7-Eleven: Slurp! Slurp! Slurpee!

Never did understand the color scheme.

Never did understand the color scheme.

Ah, convenience stores!  Invented right around the time that Victorianism ended and people realized that they really needed a condom at two in the morning, these handy-dandy “corner shops” have become a staple at giving us nearly instant gratification.  Inside your average mini-mart you can find everything from junk food to more junk food, porno magazines, alcohol, ridiculously overpriced though cheaply manufactured novelty goods, batteries, kitchen utensils, cigarettes, toiletries, and surly college-aged staff members who don’t want to serve you.  It is a damn good thing customer service isn’t required at these places, because, like I said, the name of the game is convenience.  Zip in, zip out.  No time for screwing around with a desk clerk.

At one particular world wide franchise chain of these minute shops, you will find a dazzling and refreshing crushed ice, sugar syrup concoction known as the “Slurpee”.  Now, the franchise chain that has the sole exclusive rights to sell these drinks, 7-Eleven, didn’t invent the thing.  Before they were Slurpees they were called Icees, which indicates that part of the purchasing rights agreement was requiring an unnecessary “e” to whatever nomenclature 7-Eleven came up with.  Slurpees are way too sweet, quick to stain your nice white clothes, and involve more headaches than sparkless marriages.  Frankly, I don’t like them, but other people do.  Which is fine, taste is a subjective thing.  Speaking of subjective, this article is all about it.  Yes, I went on a two paragraph rant about convenience stores and Slurpees just to use subjectivity as a segue to the rest of this article.  Okay, that’s a lie.  Part of what I said is relevant to what I’m about to rant about, but I guarantee you it doesn’t involve Slurpees.  So from now on, no more Slurpee talk.

What I really want to talk about, is short anime.

Teekyuu

Don’t blink! You’ll miss the entire episode!

I usually refer to them as “shorties” on the forum, for a reason that escapes me, and over the last couple of years I have been growing ever more attracted to these things.  I have noticed that most of them are god fucking awful.  They barely have any story, have characters more annoying than Pinkie Pie, and rarely leave me with anything resembling a feeling of satisfaction when one is done.  For the longest time, I wondered why anybody was bothering to make these miniature anime to begin with.  I still don’t know the reason, but at this point it is moot.  Originally a quaint novelty that we would see twice a year or two, now we’re getting three to four short duration titles every season.  The boom of the shortie has come upon us, and there really isn’t any way to avoid them now.

Actually, that’s not true.  Since they’re so short, generally suck, and nobody except Crunchyroll subtitles them, you can probably easily avoid them, and probably already have.  And if you’ve never heard or seen these things before, and this article has now destroyed your ignorance, well then, too bad.  You’re stuck with me now on this crazy train of “blink and you’ll miss it” animated features.  Ha ha.

Okay, here’s where the other shoe drops:  not all of these shorties suck.  In fact, based on my own superior subjective tastes, I’d say that at least a couple of them have been borderline awesome.  I have been struggling to figure out what sets the wheat from the chaff regarding anime’s pigmy cousins, but I think I have narrowed it down to one rather simple component:  running time.

I know!  Weird, right?  I’ve only been talking about the fact that these anime have a shorter running time than regular anime, so naturally that part is important.  No!  What I mean is not the fact that they’re short, but how short, or how long, they are in relation to each other.  The shortest of the shorties that I have seen beats feat at less than two minutes per episode, including intro.  The longest of the shorties hangs at about half a regular anime episode run time, so roughly twelve minutes, including intros and exits.  Therefore, somewhere between these two endpoint time frames, lies the Goldilocksish “just right” point for a quick feature to accomplish its goals.  Let’s look at a few and see if we can figure this out.  We will start from the shortest to the longest, and make our conclusions from there.

That’s Brisk, Baby:  Teekyu

Like the German blitzkrieg, this bizarre burp of a show starts and finishes each episode faster than you can brew a cup of coffee.  At 2-minutes per episode, Teekyu doesn’t require enough money to even concern the production studio with an “animation budget”.  What they do have to concern themselves with, is making sure that either the final dialogue dubbing is done on 2 x play speed, or making sure that all their seiyuu get voice lessons from John “The Micromachine Man” Moschitta, Jr.  Despite my general ramblings that trying to enjoy Teekyu is akin to trying to enjoy a STD swab, the pesky little show that could managed to get three seasons (thus far) and has been generally popular amongst fans.  Weirdly enough, at 2 minutes each episode and 3 seasons, there is still only enough actual animated material to fill three and a half episodes of a regular anime.  Remember that when you go buy the Blu-Rays; you’re getting ripped off.

Can I Get Just One Minute More:  Lots of examples.

