Well I’m quite the pleased individual. The closest anything in the first episode came to inducing a complaint from me was the “unconventional” pacing; an issue that has now been resolved. (Strange, why does it feel like I’ve only watched half an episode?)
We start off the episode exactly where we left off, with Chucky the blue hedgehog lying collapsed in the snow drift as a blizzard sets in …. Wait a moment I’m thinking of something else, it’s still in the opening of Shirobako episode two but its the strange metaphor used to emphasis and remind us of how the first episode ended on something of a dramatic note.
Getting back to the episode proper, we do start, as I stated, straight off from where episode one ended. Thankfully for Segawa-san she is not caught in a situation that is equatable to being unconscious in a blizzard, but a situation that could potentially be bad for Exodus as episode four’s animation supervisor has a fever; the “I can’t get up and work” kind. The situation is further exacerbated by a phone call form Shizuka who is pleasantly understanding of the situation and agrees to call back later. Being experienced in the kind of job that leads one to work till physically unable to continue, Segawa-san wisely opts to resign hersel to stay in bed and recover. Once again my praise to the writers of Shirobako for taking a more realistic stance and conceding that people who are ill enough to pass out can’t continue working with the power of grit and determination.
The telephone call from Shizuka is a point worth talking about as it serves two rather useful purposes; firstly it serves as an in episode set up a little further into the episode. The abundance of in-episode continuity was something that I feel the rapid pacing of episode one facilitated well and although done to lesser extent, I am pleased to see it make a return as it ties the episode together nicely in a less linear way. The second point of the call is to simply remind the viewer that Shizuka exists. Shirobako is a two-cour anime and at this point is very much playing the long game with regards to its use of the five main characters (Aoi being the exception) so short moments like this serve to keep the lives of the others fresh in our minds.
After the opening credits (Credits that provide us with our weekly fill of street racing I should mention) the scene is set in the office as the various studio members attempt to come up with a solution to this problem. It is at this point that we see the first of the many cases of Tarou, the clown of the studio, being inept to a level that incurs my disdain for him. This time he comes across as completely oblivious; this problem is the result of the domino effect resulting from his blunder during the previous episode.
Much like last week the only real solution to this is to find a replacement animation supervisor, thankfully the studio has one and with the right kind of persuasion Segawa-san’s “rival” Endou-san is found to be quite the pliable character and thus brought in as a substitute, thus averting a crisis.
With the solution found and the crisis abated, we watch as the studio staff first hold a morning meeting to outline the tasks of the day, a meeting in which Tarou once again fails to grasp the gravity of the situation that they face. Worth mentioning at this point is the continued uses of the name and job title annotations that we saw in episode one, I feel that this is a good call on P.A Works’s part as whist it is a simple solution it makes things a lot easier to keep track of but it is also something of an admission that the cast is too big for one to remember the names, let alone job titles, of everyone.
Directly after the meeting we phase into a short montage of the days work showing us how Aoi’s episode four comes together.
The montage ends as smoothly as it began with an evening scene showing Ema, who is outside on the phone, waving at and attempting to get the attention of a preoccupied Aoi who has just left the building with large envelopes in hand. Ema’s call is picked up by Shizuka and they proceed to have something of a quick catch-up session in which Ema explains how Aoi is very much consumed by her work load thus having no time left for being sociable with anyone. The scene also serves to implicitly tell us how Shizuka is getting on with her life as a voice actress; not overly well it would seem as she is working part time in a restaurant and is reserved to talk about how things are going. We end the scene with what is certainly a set up for later events with the mention of a planned meeting between the five animation club members at some point during the month.
The focus of the episode moves away from animation club members and switches to Seiichi-san, the director. We see him in the lobby of the recording studio mulling over the storyboard for the final episode of Exodus as a group of voice actresses enter. Curious about the other sides of anime production they go over to talk to him only to discover that he is working on the final episode but has no idea how to wrap up the story of exodus.
The director woes fail to abate as we change location to the recording room as he is pressured by his colleagues to hurry up with getting the storyboards completed. The conversation unfolds and we learn that this is not the first time that Seiichi-san’s directing has caused problems for a project and it is hinted at the fact that his last blunder was quite the notable one.
