Shirobako begins with the five members of the Kaminoyama High School animation club all making a pledge to work hard on their very first amateur production and make it into a success. After showing it to an audience at a culture festival, that pledge turned into a huge dream—to move to Tokyo, get jobs in the anime industry and one day join hands to create something amazing.
Fast forward two and a half years and two of those members, Aoi Miyamori and Ema Yasuhara, have made their dreams into reality by landing jobs at a famous production company called Musashino Animation. Everything seems perfect at first. However, as the girls slowly discover, the animation industry is a bit tougher than they had imagined. Who said making your dream come true was easy?
One phrase that would perfectly describe Shirobako is simply ingenious. Surprisingly, the series has cleverly put together a lot of elements into one stand-out show. Aside from being an exposition of how anime series are made, it also tells us a cute and charming story all while boasting a splendid cast of characters and vibrant, dynamic designs.
The art in Shirobako is lovely. Although vibrant and dynamic, it is never flashy nor exaggerating. It is clean-cut and simple but more than enough to bring the story into fruition and to distinguish one character from the other. The sound is also kept simple, evoking the right feeling
at the right moment. Shirobako couldn’t ask for anything more fitting. The theme songs fit perfectly with the story too: inspiring yet also fun and relevant. All in all, Shirobako exercised its liberty pretty well regarding its production.
The giant cast of characters actually does not pose a problem for character development and, in general, for the series. During their respective screen times (no matter how little they had), they are well flesh out. The realism they portray is an exceptionally rare feat. They are not archetypal and overblown. All of the characters, especially the five girls, possessed and displayed certain realistic qualities that break free from the confines of typical slice of life anime. The series was careful to not be intimidated by the size of the cast and to handle it with finesse.
We follow the lives of five girls as they struggle to live their dreams in the anime industry and an unlikely animation studio fighting against all odds to produce quality anime. It is a tale of of the creative process, professionalism, teamwork, and finding one’s motivation. It is amazing to point out that Shirobako‘s core story is incredibly simple yet satisfying. The side stories are also quite enjoyable.
But what makes Shirobako stand out is how it is able to masterfully and effortlessly incorporate the core story, multiple side stories, and a brief but informative look into what goes down in the anime industry into one seamless and fluid narrative without ever losing focus. It is never overblown with the unnecessary. All these elements are treated with careful balance – something not all anime series have – that underlies the show’s ingenuity.
Shirobako is an anime that is “just right”. It breaks one’s expectations without betraying them. You just have to enjoy it as it is as you learn countless things about life, careers, and, of course, anime. The series is a force to be reckoned with and I could easily recommend it to anyone, especially to those in need of a surprise.
Shirobako is a love letter to the anime industry. It doesn't glorify it or portray animators as hyper-talented geniuses, and many of the characters in the show admit they do not even understand why they're working in the industry. But there's something that keeps them passionate about what they do, even if it may not be the most respected form of media out there.
Shirobako is also a genuinely well-written and entertaining story in its own right. It's a highly informative and interesting look at what the process of creating anime is all about, but it is more than that, too. And it is also
courageous for being an original series and for telling a story about adult characters rather than the typical high school fare that anime is seemingly incapable of escaping from.
If you are expecting tons of drama or deep, philosophical themes (in which case I'd argue you're in the wrong medium), Shirobako is not going to be for you. It is a story about the mundane, the everyday struggles of the workplace. Rushing to meet deadlines is often the most the characters have to deal with in any given episode. And there's something inherently appealing about that, I think. The closer something is to reality-- the more mundane it is, the more you can relate to and empathise with what's going on. Being able to empathise is perhaps the most important part of any story.
Shirobako does attempt to break away from otaku fantasy-land by making its world more resemble ours. There are obese characters, old characters, married characters and all sorts of other types that populate our world and yet are seemingly extinct in the vast majority of anime. There's definitely still a large 'moe' appeal for most of the female characters, but there is never a point where it becomes overbearing. Shirobako doesn't resort to panty-shots and beach episodes and other sorts of contrived nonsense in order to make the girls appealing. Their cuteness is more natural; it stems from their personality and their flaws rather than their body, even if Yano's stockings and Diesel-chan's side ponytail are perhaps the greatest things my eyes have ever witnessed.
