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.)
Yeah, I know Shirobako is going to go on for another cour. I saw the advertisement that promised to introduce more characters and more problems. Still, there's a reason this show isn't popular on Nano and it doesn't help that nobody wants to read the words of a man who hates their surprise-darling show of the year each week. As such, this will be the last I'm going to write about it, because after watching twelve episodes, I have to accept the fact that Shirobako (and PA Works stuff in general) is never going to appeal to me and move on to hating Ikuhara's new
thing or something. But before we part ways, I want to finalize some thoughts regarding why I'm not into this thing.
Obviously, I didn't expect this show to explode in popularity (relatively-speaking) the way it did. But I sort of get why Shirobako appeals to the blogosphere. It has adult characters, which is considered rare in anime. It has snappy direction by the guy who made Girls Und Panzer, another critical darling that I don't really care about. It's about anime, and considering we're anime fans, that appeals to a lot of us. And considering that a lot of us have jobs or are struggling to get jobs, it's nice to see an anime that reflect that part of our lives.
But here's the thing, I'm not like most anime fans. Because you see, I "do" try to interpret things for basic enjoyment. I "do" want my fiction to not spoon-feed me what's going on. Even though I am capable of liking summer blockbusters and laugh-out-loud comedies, what separates the good ones from the bad ones tends to be elements that tickle the mind. And when my mind isn't tickled, it tends to shut off completely.
Obviously, there are limits to that sort of thinking. I like Mamoru Oshii fine as a director, but he can be obtuse to the point of being impenetrable (Angel's Egg, Sky Crawlers). Still, I don't like Roland Emmerich's blockbuster trash and there's a reason why Ingmar Bergman is one of my favorite foreign directors. Now I'm not saying Shirobako has to be at the quality of a Bergman film. That's too much to ask. But for all you fans of the show, answer me this: what exactly is in this anime for thinkers like me? Because being educated on anime production doesn't really leave much to the imagination.
"What about how anime production affects the employers who make it? After all, that's what you enjoyed about that one Paranoia Agent episode, isn't it, Mr. Flawfinder?" It sure is, but here's the thing: the employee died at the end of that episode as a consequence of his production fuck-ups. Shirobako's biggest problem is that it never goes beyond threatening the characters' work positions. That's not an inherently bad thing, but that's only intriguing depending on how the employees deal with said threat, and I'm not seeing anyone rob a bank in desperation. I'm not seeing anyone contemplate suicide. I'm not even seeing anyone make any kind of sacrifice to keep their job. I see people spouting textbook lines and...that's pretty much it. This isn't mind-racing. This isn't even a plot. This is just fanservice without purpose, and I don't do fanservice without purpose.
"But wait, Mr. Flawfinder! Considering who's directing the show, surely you must be laughing at some of the jokes..." Okay, I'm going to have to stop you guys right there. Aside from You're Being Summoned Azazel-san, Mizushima hasn't directed anything I've really enjoyed, and the reason the former appealed to me so much - or at least the first season did - is because it was mean. It subverted my expectations in clever ways. It was borderline offensive. None of his other works do that, and Shirobako in particular isn't even close to being mean. In fact, most of the humor comes from in-joking, and I hate that sort of stuff when it's the crux of your humor. Hell, I found it (along with the lack of intriguing plot and character) painful in those Expendables films, and those movies are supposed to appeal to action fans like myself. And if I can't like an action movie that's pure purposeless fanservice, how do you expect me to like a slice-of-life anime that does the same thing?
The characters aren't appealing to me because without good comedy and a good representation of anything I can sink my teeth into, there's nothing else they've got going for them other than their character designs and the fact that some of them are parodies of real-life anime staff (and we all know I don't care about those). There's no actual plot that goes beyond the characters living their lives. It's not even doing anything all that bad. It's just "there", and what am I supposed to say about something that's just "there"? Psycho-Pass 2? Whether you hated it or not, at least it was upping the ante regard its crazy failures each week. Amagi Brilliant Park? That's a highly-exaggerated comedic take on what Shirobako does, and yet I've written about every single episode despite only finding it decent at best because at least each episode succeeded or failed in a way that was fresh. Your Lie In April? It's one of the worst dramas I've seen in a while, but at least it's coming up with new ways to be tastelessly boring as it goes along - albeit not every week - and it's overall failures are fun to discuss.
So if nothing is appealing to me in a good way, nothing is appealing to me in a bad way, there are no hints to indicate that this will change with the show's second half, and it's not even giving me good views, what else is there? Appealing to me in an average way? Yeah, that's not my style, guys. Wake me up when PA Works makes an anime out of Jun Maeda's new thing. At least that has a good chance of boring me in a way that's fun to talk about.
I think it's common knowledge that two of the most important things in the world are doughnuts and anime. But when you combine those two things with well-written comedy, a plethora of memorable characters, and a realistic and interesting story, you receive something so great that it literally revives an entire genre of animation that has been becoming less and less creative as years go by. This mixture can be referred to as Shirobako, which can also go by the name of Watch This Show Because It Is Probably The Best Thing Ever. I'm not kidding. There's so much packed within the confines of this
slice-of-work/comedy/drama that literally anyone can take something out of it. Whether it be laughs, anime industry know-how, or even tears later on, we can all benefit from Shirobako in some way or another.
Following the lives of five girls and their respective ventures into the anime industry (But focusing mainly on one girl -- Aoi Miyamori), Shirobako gives us a glance into the many different aspects that go into creating anime. Miyamori, being unsure of exactly WHAT she wants to do as far as making anime goes, falls into the position of a production-assistant tasked with essentially making sure things get done on time. But apart from being a peek into the life of a production-assistant, Shirobako is a tale of realizing your dreams and figuring out your place in not only the workplace, but the world as a whole. Of course there are obstacles along the way, there always are, but Shirobako shows how different people in different positions cope with those obstacles. This culminates in a story that is not only a blast to watch, but actually provides various life lessons and a bunch of general knowledge along the way.
This show originally caught my eye because I've always wanted to bust my way into the anime industry. And just like Miyamori, I've always been unsure of exactly WHERE in that industry I want to be. It wasn't until just a few years ago when I finally realized where that was. But, achieving that goal isn't even remotely easy. And Miyamori, as well as the other girls in Shirobako, show you just that. Working in anime isn't all fun and games; it is a job. And like any job out there, it requires hard work, determination, and a clear view of what you should do next and when you should do it. But that's enough rambling on the hardships of anime-craft. It's time to dive into the depths of Shirobako and figure out why it is just so damn great.
The OST for Shirobako is underrated. The music easily fits the tone of the show at all times. It's happy when it needs to be happy, it's sorrowful when things aren't going right, and it's well-produced and well-written. Even though it features over an hour of original music, the soundtrack to Shirobako is often overlooked due to the fast-paced dialogue and never ending onslaught of jokes the show shoots out at you. But one aspect of the soundtrack you simply can't overlook would be the opening and ending themes. I'm not usually one to be overjoyed by catchy songs spilling out happiness all over the floor, but Shirobako's opening just forces me to smile every time I hear it. PLUS, the actual voice cast of the show are the ones that are singing these songs. AND THEN Miyamori shows up smiling and holding a doughnut as the opening plays and you literally have to look away from the screen to avoid exploding due to cutesy-happiness overload. Bravo girls, bravo.
Shirobako has perhaps the most extensive cast of characters I have seen since Mahou Sensei Negima! But they need those characters considering they have an entire damn animation studio and you can't run that with just the five main girls. But the cast here is not only extremely varied, it is extremely realistic and extremely lovable. This show absolutely nails every type of person you will ever work with. There's the spontaneous and overly-confident dude, the quiet and knowledgeable girl always willing to lend you a hand, and then the fat guy. Who can forget about the fat guy? It's not just the characters themselves that are great either. The way they interact with and even intertwine with one another is what makes those relationships so believable and so important. After all, this is a studio we are talking about. There will obviously be problems within the workplace, but these characters are smart enough to know that they need to work together in order to accomplish a set goal. Oh, and not to mention that each one of these characters has their own unique dream constantly pushing them forward. I'm going to stop here so that this section of the review doesn't take up half of your web-browser, but I just want you to know that you will never find another cast of characters this realistic anywhere else.
Shirobako looks about as pretty as an anime of this genre can get. The art-style is consistent every episode and each character is drawn with intense care and precision. The color-scheme is bright and joyous, but not overdone to the point where it doesn't seem real anymore. Character-design is fantastic and each character isn't solely equipped with just one outfit (A problem a lot of anime faces nowadays). The art is subtly reminding you that these characters are basically real people. Real people change clothes sometimes. That's just how things work. Another aspect of this show that kind of just blends in with how great everything is and winds up being overlooked would be the facial expressions of these characters. While watching this, keep a close eye on the faces. Shirobako doesn't go through the typical cycle of excited face, sad face, and embarrassed face. Every emotion the characters must portray is intricately woven to a point where that face can only fit one situation. It is these different levels of human emotion that are put together so perfectly that really make the art in Shirobako as great as it is, and only overdone when needed to elevate a joke to the next level.
As I said before, Shirobako is a glimpse into the inner-workings of the anime industry that can be inspected by those who either appreciate or want to delve into it. It works the same way movies about movies work. Obviously the viewer will be interested in how movies work if they are watching a movie -- the same goes with anime. How often is a show founded entirely upon reminding you that it is a show? Answer: Not often. But it isn't just this that makes the story of Shirobako one to remember. What makes the story memorable is how the dreams inside of it play out. In the real world, things aren't always going to work out the way you want them to. Some times, the outcome or a scenario will be laden with sadness instead of a resolution. When that gets taken into account, the show isn't necessarily all that happy anymore. Shirobako becomes less about comedy and more about a girl struggling to realize her dreams. It is that double-meaning that creates an atmosphere where you get to have a great time while still caring about each and every thing that happens.
Maybe Shirobako isn't the most perfectly-woven anime ever created. But this is a review. And I just want to remind you that when reviewing something, there is a category that a lot of critics either miss or just forget about. That category is "Enjoyment". It's hard for me to say if I have ever enjoyed a show as much as I enjoyed Shirobako. In looking back on it, I can't ever recall a moment where I didn't care -- a moment where I got bored. The fact is that I was so constantly looking forward to seeing what happens next that Shirobako created an experience for me where the characters felt more like people I cared about rather than an animated cast just moving along my flat-screen television. I would find it hard to believe that anyone else who followed the show to completion didn't feel the same way.
