Sometimes one of the biggest deterrents to watching anime, at least for me, is that I simply don’t have the time or energy to invest in a complicated or long-running story. Sure, I could try and find a light-hearted episodic series, but with a usual run time of just over 20 minutes per episode (assuming you skip the OP and ED), at times even that isn’t feasible.
That’s where anime shorts come in. While you wouldn’t necessarily think a show with only a few minutes per episode would have the room to tell a decent story, let alone one with any particular emotional depth, the below titles are proof that such a thing is definitely possible. From comedy to good ol’ slice-of-life, drama to fantasy and even horror, here are some titles that make the absolute most of their short episode length to deliver stories that are both well-written and entertaining.
Quick note: I’ve purposefully stuck to TV shows only here – no OVAs, ONAs, specials, or films, which would have made this list considerably longer. Each series is designed as a standalone piece of work and clocks in at under 10 minutes per episode.
Yami Shibai/Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories (13 episodes, 4 minutes each)
As far as supernatural horror goes, Yami Shibai is actually one of the better anime titles out there regardless of episode length, especially if you’re into Japanese myths and urban legends. It’s a purely episodic series and some of the stories are a bit hit-or-miss, but when they work, they really work. There’s no real conclusion as such to any of the stories, but then again, I don’t think there needs to be in order for them to be scary. The show does its job so well not because of any graphic onscreen violence but because it does such a great job of building up the suspense, so that by the time the ending hits, all the viewer has time for is a reaction something along the lines of ‘OH S**T.’ The other major standout of Yami Shibai is the animation which, due to its kamishibai method of storytelling, is less contemporary ‘anime’ in style and more like reading a graphic novel. That may not appeal to some viewers, but is well-suited to the uncanny atmosphere of the show and helps give it a rather unique touch. Incidentally, there are currently 5 released seasons of this series, each with 13 episodes, so if you end up really liking it…
Orenchi no Furo Jijou/Merman in my Tub (13 episodes, 4 minutes each)
While largely unambitious, Orenchi has a light sort of sweetness to it that makes for a fun and easy watch, and renders it quite charming in its own little way. It also reminds me quite strongly of the single-episode boys love OVA Kono Danshi, Ningyo Hiroimashita (This Boy Caught a Merman), which is by no means a bad thing. Orenchi doesn’t have the same kind of artistry as that other title, and it actually plays out largely as an inoffensive comedy with maybe the barest hint of BL under the silliness if you squint just right, but the latter is really neither here nor there. Point is, it’s a show that makes me smile and doesn’t require much thought, which at times is all I happen to be after.
Kono Danshi, Mahou ga Oshigoto Desu/This Boy is a Professional Wizard (4 episodes, 7 minutes each)
Speaking of the boys love Kono Danshi series, we finally got a title that stretched the concept out into a short TV show rather than a string of single-episode OVAs, and I’d say it worked out very well. Even if you’re not into BL as a genre (and I can’t say I blame you), Kono Danshi, Mahou ga Oshigoto Desu deserves a look: for what it’s worth, the actual BL content is extremely light; the overall fantasy concept is uniquely portrayed; and despite the limited animation in terms of movement, the art style is really quite stunning. It’s that last which will probably be the biggest draw for many, and that’s understandable – the colour palette alone is gorgeous and the backgrounds are outright spectacular, but the way in which magic is physically represented is beautiful and compelling as well, and definitely something different from the norm. However, it also doesn’t hurt the story any that the two main characters are fairly likeable, and are independent adults rather than teens running around at school for a change. If anyone needs proof that Yamamoto Soubi is a director well worth seeing more original material from, this should more than suffice.
