Have you ever watched all of a movie’s special features in a row?
Usually, when I write reviews like this for Bubbleblabber, we split the review into two sections, an Overview, wherein I recount the plot of the episode in question with as little editorial as possible, and Our Take which is pretty self-explanatory. That’s going to be pretty hard for Rinshi!! Ekoda-chan for reasons that are going to become painfully obvious as this review goes on, so as I sometimes do for films and season-long reviews where the plot is too difficult to summarize without editorial, these reviews will be in essay form.
The first reason for this change is the format of the show. Rinshi!! Ekoda-chan is based on a four-panel comedy manga starring the eponymous Ekoda, a young woman in Tokyo working any odd job she can find to make ends meet. She is smart but flighty, tough but cowardly, and relatable yet still entrancing. My understanding is that the 2019 adaptation that I’m reviewing today is the third adaptation of the comic. The difference this time around is that each episode is directed by a different filmmaker.
The first episode was helmed by Daichi Akitaro, and it set the tone for the anthology series. The show starts incredibly strong, with an introduction to Ekoda-chan and her world. She has a boyfriend who doesn’t take her seriously, she’s concerned about aging, and her work environments leave a lot to be desired. The comedic timing works, the jokes are well-constructed, and I was really prepared to like the show. Then, at the four-minute mark, the anime stopped.
For the remaining twenty minutes, the show becomes an extended interview with the Japanese voice of Ekoda-chan and the director. The video then closes by watching an artist draw a single frame of the cartoon. Over the credits, as is anime custom, we hear what’s in store for the next episode, and it looks as if it’s going to be more of the same thing. Suffice it to say that I was disappointed, and I was far from the only one. At the time of writing, Rinshi!! Ekoda-chan is sitting at a one-and-a-half star rating on Funimation. That is the lowest I’ve ever seen on the service by at least a full star. Even Double Decker was doing better than this.
It’s honestly a shame, as the four minutes of animation that viewers got were clever and funny, and if cut down to size, the interview was interesting and informative. The two parts are, unfortunately, slapped together with no regard for presentation, and nothing about the unconventional structure is communicated to the audience, so of course, they’re disappointed.
The unfortunate thing is that I’ve seen this postmodern approach to cartooning work well in other shows. I remember watching Jackie Chan Adventures as a kid and always appreciating the artist stopping to draw Jade at a commercial break, or Jackie Chan himself coming through to offer a wholesome moral or answer a kid’s question. If Ekoda-chan had taken the time to attempt something like this, it might have actually been compelling to some viewers, rather than them surely skipping most of the show’s latter portion.
This lack of care shines through in the interview itself. Akitaro begins his interview by admitting that he didn’t want to take the project on initially, and later also cops to only spending four hours in the booth with his actor. Ishida Haruka, for her part, seems like a nice woman. She talks about her former career as an idol and her current job as a gaming professional. Her hustle gives some truth to Ekoda’s struggle and endears me to both of them. The only problem is that since I watched the dub of Rinshi!! Ekoda Chan, I had never heard her voice before and couldn’t relate to nearly anything she said about her work on the show.
This is kind of baffling. Upon doing some of my own research, it seems as if the source material is reasonably popular. So, why then the two-bit adaptation job? My theory is that these shorts must have been broadcast between other, full-length, content. They’ve got to be bumper tracks, made as cheap, disposable entertainment Otherwise, this has to be Z-list content by a company that acquired the license for nothing. Given the fact that this is the third adaptation of the show, and the aforementioned apparent popularity, however, I’m inclined towards the former explanation.
My ire, then, resides solely with Funimation. I wholeheartedly share in the frustration of the commenters on the first episode of Rinshi!! Ekoda-chan. Why would the service sell this as the first episode with a half-hour run time if it’s only five minutes of real content? Why would they package the show like this? Is this how they got it? Or did they make the decision to roll this out this way? Over at Bubbleblabber, we expected to get this first episode a week ago. Was it delayed by Funimation because they picked up the show sight-unseen, and only last week discovered exactly what they had? It does little good to speculate, other than to calm my own troubled mind after watching this, but after a surprise like this, one only has questions.
If there is anything to be learned in my struggle for meaning, it’s that the business of streaming is one that a) exists on a spectrum from the high end to the chintzy, and b) the television game has not changed much over the years. There are still high-end networks who are able to afford a deep bench of shows that complement their hits (Netflix, Hulu, the like), and then there are some that need to fill holes in the weaker parts of their schedule and are willing to do it by any means necessary. I am truly looking forward to these eleven other directors takes on the property, but as they should have been (at most) three episodes, they’re going to be graded as such.