There are many ideas the average viewer thinks about when they are asked what makes an anime work for them. Is it the driving narrative that help to construct the pieces of the story? Is it the lovable cast of characters that help drive the story to its own path? Is it the breathless, but invigorating and vibrant animation that help to bring it to life? Is it the overall palatable visual design that help to give the show its identity? Is it the mesmerizing voice acting and sound direction that help to make it memorable?
But what if it's a little more personal than that,
taking in account with the people who help make it and how the overall production goes? With so little information, it's hard to know what exactly goes on behind the scenes. Shirobako helps to alleviate this problem by providing the audience with a personal tale that focuses on the industry and the people behind it.
Shirobako follows the story of five girls and the struggles they experience following their dream in the anime industry. Their dream stems from their own little experiences of managing an animation club in high school, their hopes and aspirations held up high in regards to their future of wanting to work in the anime industry, not knowing the hardships and struggles that they will face in the near future. Although each have their own set of motivations and paths they set on, the show mostly focuses on Aoi, an amateur production assistant working at Musashino Animation and her experiences working in the industry she sought after.
Through her we see the basic setup to Shirobako, in that it's an anime about making anime with all the nooks and crannies that come along with it. From the writing processes, to general animating, to sound production, to editing, and so forth. It shows what goes on in the production with in depth and precise detail, never trying to dumb down its explanations nor barraging the audience with information. Instead, it flows with the backdrop of the story and helps to build and give flavor to the world it's set in.
Along with its details on the industry itself, it also gives attention to the people who work to produce it. The cast is immensely large and it shows, as each staff member have their own unique personalities, role, motivations, and backstory that help tie the story together in its attempt to show off the inner workings of the industry. Granted, it does comes off as overwhelming, but each character never particularly feels wasteful or comes across as flat, as they each bring an intoxicating and down to earth atmosphere and overall entertaining dynamic with their interactions. The cast always aim to provide differing viewpoints and details of the anime industry that helps build upon the subject matter and themes that it lays its foundation on.
But there's also a more personal story to take away from Shirobako. It isn't just some animated documentary on the anime industry, but rather a compelling character drama that focuses on the hardships of adult life and the struggle of a career in the fine arts. Some characters struggle to make ends meet, some have their aspirations crushed, some never get the break they deserve, some get stuck in the frenetic and tiring productions and lose purpose, some have their own vision compromised, and some just give it all up. While it's not afraid to show the reality of the world, it still maintains a nice, lighthearted tone through its humor and exaggeration. This helps give the series a positive, optimistic and genuine feel to it as it never leaves a certain comfort zone of its subjects to make sure it doesn't get too dark. However, it still manages to give the viewer a general idea of the hectic work they deal with while also driving their own development. It's all there to reinforce the central themes of the series, and feels absolutely genuine and believable in its manner.
The animation, art, and sound in general are good, if not great. PA Works once again has the usual efficiency in producing stunning backgrounds, and aims to provide a realistic look to reinforce the backdrop of the show. Animation isn't particularly groundbreaking, but always feels consistent and fluid, never exceeding more than it wants to convey. The overall character design have a rather charming and vibrant feel to them, trying to balance out a memorable and colorful design while adhering to a realistic tone. Soundtrack is simple, catchy, and never feels out of place as it skillfully matches a certain tone it sets in. And finally, the outstanding VA cast comprised of newcomers and professionals help bring their performances to life with a believable and exhilarating spirit to the characters.
Shirobako feels like a love letter to the anime industry and it truly shines. From the bustling and frenetic take on what goes on production, the feelings and dreams of the people who work in it, and the love and care for such a niche industry despite the madness that comes with it. Thus, Shirobako's beauty resides in the nature of the industry, not only because of its heartfelt subject matter, but also because of how genuine and relatable it is.
Shirobako is a good choice for you if you want to have a look into the anime industry but without events and characters seeming like they progress in a natural or realistic fashion, but still giving you somewhat of a decent insight into the industry regardless.
You see, Shirobako does do a good job at putting on the line some of the goals and aspirations the characters want to do, even if it's half corny and generic safe responses and the other half is mostly what would feel natural for someone that has entered into the industry making a decision that fits their original goal presented
in a situation that makes sense. Well maybe it's more like, 60-40%. Well... maybe... erm...
Anyway, what it absolutely fails to do is present the situation of the working space in a believable way. You see there is this director who is, putting it mildly, the absolute worst thing in the world. He constantly procrastinates, he is usually indecisive and he had no sense of direction to the point that when he was asked what he wanted to do with his series, his answer was simply "moe". That was his answer for why he created the series and where he wanted to take it. I'm sure anyone, despite however rancid might think has gotten and maybe wanted to capitalize on the moe factor, if that was at all the case in this director's case, would have at the very least an idea on how to capitalize on moe and give a different answer. But, no, he said that because he was asked what were his original intentions with the series in order to get help from another writter, and that was his answer. And he's already known in the industry for his poor direction and what not, because he had failed on directing another original work called "Jiggly Jiggly Heaven" which is exactly what you're probably thinking. I won't represent him as antagonistically as I can, but trust me, he seems very unqualified all throughout the first cour.
The reason I'm mentioning all this and I'm stopping here is because I want to ask you the following questions:
Would you work under him?
Now think a bit before you answer because these are the guarantees of your job: you will probably be forced to take a lot of retakes due to his indecisiveness and work under a very limited timespan due to how much he's delayed writing the storyboards due to him procrastinating, which would make the retakes that much more difficult. Also keep in mind that he has a terrible reputation and if you're there and he fails he probably is going to drag you down with him as well. Maybe you're asking yourself how would I have known which, okay, good point, then I'm gonna ask you the following question instead.
What would you do when you found out he's this way?
Would you continue working so the anime won't be a permanent stain on your resume and make it as great as possible, would you bail because as soon as you could before you would be able to have it as a permanent stain on you or would you have an outburst at the director and tell him to get his shit together? Or would you simply just quit as soon as the project is done? I mean, you would feel at every point like you're in a sinking ship, right? Or maybe if you wouldn't, someone else at least would?
Except that's not what happens. Most people continue working so the work won't leave a permanent impact on their reputation in the industry but there is absolutely nobody, except one guy who downright forces the director to work. There's nobody that expresses any sort of frustration at the chaos the director has caused at things that are completely his fault. They had opportunities to do so with a bunch of characters, but no, they instead chose this path with this character: "Everyone struggles until the asshole finally fucking gets some inspiration and then everything ends fine and dandy." I can't imagine in a realistic situation where there wouldn't be at least one person lashing out or at the very least talking the director behind his back for being this pathetic at what he's doing, hell, I barely can imagine someone being this tolerant in a fictional scenario built in my mind. Instead people just take it and do their work and eventually the director stops fucking around. You could've given the director some motivation to correct his ways through consequences of his work force simply not accepting what he's doing by lashing out at him or quitting or anything. But, no, that would make too much sense. Lets instead have his actions have very little voiced consequences and everything ending up pretty much okay.
And this is the main problem with Shirobako, whenever there is a problem, everything ends up okay in the end, to the point where you get to the content of the second cour, where everything works even better in the project and the director isn't even a problem anymore, whenever a "oh my god a setback" happens there's no sense of urgency behind it and the tension from this type of situation is pretty much gone. There's no consequence to things going wrong other than, okay, lets work a little bit harder mkay? Okay. You're writing a story about an industry, there's always a risk for someone doing a bad job, but quitting and being fired are totally natural responses a person or a company could take in these situations. Failing a deadline or the work suffering a drop in quality are also possible consequences of incompetence or simply harsh conditions. As a result of this, none of the events happening in Shirobako have any dramatic value, despite trying to build them up and failing spectacularly at them. You know they will strive to make things in the series as optimistic as possible while creating tension with only one result, you feeling relieved it worked out.
It looked like all the characters were pulling punches in the hopes that things will work out and they will somehow manage, which made me feel very cynical about the whole experiences they've went through.
That was what mostly almost kinda made me drop the series a bunch of times but instead I continued watching the series because quite frankly, I enjoyed the parts where Shirobako presented the motivations and ambitions the characters had in the industry, or their loss of motivation and how they got over it. It does do a genuinely good job with that whenever they don't go on the safe route and offer some sort of insightful advice through a conclusion you could draw out from what the characters experience which is a good thing to see. Like what happens when you lose inspiration (no, I'm not talking about the director) or when you are stuck in a loop where you don't get any experience that would help you improve in the future. If the story focused more on this aspect of what it was trying to do while creating tension and focusing more on how to get over yourself and how you've achieved that and what consequences this could have not only on you but also on the team, I'm sure this could've been quite good, but it wasn't. I thought this aspect was enough for me to second guess calling this show bad, but I can't say it's fine for the lack of repercussions for every problem in the series that has appeared in it and making it seem quite unrealistic.
The art style of the show is generally good, given its a show about creating anime and animation plays a big part in it, most things are animated well. Everything looks well put together and you could technically see the process behind it too, which will probably help you have a better appreciation of it. The art style is a bit too cutsey for me but, I can say that it looked good regardless. The sound was generally fine too, although if I caught a glimpse of either the intro or ending I would immediately get turned off because I hate j-pop, and there are some downright cringy moments in the series that are meant to be heartwarming when the main character along with her friends go on and say this: "DON DON DONUTS LETS GO NUTS!". Ugh.
As you might or might have not guessed from what I've already said, the purpose of the characters is mostly to display one aspect of the industry or that area of expertise through either shared wisdom or experience or the difficulty said person might have in their area. The situations presented by them tend to be hit and miss but they usually are enjoyable enough for what they're trying to do and they tend to have some insight into them.
If you think you'd be frustrated by the lack of consequences the problems in the series, like the poor direction or the problems created by the staff itself, having little to no consequences to the overall quality on the series could be a hurdle for you, or the fact that the interpersonal relationships of the series being treated so casually is a really bad thing just like me, I can't recommend this series to you at all. But if you think some of the insight Shirobako might provide into the industry might be worth it, although I would suggest looking for some documentaries that might offer the same insight into the industry from real people talking about real experiences, you could have a look into it. As I've said, it does present some insightful situations and how people get over their own hurdles, which might be something you want. But I don't know if that would justify it as a good series for you, given it's possible you could get the same feedback from different sources. I managed to enjoy Shirobako enough to finish it and thought it was an okay enough experience, despite the hurdles, but I can see them being too much for other people as well.