I do have to wonder why anime are so afraid of including female characters outside the high school age range, as if they are somehow incapable of being interesting or likeable once the clock strikes 18. The girls of Shirobako are in their 20's and yet they are far more appealing (and yes, more cute) than the vast majority of teenage characters. Maybe that could be my own oldness speaking, but I'd like to see more variety and more 20-somethings like there are in Shirobako. There's far more that can be done with adult characters. Shirobako understands that life exists outside of high school, and it isn't afraid of showing that life.
But only talking about the appeal of the characters would be a disservice, as there is far more that makes Shirobako an outstanding anime. Most people who watch the show are going to have their attention on its portrayal of the anime industry and the animator's lifestyle, which are shown with extensive detail in each and every episode. Even if you have no knowledge of how the anime industry works, by the time you finish Shirobako, you'll have a pretty OK idea of how it does. It does not just focus on the animators alone, but also the lower roles (such as the delivery dude/lady), all the way up to the very top management who decide the voice actors and how the anime should end. It does lend to a deeper appreciation for anime as a whole, as you'll realise that even the complete stinkers may have sucked because of a minor managerial mistake rather than incompetence.
I cannot speak to how accurate these things are since I'm not an animator myself, but what I can tell is that the show is obviously idealised to some extent. It is, after all, meant to be a piece of entertainment rather than a documentary, so occasionally the characters will do things such as working at superhuman speeds or engage in the usual manzai routine for comedic effect. The story actually goes completely bonkers in the last couple episodes (with one of the characters actually deflecting bullets with the lard in their belly - YES REALLY), so it wouldn't be a good idea to expect Shirobako to be a perfectly accurate representation of reality. And then there's those talking stuffed animals that are never really explained. Magic, or something?
The fact that Shirobako is an anime-original series and not an adaptation of some other manga or light novel makes it an inherently positive presence in anime, I think. P.A. Works not only made a great anime, but something that is strictly 'anime' and not a property of some other medium. Personally, I am getting pretty bored of anime's role as the 'adaptation medium'. The industry would benefit from more titles like Shirobako, even if that means studios taking a bit of a financial risk.
Shirobako can be a bit misleading, though. The first episode creates the impression that the entire story is going to be about the five high school friends working together in the anime industry, but that isn't really how things pan out. It is a story about the events of Musashino Animation. Only two of the five girls work there as regular employees for the majority of the series, with my goddess Diesel joining in the latter half and the remaining two pitching in at the very last moment. Some people may find this a bit disappointing, but I thought it was the proper route for the story. Adult life rarely ever works out exactly as planned, and Shirobako is very much an anime about adult life.
It would be pretty ironic if an anime about animation had poor animation, so it's fortunate that Shirobako looks and sounds as nice as it does. There is none of the usual 'sameface' phenomenon that plagues most anime with a moe art style (which Shirobako most definitely has), and the backgrounds are often filled with detail (like an anime figure sitting on a desk to the side) which makes having a wandering eye recommended. It's a bright and visually pleasant show, while the music, even if it's not particularly notable, creates an appropriate atmosphere. There are no melodramatic 'PLEASE CRY NOW' piano pieces, and for that I am thankful.
Regardless of preferences and standards, I think Shirobako is more than capable of being one of the most enjoyable experiences anyone has with anime for a very long time-- especially so if you have any sort of passion for the anime industry. It's well-written and free of any noteworthy flaws, sure, but it's also informative and unique for a medium that has been plagued by sameness for decades. Why there haven't been anime like Shirobako until this day remains a mystery to me, but it has made me regain some hope for the anime industry-- it's still capable of creating great things, it seems.
~Multilingual review, English & Español: SHIROBAKO~
Hey... did you know?, in the Animation Industry an anime episode which is distributed to the production staff members prior to its official release is called "shirobako", litteraly "white box", that's because at time VHS tapes containing the episode were enclosed in white boxes and distributed, despite the fact that white enclosures are no longer used, the term still remains in use in the actual anime industry, thus the anime's title comes from that little particular, SHIROBAKO.
