Shirobako

Shirobako

Shirobako anime series cover art
Shirobako

Overview

Shirobako (this actually doesn’t have a kanji/hiragana/katakana name) is the definitive anime on how anime is made. Obviously a lot of the process had to be simplified in order to make a series out of it, but I do think it hit a lot of the major points — especially the fact that something can go wrong at any moment.

We see most of the series through the eyes of a member of the production desk, but that doesn’t mean that’s the only side of anime production we see. There’s story boarding, writing, character designing, key animation (both hand drawn and CGI), voice acting, researching, and more.

Ema drawing Aria for Third Aerial Girls Squad from the anime series Shirobako
Ema drawing Aria for Third Aerial Girls Squad

One of the things I was most curious about when watching the series was whether P.A. Works was actually basing this anime on themselves. For example, are the characters depicted in this series based on real people who worked on this show, or are they just characters who fill the same roles?

I’ll discuss this a bit more in my section on the characters, but I like to think it’s a mixture.

Part 1

The first cour of the series sees Musashino Animation working on their first original anime in a few years, Exodus! This cour serves to give us our introduction to the world of anime by leaving out some of the complexities that come along with it.

While we do see some of what the five main girls of the series are doing during this cour, it mainly focuses on the two which have landed jobs at MusAni. Aoi is a production assistant and Ema is an animator. By leaving out the other three girls, we can take a more simplified look at the process.

However, there are still all the other employees at MusAni who are doing their respective jobs. The director is always behind on storyboards, the production desk is always freaking out, and the CGI and hand drawing animators are at each others throats.

What I really liked about this cour was that the characters, their interactions with each other, and their feelings about the work they do all seemed genuine. It really felt like I was getting to see the inner workings of a company made up of many individuals who each contribute their own personal touch.

Part 2

Originally I didn’t like the second cour as much, but by the end of it I thought it was just as good as the first for different reasons.

This time around the other three girls, a writer, a CGI animator, and a voice actress were included into the mix to varying degrees. While I didn’t think they made too much of a difference, the end of the voice actress’ (Shizuka’s) arc was pretty touching. I wasn’t expecting it to make me feel the way it did.

In this cour MusAni are working on adapting a popular manga(?) called Third Aerial Girls Squad. Since this isn’t an original work by the studio, a whole new level of complexity and issues are thrown into the mix — such as, what if the original creator doesn’t like the anime?

But while the strength of this cour was in how it depicted some of the more complex aspects of anime production, I felt that the characters were lacking. The new characters who were introduced seemed fairly one-dimensional and unrealistic as a whole.

Characters

Our five heroines are Aoi Miyamori (production desk), Ema Yasuhara (key animator), Shizuka Sakaki (voice actress), Midori Imai (writer), and Misa Toudou (CGI animator). These girls were in their high school animation club together and dreamed of one day creating a real anime with each other as professionals.

Musashino Animation employees from the anime series Shirobako
Musashino Animation employees

There are too many MusAni employees for me to go through all of them, but some of the major ones are Erika Yano (production assistant), Rinko “Goth Loli-sama” Ogasawara (key animator), Seiichi Kinoshita (director), and Tarou Takanashi (production assistant).

Erika is the one who gets things done. She’s been in the business for a while, knows how people try to squirm out of their responsibilities, and will go out of her way to keep them on track. Tarou is her opposite and is the one most likely to mess everything up due to his laid-back and fun-loving nature.

The director may have been my favorite character. He often shirks his responsibilities in favor of eating, but when he really gets into his work nothing can stop him. He’s also constantly fighting an internal battle between his weight and his love for food.

Rinko doesn’t actually get that much screen time. I wish she got more, but at the same time I understand why she doesn’t. She represents the highest tier of employee which all others should strive to be like. She knows what she’s doing, she does it on time, and she does it perfectly.

And then we have some of the new characters in cour 2, Ai Kunogi (key animator) and Daisuke Hiraoka (production assistant). Ai doesn’t speak, she just grunts, and for that I hate her. Daisuke on the other hand is just a bully who shirks his responsibilities and should be fired. I don’t see how these two characters could be based on actual people who worked on this anime.

Conclusion

Before wrapping up I just want to mention that the final scene of the series is one in which everyone who worked on Third Aerial Girls Squad takes a group photo. I really wanted this group photo to fade into an actual group photo of everyone who worked on Shirobako, but unfortunately that didn’t happen.

Overall I’d have to give Shirobako an 8/10. Although I felt that both cours had their weaknesses — especially the second cour with the new characters — they were overwhelmed by their strengths. There’s also a Shirobako movie in the works, so I plan to watch that as well.

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