Ever wanted to know how anime is made? The magic behind the scenes is always something I’m sure almost any anime fan would want to know. Shirobako opens up that curtain of magic as it brings together a show that discusses about making anime. It’s almost a dream like come true for anyone who has a fascination in the art of crafting anime. Thanks to P.A Works, that fascination can now become a reality.
As an original show, it’s noticeable for the fact that it’s also a 2 cour that ran consecutively for 24 episodes. As the series is related to anime making themes, one might
wonder how it can cover so much. The answer is simple: work. Like it or not but making anime is not an easy task. It requires dignity, effort, teamwork, management, and unparalleled responsibility to get the job done. The sheer amount of effort is accurately depicted in this show from start to finish. In fact, the first few episodes of this series creates the atmosphere of reality. Indeed, realism is adapted as part of this show when it comes to anime making. Everything is incorporated with high degree of detail from prototype drawings, character designs, and voice acting. Those are just a few examples but Shirobako gives you the idea of what it’s like to be in the shoes of these dedicated workers.
For starters, the story mainly retains its premise with every episode covering some sort of theme related to anime making. The title of each episode gives a good clue to what it may be about while also solidifying the details of what it’s trying to do. In essence, Shirobako is known for experimenting. At Musashino Animation, you can see exactly what’s going on involving the characters and their roles. With a mission set to craft a show about anime making, one should also clearly address its intentions. Luckily, it does just that by introducing our main protagonists. The main trio (Aoi, Ema, and Shizuka) shows us the harsh reality of the anime industry. Taking a few steps back though, the show also has a crystal clear narrative. It establishes the fact that these three girls has a strong dedication in their passion to making anime such as forming an Animation Club and even made a short show at school. For what is worth, this series is more than just a slice of life.
Another noticeable fact is the show’s large cast of characters. Besides our main trio, there are numerous characters that all have some sort of role in the show. As such, don’t expect much focus on the characterization or their development but rather on their roles. It gives them a performance and discusses their responsibilities. Each episode focuses on something related to the anime industry whether it’s the director, animator, sound producer, storyboard, or production. The list goes on and on but the praise here given is how focused the show is directed at these roles. From conversations to mechanics, each episode specifically shows and tells what the true reality of their roles are like. At the same time, the series also makes its way to show the creativity of some of the characters. It reveals their skills not just in a realistic way but also in a profound method to grip the audience in their ideas. Sure, some of these ideas might not extravagant or earth shattering but the point is to show how these ideas came to be. In retrospect, Shirobako makes the audience feel like you’re there; almost in a way like you are backstage with the cast.
While on an individual basis, the characters may not stand out as much. However, the series rebounds this back by crafting appealing character relationships. From a professional viewpoint, we can see how the working relationship between the characters are like at the workplace. While many episode discusses the mechanics of the anime industry, some also does this on an interpersonal level. It provides adequate reasons of why people are there in the first place. After all, everyone has a reason of wanting to get the job and being part of the anime industry workforce is no exception. It also clearly depicts emotions and personalities of the characters by doing this with its thought provoking themes. At the same time, it’s able to also squeeze in comedic moments (donuts, Initial D level driving skills, etc) to give the audience a gentler feel. As the series is about work, it’s able to show that there are rewards for being part of the anime industry. It also be relatable too because anyone with a job will know what rewards feels like and how your efforts aren’t wasted. For our main trio, they realize that as well as the series goes on.
With everything coming together, Shirobako can take a bulk of patience to get through or even get started. One should realize what the purpose of the show with every episode. And while it’s not an educational show, Shirobako conveys anime industry with an immaculately crafting style. However, there are times when the show feels one dimensional. After all, there’s not too much development in the overlay of the main story. Each episode ties in with one another with the principles of anime industry but some of them will feel dull or repetitive. The occasional dramedy of the series can also feel a bit forced. Resolutions can also come as abrupt while some conflicts really loses its momentum. Despite this, I give credit for Shirobako when it shows the characters’ talents for resolving those conflicts. Every character in this show clearly has some of it.
Artwork about a show involving anime industry? That’s almost ironic. While the series clearly neglects any fan service, it’s the artistic values of the show that will label Shirobako as a visual porn. P.A. Works’ efforts is easily recognized by the strong artwork of the series whether it’s character designs or setting. It establishes the foundation of the anime industry by creating that sense of realism. This includes the art of the studio and even the way the animation is done within this show itself. However, I do have some criticism with a few of the character designs that makes the cast looks a bit younger than they seem. While it creates a sense of growth with their roles as employees in the real world, they also look generic especially with our main female characters. However, it also does rebound this with some of the other characters who plays out their role as more credible mature adults.
Soundtrack is more or less on the weaker scale. Both the OP and ED songs are adequate but doesn’t necessarily create a sensational feel. Additionally, some of the character voices of the adults feels monotonous. However, I do give credit for the dramedy of the series. During some of the more emotional angles (usually sub-plots) and character relationships, voice mannerisms are well delivered to present feelings. This is also true on a professional level when we see how some of the cast are desperate to get the experience by expressing their tone in voice. The mechanics with that is something I think most people will find thought provoking.
So what is this show really about? Shirobako literally means White Box but there’s hardly anything plain about the series. Rather, it crafts a colorful imagery of what the anime industry is like from all angles. There will be some periods of time during the show where you may be itching to get through an episode because it may be something that is less appealing to others. At the same time, not everyone will be able to appreciate the idea of anime industry. That’s fine though with the given concept but I still urge anyone to give this a try whether or not you have a passion in the art of anime making. With a creative cast of characters, dynamic realism, relatable mechanics, and great chemistry between characters, this show is definitely one of the coming ages. Oh and donuts.
Have any of these questions ever passed through your mind while watching anime? “Why did that last anime you watch have a dodgy scene of animation in the last episode?” “Why did the animation style start to seem to slacken off as the show progressed?” “Why on earth did the show choose to not stay closer to the source material?” If so then Shirobako – the anime about making anime - can provide reasons for you delivered in an entertaining and memorable package. This labour of love from P.A. Works is one of my favourite shows I’ve been lucky enough to watch of late. It’s
jam packed with a large, lively cast who provide everything from side-splitting humour to some very hard-hitting emotional moments. For a show about something as menial sounding as making anime, it manages to keep your attention throughout. It achieves this with flying colours thanks to a great selection of themes which include self-worth, talent, imagination and motivation – all clearly and realistically explored from start to finish. When all is said and done it’s bound to give you a better appreciation for the process behind a show’s creation.
Our story follows Aoi Miyamori, a new production assistant at the fictional Musashino Animation. Along for the ride are her four former animation club classmates – Ema, Shizuka, Misa and Midori – all either successfully in or attempting to break into the anime industry. Each of the five carry their own hopes and dreams though reality tends to stand in the way of them.
The show doesn’t take its time dishing out the drama revolving around the five characters, keeping the issues rolling in on a frequent basis. People are sick. People slack off. Above all, people make mistakes. As a viewer, I was constantly on edge. It didn’t take me long at all to build affection for this motley crew of anime workers. I badly wanted them to succeed and was riding on every little piece of drama.
Every problem in the show, no matter how big or small, feels like it has a huge bearing on proceedings. Whatever happens never affects one person, it starts a domino effect across the office, and sometimes it can even reshape the entire final product. On top of this there’s plenty of complexity to something as seemingly simple as a show set predominantly in an office. While our story follows Aoi in her role, there’s plenty of things always happening around her outside of her control. Musashino Animation actually feels alive.
It’s impossible to talk about Shirobako without mentioning its sizeable cast of characters and its impressive feat of making none of them feel like a waste of space. There’s the gluttonous yet nerve-wracked director Seiichi, the confident and obnoxious Taro, the no-nonsense Yutaka and the calm-headed, goth-clothing-clad Ogasawara to name a few. And I mean just a few. What P.A. Works have done is created a slew of side-stories utilising these characters yet somehow managed to not let that drag down the core story. All characters steer well clear of any negative and overused tropes. These are some of the most well written characters I’ve seen in almost any form of animation.
The show loves bringing up common public anime-related debates and casting them into the spotlight. The most notable of these is the issue of hand-drawn animation vs computer-generated imagery. Sometimes the pace is dialled back a touch when Shirobako chooses to take a look at these ideas to explore them in good detail. Characters bicker about, yet gain an appreciation for, each other’s methods. It tell us plenty of interesting little tales: Choosing the right voice actor means trying to meet a lot of different demands, a key animation retake can be more crippling than you’d think and a communication breakdown can have devastating effects. There’s a truckload of commentary on the medium and also a handful of lovely throwbacks to some of anime’s most influential shows and people.
Art-wise the show filled to the brim with a lovely selection of backgrounds and attention to detail – nothing we should be surprised about at all when it comes to P.A. Works. It’s even the small details that sometimes go unnoticed, like characters actually wearing a variety of clothing, that breathe life into a show and those within it. They go a long way to showcasing each of their separate personalities.
I feel it’s important to approach Shirobako with the right mindset and knowing what sort of depiction of the industry you can expect. You shouldn’t go into the show expecting a hyper-realistic look at topics like financial and/or social life problems that can easily affect workers in the real world. The show instead chooses to focus on the production hurdles, not the lifestyle ones, and I have no qualms about that. I’ve seen some rather hilarious criticism over some scenes which have intentionally been crafted by P.A. Works as over-the-top moments. Had the show still included these scenes yet gone for the aforementioned broader (and perhaps darker) depiction of the industry then they certainly would have felt more out of place. Shirobako tells us from the opening moments the tone it’s going for – a lighter-hearted and humorous one – so don’t take everything you see as gospel when it comes to the production process. The show maintains a level of silliness at times and it’s better off for it.
This polished work had me going on all ends of the emotional spectrum. Characters mad me mad and moments made me overjoyed. This is a special show and one that should be put on a pedestal in people’s ‘recommended anime’ list. It’s one of those shows I wish I could wipe the mind clear of just to experience it for the first time once again. Congratulations P.A. Works. You turned a show about making anime into one of my most treasured anime.