Simple but at the same time meaningful, a word which I was totally unaware of its background story, to tell the truth
actually even if I've been watching anime for years, I'm completely ignorant when it comes to it's realization and process which follow a simple draw sketch, hand made, into becoming incredible pieces of animation rich of music, effects and sounds. This is the first time I came across with an anime that handles a theme with such professionalism and realism imitating with, almost, absolute perfection the production of an animated series in the real world, exaggerating and overreacting a bit with the details, with the final purpose of avoiding to bore the audience, and such effect results in an ironic comedy sticked that enough to the realism in order to don't lose it's seriousness, SHIROBAKO totally succeeded in recreating a working field with extreme quality.
To summarize this series with just "an anime about making anime" doesn't describe it at all, actually I think it's a devaluation because in that way we're leaving behind the most important theme touched in it, and which is in my opinion, the reason it made shine this show: 'keep working to realize your dreams'. Unfortunately sometimes there are times that working hard doesn't guarantee the results we expect, and thus it feels like the sky fell upon us, like getting hit by a bullet train, extremely painful, sometimes it damages us more than any physical injuries might harm, there it is... the disappointment after failing.
"Not everyone who works hard is rewarded, however all those who succeed have worked hard!"
I need to say that the hard work is really shown through the show, our protagonists aren't passive girls, they've a dream and in order to achieve it they struggle and confront themselves with real life in their respective field of interest, trying to overcome doubts and obstacles, normal things for someone who is initially starting to find a place to fit in this society, after all, the approach to real life feels so genuine that we can easily relate to. Specially the ones who hasn't find a place in this world but keep working hard to find it, we'll be touched directly by the themes developed through this anime.
After the realization of an amateur animated short back in High School, Miyamori Aoi, Yasuhara Ema, Imai Midori, Todo Misa and Sakaki Shizuka, the Animation Club's members, promised all together to realize a professional animation work one day. As the years pass, in the present day, Miyamori is a 'Production Assistant' for Musashino Animation, Ema works as 'Key Animator' in the same studio, Misa decided to go for the computer graphics, Midori is still studying in the University but her goal is to write scripts and Shizuka works part-time meanwhile she tries to emerge as a voice actress. SHIROBAKO is the story about these five young women and the Musashino Animation, behind the scenes, 'what we don't see', of the Animation Industry.
Through the show's development the viewers experience almost each of the productions phases that make up the realization of a TV series, starting from the basic things such as obtaining the rights from the author, to later pass to the productive phases: Script, Storyboard, Character Design, Art Direction, Coloration, Computer Graphics, Sound Direction, Voice Acting selection, Editing and Assembly, and finally the end product delivery to the TV station. Everything obviously presented under the POW of the various characters that make part of this cycle of work, which going through the difficulties they might across, allow us to gain a vision, really close to the reality, of what means to realize a task in this working field, the meeting point, between all the different phases, is represented by Miyamori, our protagonist, which serving as 'Production Assistant' is in charge of coordinating all the works as well as being the bridge for each production's department.
The particular attention on details in this anime is really noteworthy, to allow a better comprehension of each production aspect, Musashino Animation was in charge to realize two anime series (an anime inside an anime!). The script was discussed, what message and which emotions should reach the viewers, redefine the characters in case the result isn't the wanted one, War fell upon the studios when it was confronted a 2D animation sequence to a 3D one and was asked which one was better, meanwhile in another department, voice actors selection was being held, another battleground...
However SHIROBAKO isn't only a documental-anime, since great quality was shown in the characterization of each character presented, casting away any kind of stereotype, going directly through the realism route, a result which ended giving the show a really pleasant atmosphere. The cast was really huge, even so, each one of them had an opportunity to shine in their respective working field, each character had their own identity and goal in life, which through the series, lead them to a route of personal grow and professional development, with a special regard for, obviously, our protagonists.
