My episodic notes, reactions, and commentary from Miss Monochrome, which aired during the Autumn 2013 anime season (plus the later Spring 2014 World Cup themed OVA).
Everything is by and large as it was when I originally wrote them in the Hangers category when the show was airing. They have been sewn together and provided for the convenience of readers to look back on my feelings on this series specifically, without needing to click through numerous pages.
Miss Monochrome (Episode 1)
Welp, some of the Fall company from my guest list has already arrived.
It’s not all the time an idol show kicks off with hellfire and injured people possibly dying in another’s lap. And embezzlement. And foreclosure.
For a short form series like this, there’s a surprising amount of stuff in here for a less than four minute episode. If it can nab at least one or two laughs out of me an episode, it will more than exceed its needs, and at this stage I feel it’s equipped to do just that.
Monogatari started with a Roomba last season, and Miss Monochrome carries that forward with her very own adorable little floor cleaning pet. Which is odd to say, as it’s not like the machine is a particularly “cute” design or anything; it still looks perfectly circular and mechanical and like something you’d find in the local department store. It’s just whimsical to see whirring around. I imagine Yui Horie (Hanekawa’s actress, and Miss Monochrome’s designer and voice) really fancies these things.
Roomba’s. Anime Character Pet of the Year 2013.
Miss Monochrome (Episode 2)
I would watch a modern rendition of The Brave Little Toaster staring Ru-chan the Roomba.
Godspeed and best wishes, little buddy.
Miss Monochrome (Episode 3)
This series continues to amuse me in its short form little dry humor.
Ru-chan the Roomba returns (and gets to turn into an Iron Idol suit), somewhere off-screen some school children had a really oddball Meet An Idol day, and Monochrome gets to experience the power of premium batteries.
I do not think this series would work the same were it a longer full length show. The shorter three to four minute duration makes it more keenly timed for the delivery it needs, and more notably it restricts the ability for the sheen to wear off. It stays punchy. It is essentially a single weekly sketch bit. With some economic subtext.
No more, no less. Monochromatic. It clearly enjoys being that, which I appreciate.
Miss Monochrome (Episode 4)
An episode all about Nendoroids, and what it means to have one made of you.
From a minutes of show to screenshots I take perspective, nothing really comes close to Miss Monochrome as it deadpans it way through its economic humor commentary.
The idea of her Nendoroid itself becoming more popular than her is a supremely interesting topic. There are more than three hundred of those things at this point, and given the way they are often talked about and referred to one would pretty much be forgiven were they to think the mere act of Nendoroid collecting was more important than the actual characters represented by them.
Her display figure toy sold out, and yet she herself has not achieved what she seeks in popularity or the level of personal interaction one would think she would be able to get.
This show says more in three minutes than some manage in a whole twenty.
Miss Monochrome (Episode 5)
Ru-chan, you can not eat pumpkins.
But I will always believe in you anyway, whatever you do, wherever you go.
I always enjoy seeing a genuine Halloween themed episode of a show, as they tend to be such a novelty, so this was really nice to see.
The economic subtext continues, as the manager does not forget to remind us of his second job on top of all of this. If we are being perfectly honest, Monochrome may even be stealing internet with that antenna of hers, as I can’t imagine she pays for her own in that room.
To take this one step further, she is functionally in the right in terms of how she processed the information she data mined regarding Halloween and choosing to terrify the loving daylights out of the children. Think about it: When people ask for Halloween themed recommendations for shows or movies to watch for instance, do they normally get things that exclusively deal directly with the season? Not really. Folks will push anything that fits within the “generates scares” category, and while perfectly fun in its own right for viewing, is also precisely the sort of thing that would confuse a more direct mechanical reading.
Miss Monochrome (Episode 6)
This week our idol imagines herself in a wide variety of rather impossible professional situations.
Or perhaps merely improbable, given how her life tends to turn out.