Every so often an anime comes around that, while certainly not perfect, fully deserves a 10/10 rating. There are anime which get their 10/10 rating by being masterful works which envelope your senses and bring you on an exciting journey - but then there are also anime which change your perception, and change the way you think about certain things, which make them equally deserving. Shirobako is the latter. When initially hearing about and watching the first few episodes of Shirobako I certainly expected to find it interesting and insightful, I never would have thought that it would change my perception on anime, and ultimately
help me appreciate the entire medium in a whole new way.
So, all that being said, I'll do my review the usual way, but when I get to the "enjoyment" section I'll explain my above section~ Let me break it down:
Shirobako, in short, is an anime all about making anime. Starting with a short scene with five girls in their high school animation club declaring to pursue their dreams to make anime together, we then follow Aoi Miyamori, Musashi Animation studio and the other four girls in the club as they work in the anime industry. The show is split into two distinct halves: 1-12 is about the creation of an original anime series, and 13-24 is about adapting a popular manga into an anime series. We then see the various struggles associated with creating anime, going across all of the various people and stages involved in anime - and seeing how the studio overcomes them. I thought it was a really great idea splitting the series this way, since both an original series and adaptation have their own difficulties during creation.
Aside from the creation of these two series, across both arcs we see how the five girls from the animation club develop and determine how they wish to spend their futures in the anime industry, or whether they want to be in the anime industry at all. This shows a good perspective of how to initially become involved with the anime industry. Shizuka Sakaki's journey as she tries to become a voice actress was one of my overall favourites.
Overall, what the story does is greatly humanise the anime-creation process. Which is wonderful, and what I'll certainly get into more detail later.
I'm going to have to break down the art into two sections: Firstly, just the normal scene-to-scene animation; and secondly, the big set-piece moments and the animation of the anime they're animating (It'll make sense in a bit).
First off, overall the show looks pretty average. The character designs are quite standard (which is understandable, these are supposed to be relatively 'normal' people), and the backgrounds aren't particularly imaginative (90% of the show is set in the various locations that anime is made, so mainly at desks, in offices). The colours don't particularly stand out as anything special. Honestly, it doesn't do much above what would be considered standard for anime today.
HOWEVER, this is an anime about making anime - so they also animate the anime that they're making. And I don't just mean complete scenes, I'm talking about the line drawings, the storyboards, without the backgrounds, etc. I love it. It may be easier to animate, but seeing behind the curtain at how anime looks at each stage of production was fantastic, and it looked genuine (which it probably was). Then there are the big set pieces, every now and again there are these moments where the show really shines - where this big sweeping scenes take place. I won't spoil them, but I would be lying if I didn't say I wasn't occasionally moved to tears when watching them.
But speaking of tears, just one final thing to add - while sometimes expressions were exaggerated, I have to say that it all felt so human. There are a couple of crying scenes that, while slightly exaggerated, just felt so real (and once or twice I cried along with them)! For an anime that humanises the anime-creation process, the art had a big part to play in making that humanisation succeed.
The sound is mixed. Half the time it's just pretty standard slice-of-life soundtrack, nothing worth focusing. BUT THE OTHER HALF, oh yes, this is what's important. Shirobako helps illustrate the importance of sound in various scenes (when they're making anime), like when the sound is supposed to come in, what type of music is appropriate for which scene, etc. So, to not be hypocrites, in various important scenes Shirobako nails it. The final two episodes especially are fantastic demonstrations of how music can add to the weight of a scene, and really the majority of those final two episodes showcase the best the soundtrack has to offer (not to say that the rest of the anime's music is shoddy in comparison, but the final two episodes stick out in my memory). Aside from that, Shirobako also knows how to use silence to their advantage, able to add tension to a scene when appropriate.
(Man this is definitely my longest review!) To keep it short, while the five girls from the animation club are the main five of the series - each and every supporting character in Shirobako plays an important role, fleshing out and humanising the anime. You can tell that the staff behind Shirobako clearly were drawing from the people they have worked with in order to make these characters. Whether it be from the inexperienced but passionate go-getters, the slightly jaded and experienced cynics, those who talk big but ultimately fail to deliver (Tarou anybody?), and those who wish to simply better themselves at their craft. Shirobako's very extensive character list covers it. And you know what else? While, due to simply the enormous cast that the anime offers, I think the anime succeeds in fleshing out the majority of them to an extent which helps you connect to the characters. Not to the level of something like Cowboy Bebop, but it's definitely up there.
The characters offer up different perspectives on anime as well, which is why I truly love them. Some of my favourites were Shigeru-san, the old animator who is struggling to find purpose in the modern anime industry as it shifts towards newer, more moe art styles than the era in which he was in his prime. Endou, who feels as though his skills as an animator are less appreciated as more and more CG is included in the anime-making process - and his complimentary character Shimoyanagi, the 3D director, who simply loves anime and being a part of the processes, but lacks the art skills to do key-frame animation.
The key point in all of this is: They are all human. The people that make anime, from the director to the key-frame artists, from the production desk to the character designers; they all have lives, likes and dislikes, preferences and, most importantly flaws. The director is the best example. He loves anime, he loves making it, he loves creating a world and a story and seeing it come to life - but he's also childish, he doesn't like responsibility, he struggles. But ultimately the passion he has for what he does wins out. This is a story about making anime, but beyond that, the people that make it happen - and how they're so passionate about it.
If you, for some reason, skipped everything before this - here is the short of it. I love Shirobako. As the episodes went on and I got more and more attached to the characters (and I mean ALL the characters), I cried with them, became stressed with them, but above all became passionate with them. I felt as if I was a part of their failures and their victories, even as an onlooker.
Before watching Shirobako I knew that anime had a lot of people behind it, but I never really knew what that meant. Or, better than that, I never appreciated what that meant. Watching Shirobako has been as if I've looked behind the curtain and seen even just a little bit of what is involved in making this medium that I love. The way I've watched anime is now changed, I'm now more sympathetic to what goes on, even if I don't see it. The anime that I already love, I appreciate even more the obvious love and effort that went into them. And even those that I look down on, or don't enjoy, I can appreciate that human being dedicated their time into creating it - and that is astounding.
This is not a documentary, there is certainly exaggeration for dramatic purposes, and there are certainly some things that are added to make the show a little more interesting (Everyone involved in anime are somehow very skilled in drifting and street racing?). But if even 10% of Shirobako displays some resemblance to the truth of how anime is made, then I applaud it. Some anime have made me think about things, made me look within myself, but Shirobako is the first to change my perception of anime, all anime, an entire medium after I have been loving it for as long as I can remember.
But, even aside from all that, the anime is still fun. It's definitely the most authentic slice-of-life anime I've seen in a long time that is actually happy, and an overall positive experience.
So in short: Enjoyment - 10/10. I will certainly watch this anime multiple times over my life for as long as I watch anime. I'm hoping that Australia gets a DVD release so I can actually buy it.
If you have any sort of feeling for the anime medium, if you enjoy anime as a whole, even if you're just tangentially interested in anime: Watch Shirobako. Not, "you should watch" or "if you're into slice of life, you should watch"; No, straight up watch Shirobako.
Even if you're only into action series, moe series, meccha series, whatever - you need to watch Shirobako. If it changes your perception only slightly of the anime industry, then that's enough.
Shirobako is not perfect - I said that before - but it is what it needs to be, and it does what it needs to do. It humanises anime, gives the viewer an insight into the world of Japanese animation. The only thing I would've added to it would be the end-credit scenes actually showing the real-life process of making Shirobako itself, having the actual animators, artists, etc talking directly to the audience about what they do. But hey, that would simply be a bonus for what is already a great anime.
So do it. Watch Shirobako. I hope it does to you what it did to me~
Shirobako is an anime about making anime. In this sense it feels very different to most shows you might have seen but different doesn't have to mean bad. At first I was a little sceptical about the show, after all, how exciting can an anime ABOUT anime be? Although at the same time, I was also a bit curious about what exactly would be in the show. If you've been watching anime for a while, then I really would recommend you take the chance, because the odds are that you won't regret it, it really helps you appreciate anime more. Even if you are relatively
new to anime, it is a wonderful eye opener.
So, how is the show presented? Shirobako does a good job of trying to pass on its message in the form of a believable story and very vested characters. We start the story following the lives of 5 girls who are all part of an anime club in high school as the year comes to an end. For some it is their last year while a few still have one year left, although no matter where they go on to work, they promise to one day work on a professional anime together. That is their dream, that is the goal that they look to pursue during the show. All these girls have their own passions within the anime industry, some want to be voice actors, producers, graphic and sketch artists and some don't really know where they can fit in, but want to be part of something.
The 5 giels aren't all given equal screen time, which in my eyes was a let-down since they all had such distinct personalities and you really want to know about all of them in detail. Shirobako concentrates on one of these girls a lot, Miyanmori, who has gone on to find a job as a production desk assistant at a small anime production studio, Mushishino Animation. We see the show through her eyes, her experiences and her interactions (for the most part anyways). She has a stable, friendly and professional attitude however is prone to stress (but aren't we all!) Shirobako then takes us through what it really is like to make anime, sometimes getting the point across via its bonkers characters or through very real, very grounded situations.
When first watching the show, you might find it a bit slow to start with, I certainly did and for the first few episodes I wasn't getting a great vibe. After all, this show doesn't have much action and a lot of the time it is set in the studio, so those looking for something jam packed with action will not find it here. Instead, Shirobako has wonderful dialogue and great character interactions to keep you interested, it may be a little slow but persist.
The show really gets across the struggles faced not only in production, but also of common recurring problems in life. This was what was really refreshing, the struggle and hard work needed to reach a goal were highlighted well, some characters struggled to the bitter end while constantly questioning themselves and running into one wall after the other. Things aren't always sugar coated to make it nice, but the realism is conveyed in a believable manner. Almost all the characters have had problems to deal with in even the most simplest of jobs, it's very easy to relate to.
Now, the biggest attraction of this show was the insight to what making an anime is like and in this respect you will not be disappointed, although for some I can understand why they might find the whole idea a little dull- although Shirobako does try to make it funny and quirky at the same time.
Going through the process of how voices actors work, how the people who are behind the drawings and sketches are inspired to just how difficult it can be to meet deadlines all the time. It really captures how frantic the entire process can be. It is also really fulfilling to watch the characters go about different aspects of building together an entire series. You will learn of the techniques they use as well as the new and old styles. You will get an idea of how friction might arise and how different people have different solutions around problems.
