I have absolutely no idea how Steve Jobs or crabs have anything to do with this show. To be quite honest, I’d almost prefer we never find out, leaving the opening sequence of Aiura a curious non-sequitur in an otherwise down-to-earth slice-of-life comedy – its existence a mystery that was never intended to be solved.
As for the show itself, it’s another of those series of 4-minute (2-minute if you don’t count the OP and ED) comedy shorts that really seemed to take off last season, and it is something of a strange one. Beyond the bizarre opening theme, the staff is the group of Madhouse veterans behind the Run Melos arc of Blue Literature, and have primarily worked on similarly dark, moody series in the past. I can’t begin to imagine why this was the crew chosen to adapt such an innocuous cute-girl 4-koma comedy, but I suppose I can’t deny the results. The music and sound direction are solid, and the animation and artwork, particularly the backdrops, are a sight to behold. Together, they create a very mellow atmosphere that works extremely well for at least the first episode.
The content itself is the odd one out here. We’ve seen two distinct breeds so far – that of the first episode and that of episodes two and three.
I originally had little intention of following Aiura to begin with, but the first episode really captivated me. It can stand alone pretty strongly as a singular two-minute showcase of the gorgeously-rendered town in which the show takes place. It is truly a slice of life. While I can’t stand to watch an entire season’s worth of full-length episodes where nothing of value happens, in this two-minute format, watching Ayuko travel across town and briefly interact with the people she meets is a pleasant, diversion that is short enough not to bore. The scarcity of dialogue is key, as it lets the show’s strongest point – the backdrop – speak for itself. What little dialogue there is a subtle mix of inconsequentially silly and lightly introspective, its sparing use serving to introduce and wrap up the episode. It, along with everything else in the episode, felt very deliberately placed to create mood, at which the show’s accomplished staff were wholly successful. Were Aiura an episodic series with each episode giving us a new, similarly carefully-crafted “slice” of life, whether through the eyes of another character or across another part of town, I would probably love it to pieces. This episode was an example of precisely the type of material that would perfectly fit this up-and-coming short format, and the short format is a perfect medium for this type of material. It had a soft appeal similar to last season’s Yama no Susume, though in a much more refined form and with a less directed plot (leading me to question whether the plot really was a necessary piece for a show like YnS to work after all; perhaps it was merely a supplement to an already-feasible short-slice-of-life formula). I would highly recommend at least the first episode to anyone looking for an example of what qualifies as a well-done slice-of-life anime, and just how good such an anime can be.
The second and third episodes, however, take the show in a different direction. Once Ayuko starts going to school, Aiura returns with a jolt to the recognizable format of high school 4-koma, which I feel is a large step down for the series. Most of the jokes so far have revolved around coming up with nicknames for the characters and around Kanaka’s constant need for attention. Her noisiness was well-placed in a small dose as a passerby in the first episode, but having it recur as a larger part of the show recasts it as out-of-place in the atmosphere that was otherwise so meticulously crafted to be slow and easygoing (well, apart from the energetic OP, that is). That’s not to call the episodes bad, though. There are still brief flashes of what I loved about the first episode, and the jokes are admittedly funnier than those in most 4-koma series out there. They could stand to have some more variety, and I’d still rather have my 12 episodes filled with excellent atmospheric slice of life than with slightly-better-than-mediocre 4-koma humor, but it’s still very watchable. Though I think that at this point it’s reasonable to infer that the remaining eleven episodes will be in this style rather than that of the first. Still easily worth the two minutes, but not the show the first episode made me hunger for.
I’ll definitely be sticking with this, if mostly for the beautiful imagery from the Blue Literature team and the fact that it’s only two minutes per week to watch (plus the OP and ED). But that first episode was really something special, and I’d love to see that sort of idea expanded upon into a full season’s worth of shorts. If you’re reading this post to decide whether or not to watch Aiura yourself, I’d say give it a shot. Even if what we get from episode two onward turns out to be just another 4-koma series with some pretty pictures, it will likely take you about as much time to get caught up than it did to read this post. And at the very least, a quarter of the experience is that delightfully bizarre crab/Steve Jobs thing that plays before each episode, and if that by itself doesn’t justify the other 3/4 to you, then I don’t know what to say.