Much like the episode 8 phenomenon I pointed out some time ago, there’s something that most 11 and 22-episode shows have in common besides their odd length. At least nine times out of ten, a series with one of these rare episode counts is bound to be among the most unusual anime on TV.
I first noticed this about 22-episode anime after seeing Texhnolyze and Red Garden, two of the most unusual anime ever made, which for a long time were the only 22-episode anime I’d even heard of. The 11-episode phenomenon came to my attention after Kuuchuu Buranko and Youjohan Shinwa Takei. If you’ve seen any of the four anime I just mentioned, you’ve probably already begun to understand the significance of this phenomenon.
And these episode counts *are* exceedingly rare. Performing a MAL search of TV anime by episode count, there’s only about 1 page worth of either number out of over 100 pages. That almost every anime with 11 or 22 episodes is distinctly unique says to me that it’s being done on purpose. One common trend in the recent shows with these episode counts is belonging to the noitaminA time-slot, which is itself dedicated to unique anime; however, it is neither the case that all of the shows in this phenomenon are from that time-slot, nor that everything in that time-slot is 11 or 22 episodes long.
Here are examples of some 11 and 22-episode anime that I particularly enjoyed.
Kuuchuu Buranko (11 eps)
Based on a novel of the same title and directed by Nakamura Kenji (Mononoke), Kuuchuu Buranko is what I like to call a “feel-good hit” anime. It has an episodic structure wherein each character is suffering from some kind of mental disorder or anxiety, and comes into contact with Dr. Irabu for consultation. Many anime have been said to feature “acid trip visuals,” but Kuuchuu Buranko is probably closer to a real acid trip than any others. There are a lot of vibrant colors and patterns or spots on the backgrounds, and the direction flawlessly makes the strange visuals never take away from the plot (as was true for Mononoke and almost no other shows of this kind.) Dr. Irabu himself appears in three different forms—as an adorable kid, a seemingly gay young-adult, and a goofy stuffed bear—with no explanation given as to which is real or why they change. It’s a fun show and, to me, hugely uplifting.
Texhnolyze (22 eps)
On the opposite end of the spectrum is the bleak, dark, and physically painful Texhnolyze. Best known for its gorgeous art conceptualized by Yoshitoshi ABe and for its impenetrable Chiaki J. Konaka script, Texhnolyze is an anime that many people know about, but few have watched. Most give up during the first episode, which features no dialog for its first 14 minutes and has an incredibly dark, brooding, slow atmosphere. Those who manage to continue the show however will witness a grueling, superb meditation on human weakness and suffering, and be taken through an enchanting and memorable world. Not to mention it’s insanely violent.
Bartender (11 eps)
Bartender is a cult favorite and almost always referred to as an “iyashikei anime for men/adults.” As the title implies, the series centers around a bartender and his episodic patrons. Each one is dealing with some kind of hardship in their life and find themselves in his bar (which seems to appear for those who need it.) The bartender then prepares them a special kind of cocktail to soothe the particulars of their soul and touch them down to the core. If you want the feel-good element of Kuuchuu Buranko without the acid trip, this is a perfect choice.
Red Garden (22 eps)
Directed and clearly imagined by Matsuo Kou (Kure-nai), Red Garden is a very ambitious but strange series. It takes more influence from American TV dramas than it does from anime, yet has a story that can hardly be imagined outside the medium. One part chick-flick and one part splatterhouse, Red Garden is an anime that can have its characters literally singing out their emotions in one scene and murdering demons in the next. The character designs take some real getting used to, but a superb vocal cast and character-focused script bring those characters to life and make them endearing. Also has an OVA.
Jyu-Oh-Sei (11 eps)
The best BONES anime that no one seems to have heard of, Jyu Oh Sei is a fast-paced, plot-driven sci-fi drama about twin boys who’re cast onto a dangerous planet and forced to learn fast or die. It has a breakneck intensity and wicked plot twists that don’t let the viewer settle down. As per usual from BONES, the series is gorgeously animated with excellent action sequences throughout. The one thing I could see turning off today’s viewers would be the character designs, seeing as the original manga started in the early 90s, and there are a lot of bishounen.
Shion no Ou (22 eps)
A collision between a sports/gambling-style shougi anime and a murder mystery, Shion no Ou is the story of a little girl who went mute at the sight of her parents being axe-murdered and is now a shougi champion. It’s hard to say if the show is “about” either subject—for some time, the murder plot may show up, but then entire episodes will be dedicated to long, intense shougi matches. Shion no Ou has a strange story, but a stranger production, and not necessarily in a good way. While Numata Seiya‘s designs are excellent, Studio DEEN, being themselves, managed to make them look different in every other scene and created a very uneven product. Yet, to me at least, that unevenness lends to the overall feeling of strangeness from the show that I really enjoy.
Other worthwhile anime with these episode counts:
Kuragehime (11 eps)
Shiki (22 eps)
Yojouhan Shinwa Takei (11 eps)
Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 (11 eps)
Michiko to Hatchin (22 eps)
Aoi Hana (11 eps)
Higashi no Eden (11 eps)
Ghost Hound (22 eps)
Hataraki Man (11 eps)
Moyashimon (11 eps)
Nijuu Mensou no Musume (22 eps)
Ayakashi (11 eps)
Hakaba Kitarou (11 eps)
Genji Monogatari Senneki (11 eps)
Bonus: I didn’t feel like writing about Shiki or Kuragehime since I’ve talked about them so much lately. Anyway, have some Chatmonchy (here you go, glo). These guys did the op for Kuragehime, but this song has the same name as the awesome Kuuchuu Buranko ed, so it all ties together.