The art-style was impressive and you tended to notice it a lot more given how the show makes a point of art-styles itself in the actually storyline. The dialogue as mentioned before was excellent and the interactions very real- although there are some more over the top sequences with the sole purpose of emphasis, which is great. The OPs and EDs were nice, but mostly forgettable after having watched the show and it was only the 2nd ED that really stood out for me- they weren't bad but weren't amazing either.
Other than being initially slow, of the drag back for me was the fact that so much of the show is within the confines of an office and while it was interesting to see a group dynamic, the show could have benefitted from more action outside the walls. While this wasn't a major problem for me since I am happy to go along with the situation, I can see why this might be a major turn off.
Also, despite having mentioned it before, I would like to seriously point out how there isn’t much in the way of action or incredible tension (other than the stress of work) and as a result it can seem a down-right bore, especially to new viewers who are looking for action. The exaggerated areas, most which take place outside the show, like the car-racing sequences or the fictional left-shoulder devil and right-shoulder angel characters or just the extremities the characters take, does sort of remedy this.
Despite everything, this is a thoroughly enjoyable show as long as you aren’t predetermined in what to expect. It felt like a lively slice of life with plenty of humour. If you have been watching anime for a while, you will undoubtedly love the show even more, since so many different aspects and styles of anime are put forwards with great effect. In some sense’s it will polarise opinion- but you won’t know if you don’t try!
I most certainly will not be forgetting this show.
'Bakuman' became a cult hit by giving manga fans a look inside the industry. If the manga about manga can do well, why not an anime about anime? Much like 'Bakuman', 'Shirobako' delivers a high level of enjoyment and information, but threadbare plot and character development keep it from being anything beyond a fun ride.
There is very little story to speak of, as what plot exists is there solely to deliver lessons about the anime industry or occasionally set-up a debate over some facet of it (such as 2D vs CGI animation, or the politics behind choosing a voice cast). There are occasional side-trips to
visit the personal lives of 5 main girls, but these serve as little more than breathing spaces between information-heavy lessons on how anime is made. The 'slice-of-life' elements have no real drama or tension, as every problem is inevitably solved by hard work and patience (much like Bakuman, this series is an optimistic look at the industry). Like I said earlier, the plot exists as an excuse to look inside the anime industry- and as a look inside it's informative and entertaining, but it's hardly deep or moving.
-Art & Sound-
I have little to say on either of these segments, so I'll tackle them both at once. Production values are as high as they need to be, but nothing spectacular. The soundtrack is light and upbeat, the voice actors do their jobs, and the OPs and EDs are fine. Art is your pretty standard for a show centering on cutesy girls, but quality is solid. (side note, for a bit of a 'meta' moment, 'Shirobako' shows that CGI is most often used in anime today to handle complex moving machines like cars- and the most obvious use of CGI in the show are the cars).
Quick, tell me what the main 5 girls want to do besides make anime? Yes, they each have some quirk to distinguish themselves from each other, but that's hardly depth or internal conflict. They are plot devices and need to be treated as such. Since MAIN main character Aoi is a production assistant, it means that 'Shirobako' can seamlessly move between the various stages of anime production (if she were specialized and stuck in say, the sound department, the plot would get stale quickly- sound designers are rarely sent to draw key animation frames after all). Meanwhile, by giving Aoi a friend in each major area of anime production 'Shirobako' can get in-depth on a particular subject when it wants to. The side characters are one-trick ponies with little development as individuals. There are occasionally *tiny* changes and developments (Director Kinoshita is more self-confident and dependable and Taro is a bit less useless in the second arc, for example) but nothing that would exactly be confused for the Valhalla chapter of 'Vinland Saga'. The cast is so large, and individual development so minimal that each character is introduced with on-screen text giving their name and job title the first few times they appear just to help the viewer keep track. Like the plot, the characters serve as a vehicle to drive the audience from one look inside the anime industry to another- Misa's story arc about the life of a CGI designer might have been INFORMATIVE and INTERESTING, but I was hardly kept awake at night pondering the depth and twists of her internal debate on whether or not to leave one CGI production company for another.
This series is highly enjoyable for anime fans who want to look inside the industry. If the lessons on anime production aren't entertaining however, I doubt you would find anything else to truly make this show a must-watch.
It's best to view 'Shirobako' as a fictional documentary about anime. I say 'fictional documentary' because while it follows a fictional cast of characters through fictional events, its main focus is teaching the viewer about the anime industry- not getting them deeply invested in the cast and their conflicts. For what it is 'Shirobako' IS enjoyable and educational, but it is at its core an entertaining lesson about anime production, if those anime lessons were removed there would be very little of value or interest left. Not bashing 'Shirobako' by any stretch, but while it is certainly a fun ride, it's just a fun ride.
Shirobako is yet another series I watched on a whim and which ended up surprising me in a very good way.
While the first episode shows a bunch of high school girls who're part of an anime-making club, the show nearly immediately skips past that part of the characters' lives and instead treats us to a completely different setting instead, where we see them several years later as they're either already working professionally, or at least looking for a job. This alone was enough to catch my attention, since it avoided the overly done high school setting that so many series end up doing.
The main character
who gets the most showtime is, by far, Aoi, as we're shown the highs and lows of the anime studio she works at as a newbie producer. It was really interesting for me to see the anime industry shown in both its good side, showcasing the passion and drive people have to try and make something they can be proud of, but also its bad side, with looming deadlines, quarrels and all sorts of hurdles that the studio is forced to overcome in order to deliver on its promises.
Despite being a show about something fairly mundane, it was really nice how much Shirobako showcased the whole process of making an anime, all the way from acquiring the rights to a series, to script writing to delivering the finished episodes, and the passion that oozed from each part of it. Besides the focus on Aoi, we can also see the her former schoolmates as they either work on the industry or try their best to make it in there, and the way they experience the whole process, learn from it and make decissions.
While Shirobako might be a bit too positive at times (which might be a bit off-putting for some people), I'd definitely recommend it. It's a short but sweet series that happily surpassed the expectations I had for it.
(This has been adapted from my reddit thread. Spoilers ahead!)
There exist two kinds of dreams. There are dreams that one has had and those that one has. The former are often nonsensical in nature. The latter are slightly more corporeal; it's a "thing" that one wants above all else. It might be a state of being or simply a set of objects. But whatever the dream might pertain to, it's important to not only strive for that dream but to also know what that dream is. For while they may be the most difficult part of your life to obtain, they're also the most rewarding.
And as Shirobako demonstrates, sometimes those dreams have been around you all along.
Shirobako follows Miyamori, a new production assistant working for known animation company Musashino Animation. Alongside her friends Ema, Midori, Zuka, and Mii, Miyamori's skills start to be tested in the field she grew up loving so much.
Although typically listed as a comedy and a drama, Shirobako is first and foremost a slice-of-life anime. Or more specifically a slice-of-work anime. It dabbles in certain sections that are normally considered regular for everyday people -- going to an amusement park, having meet-ups, and visiting old locations -- but what it does so wonderfully is use such ventures as backdrops for its focus. This focus is the aforementioned work. Shirobako divulges to its audience all of the inner workings of anime production. This cannot be stressed enough: any aspect of what goes into making anime is looked at. The creation of key frames, CG modeling, storyboard directing, field research, voice acting retakes, outsourcing, coloring, sound effect manipulation, source material collaboration, product delivery; nothing is left untouched by Shirobako. And in this way, the show is both unique and educational. The subject tackled has never really been done before; the majority of fans of this medium have always had a general idea of what goes down, but nothing as concrete as what this show provides. In this way, what is given is wholly knowledgeable, not just for the audience but for anyone looking to understand what exactly an anime is.
At the same time, it follows through with this theme of work by keeping everything entertaining. Normally when you think of someone's job, it's sitting in a cubicle, doing boring paperwork, and other menial tasks. Anime making contains these facets as well, but Shirobako never makes them its prime target and instead aims at showcasing all parts of what makes work have its name. There are those elated times when the cast are seeing progress, having a celebratory party, or simply enjoying the stuff they are participating in. But there are also those low moments with irritating coworkers, unhelpful messengers, and encroaching deadlines. By encompassing everything that work entails, rather than just honing in on the hard labor, the anime is able to maintain both a sense of realism and a sense of understanding.
But most important of all is one of Shirobako's greatest strengths: its theme of dreams. What the show is able to pull off remarkably well is something that it has already been doing, and that is show all sides to a particular motif. They do it with anime, they do it with work, and they do it once more here. Dreams come in all varieties, and may be exactly the same or wildly different when moving from person to person. Within the anime, this thinking is no different. There are those who are dreaming -- the Director dreams of repairing the reputation he built for himself, Midori dreams of writing a beautiful story, and Yano dreams of having her father in good health. There are those who accomplish their dreams -- Mii leaves her old job to pursue her dream and Honda retires to bake the cakes he has always wanted to. There are those who's dreams range in difficulty -- Zuka's dream of becoming a voice actress is brutal while Ema's is more guided due the support around her. And there are even different states to these dreams -- Miyamori isn't sure what her dream is whereas Hiraoka had his dreams crushed. Nearly every cast member has some relation to dreams -- Ogasawara dreams of getting better at key frames, Kunogi dreams of gaining self-esteem, Nogame doesn't want his dream shattered -- and while the show is rather optimistic in terms of how they play out, it nevertheless serves as a poignant example of the phrase "dare to dream."
Shirobako maintains its forward momentum as well with its art and animation.
The art style for the show not only has much detail but continues the trend of managing to grab as many parts of a particular subject as possible. This time, it is in the locations that are visited. Despite the anime revolving around Musashino Animation -- which itself has the animator's abode, production rooms, and "jail closet" -- there are a multitude of environments that are trekked. Pastoral landscapes, intercity offerings, older buildings, noodle dives, major company skyscrapers, personal apartments; the anime ceases to rest on its laurels, always looking to make the world feel dynamic.
Character designs are also incredibly well done. Miyamori's overalls, Midori's stars-and-stripes, Zuka's red hair, Ogasawara's gothic attire, and Yano's twin-tails are simultaneously anime and real looking. And the whole cast has the same vibe, with people being distinct but not overly unique. On top of this, some characters are even based on real-world counterparts, giving the show just one more step in the direction of realism.
