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Animation Runner Kuromi 2 Anime DVD Review

7 min read

Kuromi’s back as the heart and soul of the animation studio just as they’re beset by new challenges.

What They Say:
Kuromi is back, and more determined than ever to make it in the anime business. But all hell breaks loose when the boss quits smoking just when the workload bursts out of control. Can Kuromi overcome this almost insurmountable obstacle?

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo as well as an English language dub done up the same, encoded at 192kbps. The show has a good stereo mix to it and with a lot of exaggerated movements and dialogue, the forward soundstage works well in placing the audio all over. A lot of it is still basically through the center channel but overall it’s a good sounding mix. We spot checked the English language track and didn’t have any noticeable problems during that. Overall, we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally released in 2004, the transfer for this OVA is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Though it came only a couple of years after the original OVA, the differences in the overall quality and fluidity is surprising. Much cleaner and more vibrant, the transfer here is just sparkling. OVA’s do tend to have higher quality in general and while this is more comedy oriented and has a lot of exaggerated takes for the character designs, everything is just smooth and very fluid with lots of bright colors and solid animation. The transfer itself is basically as clean as can be with everything left in its original Japanese and soft subtitled.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized DVD case and is definitely bright and attractive. The front cover has a good shot of the outgoing Kuromi in her usual outfit while the greenish yellow background has shots of the other characters. The logo is a bit big but since it’s a basic character shot below it that’s of a good size it doesn’t overwhelm. The clean design and strong colors basically make this an easy one to spot on a shelf. The back cover has a cute cast shot pinned to it and goes with the minimal approach to talking about the premise of the show. The discs features are clearly listed while the technical information is as usual, fairly difficult to find easily as some of it is in small print and others mixed into the featured listings. While no insert is included, the cover has a reverse side with the left one listing the chapter stops above a cute shot of Kuromi on her scooter while the right side has the standard bilingual cast list and all the production information.

Menu:
The menu is nicely designed to match the theme of the show and is one of the better menus from CPM that uses transitional animations smoothly. Designed as a bulletin board with all the production information scattered about with images and the navigation strip along a series of post-its, the menu looks great and when it shifts to submenus it moves around the board to different areas. It also does this very smoothly which some past menus from other companies haven’t been able to pull off at times. Access times are good and fast and the navigation is straightforward. Unfortunately, the disc did not read our players’ language presets and defaulted to English with sign/song subtitles.

Extras:
There’s a good selection of extras included with the release similar to the Japanese one which did things up nicely. The entire show is provided with an alternate angle that has the storyboards to them so you can see the key animation and such which really fits with the premise of the show. The director, Daichi, has a one on one interview that talks about how he was able to get another round and what they wanted to accomplish with it. A really cute extra is a “Day in the Life” piece that has the Japanese voice actress for Kuromi basically doing Kuromi’s job and mimicking scenes from the series including a cute piece where they get Daichi to actually check the key animation. There’s also the usual round of extras such as an art gallery, production sketches and the various trailers.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When Yumeta first released the Animation Runner Kuromi OVA, they got a lot of international fans quickly with it being a region free and subtitled release. Central Park Media then snagged the rights to it and put it out with a good dub and a solid package to expand the market for it. It took a couple of years for the sequel to be made and then a bit longer for it to finally arrive in this form but it was worth the way as it’s a great follow-up to the original release.

The first OVA brought Kuromi to her new job as an animation runner for a small animation studio and we got to see the way she learned the job as the company had to deal with a tight deadline for the project they were on. The episode was an amusing and sometimes accurate portrayal of the way anime used to be made and how animation studios worked. Every office has its quirky characters but you know it’s going to be even more interesting in a place like this. The sequel brings us back to the studio where the group has managed to get a good reputation after the success of their original series but it, unfortunately, lasted only one season.

They all luck out though because of what happened and instead of handling one new show for the new season, they’ve been given three very different shows. One is an amusing magical girl kind of show with small-bodied girls running around and a giant pink dinosaur, another that deals with grotesque zombies and another with giant mecha and the like. Everyone’s working hard on the show but the quirks shine through, such as one of the designers not liking any of the shows she’s working on, so Kuromi has to continually massage everyone’s egos to get the job done. That said, the main problem she has to deal with as the group supervisor is that they’re dealing with three shows running concurrently, a huge challenge and one she’s unprepared for as she schedules all three for voice recording on the same day.

While everyone would normally buck up and get the job done, the chief brings in some outside help in the form of a new manager named Takashimadaira who has a couple of veteran animators with him that probably last worked thirty years ago. Takashimadaira is a business first person who looks to cut corners as much as possible, overwork the animators and eliminate positions or combine them. One of his best/worst tricks is to not do corrections on the key animation and just shove it out the door for the in-betweeners. With the new helpers who don’t care for the way kids today make animation, they end up doing a real cut-rate job and don’t adhere to character models and so forth. Their interpretation of the shows are so bad at times that it’s beyond comical. The entire situation ends up calling into question the loyalty of some of the staff to the shows they’re working on and Kuromi has a huge amount of chaos to deal with.

The quality of the production is just fantastic here and the increase in the animation quality over the first episode isn’t a huge leap but it’s significant enough that you can tell the age between the shows. The animation is really fluid in a lot of this and the character animation benefits immensely from it. There are also some great cute scenes where they show off the shows that they’re working on and you can see the different styles used. The frantic nature of the show works well and the oddities that Daichi slips in continue. You can tell easily that this is from the guy who worked on Jube-Chan or Kodocha as some many of the visual gags he’s used before make their appearance here as well.

In Summary:
Animation Runner Kuromi 2 is one of those great in-joke series that takes an amusing look at how anime is traditionally created, the kinds of people who work on it and the dedication that’s required to be a part of it. Like the first one, it’s simply a lot of fun to watch and a good time as it doesn’t bother devolving into things like romantic interludes. It keeps to the main premise of working in an animation house and all the fun that goes with it. This is the kind of show where if you’ve seen the original, you’ll know if you like it or not already. If you haven’t, this is like a lot of the standalone comedy OVAs from the 80’s that doesn’t require a lot of thinking or knowledge but just the time to sit down and enjoy it. This is an easy recommendation if you want to be entertained and finish with a smile on your face.

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+

Released By: Central Park Media
Release Date: May 9th, 2006
MSRP: $19.98
Running Time: 45 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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