the two, and I hope each additional episode follows suit – omnibus series like this offer fun ways to compare different directors' styles and methods, and more behind the scenes footage only enhances the experience. Of this season's shorts, Rinshi!! Ekoda-chan is would I would definitely recommend.
Katana Maidens – Mini Toji is another three-minute long series that is a chibi-fied spinoff of the original Katana Maidens, that aired last year. For anyone new to the franchise, the show includes an “Episode 0” that recaps the gist of that first series' plot, and the first episode proper of Mini Toji essentially serves to re-introduce the girls and offer simplified summaries of their personalities. I only watched the premiere of Katana Maidens, but even with the recap and the intro episode, this short felt mostly like gibberish to me. The plot is nothing special (the girls get into shenanigans one they all come back from saving the world), but simply knowing the archetypes the characters represent isn't enough to get me on board with the comedy. The show looks nice enough, and I'm sure there's something here to appeal to fans of the franchise, but those fans are the only ones I would recommend Katana Maidens – Mini Toji to.
Last, and definitely least, is Rainy Cocoa side G, which is apparently a spinoff/sequel/soft reboot of the original Rainy Cocoa series of shorts. I say “apparently”, because this episode is so devoid of content that I couldn't have told you what exactly is was actually about. A trio of girls are on their way to school, and they encounter two snobby rich kids from the wealthier girls' school on the other side of town. One of the girls, Yoko, is annoyed by them, and then her friends cheer her up. Yoko begins to explain something, and then the episode just cuts off mid-sentence. That's it. I have no clue who these characters are, or where the show takes place, or anything else. The Info Page on VRV has more to say about the plot than the episode does, and I'm beginning to suspect that all five of those sentences might just be the entire plot for the series. Maybe fans of Rainy Cocoa will be able to get something out of SideG, but any newcomers would do well to steer clear of this one.
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