Actual animation is also of top-notch quality. The use of CG is minimal, with characters seeing fantastic movement in all parts of their life, from drawing an in-between to holding a casual conversation. Faces are expressive, interactions are fluid, and other activities shy away from remaining static.
The amount of characters attributed to Shirobako, like most major production companies, is massive. And while some may get a bit more spotlight than others, it wouldn't do most of them justice to talk about any of them individually -- with the exception of Miyamori, the main star of the anime.
While in high school, Miyamori worked with her four closest friends to make an anime, sparking that creative gene within her. Thus she went down the road of becoming a producer within the medium. But the show starts with her in a slump, seemingly annoyed by the work she is doing, and not being as happy-go-lucky as she was back in the day. In essence, she's unsure of her position, if the path she has chosen is the one right for her. Yet, she continues down this road, experiencing the many sides to anime and the many people related to the process. She undergoes stress, happiness, sadness, anxiousness; an emotional hurricane absorbs her through it all, just as any work place would. But more than this, she gets to learn from the lives of the friends around her. Seeing Ookura's passion for hand-drawn backgrounds, reliving Masato's past, and witnessing the beautiful moment when Zuka finally got the break she deserved were events that were individually promising but collectively special. And by the end of the show, Miyamori is no longer unsure about herself; rather, she is a dreamer, fully realizing that she's always loved anime and the people behind it. That this is where she belongs.
Looking at the rest of the cast in the general sense, they, too, offer their own perspectives. Each cast member is characterized in a specific manner -- Iguchi is playful, Andou is carefree, and Katsuragi is always worried -- making them have their own respective ways of dealing with the situations they find themselves in. Some even see personal growth despite the large amount of people involved -- Ema, Midori, Zuka, and Mii fall into this category. But most of all, everyone represents a specific work personality. Tarou is the fool, Sugie is the older veteran, Segawa is the hard worker, Satou is the newcomer, and Chazawa is the insufferable jerk. These are quick examples, but it gets the point across; people, like the anime that is worked on, come in all shapes and sizes. Being able to cooperate with them, respect them, and most important of all understand them goes a long way towards making work life that much easier. Many can be your friends, a few might be your enemies, but at the end of the day, they're your family. A family that, through thick and thin, bands together to help one another, to make the best of any situation, and create everlasting memories that one won't soon forget. And for Shirobako, such a family couldn't be more connected.
The first OP is a good track that begins with the female vocalist working in tandem with the piano and drums. The halfway point slows down slightly, with the singer bringing about some catchy lyrical singing. As it nears its end, the track continues being playful, with the back-and-forth beat and singing.
The second OP starts off a bit weaker, with more simple beat and singing. But it starts to morph into a more hopeful song, with background singers coming in, and chimes being utilized at just the right moments. The singer can have particularly catchy parts at times, but the real winner is the beginning and ending instrument that gives the piece its signature sound.
The first ED is Shirobako's first real blemish. It doesn't seem to have the same amount of effort put into it, when compared to the music and everything else. The unified singing is alright, the drum beat is okay, and the ending "love letter" is fine for what it is. The track screams mediocre, and doesn't hold a candle to what the rest of the show has to offer.
But the second ED does an about-face; it's a fantastic track. It opens with a semi-techno beat and chimes, which leads into a good bout of singing. The beat continues, until the halfway point, where the real magic begins. It's a simple "la-loo-la-loo-la" but one can't help but to sing along. The tone, the onomatopoeia, and interjected vocals in-between make it an absolutely enjoyable piece both inside and outside the anime. And just for good measure, the animation associated with it is something that only Shirobako could do.
The soundtrack is also nicely done, by perfectly capturing that everyday work feel. It contains more float-y pieces that calm the mind, slower piano-and-ambient ones for the more emotional scenes, and more trumpet-filled tracks for faster-paced, high-stakes "action." They're a good set of tunes that work in parallel with what Shirobako presents.
As far as voice-acting is concerned, those involved perform above-average within their respective roles. Special shout-outs are in order for the main cast -- Juri Kimura as Miyamori, Haruka Yoshimura as Ema, Hitomi Ohwada as Midori, Haruka Chisuga as Zuka, and Asami Takano as Mii -- for being relative newbies in the field of anime yet dishing out such splendid performances.
The show could actually be quite comedic when it wanted to be, usually when introducing the quite unrealistic scenes that would pop up from time to time. The Director's "belly arts" moves, Kunogi's extreme shyness, and Tarou's nonchalant walk into a brawl at the company are specific instances that stick out in my mind as being quite hilarious.
And in true anime fashion, many of the women within the show are quite cute, too. Midori's determination, Ema's caring nature, and Yano's intelligence are quite attractive. The girls' specific traits, coupled with the fact that this is an anime centered on adults, made this one that much more pleasing to watch.
Shirobako's triumph isn't necessarily in its diverse cast of characters, slick art, or catchy music. No, what it champions is the subject it tackles. At this point others have already said it, and I agree with them: this is a show all anime fans need to see at least once. For now instead of dreaming about how your favorite anime was made, you simply need to stop by Musashino Animation and witness it first hand, while gaining some valuable life experiences along the way.
Story: Great, educational look into anime, work-filled but entertaining, and "dare to dream"
Animation: Great, nice art style, great character designs, above-average actual animation
Characters: Good, Miyamori finds her dream, with the rest of her "family" supporting her
Sound: Good, good first OP, good second OP, bad first ED, great second ED, good soundtrack, above-average VA work
Enjoyment: Good, quite funny, cute women, and a show that every anime fan needs to see
We all love anime. Otherwise we wouldn't be on this site.
Many of us dreamt to work in the anime industry, to create things we ourselves are interested in. Or if not to work, many of us still wanted to at least understand it, wanted to know how things are done and if it really is as great as we imagine it to be.
It's no surprise, that Shirobako, the show that offers a glimpse into the production process of anime, created such resonance in the anime-loving community. And the way it tries to do that! Shirobako positions itself as an entertainment, a work of
art that could give you something else apart from the dry info about the technical process.
The key words here are 'positions itself'. But does it manage to authentically convey the details of the process of making anime while remaining entertaining at the same time?
The show definitely provides quite a bit of insight into the anime-making process. But let's be honest to ourselves: if we really wanted to know about how anime is made, we'd watch a documentary or google for some articles on the internet. The information can be found if you try hard enough, and if you didn't try, chances are that's not what will be the most important part of Shirobako for you, even if you think it is.
What we really want in this kind of fiction is to root for characters, to worry if they'll manage to overcome the obstacles on the way to their goal.
And Shirobako seem to understand this, but it doesn't go out of it's way to provide this.
At least definitely not to the point of calling it 'Drama' as it's tagged here on MAL.
Of course it has quite a bit of emotionally powerful moments, but they are by no means Dramatic.
It's much closer to Slice-of-Life if anything.
And sometimes Shirobako is focusing too much on this slice of life, the everyday job of the staff, while having little else going on. The start in particular can be called slow.
It eventually starts to focus on important things: the characters, their motivations and determination, their views and methods to do things, their differences and their trials to overcome them, but those things are still provided in a very reserved way that some people won't be able to appreciate. For example, there's no life and death situations, sometimes even stakes don't seem to be high enough.
The further story goes, the higher tension gets, the more crises and obstacles characters face, the more development they undergo, and by the end you become familiar with almost everyone in Musashino Animation staff, they grow on you, you sympathize with them. But you need to get there first. Because of this the show might come off as "Boring people doing boring job" for some. Especially if you don't like Slice of Life stories.
But familiarizing yourself with characters takes time. If you ready to actually invest it, it will definitely become rewarding in the end. Because, once they develop enough, characters in Shirobako are great, and the Show tries really hard to give enough screen time to everyone (despite the fact that there are tons of them), and handle them as good as possible.
And, as a bit of a personal commentary, I myself am not a fan of Slice of Life stories, and that was my major concern going into Shirobako, but in the end I really liked it. And I think if you like anime it is a good show for you to try and watch. Even if you won't like it in the end, it definitely is worth your time to try.
Anime is an interesting medium. Critics, fans, news spreaders, forums, directors, studios, products, songs, and animators. All of them exist in other mediums, and some exist in all entertainment mediums, but they all exist here, and this is obviously, a rich and interesting medium. The thing is, we tend to only really know the news of the anime, some the people working on the anime, and the final result that airs on tv. We never really get to see the real ins and outs of it unless we study in those fields, which many of us here won't. It seems Studio P.A.
Works realized that as well and decided to make an anime that can teach us a bit of what goes into making our favorite shows. Did it teach us some valuable lessons on the industry while still being an entertaining and satisfying experience? Of course! Then again, chances are, you're not here to find out that part. You're probably wondering why. Well, I guess it's my turn to give it a go, so if you are one of those people, then let's find out, shall we?
Over the course of 24 episodes, we get to see Musashino animation work on two interesting anime while dealing with loads of bumps on the road. One such member is Aoi Miyamori, leader of the anime club her 4 other friends were in during high school, the group consisting of: Aoi, Zuka, Ema, Midori, and Misa. The 5 of them take versions jobs in the anime industry, and suffer stress trying to find their place and in some cases, suffering stress trying to make it out there. Their paths are separate while working on the first anime, Exodus, but most of their paths converge when working on Third Aerial Girls Squad, until towards the end, Zuka manages to land a role for the series. We get to see the ups and downs of not just these 5 girls, but everyone working on the two anime series over the course of 2 years. Each end to an arc (the arc being the production of one of the 2 anime) is satisfying in their own right, especially due to the sheer amount of anime references that increase the more each arc nears the climax. We also get to learn a bit about key-animation, CGI, voice acting, adaptation, editing, and so many other things that can really benefit someone trying to learn a bit about the inner workings of an anime. As for the last two episodes, they get absurdly over the top, but have some of the most satisfying and heart-warming moments in the series, like Ali crying when she hears Zuka reading her lines for Third Aerial Girls Squad, and the celebration of the anime's completion. It's not just educating us on anime, it's also giving us engaging and interesting stories with loads of references to real life studios, anime, and directors. Not to mention that the ending is great.
