Since I’ve been stuck in my house, I’ve had to take things one day at a time. Personally, this means binge-watching entire anime series at once! The feeling of being transported to another world for a few hours (only to wake up in my room again) is comforting for me. Shows that you can watch in one four- or five-hour block have a strange way of pulling you into them. In lighter terms, they provide a bite-sized experience that you can go *haumph* on! So here are six of my favorite bite-sized anime!
#6: The Devil is a Part-Timer!
What do you get when you combine Satan, McDonalds, two young guys sharing an apartment in the city? Unexpectedly, you get a wholesome new look on life! The first of its kind, The Devil is a Part-Timer is responsible for inventing the reverse isekai format. Escaping from a holy army in his home realm, Satan and his demon general Alciel find themselves dropped in the middle of Tokyo! With no friends, no magic, and nowhere to stay in this unfamiliar land, the devil is forced to get a part-time job at fast-food chain MgRonalds in order to support himself and his general. Despite the high fantasy premise, The Devil is a Part-Timer shines when Lucifer and Alciel get caught up in their newfound human lives. It’s heartwarming to see these two unlikely roommates argue over their grocery budget and obsess over TV shows just like we do. The series runs for 13 episodes, you can probably handle it all at once...
You definitely can’t go into Mononoke expecting a traditional anime experience. Through the use of complex digital animation techniques, creative reimaginings of Japanese folk spirits, and a jarring directorial style, Mononoke creates a surreal haze of color and smoke that dazzles the eye. The series follows an unnamed medicine seller during the end of Japan’s Edo period, and the supernatural threats that he faces on his journey. I will say this anime requires some getting used to from a visual standpoint, but once you’ve acclimated this show is a visual roller coaster ride. Visual flare isn’t all that Mononoke brings to the table, however. In a supernatural take on the murder mystery format, you watch the medicine seller delicately unravel the threads of each deadly occurence. This is truly an anime unlike anything you’ve ever seen, but be prepared for the real world to pale in comparison once you finish. This 12-episode series is made up of five multi-episode stories, if you want even smaller bites!
#4: The Promised Neverland
What could be worse than a global pandemic? How about you and all of your friends being promised a bright future, only to be turned into food? The Promised Neverland somehow manages to be one of the darkest and most inspiring stories I’ve watched/read over the past few years. Emma, Ray and Norman are orphans living in Grace Field House, an isolated orphanage containing them and 35 other children. Inside the orphanage, the children want for nothing -- gourmet food, comfy beds, games, beautiful weather, and the love of their “Mom” Isabella. Once the children reach a certain age they’re adopted by loving families, at least that’s what the orphans are told. But when Emma and her friends discover the horrible truth behind Grace Field, they embark on a journey to alter the course of reality itself. At 12 episodes, you can likely finish The Promised Neverland within 4 ½ hours.
#3: Ping Pong the Animation
Sports anime tend to be on the long-running side, but Ping Pong the Animation slides in at a cool 11 episodes. Animated by one of my all-time favorites Masaaki Yuasa, Ping Pong is another experimental anime, but in a different way than Mononoke. Following two childhood friends and rival ping pong players in a heart-wrenching coming of age tale, the show blends reality with the superhuman fantasies of its protagonists, Smile and Peco. More so than anything else I’ve seen, Ping Pong puts you in the head space of an awkward teenager trying to make sense of his gifts and purpose in life. This theme of uncomfortable self-searching is present in every aspect of the show, from Peco and Smile’s uncanny faces to the nervous, adolescent voice acting. Definitely watch this show if you want to see a master animator play with lines, motion and perspective, and then you’ll understand why Masaaki Yuasa is one of the all-time greats.
Baccano stands out as the only supernatural gangster story I have ever seen. It’s an unexpected genre crossover that works surprisingly well, an uncanny mixture of Fullmetal Alchemist and Public Enemies. An expansive cast of gangsters and thieves in 1930s New York struggle (wittingly and unwittingly) over a mystical serum that can provide someone with immortality. The stakes are high as mortals and immortals alike are intertwined by the threads of destiny in one of the most impressive feats of nonlinear storytelling I have ever seen. Baccano’s fast-paced, neurotic score suits the pace of the series perfectly, and one of my favorite youtubers does a wonderful job of describing the craftsmanship that went into the opening theme. It’s impossible for me to begin talking about the actual plot of Baccano in any meaningful way here, because I wouldn’t know where to start! But between the ditzy thieves Isaac and Miria, the charming mobster Firo Prochainezo, the immortal child Czeslaw, Ennis the homunculus and more, I’m sure you’ll find someone to obsess over and forget about your life.
Another experimental anime finds its way to the top of our list! Coming in at a snappy 6 episodes, FLCL (pronounced Fooly Cooly in English) is the epitome of the bite-sized anime. Naota Nandaba is a normal Japanese middle school student until his life is uprooted by a strange woman, Haruko Haruhara, running him over with her Vespa. She resuscitates Naota via CPR only to begin stalking him, eventually finding her way into his home as a live-in maid. Naota’s life is further complicated by robots emerging from his forehead and his older brother’s ex-girlfriend hitting on him. Naota’s introduction to Haruko, the robots and the sinister corporation Medical Mechanica reads like a surrealist metaphor for puberty and growing up, and no show can put me back in my teenage feelings like this one. FLCL is equal parts hilarious and nostalgic, strange and familiar all at once. By combining giant robots, space detectives, slice-of-life drama and a heavy dose of symbolism, FLCL manages to weave the most bizarre coming of age tale you’ll ever witness in just under three hours. (If you finish, two sequel series were released in the last few years, called FLCL: Progressive and FLCL: Alternative!)
There’s a special art to writing a self-contained anime in just 12 episodes or so. No matter what you do, fans will always want more! And all we can do as fans is go back and rewatch our favorite limited series, wondering if there are any crucial details that we’ve missed. Anyways, I hope these cute little shows can help you pass a day or two away at home!