Shirobako – Season 2

Shirobako – Season 2

IMG_1668.PNGFive friends on a school animation club, Aoi, Ema, Shizuka, Misa and Midori work together to complete a new anime called Shinbutsu Konkou SHICHIFUKUJIN. All day every day they all spend their time on their anime production. As a team, they go from rough sketches to animation to doing some very awkward voice acting for their characters. After all their hard work, they eventually premiered their completed product at the school cultural fair six months later. After graduation, they all still wanted to pursue a career in anime together, and all swore that one day they would make another anime together.

Since its first season last year, Shirobako has moved from strength to strength. It covers the stories of five girls who have jobs in different departments of the anime industry: writing, production, artwork, CGI and voice acting. Directed by Tsutomu Mizushima, who was behind other works like Another, Girls und Panzer, and Squid Girl. With Michiko Yokote behind the composition and Pokan8 doing the character designs, Shirobako is a comedy and slice of life anime with a new twist.

IMG_1670.PNGI have seen a bit of polarisation when it comes to this anime. Some people find it really fascinating and others complain about how fundamentally boring it is. It all depends on your interest in the industry behind the animation, and how an anime goes from initial concept and adaptation to the television. Of course, I’m firmly in the former category. I had a vague idea of the anime process, but everything is brought to life by watching this anime. It puts faces to the processes involved and humanises them, showing you the amount of effort and dedication it takes to get episodes aired on time and the type of obstacles these people face on a weekly basis.

IMG_1673.PNGShirobako was quite an eye-opener for me in this regard. It took a somewhat idealised anime industry setting and conveyed a different reality to the masses. But what has been a great steadfast consistency from the beginning is the characterisation for the main character in this anime – Production Assistant Aoi Miyamori.

It’s through Miyamori’s situations that we see most of the high-pressure situations in which she must deliver quality results in a short amount of time or the entire episode production sequence will fall into unrecoverable disarray. She is presented with complicated choices, questionable grey areas and difficult professionals. Not only is she a Production Assistant, she is also a motivator, confidante, PA and gofer (all from which we see her reactions in realistic professional angst). She is a very likeable and authentic character, and it is through her busy schedule and varied roles that we see so much of the anime world.

IMG_1680.PNGThe show is often set up in a somewhat cliched fashion with a ‘crisis of the day’ approach in which there is an issue that must be solved. In Shirobako’s instance, however, it really works. This is because creative production is often a ‘crisis of the day’ endeavour in real life as well, and the show is not afraid to speak about real and current issues that impact the industry – whether it be the complex discussion of hand-drawn versus CGI or the impact of when a team member takes long-term leave in order to attend to their personal life. The episodes that focus on these types of issues are particularly well done and show balanced arguments and different perspectives every time. It’s something that gives the viewer a renewed appreciation of the dedication and talent contained within an animation company.

IMG_1677.PNGHaving said that, the show is not above lampooning certain aspects of the industry and anime tropes in general. In one episode, there was a conversation about the definition of ‘moe’, which was very amusing. The farther the discussion went along, the less definition there became a literal moe explosion that put everybody back on-track. While Shirobako maintains a strong foundation in reality, these little scenes and nods to the culture of anime and the process of creation serve as useful (and entertaining) visual metaphors.

IMG_1679.PNGTo me, Shirobako achieves just what it sets out to do – to educate and entertain viewers on every aspect of the anime process. No matter the problem or professional emergency, you can always see that the people in this industry do it for the love of the craft, and not for the compensation. You root for the characters in times of adversity and celebrate with them after a successful release. It instils a sense of respect within you, watching how hard they work and the strong sense of camaraderie. It’s down-to-earth, funny and not at all a typical ‘slice of life’ series. It’s definitely one of my favourite depictions of creativity and collaboration.