Ratcheting things up by a whole minute may not seem like much, but compared to Teekyu’s pace, another minute is heaven.  It still doesn’t quite work, tho, for a variety of reasons.  Probably the easiest show to pick on for this group is last season’s Pupa, a horrendous hiccup attempt at horror and the macabre.  Pupa, believe it or not, had enough subject matter available from the manga source that Studio DEEN could have easily done several television length episodes and it might have been a cult hit.  As it is, there is nothing left here but a discombobulated and incoherent mess.  Freaky, but incoherent.

I think that's "crabbing", Steve, but you're dead, so you're forgiven.

I think that’s “crabbing”, Steve, but you’re dead, so you’re forgiven.

There! Are! FOUR! Minutes!:  AIURA

Now up to four minutes, we have our first example of a show that probably wasn’t that awful.  Episodic and lacking any kind of focus, AIURA’s only real appeal was how fantabulous these girls’ legs were.  I suppose I should mention the intro, featuring a parody of the (at the time) freshly deceased Steve Jobs, for the inanity of it all.  Works as a microcosm of why the rest of the show is pretty poor.  Like I said, lack of focus, disjointed narratives, etc.  Lots of legs, tho.  Long, wonderful, sexy legs.

Please, Sir, Can I Have Some More:  Strange Plus

Frenetic and insanely wacky, Strange Plus basically did whatever the hell it wanted to and didn’t really care if it worked or not.  The brevity is somewhat bizarre since the show gave itself around 5 minutes each episode to work with.  Sometimes it managed to convey a nicely concise story within the time frame, but most of the time the episode was a gigantic setup to get the trap naked.

Seven Minutes in Heaven:  Tonari no Seki-kun

Now we’re getting somewhere!  Arguably the best anime that aired last season, Tonari no Seki-kun runs at somewhere between 7 and 8 minutes per episode, including the catchy intro and exits, and has thus far remained a mainstay in my weekly anime watching schedule.  As a comedy, it manages to keep one joke running for the entire duration, with Kana Hanazawa basically pulling a “one-woman show” as the (usually) sole character with dialogue.  The run time is long enough to set up and execute the gag (whatever Seki-kun is up to) without running too long to no longer be funny.  At this point, at least for a comedy, we may have nailed the perfect run time.

Half is Better Than None:  Muromi-san

If Seki-kun is the right duration for a singular theme gag anime, then Muromi-san is probably just the right length for shows adapted from a 4koma or with short chapters.  Heralded by this author as his favorite comedy a year ago, Namiuchigiwa no Muromi-san manages to avoid the greatest pitfall a comedy can have:  don’t get boring.  Far too often, in an attempt to fill a 23 episode duration, a 4koma adaptation will attempt to fill air time with needless transition scenes or material not from the original source.  Sometimes this can work, most of the time it doesn’t.  In my opinion, the failure of most anime comedies isn’t the material, but not knowing the importance of brevity.  Muromi-san manages to hit the right chords and for just the right amount of time.  Of course, it could just be that I love listening to Yukari Tamura playing a rather raunchy and foul mouthed mermaid.

There are a few dozen more examples I have neglected, but I think I’ve successfully pointed out what really is the right conclusion to make, and not just for short duration anime, but for all anime.  Sometimes working with your material means that you need to know how much you should expose your audience to.  But, at this point in the argument, the question is no longer one of simple episodic run time, but also goes into series length in general.  Still, I think that, at the end of the day, if you want to do a comedy, stick to short bites somewhere between the seven and elven minute mark.  That seems to be the right amount of time to get your point across and still be highly entertaining.  Hell, western audiences have known this for years.  The original Disney, Warner Brothers, or Tex Avery shorts ran right around seven to eleven minutes each.  Cartoons are still made today based on two to three mini-episodes per full episode format, which also fits into this time duration, with notable exceptions.  Obviously, a lot more factors have to be taken into consideration than simple episode run-time, but it still may be the most important one.

Seven; eleven; convenience; zip in, zip out.  See?  I brought this fucker back to the beginning, after all.

Slurpees suck.

3 Responses to “7-Eleven: Slurp! Slurp! Slurpee!”

  1. Shorts are a always a bit of a quandary for me. I’m glad that they exist because it gives creators yet another outlet to make something beautiful, but sadly, nobody seems to have done anything with it. Voices of a Distant Star was only 25 minutes, but it a punch more resounding that most full cour series. I’m waiting for these shows to find something like that. I suppose I’ll amuse myself with Tonari no Seki-kun in the mean time.

  2. Turning Girls is easily the best very short-format series I’ve seen. Just the episode about Kaeru’s webcam show is leagues beyond anything else.

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