The complete absence of Fanservice, and the typical cliche scenarios that could expose the girls sex appeal as well as the fanservice yuri undertones, characteristic features for anime with a female-only cast, was something that allowed the anime to have a certain level of professionalism, specially considering the interactions between the characters, it was something I really appreciated.
Animation & Designs were labeled by P.A. Works, it's almost like a seal of guarantee, this studio has the fame of creating one of the best visuals available in the current market, and again, it delivered, characters' range of expressivity was superb, between the bests I've seen. The Sound wasn't completely appreciated, in part because of the anime's frenetic pace, an another because of the heavy dialogues and explanations, in few words the attention was driven off from them, something that I couldn't say it's a bad thing since the OST suited perfectly the scenes, it's just, they didn't were outstanding besides being a bit forgettable.
SHIROBAKO represents an act of Love towards the Anime Industry itself, paying a tribute to all the people who works in this difficult field, and in the same time, showing a side completely unknown to most of us, presenting an original format of entertainment whose protagonists are the people who made all this possible.
Oye... ¿lo sabías?, en la Industria de la Animación cuando un episodio de anime es distribuido al equipo de producción, antes de su efectiva emisión, se le llama "shirobako", literalmente "caja blanca". En la época de oro, las video casetas que llevaban el episodio eran distribuidas adentro de cajas blancas, aunque si ya no se suelen usar más, este término se sigue utilizando actualmente en la industria, así que el título de este anime deriva da esa pequeña particularidad, SHIROBAKO.
De simple origen, pero llena de significado, se trata de una palabra que desconocía completamente. Siendo sincero, aunque si mi experiencia con el anime está llegando a la década, soy completamente ignorante cuando se trata de la realización y procesos que permiten a un simple dibujo, hecho a mano, convertirse en piezas increíbles de animación, llenas de música, efectos y sonidos. Esta es la primera vez que me cruzo con un anime que trata de manera profesional y realista el verdadero trabajo que hay detrás de las series animadas, su producción y creación, paso a paso, exagerando un poco de las situaciones de cada día en modo de crear una comicidad irónica, aunque siempre apegada a la realidad, aquel tanto que basta para no dejar de ser tomada en serio. ¿El resultado? SHIROBAKO logra recrear un sector de trabajo de manera fresca y divertida de ver, después de todo, ¡tampoco es que cada profesión sea apta para divertir a un público!.
Definir esta serie sólo como "un anime acerca de hacer anime" no la describe en su totalidad, de hecho la devalúa, porque deja de lado el aspecto más importante, y que en mi opinión, es lo que hace verdaderamente brillar esta serie: trabajar para alcanzar tus sueños. Desafortunadamente hay veces que el trabajo duro no es suficiente y no asegura el resultado que se espera. Es ahí que se siente como si el cielo se nos cayera encima, el mismo efecto que sería ser atropellado por un tren, con la diferencia que es indoloro, pero aún así nos procura un dolor mucho mayor que cualquier daño físico, ahí esta... la decepción después de fallar.
"Trabajar duro no asegura el éxito, pero puedo asegurarte que todas las personas exitosas han trabajado duro"
El esfuerzo y la pasión por alcanzar tus sueños están a la base de este anime, nuestras protagonistas no son para nada pasivas, tienen un sueño y hacen de todo para alcanzarlo, confrontandose con la vida real en sus respectivos campos de interés, y en sus caminos se encontrarán con obstáculos y dudas, cosas normales para alguien que apenas esta comenzando a encontrar su puesto al interno de esta sociedad, después de todo, el aproche con la vida real se siente tan genuino que es muy fácil poder relacionarse. Sobre todo nosotros los más jóvenes, los que todavía no hemos encontrado nuestro lugar en el mundo pero estamos trabajando duramente para ello, nos sentiremos tocados directamente y especialmente por las temáticas afrontadas a lo largo de la serie.