As is often the case, she has the aspirations despite her position at the convenience store, its just the follow through that tends to gum up the works. In this case, by being brought in to have a part in a Candid Camera style surprise show, she actually gave a far more surprising reaction than one would have perhaps expected from her monotone tone. So surprising, in fact, that nobody in the intended audience of the show they were recording for will actually be able to be surprised by it themselves.
I do continue to appreciate how much they are really able to package into these skits every week, as the format does allow for very little extraneous material. We still maintain the convenience store clerk angle in the mix of everything else, and we see that Miss Monochrome actually uses Ru-chan the Roomba… as a pillow.
It’s an interesting little dynamic in the mix of everything else, as on the one hand there is the long relationship these two friends have with one another that can give that scene a warm little flavor. On the other hand, we know from establishing enough of her economic situation already the Monochrome doesn’t really have a whole lot of resources anymore, and thus literally may lack the means at this time for a more proper pillow
Miss Monochrome (Episode 7)
If I’m not entirely mistaken, I believe this is the most time we have seen Miss Monochrome actually at her convenience store job since the series began.
It also seems to be our intrepid Manager, energetic as he has been with coming up with and servicing new ideas towards her idoldom, was just feeding her tools so she would actually do her job.
I see what you’re getting at Mister Manager Maneo, sneaky sneaky.
The point he makes about her possibly needing vegetables as a defining “idol prop” is interesting though. Sure, it is a reference to Hatsune Miku and her leeks, but there is also more to that I feel given what the series has been making a go at thus far. It’s not like Monochrome as a character actually eats vegetables, for instance.
It would be something completely superfluous then, a mere gimmick over the more functional cleaning things she was doing previously in the episode that were not actually getting her any of her desired attention towards being an idol. It would serve absolutely no purpose other than branding. And that is what, effectively, matters in that line of business.
Given the slowly comedic little rural fantasy she has after that thought though, I would also watch an implied crossover between Miss Monochrome and Non Non Biyori in a tanuki calling heartbeat.
Miss Monochrome (Episode 8)
Someone needs to link me up with the contact information for Manager Maneo, because that is a man I want managing my life and all future employment prospects.
Such speed and earnest fervor in acquiring new lines of work for our idol, even when otherwise stocking soda cans behind the convenience store freezer.
Truthfully, I was surprised Monochrome’s color scheme was not used as a part of some giant crash sequence or checked flag misunderstanding when she picked up the Race Queen gig. It was what I had expected the show to do when they started going that direction, and then it subverted that. I gotta stay on my toes if I ever wanna outrun all those race cars myself, I suppose.
It’s unfortunate our Manager had to apologize so much to the producer for Monochrome’s behavior; the second and third placed racers themselves seemed pretty alright with how things turned out!
The idol commentary on the ability of famous idols to get grand coverage for the things they do is certainly timeless in its ability to induce idle frustration. Plenty of folks out there in the world are doing Awesome Things every day without due coverage or an interesting telling of their stories, even if they would be far more rich of a tale to tell. In many respects, that is also the kind of show we are watching.
Monochrome went to Mars and back, but there was no buzz and it doesn’t move the needle regarding her popularity.
Miss Monochrome (Episode 9)
We started this show with an idol dying in the arms of another in a fiery hellscape, and to that we have returned.
I wouldn’t have expected them to pull the eternal recurrence theory of universal order as a means of explaining itself, but here we are.
So those goofy human hunter aliens from several episodes back return, except this time they are actually successful and bring civilization to its extinction. Although, since this is technically the past, it would be their earlier arrival. Monochrome has survived through the ages and millions of years to get to this point where she feels that sense of inspiration and connection from Kikuko, but can not place why.
I am interested then in how much Manager Maneo’s previous gift of a premium battery that allowed Monochrome to stop the alien return invasion in the present may have altered things, if at all. This also implies that Monochrome has always had such capabilities to defeat the aliens, but they were somehow rendered either useless or unutilized in the past. This is further complicated by the matter that she had also achieved idoldom of some stature, and the differences that could or could not make for the survival of mankind.
