When you see a harem anime and sigh as the breasts of the female lead jiggle with every step and wind that can flip a skirt it’s easy to forget that somewhere in Japan a group of people worked hard to get that jiggle right and draw each frame of animation. The hardships of the animation studio are a tough one as they could be demonized for putting in a recap due to production problems or tossed under the train tracks because of a small miscommunication between people. Shirobako is an anime I overlooked because I saw it as typical moe fluff with just glancing at it. Yet it’s the anime that gave me an appreciation for the hard work that goes into my weekly shows. I say this now. Shirobako should be required viewing for any fan of the medium. For it is a well served humble pie to the arrogantly ignorant.
In fact it may be useful for those even not into anime. Shirobako presents the animation workplace and all the trials and tribulations that appear in not only anime production but in every workplace in general. As a working man I can relate to Aoi’s starry eyed leave from school, only to discover the mundanity of the job. Or Shizuka’s powerlessness as she attempts to get a job but is put aside due to a lack of experience. Shirobako has a lot of truths about working life that school doesn’t teach. Like the most important lesson of all, in any job there is a Tarou. There is always a Tarou. That guy who somehow bluffed his way into a job he can’t do, never gets fired and pretty much does nothing but make your life more difficult. Out of the five main girls there’s bound to be one that encounters something you will, or have faced. And it presents it with cynical wit and lighthearted tone making it an addictive experience.
But I am not here to lavish praise for I am a critic and thus must critique. Do I even need to comment on how unlikely it is that five cute girls enter anime production? Its clear that a number of girls here have been added for the moe factor. The most grievous offender being a artist who is so shy she requires another person to interpret what she says through a series of small utterings. Though I do relate to the struggles the main five goes through I find that they are not interesting characters. When the story moves away from the animation process and focuses on daily event it becomes significantly less interesting. It doesn’t do it often but when it does things tend to get bogged down. I do feel it’s also a little bit of a optimistic filter of the animation industry but that’s a personal grip. The art and animation is up to PA works standards and for once I think the photo realistic backgrounds don’t seem out of place when compared to the anime character models. There are also strange moments of collective hallucination which come out of nowhere and are rather off putting considering this show is set mainly in reality. Like when they are talking about a plane anime and out of nowhere the plane shows up outside and it seems like everyone sees it but then they just go back to talking like nothing ever happened. I get the intent but it just forces me to do a double take every time it happens. This last thing is definitely a nitpick but at times things in Shirobako are too animated for a show set in reality. Characters can heavily overact, mainly for comedic effect. Its hard to explain but things feel staged, when they should be natural.
There’s a lot to love in Shirobako and I am honestly truly glad that I have seen it. It teaches you a truth often forgotten. That the anime you love and the anime you hate didn’t just spring into existence. That there’s some poor souls working day and night to bring animated characters to life and show us their stories. To the animators of Japan, you have my sympathy and my respect. Though sadly if your end product is terrible, you will not have my leniency.