Después de haber realizado un pequeño corto amatorial de animación para proyectar en la escuela, Miyamori Aoi, Yasuhara Ema, Imai Midori, Todo Misa y Sakaki Shizuka, los cinco miembros que formaban el Club de Animación al tiempo del liceo, se prometen un día hacer un verdadero trabajo de animación profesional todas juntas. Los años pasan, Miyamori se encuentra actualmente trabajando como 'Asistente de Producción' para la Musashino Animation, Ema trabaja como 'Diseñador' en el mismo estudio, Misa se fue por el ramo de la animación a computadora y trabaja para una empresa, Midori estudia en la Universidad pero su ambición es llegar a escribir guiones y Shizuka trabaja part-time mientras trata de entrar en el difícil mundo del Doblaje. SHIROBAKO es la historia de estas cinco chicas y de todos los miembros de Musashino Animation, detrás de las cortinas, lo que no se ve, en el mundo de la animación.
A lo largo de la serie la audiencia está presente en casi todas las fases de producción que componen la realización de una serie televisiva, partiendo de lo más básico como obtener los derechos del autor para después pasar a las fases productivas las cuales son: Guión, Storyboard, Diseño de los Personajes, distribución de los keyframe entre los diseñadores, Dirección Artística, paisajes y fondos, Coloración, Computer Graphics, Dirección Musical, creación de sonidos, selección de dobladores, montaje conclusivo hasta llegar finalmente a la entrega del producto final a las estaciones televisivas. Todo obviamente presentado bajo el punto de vista de los varios personajes que hacen parte del ciclo de trabajo, que pasando por las dificultades que se pueden presentar, nos permiten obtener una visión completamente apegada a la realidad de lo que es realizar un determinado trabajo al interno de este ambiente, el punto de conexión, entre todas las diferentes fases es representado da Miyamori Aoi, nuestra protagonista, la cual sirviendo de Asistente de Producción, esta encargada de coordinar todos los aspectos además de hacer de puente entre los repartos de producción.
La particular atención puesta en los detalles es este anime es para premiar, para permitir la plena compresión de todos los aspectos productivos, durante la serie se realizaron la composición de dos series animadas (¡un anime dentro del anime!). Se discutió el guión, que mensaje tenia llegar al espectador y cuales emociones deberían transmitirse, redefinir los personajes cuando no se obtiene el efecto deseado, se confrontó una misma escena hecha en animación tradicional con una en CGI, dando vida a una pelea interna sobre cual es mejor, mientras que en otro reparto se escogían los dobladores, otro campo de batalla...
Pero SHIROBAKO no es sólo un anime-documental, en cuanto grande calidad se demostró en la caracterización de cada personaje presentado, dejando de lado cualquier estereotipo típico, puntando directamente al realísimo, un resultado que sinceramente se aprecia mucho más. El Cast se compone de un gran número de personajes, aún así, cada uno de ellos tuvo la oportunidad de brillar en su respectivo campo de trabajo, cada personaje tiene su propia identidad y objetivo en la vida, que a lo largo de la serie lo conducirá en una vía de maduración y desarrollo profesional, con un enfoque especial, obviamente, hacia nuestras 5 chicas.
La completa ausencia de cualquier forma de fanservice y de las típicas situaciones cliché que enfocan el sex appeal de los personajes, al igual que los típicos tonos fanservice 'yuriescos' que caracterizan la mayor parte de las series que presentan un cast prevalentemente femenino, fue algo que permitió a la serie ser tomada más en serio, presentando un cierto grado de profesionalidad en las interacciones entre los personajes, algo que aprecie bastante.
La Animación & Diseños fueron firmadas por P.A. Works, y de verdad se notó, este estudio tiene la reputación de hacer una de la mejores visuales que hay actualmente en el mercado, y otra vez, cumplió perfectamente, la expresividad que llegan a tener los personajes es de verdad notable, de las mejores que he visto. El Sonido no se pudo apreciar completamente, en parte debido al ritmo frenético que se llegaba a tener en algunos momentos, y en otras debido al diálogo pesado, en práctica la atención fue completamente desviada, algo que no es necesariamente malo, las OST acompañan perfectamente las escenas, sólo que, no se hicieron notar mucho además de ser, un poco, olvidables.
