Ask John: Where Do Mini Episodes Fit In?

Question:
Where do “mini-episodes” fit in? I just started watching “Steel Angel Kurumi” and was wondering why the producers decided to release it in 13 minute “mini-episodes.” You can’t help but be immediately struck by the high quality and attention to detail in this series – animation, characters, video quality, soundtrack, opening theme, etc. Someone spent a lot of money producing this really interesting show. So why the weird, short format?

Is Steel Angel Kurumi a series, or an OVA? Were these “mini-episodes” created so they could sell it on single-episode discs at horrendously inflated prices? Were they broadcast on TV to take up awkward air time left over by another show? Or are they merely shown 2 episodes back-to-back in a half-hour time slot?

I’ve heard of other shows in “mini-episodes,” but haven’t seen any yet. And to ADV’s credit, they put 6 episodes on the DVD (along with a ton of interesting extras), so I feel I got a good value for my money. But why would the producers chop this up into bite-size chunks in the first place?

Answer:
Steel Angel Kurumi was broadcast on Japanese television as part of the Anime Complex series. Anime Complex is an anime anthology series that first premiered on Japanese television on April 6th, 1998. The first Anime Complex series included an original opening and ending animation that book-ended episodes of Ah! My Goddess: Adventures of the Mini-Goddesses in the Handy Petit Size, King of South Seas Neoranga, and Android Anna Maico 2010. After its first season, Anime Complex was shortened by the elimination of its own full length opening and endings and reduced to broadcasting only two 12 minute long episodes per week instead of 3 roughly 8 minute long series.

Anime Complex broadcasts have included the aforementioned giant monster drama Neoranga, SD Ah! My Goddess and comedy/drama Maico 2010, as well as Kurogane Communication, D4 Princess, Risky Safety, Steel Angel Kurumi, Steel Angel Kurumi 2 Shiki, the live action Steel Angel Kurumi Pure, Hanaukyo Maid Tai, and Rizelmine.

For more info about Steel Angel Kurumi specifically, check out this “Ask John” article.

Anime Complex, which eventually evolved into the late-night Anime Complex Night, is not the only program to broadcast short anime series, though. The long-running, live action TBS variety program Wonderful is also responsible for broadcasting many well known short anime segments. Wonderful has broadcast anime series including Di-Gi-Charat, Petshop of Horrors, You’re Under Arrest Special, Ippatsu Kikimusume, Iketeru Futari, Momoiro Sisters, and Sexy Commando Gaiden Sugioyo! Masaru-san. The running time on these series ranged anywhere from the full length episodes of Petshop of Horrors, of which there were only 4 made for broadcast during one month, to the 16 four minute long Di-Gi-Charat episodes and 6 minute long episodes of Momoiro Sisters, Iketeru Futari and Masaru-san.

Many of these short shows are actually scheduled for release in America. Urban Vision has released Petshop of Horrors. Media Blasters is currently releasing Kurogane Communication. Pioneer is currently releasing the Ah! My Goddess television series. And AD Vision is releasing Steel Angel Kurumi and will eventually release Neoranga, Colorful, Papa to Odorou, and You’re Under Arrest Special in America.

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