It’s not very often you come across a bonus episode or two that are so unique and refreshing that you have to take a deep breath after each one and reflect on how well it suits the series it is based upon and how much entertainment value it adds to the whole package. It's even rarer to think that a special episode can leave you craving lots more of something you didn't even know you desired until now! Shirobako’s pair of specials do just that and offer a truly one-of-a kind experience that you don’t get from your usual OVA extras.
First of all, you should
know that Shirobako’s special episodes are not exactly “Shirobako” episodes, but rather each episode is a standalone introductory episode to each of the fictional anime created by the characters of Shirobako during the series. Because of this, anyone can pick up these extras with little-to-no knowledge of Shirobako and have an enjoyable time. The plots simply don't relate. Fans who’ve already seen the anime series will likely be even more entertained by the numerous allusions and references to the original series made throughout each of these episodes. The only major downfall here is that each extra episode does not directly represent Shirobako in any way, so outsiders might not get an accurate taste of what they’re in for if they are judging whether or not to watch Shirobako.
The first special is an introductory episode of “Exodus,” the parody idol group action comedy that the animated cast of Shirobako spent the first half of the series working hard to produce at “Musashino Animation.” During the early episodes of Shirobako, we’re led to believe that Exodus is kind of a misguided and generic anime series as well as a parody of the industry itself, but in the 24 minute time frame of the special episode, it goes well above those expectations. Exodus presents itself as a very cleverly-written and self-aware genre-breaking comedy and does so with the same humorous charm and quality found in Shirobako. As the idol girls discover someone close to them has been murdered, they begin a pointless, yet hilarious journey to wherever they run off to next. This episode was certainly more enjoyable than I ever would've expected.
Second batter up is “Aerial Girls Squad” which is the second false anime to be featured during Shirobako’s latter half. It is an adaptation project that in itself is somewhat parodying the likes of Strike Witches or Girls und Panzer with its military theme and forced vehicle trivia to satisfy the studious type of otaku. Again, despite being a parody of a genre, Aerial Girls somehow finds a way to distinguish itself among other anime and really hooks the viewer from the start with thrilling action, well animated CGI, and interesting characters. P.A. Works really went the extra mile to make Aerial girls feel authentic and feasible – even moreso than Exodus in my opinion. The only knock I can give Aerial Girls is that it feels slightly more detached from Shirobako than the Exodus special.
So really what does that mean for these specials? Well, if I’m honest, I wouldn’t so much called them specials as I would actual "pilot episodes" of future anime. There’s no joking in that statement. Each one of these episodes feel like a real-world anime first episode that you could tune into at the turn of a new season. It’s really astounding how far P.A. Works leaped to accomplish this feat. There is an equal amount of passion and care crammed into each of these OVAs that can also be found in the critically acclaimed Shirobako series. P.A. Works always shines through it's original stories and their talent continues to flourish in these little exhibitions. Not to mention the studio had to write these original stories, create new color palettes and character designs, and assemble an entirely new cast for each of the shorts. That's a lot of dedication for something that can only be found on the BD/DVD release.
On their own, if I were to rate these as individual episodes of their own respective titles, both would top at around 8/10 for being incomplete, but still having great entertainment value. In fact, I think it’s a shame that most people will overlook these specials because I truly, strongly believe that each of these fictional shows could stand their ground on real television as a full-fledged series, despite their parodic nature. I would love to watch both of these if they were real. As a whole though, this adds immense closure and satisfaction for Shirobako fans and opens new doors for people who might be interested in any of the 3 stories presented. These specials are definitely worth your time and maybe if they are popular enough, the studio may consider extending these spin-offs! After all, they put a ton of work into making these! Don’t let the efforts of P.A. Works or “Musashino” go to waste!!
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