SHIROBAKO representa un acto de Amor hacia la industria del anime en sí misma, homenajeando a las personas que hacen parte de ella, y al mismo tiempo mostrando un lado que era completamente desconocido a la mayoría, presentando un formato original y dando protagonismo finalmente ad aquellas personas que hacen que todo esto sea posible.
Out of curiosity, I've been thinking a lot about how anime are made, but it is fairly hard to get insights into the practices of this particular industry. And then, Shirobako came around.
An anime about the creation process of an anime - or some kind of meta-animation or animeception - that is not only a daring approach to new age infotainment, but also an excellent opportunity for the creators to put in their passion associated with this kind of work, and to tell a realistic tale on the hardships that newbies in this industry are likely to encounter.
Shirobako managed to rank very high in my
list due to the fact that it is done with an astonishing amount of perfection, especially in terms of storytelling. This show is not about documentation, it actually has a decent, even exciting story in which the factual elements of anime-making are embedded. The first anime I was reminded of was Bakuman, doing practically the same with manga but on a more entertaining and less informative level. Shirobako, on the other hand, provides for an almost perfect balance between entertainment and information. A bunch of girls decide to follow their dreams to become a part of the anime industry, which is an excellent premise for the fact that the transition between school/university and work life is described in particular. It is especially this transition with its associated culture shock that is hard to outline on an emotional level. In actuality, it is not unusual to get rejected by companies although you were educated well, and just like that, dreams get shattered. The pressure that is inherent to these situations is portrayed by Shirobako in a marvelous manner.
Shirobako minds details. This becomes apparent even in the way the anime-making process is illustrated with all its facets, from storyboard creation over key/3D animation to post-processing and voice acting. In addition, as the heroine serves as production assistant, various aspects of management and leadership are also subject of interest. This all leads to a very realistic picture of what (harsh) business and work life is about in general. As someone who doesn't know anything or very little about the creation of anime, you will feel enriched by the level of detail that comes with the explanations, although this might lead to a noticeable issue as well. I found myself overloaded with information during the first episodes, which led to the assumption of mine that Shirobako will turn out a mediocre show. This relativised mostly after I had gotten used to the setting and the pace. Shirobako would have done well choosing a more progressive approach than a linear one regarding the amount of information conveyed. This, however, is criticism on a very high level.
In terms of characters, Shirobako is one of the few anime that does very well with the side cast, which convinces especially through personality variety. The female main characters are very similar to each other: the typical inexperienced and naive yet dreamful and highly motivated graduates entering the job market. Although this made it easy for Shirobako to refrain from elements to enhance character depth, I don't consider this a problem for it being a necessary mean to equally approach the various parts of the anime industry from the same viewpoint at the same time. This also helps the viewer to relate to the characters in general and to reduce the already high degree of complexity. The side characters, on the other hand, apart from those that serve the comedic aspect, are well conceptualized to act realistically and provide a credible personality. This shows that the producers of Shirobako approached the entire thing holistically and honestly, which implies a great deal of passion that must have been put into it.
The soundtrack fits the show well and the OP/ED songs underline the basically happy and energetic atmosphere of the anime. Same can be said for the seiyuu. Where Shirobako really stands out is the level of detail that is presented in the images, for example in the backgrounds of the production companies' office that represents the main setting. I am honestly very impressed by how the arts support the realistic feeling that was intended to come about with Shirobako. This is what I, at least, expect from a masterpiece. Another big plus comes with the various versions of the second ending animation, similar to what Angel Beats! did, which adds to the perceived amount of effort that was exerted towards Shirobako becoming a remarkable anime.
I raise my hat to Shirobako. If you want to learn something about how anime are made, or if you like shoujo/josei series and mostly realistic work-related anime, I implore you to give this show a chance. I assume that Shirobako appeals to a broad audience, however, be aware of the fact that you might get bombarded with information early on, which might dampen your enjoyment in early stages of the anime. I can suggest, keep it up, it's worth it.
(A quantified evaluation can be found on my page.)
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