What do you get when you have an anime character, who loves anime?
The slice of life genre give us all kinds of different takes on the way people live, and that doesn’t exclude the anime fans. Unless the show is trying to take a bulldozer to the fourth wall, these characters don’t typically see themselves as within an anime either, so there is a bit of a problem. Writers of course handle this in different ways, with some creating parodies of other popular works, while others go a step further and create something unique. I wish I could think of a better word to describe this, but the best thing I can come up with is “anime within anime.”
However boring my naming convention, I have always appreciated when writers are willing to create an entirely unique show to exist within the main story. It adds that extra layer of depth, and makes us wish we could be there watching it with our favorite characters. Since they love the same things we do, there is a connection with these otaku characters, so of course we would love the shows that they love… Right? If you browse the comment sections for these shows, you are bound to find people clamoring for them to be brought to life, but would we love it as much as our beloved characters do? Let’s take a look at some of the more popular fictional anime that exist in the anime realm…
Stardust Witch Meruru
Perhaps the first example that comes to mind for some of you is Stardust Witch Meruru from the anime Ore no Imōto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai. Meruru actually plays a fairly large roll in the anime, as Kirino’s obsession and desire for limited edition merchandise serve as a prominent theme in many of its episodes.
The story follows a ten year old girl who is magically transformed into Stardust Witch Meruru, and tasked with defeating the dark witches. Not much is ever revealed about the plot of Meruru beyond what can be gleaned from the Opening, which was released as an Oreimo DVD extra. In the opening you see the adorable magical girl murdering her friend and destroying a city, so I’m not quite sure what her angle is. If that’s not bad enough, in season two things apparently get even darker when Meruru is transformed into a dark witch, and potentially blows up the planet. However horrible Meruru seems to be, visually she is designed to remind us of past favorites in the genre. Her appearance is similar to Chibiusa from Sailor Moon, and the show itself gives off some strong Nanoha vibes.
Although the most prominent, Meruru isn’t even the only anime that exists within Oreimo. The gothic fantasy Maschera: Lament of a Fallen Beast, airs in the same time slot, and serves as a source of disagreement between Kirino and her friend Kuroneko over which is superior. Stardust Witch Meruru is meant to be super generic, which works for it as a device inside of Oreimo. Bringing it to life would be a tricky task though, since it really does closely resemble other magical girls out there. If they took advantage of its comedic potential, it would certainly have a chance. There definitely wouldn’t be a lack of interest thanks to the show it came from.
While we are on the subject of magical girls, lets take a look at Majokko Mirakurun. Appearing in the anime Yuru Yuri, Mirakurun pops up frequently as a popular magical girl series, and favorite of the character Kyoko. as luck would have it, Mirakurun and the character Chinatsu bear a strong resemblance, and Kyoko often forces her friend into cosplaying as her for events. As a talented artist, Kyoko often features Mirakurun as the focus of her Doujinshi (Self published comics).
Like most magic girl series, Majokko Mirakurun follows the similar blueprint of an adolescent girl given magical powers to fight evil. Unbeknownst to her, Mirakurun’s main nemesis is actually her best friend Rivalun, who fights for “Team Giga Giga” with a spherical robot named Ganbo. On the surface Mirakurun has a very cute facade, but shows that she is completely willing to abuse her opponents when given the chance. The contrast between her appearance and behavior actually create some hilarious situations, and the satirical comedy on the magical girl genre really hits the mark. As an OVA or short series, Mirakurun would be hysterical, but the question would be whether the comedy could stretch out into a full length season. Based on how much I liked what I saw of her in Yuru Yuri, I would be happy seeing more of Mirakurun either way.
Third Aerial Girls’ Squad
Perhaps the most fleshed out example of an anime within an anime is Third Aerial Girls’ Squad. Throughout the entirety of season two of the anime Shirobako, we get a front row seat through its entire production. From character designs, to key art, to the voice acting, we get to see our cast struggle through the rigorous anime creation process. While obviously the characters in Shirobako are fictional, it would still present an interesting situation to be watching an anime that was actually created by the characters of another. Shirobako actually came out with a couple OVA’s and one of them is a pilot (har har) episode for Third Aerial Girl’s Squad, so technically this has been brought to life already.