Kanojo to Kanojo no Neko/She and Her Cat: Everything Flows (4 episodes, 7 minutes each)
This is maybe sorta kinda cheating, since Everything Flows is based on a one-episode OVA released back in 1999. On the other hand, you don’t need to have watched a single second of that OVA to appreciate this short TV series; a bittersweet, slice-of-life piece told through the eyes of Daru, a cat who has grown up along with his owner and has some pretty salient remarks about not only her life, but also just life in general. It might sound gimmicky on paper, but Everything Flows honestly couldn’t be less gimmicky if it tried. There’s no sense here that it’s trying too hard to be ‘quirky’, it certainly isn’t attempting to win its audience over via cutesy animal antics, and it’s anything but flashy in its delivery. Instead, the show is quiet, reflective, and nostalgic – maybe even timeless, which is certainly not a word I often use to describe anime. You don’t necessarily need to be a cat-lover to like Everything Flows (though it probably helps), but you do need to be a lover of stories that are deliberately-paced, uncomplicated, and yet still emotionally affecting.
Tonari no Seki-kun/My Neighbor Seki (21 episodes, 7 minutes each)
If you’re in need of a breather after that last title – which would be understandable – Tonari no Seki-kun has a lot to offer in the pure comedy department. I’m actually surprised that an anime like this didn’t come out much sooner; after all, if there’s one thing anybody can relate to when it comes to school, it’s the stuff you or your classmates got up to during class when you should have been studying. Seki-kun takes the concept to ludicrous heights, of course, which is exactly what makes it worth watching. Yokoi makes for a pretty great straight-man straight-woman to Seki’s antics, most of which are carried out while confined to his desk while in the middle of a lesson, and some of which are so ridiculous they almost gain a kind of surrealism. Included among these is the most intense game of shogi I’ve ever seen (seriously, it reaches Epic Shounen Battle levels of intensity), and the creation and subsequent implementation of an entire classroom postal system for passing notes. Some episodes are much funnier than others, but overall Seki-kun is consistently amusing and just on the right side of dumb to keep the viewer guessing.
Aiura (12 episodes, 4 minutes each)
Look, I totally get it – you’re sick to death of school-centered slice-of-life shows featuring groups of moe anime girls. While Aiura is undoubtedly one of those, it works for me because a) there a grand total of zero panty shots despite those incredibly short skirts (low bar to set, I know, but this is anime we’re talking about here), and b) it’s actually pretty damn funny. No, the humour probably isn’t anything you haven’t already seen before, but that’s the beauty of Aiura being a short: it’s schoolgirl humour polished to about the best it’s ever going to get, and you get it in small enough doses that you don’t get tired of it before it outstays its welcome. In case it wasn’t already abundantly obvious, overly cutesy school girls tend to annoy the hell out of me, yet that somehow isn’t the case with Aiura. This is admittedly in part because the show seems legitimately more interested in comedy than fanservice, and so I wasn’t constantly getting boobs or butt shoved in my face. The other reason is that it feels like there’s more to the characters than just “the sweet one”, “the sporty one”, or “the one who might actually have some kind of mental deficiency if this was real life”… even if there’s not. In all seriousness though, the dialogue and actions of the characters strike me as weirdly realistic while still making me laugh, and especially in this genre, that’s a whole lot rarer than it sounds.
Question of the post: Loved/hated any of these shows? Got any favourite anime TV shorts that weren’t listed here? Feel free to give me and any other readers a rec in the comments.
20 thoughts on “Anime in Bite-Size: Good Anime Shorts”
She and Her Car was outstanding, and I loved Seki-Kun. (Our local library has the manga, and it’s good too.)
For my money, the short with the best character development is the first season of “I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying”. It packs more into its (total of all eps) of 30-odd minutes run time than some shows manage in two cour of full length episodes.
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I did end up watching a bit of I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying, and while I didn’t dislike it by any means, it didn’t really grip me either. I think I tried about 3 or 4 episodes before dropping it – it might have been a bit of a busier season when it came out, I don’t really remember.
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As far as shorts, I have to mention Teekyuu! for being utterly amazing in its crazed Python/Seinfeld-ian way (like you mention with Aiura, it’s very much a dense hyper-crystallization of the moe schoolgirl genre).
Cool, maybe I’ll give Teekyuu! a try at some point then. I never did end up watching any of that one.
