ANIME & MANGA - Article
14:37 - 22nd January 2016, by Matt Kamen

Anime Vault - Animation Runner Kuromi

Working in anime sounds like a dream come true for many fans. But have you ever considered what the reality would be? The industry is notoriously difficult to break into, and even tougher to actually make a living in. It’s so hard, there are even anime about how bad making anime can be, such as this 2001 OVA from Fruits Basket director Akitaro Daichi.

It only takes about five minutes for Mikiko Oguri to realise she’s been thrown into the deep end of her new dream job. Shortly after showing up for her first day at Studio Petit, her boss lasts long enough to nickname her “Kuromi”, give her a tour of the studio and appoint her the new Production Desk Manager, before finally allowing himself to fall victim to a bleeding ulcer that’s been plaguing him.

Kuromi, fresh out of animation school, is now faced with the unappealing prospect of getting the second episode of the studio’s new series, Time Journeys (inspired by real-world anime show Time Bokan), back on schedule. To make matters worse, she has to deal with absentee animators, cramped working conditions, and unappreciative bosses.

On one level, Animation Runner Kuromi is a simple workplace comedy. Kuromi manages to beat her irksome staff into shape, either by appealing to their vanity or providing them outlet for their own insecurities, and thanks to a last ditch effort manages to get the episode completed just in time. On a satirical level though, it’s a damning indictment of Japan’s workplace culture, the exploitative expectations placed on its workers, and the ramshackle nature of anime production. Daichi himself even appears – as an animated squid avatar – to break the fourth wall and point out some of the sheer absurdities of trying to create a series right up to the brink of air date. And after Kuromi’s travails? It’s just on to the next episode.

Daichi returned for a second Kuromi OVA in 2004, our hero now promoted to overseeing three shows and butting heads with a senior producer more concerned with hitting deadlines than actual quality – another common battle in anime production. Both were released on US DVD, and remain a stark but hilarious look at the industry we all love.

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