Third Aerial Girls’ Squad is an anime about a group of female fighter pilots selected from around the world to fight back against an invading alien race called “The Builders”. Quite a bit is revealed about the story throughout season two of Shirobako, to the point of some major spoilers. I would really like to see this show adapted into a full length series, so with that hope, I will avoid talking too much about it here. I was impressed with the work done on the first episode OVA though. The story has potential, and they really did good work with the rest of the production quality as well. Take a look at the opening, and lets hope we see more of these girls in the future!
If you have not read the manga, or watched the anime Genshiken, you owe it to yourself. Its a show about a group of college otaku in a club called “The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture”, which is basically just an excuse for them to do otaku things. Genshiken is where I first learned of the word otaku, and it has held a special place in my list of favorites ever since. There have been a lot of shows like it, but none have ever had the same feeling of authenticity. It’s an absolute must watch for any serious anime fan, but I won’t gush about it anymore since I would love to do a proper review at some point.
Kujibiki Unbalance is the current anime that is all the rage in the world of Genshiken. Just think of it as the Kancolle, or Love Live! of their world. All of the cosplayers are doing their best impersonations of its characters, and all the artists are featuring them in their doujinshi. The girl with the yellow helmet named Ritsuko, is plastered basically everywhere from the walls of the club room to the streets of Akiba, and the rest of the cast is right there with her. The story isn’t really that important, since its purpose is basically to be the embodiment of otaku tropes, but with good reason. It gives the characters of Genshiken plenty to talk about that, as the viewer, we will easily recognize and relate to.
This is one of the only fictional anime to break from the confines of its parent show, but unfortunately its probably the least compatible with a real world audience. Don’t get me wrong, I love Kujibiki Unbalance as a device within Genshiken, because that is where it works. Expecting a purposely cliched anime that takes itself far too seriously to resonate with people is naive though, and its abysmal 6.2 rating on MyAnimeList shows it. That doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the opening though…
Puru Puru Pururin
Back to the magical girls! This one isn’t known for her transformation sequence, her costume, or her magical powers. The first thing that comes to mind for anyone who knows this girl is her song. Puru Puru Pururin Is a magical girl series that exists within the anime Welcome to the NHK, and we are introduced to her through her theme song. The main character in Welcome to the NHK, is a hikikomori named Tatsuhiro Satou who is finally driven out into the daylight by his Pururin loving neighbor who blasts her theme song all day. In a sense, its thanks to Pururin and her theme song that all the craziness of the series then ensues.
Not too much is known about Puru Puru Pururin, but she appears to have less violent tendencies than the previous two on this list. We don’t ever have an opportunity to see her powers, but she does seem to have the assistance of a number of animated household objects, which I imagine comes in quite handy. Its hard to say whether Pururin would make it in the world of real anime; She does have a cute verbal tic, adding purin to the end of her sentences, and shes definitely a cat girl who rides a vacuum, which seems like a winner to me. Really though, Its all about that earworm.
I honestly started this post with the goal of showing people that these shows would be flops if brought to life, but after typing this up and thinking about it, my opinion has changed. As a fan of the magical girl, I would actually love to see something done with Meruru, Mirakurun, and Pururin. As long as they stuck with the comedic theme, these shows could be hilarious additions to the genre. I would absolutely watch a show about anime girl fighter pilots. As crazy as the idea may be, It worked tremendously well with Girls und Panzer. Its probably a long shot, but hopefully one day they will be given a chance.
The fact still remains that the original intent for these shows was for them to exist within another show, in a place where we would only see glimpses of them. As we saw with Kujibiki Unbalance, it‘s not always going to be a good idea to bring these titles to life. What we certainly can say however, is that they all perform their current jobs wonderfully. I would recommend every one of the real anime on this list, and a part of what makes them so great, is the anime within.
Do you have any favorite anime within anime? Sound off in the comments, and share your thoughts!