Oguro Mikiko (aka ‘Kuromi’) has just started her new job at an animation studio and unfortunately, it’s not quite what she envisioned. With the man who was supposed to be her boss having been rushed off to hospital with a stomach ulcer, Mikiko has been left in charge of the production of the first episode of the ‘Time Journeys’ anime. With the key animators behind schedule, and the episode set to air in only a matter of days, Mikiko faces the near-impossible task of getting her understaffed and somewhat eccentric team to pick up the pace. Is there any hope for Mikiko, or is this a doomed enterprise from start to finish?
For every series that promises that achieving your dreams requires nothing more than the power to believe in yourself, there seem to be an equal number determined to show that when it comes down to it, reality isn’t that simple. In that vein, Animation Runner Kuromi seems determined to prove one thing; working in an animation studio isn’t as glamorous or exciting as naively optimistic fans might hope- it’s just plain hard work.
That being said, whilst Kuromi offers an eye-opening glimpse into how anime is created (or at least how it was done in the days when cels were still being used), it is far from a depressing tale of doom and gloom. Directed by Akitaroh Daichi of Furuba, NTHT and Bokura ga Ita fame, Kuromi is an energetic and fast-paced tale of one woman desperately trying to get her job done even when the odds are stacked against her. The overall storyline for both episodes follows a predictable “everything goes wrong first but you can bet it’ll come together by the end” pattern, but it is nonetheless entertaining to watch Mikiko’s attempts to motivate the eclectic animation team to get those all-important key frames done in time.
From the jaded, chain smoking animation director to the overweight otaku animator, none of the cast can be said to be particularly original, but whilst there may not be time to develop the characters, such well defined personalities fit perfectly into the amusingly off-kilter world of Animation Runner Kuromi. And with all the little peculiarities and foibles the cast share between them, there is a healthy selection of running jokes just waiting to be exploited.
Visually, Animation Runner Kuromi has a simple look, with character designs ranging from basic yet pleasing to downright bizarre and ugly. Just as in Furuba, the story is broken up with numerous eyecatches (most relating to the ‘Time Journeys’ anime), whilst an octopus occasionally appears on screen to comment on the plot. As with the other aspects of the OVA, the animation isn’t particularly outstanding when taken on its own, but it fits well with the tone of the series.
An anime about making anime, Animation Runner Kuromi mixes standard story ideas with an original setting to create an energetic and entertaining result. Watching it may dampen the ambitions of those wishing to break into the animation business, but at least you’ll have enjoyed yourself in the process.