Annotated Anime: Shirobako episodes 20-22


Working it at the office

As we roll into the endgame for Shirobako, our longtime Producer-san Jeff Chuang faces a crisis at his own day job, and called me in for support. So far, so Shirobako, and here I am to take over the weekly recap for the time being.

And just like the old, reliable fellow that steps back just far enough for the youngsters taking his place to realize how they'd taken the old-timer for granted, things get about as loud, heavy, and outright violent as they ever have in this anime about making anime.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Shirobako is one of the most "adult" cartoons I've ever watched. And it's not because of boobs, gore, or dark themes. That "mature" stuff is what kids tend to look for and prize. Instead, what's adult about Shirobako is its constant reference to the kinds of travails that only grown people could truly, deeply understand: Office drama. 

Sure, a schoolkid could comprehend what happens in the episodes, especially since it's signal-boosted through anime's natural penchant for exaggeration (not to mention that P.A. Works don't shy away from truly cartoonish antics on occassion). But only someone who's been through working life, at least for a while, can genuinely empathize with what people like Aoi have to deal with. Everyone's met their own Tarou or Hiraoka, or dealt with their own "Studio Titanic Incident", even if they don't necessarily work in the same field.

In its way, P.A. Works made the right move by casting Aoi as the de facto lead character of the series. Her various duties in production make her day-to-day a closer match to the "average" experience of the modern company worker. She's the everygirl who just happens to work in the dream factory* that is the Japanese animation industry.

At the same time, though, she's also an ideal. And let's make no mistake: Shirobako, particularly in its attitudes and message, is more of an ideal than a reality. We can hardly blame them for idealizing properly done work, but Hiraoka's situation, or at least his mentality, is closer to the norm than many people would be comfortable admitting.

At the same time, it's refreshing to see that Hiraoka isn't made out to be some kind of villain, or even the kind of person we viewers can dislike unconditionally. Anime-making is a tough, stressful job like any other, and there are good places to work at and good people to work with, and there are the opposite. Every day people get their idealism buried under harsh reality.

We (or at least I) can feel free to continue disliking Hiraoka because of his bitter cynicism, and his rather toxic attitude towards Midori (aka Diesel-san), but understanding where it comes from helps underline that people are making these things we like. That doesn't excuse bad work or mean we should pull our punches when giving practicing criticism, but better understanding on both sides is key to making good critiques to begin with.

The train of pain doesn't stop at Hiraoka's station, though, as the longest-suffering member of the cast, Shizuka, continues to not have a job that brings her closer to her dreams. If Hiraoka was a broken man, Shizuka's being tested, drowning her sorrows in the dark while watching another up-and-coming voice actress, one who was, painfully, right alongside her in the earliest episodes, find success before she can. With only a few episodes left in the cour, one can only hope and pray that P.A. Works will show mercy. Shirobako may be somewhat realistic, but here's to wishing for a happy ending all the same.

Not that it's just Zuka-chan on the hook, though. If you needed another reason to dislike Hiraoka despite his humanization, the position his corner-cutting has put Aoi in is a good one to add to the quiver. Being in charge sometimes means going to bat for your people, and like it or not, people like Hiraoka and Tarou (who remains barely competent despite being much more likeable these days) are hers, and she puts her own name on the line with Segawa to keep Hiraoka working.

And just at the end, in true anime cliffhanger fashion, we hit the iceberg, and it wasn't even the fault of Studio Titanic. Funny story, it's about the author of Aerial Girls, who put the kibosh on the entirety of the last episode. And in the time of panic that is sure to follow, the Hiraoka doctrine of "Just getting it done" may end up looking more appealing than ever.

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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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  • Final Impressions: Shirobako - Josh Tolentino
  • Annotated Anime: Shirobako episode 23 - Josh Tolentino
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