Animation Runner Kuromi 2

By all accounts, the short form OVA is dead. There have been a few direct-to-video shows recently, such as Munto and Macross Zero, but what they've had in animation has been lacking in their scripts. But thankfully, there's one OVA in the last five years popular enough to make a sequel...Animation Runner Kuromi. A hysterically hyper romp through the world of a studio desperately trying to finish an anime series, the original OVA plopped us into a mass of in-jokes and craziness, and it worked brilliantly. I commented in my review of it that I hoped the sequel would come soon. And what do you know? It's finally here! And though the brilliant concept of the original is no longer as novel, the sequel more than makes up for it with not only continued zaniness but a bit of drama and character development that expands upon weaker areas of the first.

Kuromi is back, and things at Studio Petit have gone from crazy to insane. Their show "Time Journeys" wasn't picked up for a second season, and Kuromi's boss has decided to have the studio working on three shows at once. The team could barely complete one program at a time, let alone three, and animation direction Hamako Shihonmatsu is in the middle of a nervous breakdown from quitting cigarettes. But when maverick producer Takashimadaira and his cronies are hired to get the team back on track, tempers flare. Takashimadaira might get anime in on time, but his methods make for the shoddiest shows on air, and working for him takes all the fun out of being an animator. Can Kuromi convince the team to keep working under this tyrant, or will she lose Hamako to the pressure?

Bright and sprightly, Kuromi 2 is easy on the eyes. Though the style is comical, there are never any issues with the animation whatsoever. The fact that nothing stands out just shows, in this case, that it's an overall quality product. And if you liked the soundtrack to the first show, which I did, much of it reappears here. It's more of the same, but it's the same yummy goodness, so I'm quite OK with it.

At first, I wasn't sure if Kuromi 2 was going to work for me. Somehow, the first OVA grew in my mind as a particularly funny favorite, though in my review of it I wrote that it wasn't fall-down funny, just really cute and laughworthy. Once I got passed my opening trepidation, though, I was hooked. Of course, our heroine is instantly likeable just as before, but this time she is not completely front and center. With the foil of Takashimadaira and a significant subplot with Hamako, there's a bit more going on, and that accounts for the slightly longer running time. For all the fun, there's also some nicely worked drama when the team finally reaches its limits. It never loses its happy spirit, but we get to know at least one side character better because of it. This actually improves upon the original, which didn't really develop anyone besides Kuromi. This is not a show you watch for plot, of course, but those of us who've read enough about the anime industry know that both the humor and pathos of the whole thing is often truer to life than we'd like to think. And if you just want laughs, there are plenty, especially when it seems that Hamako is willing to light up almost anything to replace her beloved tobacco.

About the only qualm I had at all was with the disc itself. Central Park Media sent me a screener that looks perfect, but it had a few hiccups on my DVD player. It seemed that this had to do with the multiple angle feature available on the disc, whereby you can watch much of the show's storyboards. For some reason, it not only stopped for a moment here and there, but it would on occasion bring up the alternate angle icon. I've not had this problem with other discs I have that use the alternate angle feature (though they are extremely rare). However, I'm going to chalk it up to my player - if yours tends to have problems with alternate angles, you might trying renting it from Netflix first. Oh, and one other thing...the "16 up" rating still doesn't make hardly any sense. I still say middle schoolers on up are ready for it.

Whether in the worlds of Hollywood or anime, sequels rarely live up to their forbearers. I am happy to report that Animation Runner Kuromi 2 breaks that stereotype and winds up being one of the best discs I've received from Central Park Media in a long time.

Animation Runner Kuromi 2 -- mild suggestive themes -- A