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Final Impressions: Shirobako

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(Do)Nuts About Making Anime

Spoiler alert: Shirobako ends happily. 

Of course, that's really only a spoiler to the most stubborn and obnoxious of curmudgeons. There was really no other way for this show to end. And to be frank, it ended as it should have: Full to bursting with sappy, sentimental, idealistic, feel-good cliche.

I love it. 

Honestly, there's not that much more to say: After the director and Aerial Girls creator Nogame worked out their compromise in the previous episode, the only hurdle remaining was to actually produce the episode and get it delivered...in under three weeks.

Of course, animating five hundred cuts and ten thousand tween frames at a quality needed to cap off a popular series is a monumental task in and of itself, but at least there's no crisis like the wrath of "God" affecting production as last week. Nevertheless, it's an all-hands-on-deck effort, as pretty much everyone at the studio, and many more beyond, are pulled in to work on the Aerial Girls finale. Even Segawa transfers to the office proper, resulting in much strange awkwardness from Endou and fueling the imaginations of a thousand fanfic authors. There's even a hilarious reference to Nichijou, another anime series which I'm positive was as much a "passion project" for Kyoto Animation as Shirobako is for P.A. Works.

Even the show's final challenge, an epic six-way cross-country scramble to get the final on-air tapes to broadcasters out in the boondocks, feels almost perfunctory. Fun as it is to watch it's little more than a way to hark back to Aoi's drifting talents in episode one, and see their roots in office manager Yuka Okitsu's past career as a legendary production assistant.

Then again, the train ride home from Hiroshima serves as a way to tie up Aoi's character arc, in its own way. Viewers paying attention will note that Aoi's been struggling to find her own "reason to fly", and trying to find out why she perseveres. In that respect, the creative and technical types like Midori, Ema, Misa, and even the long-suffering Shizuka have it a little easier: They've tailored their skills towards making anime, so that's naturally what they'd try to do.

By contrast, Aoi's experience in production is more managerial, only rarely interacting with the final product. The episode even implies that with enough time, Aoi's future career could mirror Okitsu's, with even less involvement with the things Musani makes.

Given how much anime and manga life advice tends to hinge on finding one's niche and leaning into it - seriously, how many times have you read a line like "This is something only you can do!" - that's a tough challenge for a generalist like our Oi-chan. And what it takes is a bit of soul-searching and deciding, for realz, that making anime is what she wants to do. That might not seem like a big step, but consider how many people go through life only thinking about getting to the next day. Aoi declaring, with confidence, that this is what she wants to do, is probably the most important thing she could ever do at this stage in her life. Good on her.

As to the "why" of it, that's covered in her speech at the after party. Honestly, it's almost cringe-inducing in its earnestness. Hell, if you replaced the references to anime-making with stuff about ninjas and "The Will of Fire" you'd be able to slide her comments into a chapter of Naruto without missing a beat, it's that sappy. And I still effin' adore it, and her, for saying it.

This is because, as I said last week, Shirobako is not a documentary. It's an ideal, a love letter, and a statement of intent. It celebrates the making of anime and the people who make it, and hopes and prays that everyone's doing it because they love doing it. That's not the same as "whitewashing" away the industry's many, many problems, though. There's no question that the show is light at its core, and never intended to be the kind of tough wake-up call that some think is needed. But that's sort of the point, in a way.

Shirobako's intent is to put the spotlight on the people who "make it happen", and focuses on the good. But the bad's still there, lurking in the margins. Heavy drinking, bad food, worse pay, and lengthy hours are all more than evident, enough that anyone paying enough attention might actually be scared away. No one is going to come away from the show thinking that any of it is easy, and that's all that really needed to be said.

And so ends a lovely little series with a whole lot of heart, about how tough it can be to do a good job, but how wonderful it can be to see it through all the same.


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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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