Do A Cencoroll

Cencoroll premiered in America at the 2009 New York Anime Festival. Contributing editor moritheil was on hand to review it.


Picture unbaked dough. Give it eyes and teeth. This is Cenco, title character of Cencoroll. Along with his human handler, he wreaks havoc on the countryside and transforms into a variety of cool things. The details of his transformation, his battle against other blob monsters, and the involvement of a certain schoolgirl are all integral to the plot. At its core, though, Cencoroll is a primal, visual appeal to the audience via transformation and violence.

Its plot is a simple laundry list of typical Japanese story conventions. Monsters let loose in an urban area, and are attacked by largely ineffectual Japanese self-defense forces. Our heroes are opposed by beings of loose moral character.  Innocents are threatened.  A hero goes out of his way to protect a girl despite knowing that it must be a trap. In the end, a combination of cool under pressure and fiery determination win the day, and it is children who manage to avert disaster and restore balance.

The music of Cencoroll is excellent. The character designs are a bit on the bland side, particularly the nondescript uniforms, but given the nature of the effort – one man storyboarded, drew, and animated the entire film over the course of two years – one must be forgiving. Facial expressions are excellent, and incorporate exaggerated elements that are typically reserved for super-deformed states.

It is the editing of Cencoroll that is most questionable, and there that it might benefit from more experienced direction. Scene selection is incredibly unconventional, most likely due to it being an amateur work. Pivotal character decisions are glossed over and barely given time, while unimportant details used for transition shots – such as Yuki eating a gummy bear – are given excessive focus. Large time jumps are made with very little in the way of immediate visual cues. The fact that the enemies and main character all look the same on the first viewing certainly doesn’t help things.

Overall, Cencoroll could best be described as a winning idea burdened by a lack of design sense and questionable editing. It has the potential to be truly great, but in its present form it can only be called “interesting.”

Author: moritheil

One might be forgiven for thinking that Moritheil is a postmodern literary critic who started reviewing video games in 2001, and spent the early 2000s learning at the right hand of con staff and fansubbers. However, those rumors are spurious: Moritheil is actually a distant relative of Genghis Khan who stands poised to conquer the world via the Internet. Follow along at

5 thoughts on “Do A Cencoroll

  1. Sounds interesting, but I had my doubts about expressing everything well in a less than 30 minute film. Thanks for the post!

  2. I’ve yet to see this but…
    I’m an aspiring student animator/comic artist so it’s really inspiring to see that there are people out there with the guts to do a one-man animation job in Japan… especially considering their animation industry.

    Not to mention this actually seems to have commercial backing.
    I’ll drop by and add my two cents if I get the chance to see this…

  3. I saw Cencoroll @NYAF. This review is kind of off. You’re looking for way too much for in film that was made entirely by one person. Most people cant make a good 30 second youtube video yet this guy made an awesome 30 minute anime film. It has great characters, cool story, great animation, fun humor, awesome battle scenes,  and great audio. Most anime cant get all of that with a full budget and team working on just one episode.
    Bland character design? Bad editing? What are you talking about!? the final statement “Overall, Cencoroll could best be described as a winning idea burdened by a lack of design sense….” are you serious? Listen, I’m not trying to get all fanboy here but there are a crap load of 26+ episode anime that are a lot worse than this. To call Cencoroll simply “interesting” is totally selling it short.
    Cencoroll is awesome, very inspiring, and fun to watch. I highly recommend it!

  4. @Anon – Yes. As I said, I think he needs a crew and a bigger budget.

    @smashingtofu – I believe it picked up backing after it was done. Essentially, it has backing for distribution.

    @Section09 – The purpose of a review is to provide a balanced critical look, not to make excuses for a creator. I am comparing it to works done by teams because in the end, anime is anime. You can’t objectively put the uniforms next to the clothing in, say, Sugo Chara or Bleach and come away with the idea that Cencoroll‘s plain white shirts and black slacks/skirts are anything but bland in comparison.

    Your argument hinges on the idea that it’s not the creator’s “fault,” but this isn’t preschool and we aren’t giving out gold stars for effort. This is a professional work and it must be judged as such.

  5. Hmmm… I’m a lil’ late on this, but whatever… I just felt like commenting on the review.

    In a way, I agree with most of what you said, but I also gotta say some parts are, like Section09 said, a bit off. I won’t deny that the work should be judged like any other anime, though, as it’s the result that’s important and not the work put into it.

    The parts I’m referring to are the references to the plot and editing. You say it’s “a simple laundry list of typical Japanese story conventions,” but that’s hardly the truth. Generic shounen anime nowadays focuses its story around combat; the character development is based on their need to win and their difficulties while fighting. Cencoroll, however, takes the initiative to ignore that and purposefully puts little emphasis on the fights themselves and more into the moments between the fights (hence the emphasis on seemingly useless scenes). Keep in mind, though, that Cencoroll isn’t intended as an action-packed, heavy anime; it would be best described as a light-hearted and humorous work. The time spent joking around or uselessly lying in puffy mounds of flesh replaces the overused conversation sequences in other anime intended for the same public that are most of the time shallow at best, whilst giving an impression of deep reflection. In that aspect, Cencoroll backs up from the badass hero and emotional girl characters and goes for a more realistic approach, favoring the actual behavior and character of regular high school students rather than making them act like wisened heroes like most anime works do. The characters may seem shallow at first, but they actually act and talk like normal kids. (Although I admit that fighting giant monsters and seem bored at the same time is really going a bit too far.)

    All in all, what makes the plot and editing good is that it doesn’t focus on the generic elements other anime would and doesn’t reuse the same old chains of events we’re all so used to seeing.

    PS I see no problem with the uniforms because even if it isn’t detailed much, some schools really do take that simplistic approach in their uniforms; I myself wore the same design in high school, minus the neck/bowties. Not all schools have the sailor outfits we’re all so used to seeing and that’s just another element to Cencoroll that comes as a breath of fresh air. Realistically, there’s no lack of design in the clothing, as it only fits a realistic, although uncommon, style of uniform.

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