The anime short review feature returns, and as a triple feature this time instead of just a double! However, I’m not actually doing more work here, because this time the featured shorts aren’t just half-length but are rather extra-short shorts, with each series consisting of only twelve 3 to 4-minute episodes.
I’ve been curious about these for a while, wondering how their makers manage to get their points across in only a few minutes at a time. Turns out this format is pretty limiting. A lot of these extra-shorts (not sure if there’s a better term for these 5-minutes-or-less-episode series to differentiate them from the longer shorts) also have middling-to-poor scores on the big anime database/grading sites, suggesting that a lot of viewers aren’t satisfied with them.
But fuck those scores, I say — I’ll judge these series for myself. Before I start, I should note that these are all adapted from print works, only one of which I’ve read, so for the most part I’ll be taking these series on their own merits. Starting with:
I picked most of these series to watch based on whether I thought I’d enjoy their themes. And Piacevole is about Italian food, and I like Italian food.
But did I like Piacevole? That’s a more complicated question. This series opens with a high school student, Morina, looking for a part-time job. In the course of her search, she discovers Trattoria Festa, a rustic-looking Italian place, and is immediately hired as a waitress there. However, Morina’s time with the absentee owner’s young son Maro, an aspiring chef, and with the rest of the restaurant’s strange/quirky staff inspires her to try cooking herself.
The crew at the trattoria along with a few new characters who show up halfway through are pretty fun, and it was a good time seeing Maro desperately trying to impress Morina, because he’s obviously smitten with her, but while also proudly pretending he doesn’t really care or anything. And aside from the above kind of scuffed-looking Caprese salad, the show makes all this food look nice enough — the usual high standards for food featured in anime.
The trouble with Piacevole, and I’m guessing with some of these other types of shorts, is that I’m left wanting more. I’m pretty sure there’s enough here to at least fill half-length episodes — first, because I’ve already seen a series with a similar premise of “new girl starts working at restaurant/café full of weird characters” that pulled off a full-length one-cour season (Blend S, though that one was much less about food and much more about otaku-related stuff like idols, doujinshi, and mobile game addictions.)
And second, because everything in Piacevole runs at triple speed. Every character is talking and speeding around a mile a minute, seemingly to cram as much as possible into each three or four-minute stretch. I didn’t enjoy that aspect of the series, though you could argue it fits the frantic pace of working in a restaurant.
But I thought Piacevole was all right in the end. Italian cooking is an interesting niche for a manga, anyway — I guess it’s considered more of a novelty in Japan than here in the US, where Italian cuisine is pretty common and has been absorbed somewhat into the broader American culture.
I don’t know enough about food or cooking to say, though. I just know that Piacevole made me want some fucking fried eggplant that I don’t know how to prepare myself and can’t easily get, and now I’m annoyed because of it. But that’s not really the show’s fault, is it? In fact, that seems to be the whole point of the show, so if its purpose was to get viewers hungry for Italian food, it probably pulled that off well enough.
Miss Bernard said.
I also like reading, so I also picked up Miss Bernard said., another extra-short series, this one about students talking about literature. But don’t let the above screenshot fool you: the school library remains peaceful for about 15 seconds, until title character Sawako Machida shows up.
Sawako, who for some reason insists on calling herself “Miss Bernard” (though nobody else calls her this, and I’m sure there’s a reference here I’m not getting) tries to make like she loves reading, but she’s too lazy to actually read a book. She brags a lot about her literary pursuits, but the other three characters in the series see right through her act and end up pretty much tolerating her presence in the library while still thinking she’s an idiot. But they also all become friends in the end.
Miss Bernard is maybe even faster-paced than Piacevole, and it’s certainly crammed even more fully with text. It’s Literary References: The Anime. I thought I liked reading, but not as much as the people who made this or the source material behind it, because some of these references were over my head. Though a lot of them connect to classic science fiction, which I haven’t read too much of (I haven’t even read Dune. I know, I know.)
There are a few spot-on jokes here about readers who go on about “the book being better” when a movie adaptation comes out, or pretending that they’ve read more than they actually have, or that they’ve even tried to understand the writing of Thomas Pynchon and other purposely difficult authors (I’ll just admit here as well that I’ve never tried to read Pynchon, nor James Joyce outside of a few of his short stories that read pretty normally from what I remember — far more normally than his novels at least from the bits I’ve seen.)
But in general, I didn’t get much out of watching Miss Bernard. Except that I learned Haruki Murakami translated The Great Gatsby into Japanese, which I guess is interesting, but I can’t do much with that knowledge either. At least the ending was nice.
And finally for the series I was looking forward to, since I’m reading/viewing the source material. Ganbare Douki-chan is a recently completed adaptation of Yom’s still-running hybrid manga/artbook series of the same name, featuring a lot of nice art of attractive lady office workers pining after the one guy they work with. The main character Douki-chan (again, douki here meaning “co-worker”; none of these characters get actual names) wants to express her feelings to Douki-kun, but she’s too nervous to do so clearly. And Douki-kun is just as dense as your typical anime romantic comedy male lead, which is certainly no help.
Douki-chan’s situation is complicated by her rivals, a flirty and much more forward junior office worker (above) and a business client with a more subtle and seductive approach. Every time Douki-chan works up the nerve to move her relationship with her co-hire forward, one or both of these rivals edge their way in and involve themselves, trying to get Douki-kun’s attention instead much to our protagonist’s frustration.
Unlike the first two series I covered in this post, Douki-chan thankfully doesn’t move at 200 miles per hour to cram a ton of dialogue into its three to four minutes each — each episode is more like a vignette than a full story, so it can move at a relaxed pace without any trouble. It probably makes a difference that it’s not adapting a manga but rather a series of artworks that just have bits of dialogue and text attached, leaving a lot up to the reader’s imagination.
In that sense, I think this series of shorts is a pretty good adaptation of the original material. I still prefer the books — watching the anime just can’t beat fully taking in Yom’s art, which I felt was a big part of the appeal of the work — but it’s still fun to see it all animated and voiced. (Also, does this count as saying “the book was better”? Guess I really am one of those readers.)
So it’s this series alone that gets my full approval. Though just as with the artbooks it’s based on, that’s a qualified recommendation. If you care very much about whether the anime you watch passes the Bechdel test, for example, you obviously shouldn’t come anywhere near this stuff. Ganbare Douki-chan didn’t even take the Bechdel test; it failed to study and then slept through the alarm because it was hung over that morning.
But that’s kind of the point, anyway. You’ll already know whether this series is for you, so if it’s clearly not, best avoid it.
That’s it for the shorts for now. I’m not sure whether I’ll return to these extra-short series — they’re naturally very quick and easy to watch, but I didn’t get much out of them aside from Douki-chan, which I already figured I’d probably like anyway. The only other one I even have on my watchlist, Yatogame-chan Kansatsu Nikki, looks like it’s all about regional Japanese cultures and dialects focusing on Nagoya, and I’m not even going to pretend I’d understand any of that. Especially not if it’s all presented in this lightning-speed 3/4-minute format.
But there’s plenty more anime to come with the end of the fall season. I actually watched a few series that I plan to write about, so you can look forward to that later this month and/or next month depending on my schedule. Until then!