Aoi is a bit nervous and friendly but assertive at the same time, all of which are shown in full display during production, and she is a really pleasant protagonist to follow. Shizuka and Ema are usually friendly and upbeat, but get a bit down due to circumstances regarding their work, especially Shizuka until her insanely emotionally resonant big payoff at the end of episode 23.. Midori gets inspired by the other girls and eventually becomes the most diligent of them all. Misa is also friendly, but eventually wants something more out of her job as a CG animator. I'm sorry for these shallow descriptions, but putting them into descriptions is a bit hard given how real they feel at times. Sure, Ema gets needlessly melodramatic at times, but we still care about the girls' endeavors, and that's partly due to these guys...
There is a gigantic cast of characters that work at Musashino and other studios, so I'll have to be a bit brief. Tarou is a bumbling idiot akin to the likes of Tamaki from Code Geass, but can still pull through here and there, and even has a pretty fun drunk scene with Daisuke. Seiichi and Honda are nervous wrecks that have to really pull through via pain in order for things to work at times given their flaws. Daisuke is a pessimist with terrible mindset of getting things done and nothing more: the mindset that allows works like Mahouka and Blazblue Alter Memory to spawn (not that I'm still angry about those series or anything), but we get to see just what horrible assholes pushed him that way, in the aforementioned really great drunk scene with Tarou, who often bugs hum about being buddies. So many of these characters have their own unique quirks, and are pretty fun to see, even if a lot of them butt heads, all except for Ai; she's annoying, and that's all I'm going to say about her botched attempt st a mute and shy character. They still can get work done when it gets down to the wire, no matter what he'll they go through in the process. Seiichi even gloriously goes to see the creator of the second anime and takes down the chronies that block his path, including that asshole "funny story" guy who keeps wrecking what they try to do by never doing his job right and being a pain in the dick. Hell, we get personified imaginations of a girl doll and a polar bear to entertain us and represent Aoi's thoughts occasionally. Talking about all of them will be daft given the given cast, but they're endearing and diverse, and all have at lest one moment in the spotlight, like Endou in episode 8 after his arc about trying to quit his position on Exodus. Also, try to guess which ones have real world parallels. I'll give you a hint. One of them is a reference to Hideaki Anno.
Studio P.A. Works did a great job with this series. The animation during the normal scenes generally looks good, but the visual flares really kick in during the OPs and EDs, including some Ufotable level lighting. ED2 has it the best, with a packet that alerts which version of ED2 is being animated. Not to say that the animation in general isn't great, but it really stands out in the OPs and EDs. I love when they get into shading and coloring, and other animation moments since as you can no doubt guess, they do a great job at showing that. Why wouldn't they.It's a treat to be sure. Now if only the CGI were as good it kinda falters occasionally, but can still be decently done other times, like with the cars that are always speeding, and no, I will not dock points for the purposely clunky CGI in the CGI testing scenes since again, they were supposed to look like how bad CGI looks in anime. Regardless, it's a very pleasant show to look at, especially when they do such a great job at illustrating Re anime process, literally speaking of course.
OP 1 "Colorful Box by Yoko Ishida" is an extremely charming OP, and is a perfect way to draw you into the series. It screams pleasantness, putting a smile on my face every time. OP 2 "Treasure Box by Masami Okui" isn't as good brbis still a nice OP. Never thought I'd hear the accordion in an anime OP. ED 1 isn't anything special at all though. ED 2, Platinum Jet, was actually preformed by the seyuus of the 5 main girls, and is amazing. It is beyond pleasant, and is perfect to cheer yourself up to during night time, and is course, it's very catchy as well. Like Gurren Lagann's second ED, this was what convinced me that I really loved the show even more than i thought I did. The rest of the OST isn't anything noteworthy aside from a few moments here and there (like the song hat plays in the final scene of episode 23), but it works decently enough for what we got. Also, the Andes Chucky theme is catchy for me. Shaddup.
This is a very immersive show for me, so much so that at points, the scenes where characters get super stressed stress me out as well. I mostly grew out of that though, it tenimmersik was still their, as each moment of relief for the characters was a relief for me, as the troubles were over for now. Each success was satisfying, especially the finale. Also, that scene in episode 23 with Aoi and Zuka was so heart-warming, especially when Aoi cried. I enjoyed the humor as well, and don't even get me started in the references, like the Studio Sunrise reference, the Hideaki Anno reference, or the Mariyama reference. I kept belly-laughing at some of those references, and believe me, there's a lot of them.
OVERALL: 9/10 RAW SCORE: 8.68/10
This is definitely an impressive and engrossing series to be sure. It teaches us some valuable things about anime while giving us some great stories and characters to get invested in. The references can be a real treat to almost anyone who has seen his fair share of anime and has some knowledge about certain studios and directors in the industry. This is easily recommendable to any anime fan, especially a seasoned veteran. Hell, show it to your local anime club if you have one, since it teaches a few things about the behind the scenes about anime. I'm sure it'll be worth it for the pleasant characters and amazing payoffs alone. Well, with all that said. I bid you adieu.
P.A Works has always been a company that reliably releases anime that keeps a consist quality of some sort, but when it came to the Summer season of 2014, Glasslip was a huge disappointment for the company, and for the fans. Yet, the season right after, Fall 2014, P.A Works took the initiative to air an anime to show the behind the scenes of creating just what the fans wait for. Isn't it amazing how anime has come so far to the point of releasing everything on a schedule of seasons and for fans to enjoy with a connection that is created through an industry
that's fairly new? The staff behind a "legendary" anime, or one that someone may enjoy, can be overlooked, but it wouldn't be the same without them, and Shirobako goes to show that.
If speaking about Shirobako, you're given two ways to approach the anime and its message to the audience. In one hand, it could be seen as a SoL type of anime just following 5 ambitious girls pursuing their ideals of the anime industry after their animation club in high school got them interested. But in the other, Shirobako can be seen as a message to the audience of fighting the obstacles in life that chain down dreams and making them realistic through hard work and dedication. The under-lying theme of that end goal is a quality that can be overlooked in the anime with all the subtle jabs at the concept, but it ultimately kept the anime together. Numerous examples of dreams can be seen throughout the 24 episodes from characters talking about what got them into the industry, to their wisdom coming in hand when the new comers are having a slump or break down and experience is all that is needed. The staff in the series are often imagining their anime character's coming to life when in a hard time, or speaking about the future, which can be a personification of the hard work put into creating them and the pay off when finished.
An odd quality that many people don't consider is the setting it has: young adult life. It seems as if many studios today are afraid of moving away from the typical high school setting and expanding on the adult life that many people are realistically having trouble dealing with. Without a doubt, the series does not hold back on the importance of keeping the job that the characters are currently holding. Countless times are the characters speaking about needing to provide food on the table to keep them alive with the job, and competition becoming more stiff as times are changing. 3D CGI vs hand drawn animation, lost in trust after massive blow out of production, the seemingly simple animation that we view actually has a intricate process behind it. Failures aren't taken lightly, as we view a studio going out of business, a voice actor struggling to get a role and debut, the industry isn't filled with rainbows and sunshine as some perceive it as.
A lot of anime display the trope of characters being "prodigies" at a certain task, such as drawing or intellect, but the characters here display nothing of the sort. That doesn't mean they're talent-less, but rather, hard working and experienced. At one point in the show, Ema is having a roadblock in her creativity and art style, she's uncertain of how to approach it. It interferes with her work and shatters her confidence. The other artists assist in her issue and proclaim they've all been at that point, it's just a matter if she can find her muse to get out of it, or crash and burn. This alone creates a connection that many more people can enjoy as the series progresses through the trials and tribulations that they all face, knowing they weren't handed the job by talent alone while being fed with a silver spoon.
When referring to the characters of the anime, it's amazing how only five of them are labeled as "main character", yet each individual one seem to make an impact that goes past the typical "side character" trope. All of them seemingly have the qualities that could take over and become the main focus at any moment, given the situation, but even without doing so, they have just enough air time to distinguish themselves from any stereotypical "regular" character that is in recent anime. Although some of them do make more of an impact than others, they're all equally needed completing a beautiful mural. To give light of some impressions and impact of the characters, some will be reviewed.
"I kept remembering when I was being interviewed, and it's depressing". - Miyamori, Aoi.
Miyamori, Aoi is the prime focus of the "main characters", as I would say, and definitely a realistic character. When she enters the industry, she's unsure about where she wants to pursue, unlike her co-workers. For example, her friend Ema has chosen the Artist path, Midori wants to become a Script writer, Shizuka strives to become a voice actor, and Misa wants to create 3D art. In more ways than not, Aoi is a character that many people can relate to, myself included. Her worry about a career and choosing a path is often taking over her outlook on things and indirectly steers her to be where she is now. Though her realism is quite stellar, it's her development that seems to be the biggest trait there is to offer. At the start of her job she's only a production assistant. Constantly making mistakes, apologizing to everybody, and even has a history of being denied job interviews from other studios. But throughout the entire 24 episodes, we witness what experience and support does to a person. Aoi becomes a person who's illuminating ambition as opposed to the wavering fragile girl she once was. The quote selected from her displays when she's put into a situation that requires her to become someone of high importance in the production team, and is constantly reminded of her failures, but overcomes her past to lead the studio she was accepted into.
"Well, I want to exceed the expectations, without betraying them". - Kinoshita "Director" Seichii.
The director is an interesting character, as his overall personality seems to be more "have fun doing your job", rather than the serious tyrant. Throughout the series you learn that he's actually a person who has directed other anime in the past, but one bad mistake ended up ruining his image as a director, and ultimately his image in the industry. He has many philosophies in his work that can push him to become over the top to some staff members and to the audience, but in his mind, he's a child at heart. It's the free spirit that he has while also being able to take his own responsibility when times get tough that make him reliable. Whether it be his childish approach to getting around work or motivating ideals when beginning to actually do work, the director is a character that is used a comedy relief factor, yet impacts more than that. A fan of anime that stays true to what the audience wants, even if it has to stray from the creator's, a trait that seems to set himself apart from the other directors that appear throughout the run time.
"I'm excited, too. No matter how long I've been doing this, the feeling I get when I see my drawings move... There are no words". - Iguchi, Yumi.
Yumi is just one of many examples in the anime that show experience is everything. While not being one of the highest known artists in the industry, she's enough to keep the art department going to motivate and help them out when in need. When Ema was in her road block to clear her mind of troubles, Yumi gives her advice that she actually got while she was in the same situation and is more of a figure of assistance. Although there are many characters that are in the same role as her, she becomes an individual as the series progresses to set herself apart and really show what she has to offer to the entire staff and audience watching.
