If you’ve hung around this blog for any length of time, you have probably figured out that I enjoy short-form anime, or anime shorts, or sometimes I just call them shorts. While I’ve seen some people create additional categories, I’d consider an anime short to be any show which has an episode runtime noticeably less than the regular 20-25 minute runtime of regular series. This can be anything from under 2 minutes up to about 15 minutes.
Anime shorts are a relatively new thing to become available to English-speaking anime viewers. Back when anime was either fan-subbed or received a DVD release some time after it had finished airing in Japan, the focus was mainly on things which a wide number of viewers would be interested in. Most shorts tend to be a bit niche and quirky, and often don’t have the overarching plot and impressive 2D visuals which draw many people to anime, so they rarely got any attention. With the increase of legal online anime streaming, English subtitled shorts are far more readily available. I think this is a great thing!
The first shorts I can remember watching were the Haruhi spinoff shorts, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya-chan, and Nyoron Churuya-chan. I was mainly interested in these because I enjoyed the Haruhi franchise so much, but I did find myself taken with the cute sketchy style and the fast-paced comedy. The first anime I remember picking out with a short runtime that wasn’t through franchise recognition was Tonari no Seki-kun, a series about a student named Seki and the ridiculous things he does to pass time in the classroom. The 7 minute episode length seemed to be just perfect for setting up the jokes and the reactions of this series, I don’t think it would have worked over a full-length episode unless each episode was split into multiple segments. This made me appreciate that there may be some shows out there which work well with a short runtime, and started my dark descent down the path of shorts appreciation. While I still love a good story, I now love rapid-paced gags and a short time-format just as much.
Shorts hold appeal to me because it’s really interesting to see what can be done with a short runtime. You don’t have as much chance for character development or introspection, but have to try and tell a story or otherwise entertain your viewers in chunks of a few minutes. It presents a unique challenge, and I love seeing all the unique responses to the short runtime (especially shows with very short runtime of under 5 minutes, although longer shorts are fine too). I think that I also like them because they’re a low time-investment and can be a nice break between series to change up the pace of what I’m watching a little. Plus even if a show isn’t very enjoyable, if it only has a 4 minute episode runtime, a whole season of 12-13 episodes is done in under an hour (this could perhaps be rationalised as me preferring quantity over quality, but I’d prefer to think of it as a constant curiosity about new things. It may be both).
Things can actually get weirdly extreme when it comes to boiling things down to work within a short runtime such as the comedy ‘anime’ Kochinpa, which is a series of 15 second episodes advertising pachinko machines. I’m astounded that they even managed to fit a single joke into this timeframe for each episode, but somehow the series makes it work. Is Kochinpa good? It’s definitely difficult to become invested in a show which only runs for 15 seconds per episode, but it is weirdly fascinating that this show exists. It is perhaps the most short of shorts. Just don’t start calculating how many episodes of Kochinpa you could have been watching instead of other series, it can rapidly become frightening.
I think another appeal to me is the fact that the genres which work best in short form are those which I am most fond of, comedy and slice-of-life. While there are certainly other kinds of shorts out there (such as the infamously bad horror short Pupa that I have no intention of watching), having a few minutes available seems to lend itself really well to both telling jokes and narrating everyday events. It’s rather like having my favourite genres condensed down into their simplest forms! Many of the comedy series also deliver their jokes at a truly manic pace, which I find to be very engaging.
When it comes to anime visuals, or visuals in general in media, my only concern is ‘do they add to the storytelling, or detract from the storytelling?’. So while shorts often have very simple animation with limited movement, a sketchy style, or are even sometimes downright unattractive CG, it doesn’t bother me unless I find it immersion-breaking for some reason. In fact, seeing what can be done using tools such as MMD and Flash animation can be fascinating in its own right.
I think that there may be a gap between the type of person who would be attracted to anime in general, especially considering the things which a lot of people have as starter series, and the type of person who would enjoy shorts. Obviously this is not universal, but I do think it’s a shame that this leads to not a lot of information about a lot of these series. It’s not even especially easy to find if a show has a shorter than average runtime with many anime tracking databases without getting into the details page (I hunt for shorts mostly based on their visual style in thumbnail images or the fact that they are right down the bottom of Crunchyroll titles sorted by popularity). With the diversity of series under the shorts banner, there’s something out there for a lot of people to enjoy, and one of the things I’ve been doing, and plan to continue doing is watching short series (for my own enjoyment) and putting together reviews of the series (for the information of others). I’m really just scratching the surface of the available shorts at the moment, and I’m looking forward to trying more!
Do you like shorts? Are there short series which you’ve tried and enjoyed, or tried and hated? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Also, if you know of a shorts series that you’re curious about, I’d probably be agreeable to watching it and reviewing it, so I am open to suggestions!