Unless, of course, the previous destruction of human civilization was preluded by an accidental battery charging action by Monochrome which chased them off for a time. In which case, everything is still going according to plan. We are seeing elements of a larger narrative at work, and it could try and pull a fast one on us.
Miss Monochrome (Episode 10)
KND13 certainly is a nod to AKB48, though it is interesting that they are going with referring the real life version over the AKB0048 anime idol warfare television version. But perhaps we merely had enough interplanetary destruction last episode.
So we instead turn to the misadventures of handshakes, and where they can take us.
Specifically, the likes of Mike Tyson, Hulk Hogan, and I’m fairly certain a gentleman who must be Jacques Rogge, former President of the International Olympic Committee. Complete with the return of high level weightlifting! Including her previous achievements in sport, such as her victory in the racing event she was supposed to be a “mere” race queen for, she has racked up quite a list of trophy level achievements and whatever associated viewership would come from that. Clearly, her physical achievements such as these are noticed, as it allows her to climb the multitude of sporting ladders and events this episode.
At the same time, it’s the wrong kind of fame, in that she would still of course like to be an idol.
As this series has made economics a subtext theme: things like Olympic events don’t particularly pay all that well. Many of those athletes really do work crazy hours at retail establishments and the like just to get by. Everyone may be cheering for them on television or in the stands one night, but then generally be forgotten soon thereafter. Such is the life of Monochrome.
Miss Monochrome (episode 11)
Ru-chan, the ocean is not a place for Roomba’s to be playing a game of Chicken.
Speaking of games of risk, it seems we’re getting to the core of how Maneo has been able to keep getting these Producers to give Monochrome the time of day at the auditions: Take them out drinking, out of his own pocket. This can not possibly be easy on his wallet, particularly on convenience store pay.
This said though, the dedication seems to be paying some degree of investment dividends. Monochrome fails the ramen tasting test, but aces an unrelated nutrition analysis, leading to the Producer to… actually recommend her for another associated gig. Where she… is really awesome at nutrition analysis and meal presentation, but can not actually cook a palatable meal. Which has all of its own little theme regarding what folks are willing to eat even if it is really beneficial for their diet and look otherwise fantastic.
And she still gets recommended for another gig by the same Producer again due to her energy beam capabilities and… her task as an Illumination Master actually goes really fantastically and everyone loved it. And there’s no crazy punchline stinger. Sure she may not have been seen by the crowd herself, but she actually accomplished a job given to her by a Producer with excellent flair.
…So now what do we do?
Miss Monochrome (Episode 12)
The first series that entered the door for my autumn season, and… I actually have no idea if this show is over or not? Some places saying it is twelve episodes, others thirteen. But there might be something on Christmas Day, which is different from the normal Tuesday? Given the sub-four minute run times and theoretical faster turn around, it is hard to say. I guess we’ll find out next week.
With Monochrome actually accomplishing a pretty swell gig last week, Producer Takishita allows her to get to be a little walk on in a television drama and observe a singing program. Which is literally true: she was a background character in a recent episode of Golden Time. Naturally, Ru-chan the Roomba is along for the ride and to take part in activities as well.
…As well as Mana-chan. The incredibly giddy, endlessly opportunistic swindler who embezzled 19.3 billion of Monochrome’s fortune at the start of this whole series of escapades. Who now, incidentally, has a conspicuously gigantic ruby ring. Which is the sort of personal thing that catches Monochrome’s interest. Repeatedly.
As it goes, she’s managing Kikuko then, the pop idol star Monochrome has been looking towards meeting with (again) after so many millennia. The ensuing conversation I think is noteworthy, concerning the nature of Monochrome’s inability to age. Kikuko denotes this as the real strength of any idol, which is something that can operate on a few levels here. Certainly, the idol industry is notorious for being a meat grinder process that is so incredibly superficial and primed to spit folks out at the drop of a hat. As much as Kikuko says this is why she will be forever seventeen and the like, we all know this is impossible. It is something she would know herself as well. It’s a tricky thing to come to terms with, really.
