“An anime about people who make anime.”

At face value, such a show doesn’t sound very interesting or exciting enough to keep a viewer’s attention. But rest assured, Shirobako is an honest and heartwarming insider’s look at how anime is really made, and the admirable efforts of the people responsible for its production.

Welcome to Musashino Animation, an underdog animation
company who has just landed its first major animation gig by producing one of
the newest season’s most anticipated shows. The job, however, requires the
studio to recruit more staff members and new talent onto the show. Enter Aoi
Miyamori, Musashino’s new production assistant who has just entered the
industry and hopes to one day make an anime of her own with her fellow high
school graduates. Like any other individual new to the industry, Miyamori is
nervous and flustered when presented with an issue, but animation has no time
for the weak-at-heart and there are many obstacles that Miyamori must overcome if
she hopes to stay in the business.


What’s truly touching about Shirobako is how honest a lot
of the subject material is, and how the writers really want to convey to the
audience how difficult anime production can be. There are multiple jabs aimed
at fields and careers within the industry, and the main cast themselves embody
the usual tropes of their occupations. For example, the lead director at
Musashino, Seiichi Kinoshita, is indecisive and frequently tries to escape from
work due to a creative slump. His previous failures as a director also prevent
him from focusing on the task at hand, and he inevitably causes the production
schedule to fall behind over and over again. Tarou Takanashi, another
production assistant at Musashino Animation, is a block-headed idiot with no
people skills or sense of responsibility whatsoever, and by unintentionally
pissing multiple staff members off he nearly causes several key animators to
quit. Then there’s the unforgettable Chief Production Assitant Honda Yutaka,
whose catch phrase is, “I’ve run out of ideas!”

Needless to say,
all of the problems caused by these hopeless staff members fall onto Miyamori’s
shoulders, and it’s up to her to fix them. Alongside commentaries on what makes
the industry so hard to work in, one of the main messages in Shirobako is just
how much pressure is put on production assistants and schedule managers in
general. Miyamori really does get the short end of the stick nearly every time,
and it’s usually because someone else screwed up—the kicker is, if she doesn’t
fix their problems, it’s her fault. Later on in the series, we
meet disillusioned production assistant Hiraoka who originally showed enormous
potential, but his enthusiasm was broken by the job because he kept getting
blamed for the ignorance and mistakes of the staff. As Shirobako proves, working
in this business is hard and sometimes depressing.


Parodies and messages aside, what really blew me away was
the huge number of characters that were introduced in Shirobako. Making an
anime requires dozens of individual, talented people to contribute and
collaborate together on one major project, and that can sometimes lead to
schisms and differences in creative vision. As the Adult Swim parody Too Many Cooks states, “it takes a lot
to make a stew,” and animation companies need to whip up a lot of pots in order
to satisfy a job’s demand. When writing a story, having a high number of
characters can ruin a story’s flow because there are so many interactions to
keep track of. Moreover, each character requires development throughout a story
so they can grow in some way, and setting air time aside for each and every
person out of a large production company is tricky business. But Shirobako
handles this task beautifully, and approaches each character (major or minor)
in an appropriate way at a necessary time. Miyamori and her four best friends
from high school could be considered the main characters (mainly because of
their spotlight in the opening theme and promotional posters), but really the entire
production staff at Musashino as a whole are the main characters. Each and
every person has a crucial role to play in the story, and the spotlight will
fall on them whenever there’s a problem only they can solve—whether it’s the
key animators, 3D specialists, background designers, animation directors,
script writers, or production assistants. Few shows can master balance among
such a wide and diverse set of characters, such as Durarara!! or Eureka Seven,
but Shirobako accomplishes this task and performs with flying colors.


The humor behind Shirobako is irreverent, the messages
are honest, and the characters are written lovingly. Every time Musashino is unfairly
knocked down by the job, they get back up and break all the rules just so they
can turn in that white box to the broadcast station on time—even if it involves
outrunning eight police cars and scaling business headquarters in a cowboy suit
to get there! The job may seem scary, and the stress is quite real in the
workplace, but if you truly love making anime whatever the reason may be, then
Musashino is the place for you.

MY SCORE: 10/10


-Andrew (Head of A7)

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