I’ve heard some good things about this season’s Tsurezure Children, made up of short vignettes about various teen couples in love with each other. “Sweet and fluffy” have been the most common words I’ve heard describing the series.
Speaking of shorts, I’m surprised the new Hell Girl anime was only 6 eps long, with the rest being old episode reruns. Maybe its creators were testing the waters to see if an old franchise could be revived?
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Yes, I’ve heard good things about that series too, although I haven’t gotten around to watching any of it just yet.
I was surprised at that too. Those 6 episodes were honestly a bit hit-or-miss (which probably sums up the franchise as a whole pretty well), but I did see them all. I’m not bothering with the reruns though; it seems a bit of a wasted opportunity to me.
Tsurezure Children is an absolutely wonderful experience! I would recommend to anyone, even people who don’t like rom-coms.
For what it’s worth, the original She and Her Cat is also a short (and I prefer it to the new one, which was excellent, but steeped in a sentimentality that could get a bit much for me at times).
Tsurezure Children really is great and worth a watch. Teekyu is… unique; it’s a machine-gun comedy; they know they don’t have time and make their Seiyu talk at unprecedent speed (I don’t think there’s a helf-second of silence in the show, unless it’s for effect).
There’s Morita san wa Mukuchi, same genre as Aiura, with a main character who doesn’t talk. I remember it being really cute (but then I’m one of those anime fans who aren’t tired of the school setting). Under five minutes, I think.
There’s Namiuchigiwa no Muromi San where a boy fishes up a mermaid and is soon stuck in a harem of mermaids (and other sea creatures). It’s a bit of a mixed bag, with unfunny boob jokes, but when it was funny it was really funny. The opening song, I thought, matches the series energy pretty well. (I don’t remember how long the episodes were; i think around 10 minutes.)
There’s Mari + Gali, where a snarky goth-loli who thinks science is boring is dropped into a surreal world exclusively populated with anime-weird scientists. The titular Gali is Gallileo, and she moves in with Marie Curie. The plot is stupid, but the science is sound.
For horror, I’ll say Kagewani is surprisingly scary. A show made with the South-Park cut-out technique, but art that’s more realistic than anime usually is should be hard to take seriously, but its very traditional creature horror is incredibly atmospheric, and the survival bits are extremely suspenseful. And then we get to meet the titular kagewani, and it beats the parade of standard creature features in creepiness, hands down. All that in under five minutes. It’s among my favourite anime horror out there (but, for me, anime and horror usually don’t work well together).
The fairly recent Sengoku Chouju Giga was criminally underappreciated. It’s exactly what it says on the tin: Sengoku warlords re-imagined as the animals from that famous scroll. Its deadpan humour and the wall-scroll animation style make it a unique and fun watch. I’m sure there a tons of references I didn’t get, because I’m not familiar enough with Japanese history, but this one’s a must watch for anyone interested in the topic.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten lots. 🙂
I like the original She and Her Cat as well (although that’s an OVA, hence that particular version didn’t make the list).
I’ll have to try some of these others you mentioned at some point, most of which I haven’t seen any of yet. Thanks for the recs. 🙂
I would recommend Tsurezure Children here, but I’ve recommended it here before, and besides, it’s about 13 minutes per episode, so it doesn’t fit your criteria.
Eelsaremanatees and Dawnstorm both recommend Teekyuu!, and on my blog I like to joke about its insane speed with a “Seconds per Gag” ratio. A good episode would have under three seconds per gag. Someday I will meet the lovely Kana Hanazawa and ask her how hard Teekyuu! is to perform. BTW, Teekyuu! is THE GREATEST ANIME EVER!! as I’ve said more than once, maybe with a straight face.
Dawnstorm also mentions Morita san … The interesting thing about that show, for me, is that I never really liked the little episodes, but then, maybe for the finale, they stuck three of them together to make a regular half-hour episode, and I liked it a lot more. The show’s little moments repeated and became rhythmic points that gave the long episode a structure it didn’t have when it was chopped up.
