Kowabon is a short horror ILCA anime from the end of 2015. They aren’t a studio I’m really familiar with. They’re best known for Yami Shibai, another anime made up of horror shorts that they’ve kept going for five series at this point. Maybe next year I’ll look at that one but, for now, let’s allow this to serve as our introduction to their work.
There isn’t any single over-arcing plot. Rather, each episode gives us some scenario involving some character using technology to communicate with someone else, record themselves or being monitored by a security camera. Whatever the case, we see them through the perspective of the technology and they aren’t allowed to be touching themselves or disrobing for tips from thirteen year olds who stole their parents credit cards because that would be a completely different kind of series.
The trouble with this series is that the episodes are essentially all the same. We’re introduced to an innocuous scene that we’re seeing through some variety of camera. Graphical glitches start happening. They get worse as the scenario progresses and then we see some kind of apparition that’s more silly than scary. At that point the character we’ve been watching usually gets snatched away, presumably to reside in a nightmare dimension where all media is written by Stephanie Meyer & Frank Miller and the only work available is a fast food clerk but the customers are allowed to strike you if they feel like it. Where law enforcement is American, the chefs are English, the mechanics are French & the comedians are Deutsche. If they don’t get spirited away, and not the fun kind, it’s something else that’s supposed to be scary. After the first episode it just gets repetitive and predictable.
In all fairness, these are very short episodes with each one lasting a couple minutes and you can’t expect anything elaborate but, at the very least, you’d think they could do something different at some point. It’s like if Gakuen Heaven released its jokes where it sounds like a couple blokes are doing something naughty but they aren’t, as their own anime. Except that would still be better because those can make you laugh and I don’t think anyone is getting scared by this series. Maybe Wade the duck would, but no one else. Not only are the apparitions goofy looking, but there’s no surprise factor past the first episode and even the way they’re set up is basically the same. It’s not like there’s only one possible horror scenario with its slight permutations that are executable in a short work. They just couldn’t be bothered to come up with something else.
It kind of goes without saying, the characters in this don’t have any depth. If you expected more from a series with episodes that last a couple minutes and all feature different characters, you may be a bit too optimistic. The issue with that in a horror work is that, in a good piece of horror, a lot of the tension comes from concern over the characters. In a piece like this, you know what’s going to happen and you have no reason to care. You have more reason to care about the villains of the week you get in children’s anime. That fitness instructor monster was, at least, hilarious when he was tormenting Kirby and Dedede and he had more character traits than anyone in this series. Same with the stop light goat monster. And that’s a problem when you’re trying to do horror.
The artwork in this is rotoscoped. Fortunately, it doesn’t go the Cheesesteak Suppository route where the rotoscoping looks like complete bollocks. In this, it’s actually competent. It helps that the animation does move pretty smoothly and the set up of viewing things through an actual camera lens while graphical glitches start happening does serve to make those jankier moments work. It’s a case of the artwork just matching what they’re doing very well.
The performances in this are pretty much the epitome of mediocrity. There’s never a performance that really sells the situation but there also aren’t any that are so bad that they completely take you out of it. The music is rather dull and forgettable, but it’ not bad.
There’s no romance in this series in general. Which is the right call. There’s no bloody way they could take these characters and show any kind of chemistry with any of them.
To be blunt, Kowabon would have probably been better served taking the Chocolate Underground route and having one story with consistent characters so that they could have some pacing and atmosphere build up even with short episodes. Instead, we’ve got short episodes that are basically all permutations of the same thing. It is pretty lacking. It’s not scary in the slightest. The characters may not be the worst I’ve seen, but they’ve got nothing to them. If the basic concept seems like it could be interesting, go ahead and give it a go. The entire series is over in under forty minutes and I can’t say that it’s a bad little series. More sub-par. My final rating is going to stand at a 4/10. Next week I’ll finish out this year’s horror anime month with Elfen Lied.