Mikiko Oguro's first day at Studio Petit does not appear to be going well. The producer who hired her uses Alternate Character Reading to hang the nickname "Kuromi" on her, appoints her Production Desk Manager for Time Journey 2 and promptly keels over from a bleeding ulcer, effectively throwing her in at the deep end to sink or swim on her own with only a week to go before the key animation is due! Can a neophyte like Mikiko (or Kuromi, as everyone at the studio insists on calling her) possibly learn the ropes fast enough to prevent the production from failing behind schedule? Well, she's certainly determined to try, just as soon as she can figure out thing one: namely, where the heck is everybody?
Animation Runner Kuromi (2001) is 40 minute OVA from Yumeta that serves as both an introduction to and Affectionate Parody of the classic piecework anime production process as it was practiced in Japan at the turn of the millenium, with poor Kuromi rushing around at a breakneck pace desperately trying to wrangle the "cuts" (animation "keys") out of an oddball crew of variously neurotic artists who mostly work at home. Somehow she has to figure out the right psychological levers to pry the key drawings out of artists ranging from a reclusive otaku to a disgruntled housewife, all while learning just where producers, directors, key animators, inbetweeners and show runners like herself fit into the anime production process.
In Animation Runner Kuromi 2 (2004) Kuromi is now production desk manager for three series at once and is forced to choose between quality and schedule. She has to cut corners somewhere to get her shows in on deadline, but how can she do it without ruining the final product?
Animation Runner Kuromi contains examples of:
- Affectionate Parody: Of the animation production process itself.
- Berserk Button: Hassaku advises Kuromi to use the one from Aoi Fukami (one of the animators and a housewife). The moment Kuromi said how nice it would be to have a man supporting her like Fukami has she immediately went into rage mode telling Kuromi how wrong she is... all the while spilling out keyframe after keyframe in only seconds of work.
- Catchphrase: Mizuho Tanonaka's is "even the bad stuff".
- Determinator: Kuromi makes one of the cutest determinators ever as she resolutely pedals her bicycle back and forth to work, her hair flipping back and forth with each stroke.
- "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: In both the original and the German dub of the Anime the theme song ('Hidamari no Machi de' in the original and 'Kein Weg zu weit' in the dub) are both written and sung by the voice actress who voiced Kuromi in the respective dub.
- Drives Like Crazy: Kuromi, you can literally see the parts of the studio car fly away in all directions because of her... particular driving style... not that it stops her from doing it a second time shortly after.
- Fire-Forged Friends: the crew bond over the shared stress of their looming deadlines in the first episode, and having to deal with Madaira in the second
- Misfit Mobilization Moment: The final push to get the show finished gets all of the animators into the studio for once.
- Housewife: One animator is a disgruntled housewife; Kuromi gets her to finish her keys by listening to her complain about her salaryman husband while she draws.
- Impossible Task: Kuromi has two: get the animators to produce all of the keys for an entire anime episode in the one week they have left, and "don't die without naming a successor". That last one may be tongue in cheek.
- Just to set things into perspective: The team had 5 weeks to make 318 keys for Time Journey 2 (supposedly that was already a tight schedule), now after 4 weeks have gone by (when Kuromi arrives) only 5 keys out of the 318 have been finished.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: one animator just happens to look like a Rumiko Takahashi self portrait.
- Off-Model: The only animator that hands in his work on time does slapdash work that has to be redrawn.
- This is a plot point in the second OVA: Kuromi fondly remembers an episode of an action anime, Louis Monde III, she loved as a kid, but when she goes back and re-watches it, she's horrified that she didn't remember how off-model it was. This causes her to not want to make the same mistake and put quality first.
- Older Is Better: In the second OVA, one of the older animators stubbornly crosses out hair highlights on the keys, claiming they never drew them in the old days.
- Otaku: You knew there had to be at least one, didn't you? For added points, he's a borderline Hikkikomori as well. Kuromi gets him to produce his work by dragging him into the studio where he can't get distracted by his toys.
- Kuromi herself vehemently denies being an anime fangirl... well, except for Louis Monde III', of course.
- Reclusive Artist: Mai hides in her house because she's afraid her work isn't good enough. Kuromi has to draw her out with constant reassurance and a little blatantly dishonest flattery.
- Show Within a Show: Two: Kuromi's inspiration Louis Monde III and the show they are creating, Time Journey 2
- The Slacker: The animator who specializes in drawing motorcycle chases is so notorious for goofing off that Kuromi has to hold his surfboard hostage to get him to finish his key drawings.Animator: "But the ocean is calling me!"Kuromi: "You're hearing things. Keep drawing!"
- Smug Snake: Madaira is a condescending jerk, but worse than that his strategy to cut down on directing and quality checks (to the point that eventually the shows receive none at all) ends up turning out truly awful product.
- Take That!: One of the night follows day TimePassesMontages used as scene breaks is announced as "Evening", "Morning" and "Animator's Morning (10:00 AM)"
- The Unseen: The inbetweeners are unseen because the work is outsourced overseas, as was (and is) often the case.
- Wham Shot: The incredibly off-model Louis Monde III episode that Kuromi re-watches as an adult, very different from how she remembered it.Kuromi: (whispering) No direction...!