For a studio like P.A Works to produce an anime about animating, art would be a pretty big factor in itself to keep the concept of how hard it is to create one running. Luckily enough, P.A has never failed to produce great art that has their own style that indicates it's their studio, yet Shirobako has the detail and attention that goes beyond what they usually do. It's amazing how they capture the idea of producers and staff members as just usual people by the snip of their home and office space. Little figures of characters, a family to go back home to when done with work, over sleeping, nothing is left out in a way that focuses entirely on art detail, but also detail in life. As for the sound department, we actually even got to see how certain sounds are made in the anime, and by the looks of it, technology has come a long way, but making them right on the spot seems more enjoyable. In all honesty, sound probably isn't too notable in a series such as this, though not because it wasn't clicking together, but because of it's eccentric focus on the characters. Although, "COLORFUL BOX" has definitely become a piece that never gets old when watching.
While a facade is created to follow 5 girls and their quest to impact the anime industry together, Shirobako is much more than that. It's a present to the anime industry and audience of hard work and enjoyment for all ages. There was no melodramatic theme to plague the series and create hard feelings to connect with, but rather a realistic approach to almost every aspect that can be experienced by adults. Rooting the foundations of creating an anime and centering it around that may seem strange, but it's a ride to experience once beginning. It's more than what it may seem like; fitting the saying "Don't judge a book by its cover" has never been more true.
Shirobako is an anime about making anime. It portrays virtually every aspect of anime production with excellent detail, from the research and writing of a story, to the administrative operations and planning, to the making of 2D and 3D frames, to the animation process, to the voice acting and related auditions, to the sound effects and music recordings, to miscellaneous artistic contributions throughout the production. Sounds like a mouthful? You bet it is, and Shirobako has this tendency of cramming so much information in that your head will be spinning whether you paid full attention or not. But that's not all. Technical operations is only
half the picture; the other half is much more universal to all work environments and industries: human relationships, interactions, and work-related issues. We're not dealing with robots that do all their jobs perfectly and on time; we're talking about people who get lazy, angry, demotivated, emotional, stressed out, make mistakes, and have other things in life to deal with besides their soul-crushing jobs. We're working with artists, each with their own aspirations, troubles, and outlooks on their careers. Not everyone is satisfied with their job, and heck, not everyone has a job. This is all taken into account in Shirobako's comprehensive look at the anime industry.
Yet with all that, I've only scratched the surface of what Shirobako has to offer. The real heart of the show is in its characterizations, conveyed piece-by-piece in a rich narrative of powerful, heartfelt character moments. We are shown the traps of getting caught in the daily doldrums of work life, with characters losing sight of the initial passion that motivated them to join the industry in the first place. We are shown harsh disillusionment, as characters realize that their dreams are either not as wonderful as they originally thought, or straight-up unattainable. We are shown that in anything the characters do, there will always be someone who does their job better, faster, and seemingly with less effort to boot. That talent is absolutely a thing. That luck is absolutely a thing. That effort without proper direction gets you nowhere, but effort with direction still only gets you so far.
Yet while Shirobako is unreserved in conveying these cold, hard truths, it never stops being an optimistic show. A beautiful poignancy is achieved whenever an industry veteran manages a light smile in recounting their earnest, yet tumultuous pasts. An inspiring piece is made whenever two quarreling characters settle their differences in a rekindling of passion. Whenever one character helps another with their artistic or professional troubles, that act of compassion is always nicely reflected in later episodes, whether that help is reciprocated, applied to great effect, or even passed on to the next generation of creators. And even as our characters get humiliated, beaten, and put down by their troubles, they continue onward. They push forth. They grow. Not everyone makes it, and those that do will always be plagued with stress and setbacks, but it's the fact that they put a genuine effort towards their passions that matters. Even for those with aimless direction, it's to continue working, creating, and helping others that they find a purpose. And at the end of the day, there will always be someone cheering them on in the background and giving them support. Understated moments like when Aoi's parents call Aoi to tell her how excited they were to see her name in the ending credits does wonders in bringing everything down to earth.
As shown, Shirobako is ridiculously good at crafting characters from its flurry of scenes and subtleties, and substantiating a cast of over 50 named characters. How many of these characters have great scenes, distinctive personalities, and endearing quirks to attribute to their face (because I suck at remembering Japanese names)? In a rough count, I got at least 7 directors/producers/administrators, 8 animators and artists, 5 production assistants, and 4 miscellaneous roles. Do the math; it's absolutely nuts!
The show also performs extremely well in its command of tone and general storytelling. It balances a fast-paced, detail-filled story with a burgeoning and competent character cast so effectively, when it sounds like it'd be a horrid mess on paper. The ever-stressful environment of Musani Animations is complemented by sharp, slick comedy, constantly making me tense with anxiety over the characters' mounting troubles, followed by some scenes so hilarious they have ZeroHumor doubled over in laughter. With its many character moments, Shirobako maintains powerful heartwarm colored with poignancy throughout its course, as it balances its realism perfectly with its idealism. It's also worth noting that realism itself isn't Shirobako's aim; rather, it is to convey something meaningful within its realistic ideas and emotions that truly matters. Yes, Shirobako has talking dolls, exaggerated drag racing, and dream-like visions. But none of that detracts from what is real about this show, and what is truly significant: the passions and pursuits of art, the emotions in dealing with stress, and everything that makes this show extraordinary.
In the end, Shirobako proves to be an extremely well-written show. I was frankly shocked when I saw that this was an anime-original work, considering just how seamlessly this show flows from point to point, from theme to theme, from episode to episode. It's a really immersive experience, endowed with its outstanding cast of characters, engaging subject matter, competent storytelling, and filled to the brim with its own passion. You can clearly see just how much this work resonates with its own creators, and in turn, how much it emotionally resonates with its audience. It's one of the best, if not the best of 2014.
Sunlight desperately pours through the windows of Kaminoyama High School's Animation Club, illuminating only the figures of five girls with nothing but donuts in hand. An unmistakable tension fills the air, yet a short battle cry ensures it's tainted by the faintest hint of commitment -- one that will hopefully lead those present to their dreams.
Cut to the same window drenched in rain, zooming out to reveal the same five (Ema, Zuka, Midori, Misa, and Miyamori) slaving away at their club's OVA in the shadows. Don't be mistaken by the gloominess of the scene, as it's clear
their demeanour has changed: a glow
of passion fills the girls' newly-inspired eyes as they discuss their lives and futures throughout the summer. Outside, even a wilted sunflower cracks a sly smile. At graduation, the five girls promise to work together on an anime again, but this time their donuts are raised in pride. What is it that awaits them out there?
All of this happens within the first five minutes of the series, and it'd be hard to keep track of without some commendable observation skills. Mizushima is known for his extreme (and bizarre) attention to detail, but Shirobako brings this to a whole new level, all the while remaining funny, thrilling, and providing an experience all too heartwarming.
The storyline is made up of two intertwining conflicts; one follows Musashino Animation's production troubles, where Ema also works, and the other focuses on Midori, Zuka, and Misa trying to find a job in the industry. The former is clearly more interesting, as aside from Miyamori, the other girls only serve as a backbone; their struggles are interesting to watch, but they're never really given much individuality, instead only differentiated by their career paths. Two of the main five don't really get enough time in the spotlight, and it's a little bothersome given how vital they are to the story. It does seem more due to time constraints than writing problems, however, as how they're executed is still somewhat meaningful. Some may even find their being pushed aside to be a nice thing because of how relatively boring they are.
By relatively, I mean that the blunders of the main characters are made up for by an excellent supporting cast, consisting of anime staff from multiple studios, new hires, and freelance individuals. They're the source of a lot of the story's progression and humour, but also its intensity. Much like in real life, not everyone you encounter is flawless or friendly, and they're always prone to butt heads with others. A somewhat simple office bickering can lead to verbal infighting, or even escalate to some physical violence. It's not something that happens often, and it's not abused to the point in which it becomes ineffective; it's as shocking and scary to see as it would be to any employee. Even the more distant or obnoxious of the staff have some substance or reason to their rude behaviour, and it's pretty much all explained by the end of the run, creating some gratifying character development for one and all.
A more unconventional aspect of this anime is its intelligent use of lighting, as I touched upon earlier. Even the fluorescent lights of an office gleam upon the squeaky-clean walls that surround them, and different areas keep vastly different atmospheres -- you begin to feel and understand the area without needing to be there. For example, the cozy orange sheen of a pub is rightfully unlike the frigid mess that may lie outside. Instead, it's more reminiscent of a scene in one of the homes Miyamori may visit. Shirobako's art itself follows suit, with frames as carefully detailed as those created by Musashino. In fact, you'll end up seeing a lot of their anime while it's still a work in progress. Everything from key animation to CGI is shown as it's constructed, and while it may be messy, it's an oddly charming way of displaying a fictional artist's hard work. I'm not as much a fan of the character designs, because while extremely nice, they're more or less on the safe side. Women in the show are largely more attractive than their male counterparts, which would usually be fine by me, but I find the characters are strong enough to make it unnecessary. To put it more bluntly, it sometimes feels that Shirobako relies too heavily on its more conventional appearance, and it lowered my expectations before watching.
Also unexpectedly, its sound goes on to impress. The seiyuus of the main five were all very unpopular prior to the show, but it gave them all a chance to make their big breaks. Famous voice actors are given smaller roles in the show, and Zuka's struggle as a newbie seiyuu could be seen as a commentary on why this choice was made. There are four main theme songs, obviously, and each is greatly uplifting -- from soaring piano harmonies in Colorful Box to the simple yet catchy dance refrain of Platinum Jet, there's likely something to appeal to everyone. Even the background music is nice, but it doesn't tend to impress out of context. Not really a huge problem, I suppose.
While definitely something that works best altogether, this is an anime that is just good in every aspect. It may not excel at one particular thing, but I probably wouldn't have it any other way; it seems a testament to the show's overall theme of hard work, and I'm more than satisfied with that. There are very few anime that I've enjoyed watching more, and funny story: this is the first time I've felt such a strong urge to vocalize my love for one. So despite what you may think of its appearance or synopsis, I urge you to experience it for yourself. I almost never watched Shirobako, and I still scold myself for that.