If you enjoy anime but don’t have hours to commit to a lengthy series, you may want to check out one of the industry’s finest exports: anime that’s 15 minutes or less.
Inspired by four-panel manga known as yonkoma or 4-koma, brief anime series have a certain ridiculous joy that makes them as addictive and snackable as a bag of popcorn. They’ve been popular in Japan for years, partially because the cost of an entire series is roughly equivalent to one episode of a full-length show. They also allow animators to try out unusual plots that might not flesh out as well in a longer show, and they’re a terrific way for new animation studios to show off what they can do.
Bananya, the most recent show of this sort to debut on Crunchyroll, is about a cat that lives inside a banana. Its name is Bana, of course. In the first episode, we learn that Bana loves sweet treats, likes to yell “nya!,” and dreams of becoming a chocolate-covered banana.
Nonsensical? Sure. Precious and enjoyable, like a square of imported chocolate? Yes. If you like what you see, there are tons of anime under 15 minutes an episode to choose from, so let us introduce you to some of the best. Then you can binge an entire season on your lunch break (well, some of them).
Back in 2008 when it debuted, Chi’s Sweet Home was one of the first anime to use the three-minute format. The tale of a sweet kitten who meets a new family after losing her way was very well received in Japan. It yielded a sequel in 2009 called Chi’s New Address, and the manga has since been localized by Vertical Inc. Chi is a delightful character to watch, and the series is a must-see for any cat owner (who will spend most of the show saying “Yep! Mine does that too!”over Chi’s exploits).
An entire show dedicated to the weird desk habits of a classmate? That’s exactly what Tonari no Seki-kun is, and its slice-of-life take on the eccentricities of Rumi Yokoi’s desk neighbor are hilariously on point. The original manga was a one-shot that was adapted into this anime as well as a live-action film, so it’s clear that quite a few students relate to sitting by a really weird classmate.
This 2008 series portrays a world where sweets of all kinds have been banished under “The Good For You” law and deemed evil, and two young boys long to find it again. Based on a British children’s novel called Bootleg by Alex Shearer, Chocolate Underground riffs on real-life prohibition and manages to tell a deeper story than one would imagine within its brief episodes.
Lovely Muuuuuuuco! is very much Chi’s Sweet Home for dog owners, and since Akitas are one of Japan’s most popular breeds, watching their exploits is very amusing for the Japanese. Clocking in (a little longer than the others) at just over 12 minutes an episode, it introduces us to the adventures of Muco and the dog’s owner, Komatsu-san. Simple and delightful, Lovely Muuuuuuuco! is a charming watch.
If you feel anime should make sense or have a story, Mameshiba is not for you. It’s ideal for those who embrace the bewildering with enthusiasm. Described on its official website as a hybrid of a dog and a bean, Mameshiba is 20 episodes long and each features an odd (but true) factoid. It’s never clear exactly what’s going on or why, which is what makes it such fun. Don’t ask questions!
Neko Rahmen, the story of the only cat in Tokyo that runs its own ramen shop, originated as a 4-koma back in 2006 from author Kenji Sonishi. Think Corporation made the strip into a 26-episode anime series, which perfectly riffs two of Japan’s greatest loves, ramen and cats.
Eiji Nonaka’s comedy manga Cromartie High School takes a clever peek into “yankii,” Japanese high-school gangs. While Takashi Kamiyama learns how to deal with his classmates, the anime adaption takes a poke at Japan’s treatment of delinquents while portraying them in a relatable light.
Another three-minute slice-of-life cat anime, right? Poyo, the cat the anime is named for, became so popular after his 2012 debut that cat plushes with no legs sprouted up all over Japan (and are now easily found at anime conventions in the U.S. as well). The anime is about Poyo’s adventures with her human family, and viewers can’t seems to get enough.
A sad egg yolk with a nihilist flair, Gudetama is a Sanrio character that captured America’s attention almost as quickly as it did Japan’s. There’s no real storyline to Gudetama’s daily life, just an all-consuming passion for laziness. That, along with the yolk’s take on gross cute, is more than enough to have even Hot Topic stocking their shelves with Gudetama merch.