Almost forgot: Inugamisan to Nekoyamasan, with a high school girl who has dog qualities attracted to a girl with cat qualities, and vice versa. Uneven, but often hilarious, partly because the dog-girl is so much fun (I love her ponytail wagging) and because of the excellent straight-man work of the girl who’s friends with both.
I do seem to vaguely recall seeing a very tiny bit of Inugamisan to Nekoyamasan, but I honestly don’t remember what I thought of it or why. I’ll have to go back and take a proper look, thanks. 🙂
I don’t watch much shorter length anime. To me it feels like anime creators have a hard time pacing themselves properly since they are used to making full length TV episodes. Very rarely do I watch a short anime and think the shorter time length helped – and not hindered – the anime. The two best examples of being helped by their short length are two that you’ve mentioned: Yami Shibai and Tonari no Seki-kun.
I strenuously recommend Tentai Senshi Sunred. As a parody of a super-hero show, the hero – Sunred – is a huge jerk, play pachinko all day, and leeches off of his girlfriend. And his villain nemesis – General Vamp – is kind, polite, a conscientious member of the neighborhood association, cares for his minions, and is a friend to Sunred’s girlfriend. It’s hilarious.
I also recommend Yama no Susume. It can be summed up as cute girls climb mountains but they do actually climb mountains and it’s well-executed and the animation is really good. The first season was 12 episodes of 3 minutes and well good, I wanted longer episodes. The second season was 24 episodes of ~11 minutes and was much improved. There were a few episodes of the second season that saw talented animators draw a whole episode themselves and the results were so beautiful and memorable.
And lastly, I would kinda recommend Namiuchigiwa no Muromi-san. The comedy worked only maybe half the time with the animation being the best part of the show. It looks and feels like a series Gainax would have done back when they were still a good studio.
Thank you for the recs – I don’t think of seen any of those, or at least not more than a snippet or two.
I’d second the recommendation for Yama no Susume, especially with a third season in the pipeline.
Cool, thank you for the rec.
Space Patrol Luluco is the show that turned me to short series, it’s fun, action packed, and legitimately emotional towards the end. Plus, Studio Trigger does an excellent job with the animation, which is frankly stupendous. I would really recommend checking it out if you haven’t.
Also, if you want a totally different experience, Bananya is dangerously cute.
Now that you mention it, I’ve heard a lot of great things about Space Patrol Luluco. It was just one of those shows I never quite around to watching back when it aired, but I’ll have to give it a shot at some point.
I did watch a few episodes of Bananya and thought it was okay, but not really my thing unless I’m in a very specific mood. I don’t necessarily dislike cute things and Bananya is definitely that (and then some), but it just didn’t quite grip me the way I thought it might.
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I’m another Yama no Susume fan – though I liked the second season much better. The first season episodes at 3 minutes felt too short, the second season episodes at 15 minutes felt just right.
Hacka Doll was surprisingly fun. It was made to promote a personal navigator app, but they turned it into a comedy/parody series where each episode the dolls are summoned to help “advance” a new user of the app and typically manage to royally screw things up instead, while liberally lampooning popular anime, anime tropes, and fandoms (fujoshi, idol otaku, etc.) along the way. Episodes are 7 minutes long, so the pacing is snappy and the jokes don’t have time to overstay their welcome.
Also, I really enjoyed Rec (10 episodes including one that was DVD only, 13 minutes each). That one’s a workplace romantic comedy involving a young marketing professional and an up-and-coming voice actress. Being an older series (2006, I think) it does unfortunately love using the early 2000’s Love Hina “joke” where the girl gets embarrassed and her first reaction is to beat up the guy. That problem aside, though, it’s a sweet story about a young couple trying to build a relationship without crossing the lines of what would be considered impropriety, since they have a professional relationship to maintain, too.
Nice recs, thank you! I’ll have to check them out at some point – what you’ve said about Hacka Doll especially seems like it could be right up my alley.