It gets a bit more meta then when we consider that in real life, Miss Monochrome is a virtual singer. A show made of a process of holograms and other machines, backed by the voice and creative design processes of Yui Horie. She has her own music career with projects like Aice5, and it is interesting to consider this whole operation as a sort of industry hedge in a post-Vocaloid entertainment environment. Monochrome will always look exactly as she should for a given appearance, no matter the years.
It’s a bit funny on one level, and yet also a bit biting, which has been the course of this program on the whole regardless of if this is really the end or not.
Miss Monochrome (Episode 13)
As a series, this show could really have ended on either of the previous two episodes and I would have figured that would have been fine enough for a short form series like this.
And yet, Miss Monochrome aims to be a Christmas tradition by placing the full bore of a series finale on a Christmas Eve airing and with a full blown holiday wishlist of things for her in tow. And as the whole series can be watched in less than an hour, I really couldn’t be happier about that design objective.
Objectively, it delivers on the logical enough end of what the series had been using as subtext regarding hard work and economics. Late nights coming home from a convenience store job wondering if your family member is asleep, even if they are a Roomba, that sort of thing. “Trying your best” is all well and good, and yet it rarely personally feels to ever deliver her the desired results towards being an idol.
Leave it to Santa then to set some things straight, as he notes that such work will always be rewarded. Monochrome may be an android who sings about batteries and the like, but gosh darn it she has been pretty good this year when it comes to a Naughty or Nice list.
So she gets her little recording session. She gets a debut CD right down to the manufacturing and inspection process. She gets a snazzy signature outfit. And she gets to sing her little song in the holiday decorated shopping district and do her dance in a light snowfall. Manager Maneo earned every bit of being able to cry at the sight of all this, the dude has been a workhorse the entire program.
And to all a good night indeed.
Miss Monochrome: Supporter OVA (Miss Monochrome: The Animation – Soccer Hen)
Well this was unexpected!
To me at least. I have no idea if this was more widely held knowledge here regarding this OVA being put into production as a World Cup special. It popped up on a Tuesday though, just as the regular series of shorts did back during the autumn season when I was writing about it a bit every week.
I was trying to cram way too many series into the same word count limit each week at the time. But, nevertheless, I did enjoy its brand of light economic humor and deadpanning android idol dream shenanigan short skits enough for it make it on to my top ten list for 2013 when I was writing those posts up.
How does the international sport themed special episode perform then?
It felt pretty much the same as any other episode of the series, really, aside from having a bit more of a directly upbeat ending.
The setup goes as one would expect for this kind of special. Monochrome only thinking of soccer after someone purchases a ball from the convenience store she is stuck working in, and this quickly snowballing into seeking to make a video despite her having absolutely no idea how the sport operates on a practical level. Cue Manager Maneo being combinations of either embarrassed or concerned regarding either the nature of events surrounding him or Monochrome’s capability to potentially ruin herself (or him, by proxy). And Ru-chan the Roomba says nothing, yet remaining invaluable and adorable in their supporting vacuum cleaner and family member role.
That is about all I can say without ruining all of the jokes at least, as it is only a four minute short including the credits (which remain the same as the original series).
For a Monochrome episode, its need to be very gung-ho supportive of the Japanese national football Team does mean it can not be quite as dry in its humor use compared to the original series. While the series definitely had its share of just plain silly moments, the wackiness factor is a bit dialed up here as part of being more celebratory or exclamatory in tone. For good reason, of course, given the intent of the short. It just feels a little bit different from the original, is all. If one enjoyed the series though, they will still get enough of a kick out of this.
Plus, you get to see some Wooser in this short too, and he had a second second of his show wrap up this past winter. It had the best ending credits, so go support his show (Wooser’s Hand To Mouth Life, and said sequel I like a bit more, Wooser’s Hand-to-Mouth Life: Awakening Arc) too.
Together, perhaps Wooser and Miss Monochrome will one day get the late night animated talk show we all need.