If you liked the Shirobako anime, Drop Everything and read this right now. Yes, Now. NOW. Stop reading this and just seek it out. Keep in mind that there is a second Shirobako manga that's cheesecake, and is not what I'm talking about.
OK, so you're back.
Oh my God. Right? Wasn't that just a balm to your fucking soul?
The Shirobako anime spends a lot of time on the details of anime production because that is the vehicle through which it explores its themes and it was novel to tell the story of an anime studio in that detail through animation. Obviously, this manga doesn't have actually
have animation to go with it, and it doesn't have a whole cour of stories to tell in detail. Instead, it focuses on the internal character growth that was implied by the story of the girls making their amateur anime and hits it hard.
Like the series, this focuses most on Ema and Aoi while the other girls have somewhat less, but it's much more equal opportunity because their production can only exist with all hands on deck. While Ema is working through confidence issues and Aoi is working out how to lead, everyone is figuring out what kind of person they want to be and how to express themselves in a working environment and among friends.
All of this is presented with unrelenting positivity and mutual support outside of setbacks production-wise and emotional, and all of it feels so earned. The story just becomes richer when you remember what professional work will be like for these girls in just a few short years. It's nothing like this. They don't actually know what they're in for. But, at this point, they are naive and idealistic and passionate enough to make them feel like they can achieve anything with each other's support. It's absolutely infectious even though we know it's "wrong," because it's what made them want to do their careers in the first place.
This is just so filled with great character moments. Even the voice actor girl, who was especially sidelined in the anime, was a core part of the group dynamic here. At one point early on, they start acting out romantic scenes from an anime they love and they kiss (on the nose). It's so sweeeeeeeeeeeet.
If there's something missing from this, it's just that it's only two volumes. On the one hand, this story is perfectly balanced and paced for two volumes. On the other hand, I desperately want more. I want more characterization for all the other girls. I want more high school adventures. I want more naiveté about working conditions before the reality of our broken systems shatters their illusions. I want more Shirobako.
I feel cleansed by this. I hope that you do, too, or that you are about to when you read it for yourself.