Annotated Anime: Shirobako episode 4


Seiyuu woes

On her day off, Aoi the animation assistant meets up with her high school buddies and keep in touch. It sounds like just the thing a 20-something female working out in the big city would do on an off day. Except these people are anime otaku; and by that I don't even mean what passes for otaku in this part of the world: these are budding pros. Shirobako's take on girl talk is probably off the beaten track, just a little.

In terms of looking at another part of the anime industry, we get a better look into Shizuka's struggles. As a want-to-be seiyuu, she is working at a local pub while training to be a new voice actress. She's gotten to the point where she has signed up with a agency and landing very minor jobs dubbing for broadcast TV coverage of oversea news and bit roles in local commercials.

It makes me think just how tough it actually is in the sense that in Japan, not only voice acting for anime is a coveted opportunity that hundreds of people can audition for, but some of these jobs and opportunities just don't exist overseas. The opportunity to dub for a news or variety show is a little rare in the US, given how much of the world news coverage is present in English, versus Japan, where practically nobody outside the country can speak the language.

And to an extent that has been Shirobako thus far, if we see the show as an educational sort of affair. That is just half of it. The despair and struggles these young women face to pursuit their careers is perhaps the bigger draw. Shizuka may have drunk herself silly after blowing her first major audition, but she also wants to encourage her friends who may be walking on different roads to keep at it, even if she has the tallest mountain to climb.

Given the nature of the animation industry, it's that much easier to get jobs as an animator if you have what it takes, because the struggles are against long hours and low pay versus what similar skills may get you at another line of work. And that's not to mention we have no idea how will Midori, the aspiring anime writer, will get her start.

For those who are more familiar with the voice acting business in Japan, having experienced, established and senior voice actors and actresses compete with newbies for the same roles is a common occurrence. It might be fun fanservice for the seiyuu otaku among us to see it in this week's Shirobako but for the newbie auditionees it might be a huge blow to morale. It's also kind of funny in seeing otaku anime veteran Yukari Tamura play the so-called big time voice actress, having lead roles in shows whose names are reminiscent of other popular shows (ahem, Madoka Magica) that she probably wasn't apart of. Maybe it is only fair that Shirobako itself feature five relatively new talents for its lead roles.

My favorite part of the episode had to be the two round-table discussions over dessert and during dinner. The way these budding pros broke down the movie they've just seen is amusing both as a way to see how pros see their own works, and also as a nod in terms of how some hardcore fans perceive the work. The second conversation during dinner is a little bit stiff given Shirobako's need to repeat its character motivations, but it gave us a natural window to each character's feeling.

In that end these young people are struggling the same way every young person does, taking their first steps in a big city and away from the safety net at home. The various challenges serves to both make lives more difficult but to also provide them a sense of achievement and drive forward. The phone call Aoi had with her folks back home puts that into perspective.

Speaking of perspective, it's episode four and Shirobako is still doing name and titles for all the major characters in this week's episode. That includes even Aoi. I suppose that is professional courtesy to keep us in the loop, but it goes to show how complicated making an anime is.

[Watch Shirobako on Crunchyroll!]

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Jeff Chuang
Jeff ChuangAssociate Editor   gamer profile

Yet to be the oldest kid on the block, this East Coast implant writes cryptic things about JP folklore, the industry or dirty moe. Attend cons and lives the "I can buy Aniplex releases" life. ... more + disclosures



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