Annotated Anime: Shirobako episode 23


Showdown time!

Exposition. Rising Action. Climax. Dénouement. These should be familiar, if you remember your grade-school literature classes.

Real life, however, isn't so convenient. More often than not, life is a lingering anticlimax bracketed by exposition, and for the unlucky, catastrophe. And even then to reduce a real life to those terms is to do it a disservice.

Thank goodness Shirobako's a story, then!

Despite being one of the "realest" anime series in years, and touching on points that are clearly quite close to home for the many people that create and enjoy anime, Shirobako is, and shall remain, fictional. If it weren't obvious enough: It's not a documentary. Whether it should be is a different discussion, one I shan't tackle here.

What I'm getting at here is that episode 23 sees Shirobako - and by extension, P.A. Works - acting to tell and resolve a plotline, rather than reach deep and expose some of the guts from the anime-making process. Director Tsutomu Mizushima and his crew are being storytellers right now, not pundits or commentators. To step right out and say it: This latest climax was perhaps a little too narratively convenient, but screw being cliche, I loved it

The crisis cliffhanger of episode 22 is out in full force here: Aerial Girls creator Takezou Nogame has rejected the whole of the anime's final episode outright, and given little feedback as to what he wants. It's essentially the character design crisis of earlier in Aerial Girls' life, but with the stakes at their highest possible point: "God" hates the ending you wrote. Fix it!

A different story might have converted Shirobako into a tragedy: Stressed and out of options, Musani ends the show with a recap. Jiggly Heaven returns, to send Kinoshita's career down the toilet, along with any prospect of Aoi advancing. Show's over. Aria will never fly again, just like Nogame-sensei insists.

Here's where I'm happy that Shirobako is not that kind of fiction, and I don't care that there's a risk of making the show lesser in the eyes of some, for seeking the lower-hanging fruit that is a happy resolution. 

Musani finally gets a sit-down with Nogame, after Kinoshita commits a massive foul (in Japanese corporate politics, at least) by going around the editorial staff and contacting the author directly. The two have a meeting - after an epic action sequence featuring the director literally throwing his weight around to get into the Yotaka Booksellers building - and reach an accord. A compromise is arranged that will allow a happier ending for the series without compromising Nogame's vision of the manga. And the editor, Chazawa (aka Mr. "Funny Story") gets his comeuppance for being so willfully obstructionist about it all. After Hiraoka got his human side shown last week, he's the closest the show has gone to having an actual villain, much to the consternation of a few actual Japanese manga editors, who reportedly went off to complain on Twitter about unfair portrayals.

And to be fair, episode 23 really isn't that fair to Chazawa. We never get a look at why he was such a jerk about denying access to Nogame (apparently against Nogame's wishes), and editors can and do serve an important role in their position between writers and the people adapting their writing. Then again, more unbelievable things have actually happened in the world of anime adaptations. Jerks also exist in real-life, and the reasons they act that way aren't always valid. In a way, Chazawa comes across as an amalgam of both Tarou and Hiraoka's worst traits. He's Tarou's incompetence made dangerous by Hiraoka's cynicism and uncaring demeanor, marinated in a pool of oily snark. I hate him already, which means P.A. Works did their job just fine.

Honestly, though, I can forgive this seeming lapse in narrative integrity on Shirobako's part. One of my favorite movies is 2006's Stranger Than Fiction, and it's essentially about how having the classic "happy ending" is sometimes worth the price you pay to have it. Even if the resulting story is weaker for its presence. 

As if to affirm that this conveniently happy resolution was in fact worth it, the tears in Aoi's eyes as she sees Shizuka finally, finally, finally land her anime voice-acting gig, voicing a new character in Aerial Girls, is our reward for this minor compromise. Really, seeing Zuka-chan's long train of suffering finally stop was worth a high price indeed. Well-played, Shirobako!

Of course, there's still next week, the last episode of the season. And hell, they aren't even done with the episode yet. The damn thing's still gotta be made, and only then can we think about the future, and how close the five girls from episode 1 have come to their dreams.

[Watch Shirobako on Crunchyroll!]

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Josh Tolentino
Josh TolentinoManaging Editor   gamer profile

Josh is Japanator's Managing Editor, and contributes to Destructoid as well, as the network's premier apologist for both Harem Anime and Star Trek: Voyager For high school reasons, he's called "u... more + disclosures



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