With the directing problems pushed somewhat under the carpet we are immersed in showcase of the audio production side of anime making as we are introduced to the three voice actors for Exodus’s heroines and witness a short section of episode three’s voice recording session.
We take a lunch break from the recording session with Tarou and Madoka-san. Once again Tarou demonstrate his lack or understanding for the industry in which he questions Madoka-san on how voice-actor selection process works. Madoka-san explains that it is job for those on the level of directors and how it’s quite the ordeal, requiring one to listen to the same line over and over again whist critically assessing them. Tarou, as expected, fails to see why this would be hard and instead is more interested in the prospect of potentially meeting over a hundred voice actresses in a single day.
After lunch, we return to the recording studio and this time get a look into the other side of the audio production; the sound effects and BGM selection. We are again provided with an insight that is sufficient to demonstrate how this part of production works but is done in a brief amount of time as to facilitate an episode structure that allows us to cover many areas. It is also during this second part of the audio recording that the time is taken to flesh out Exodus as a series, which whilst looking like a very cliche mahou shoujo series does look to have some rather interesting quirks.
However it is at this point that the issues surrounding Seiichi-san’s directing resurface. It begins with Seiichi-san not really feeling happy with how the character development is progressing but due to a combination of his uncertainty as to the direction he wants to take and his inability to explain things, well the animation director Yamada Masashi takes the directors comments as criticism of his directing. Tensions begin to rise and a suddenly very enthused Seiichi-san frantically attempts to explain the changes he wants to the character of Arupin, changes that will require stating the scene again from the key animation up.
This suggested paradigm shift so far into the production drags up memories of the failed Jiggly Jiggly Heaven which was the anime series Seiichi-san’s directing pushed the final nail of the coffin in for. With tensions near boiling point, the staff members present at the recording pass around the responsibility for making a decision to no avail, until Aoi, sensing that cooler heads may prevail, interjects with the suggestion of a proper meeting back at the office.
We cut to the emergency meeting, but tensions have far from lessened and the addition of more people into the debate turned out to be akin to more fuel to the fire. The subject of the discussion wavers from the original point of the meeting with more comments about Jiggly Jiggly Heaven and Seiichi-san’s divorce being brought up at the least helpful of times.
It is at this point, with the production team close to collapsing, that Aoi who is not really paying attention to the rapidly derailing conversation notices something outside the room. The company’s president, Marukawa Masahito, makes his move to correct the situation. He simply gets Aoi’s attention and hands her a wooden bowl containing a few confectionery, a subtle intervention but a most important one indeed.
The injection of sweets into the situation by the president serves to provoke Aoi to completely redirect the conversation to the simple question of what kind of confectionery items Arupin prefers. A seemingly random question that in of itself is concerned with a pointless detail but it does serve get the group back on the subject of Exodus rather than the failed love life of Seiichi-san. With the meeting now no close to resolving the key issue, but at least on track with the group sets about having a genuinely serious discussion about the favorite food of a fictional character.
Through the medium of this conversation, the members of the production staff are able to reaffirm their commitment to the project and as the conversation progresses Seiichi-san is finally able to communicate his vision of Exodus to his team.
With the unfocused argument behind us and Seiichi-san powering though the pragmatic temperament of this team, the second episode reaches its climax with a bombastic deceleration that “Arupin is right here!” (as in the fact that she is the embodiment of all those present at the meeting).
The directors bold statement nearly falls flat as it is perhaps a bit too much for the team, but thankfully for him Aoi is able to read the mood and acknowledges the directors statement, confirming that Arupin is indeed present. With Aoi’s acknowledgment the rest of the staff see the light and a vibrant image of the three Exodus girls floods their minds.
Suitably converted and motivated, the production staff quickly set out a rough plan of action of realizing what is now a vision they all share. Deadlines will be very tight and the margin for error basically nonexistent but willing none the less.
The second episode ends with a section of light foreshadowing that serves to amplify the mystery surrounding Ogasawara-san, a character who has up until this point remained silent, constantly adorning something of a poker face.
So that was Shirobako episode two. as I stated at the very beginning of this piece the one element from the first episode that I felt needed a change was the pacing and that much has been rectified. I like the fact that P.A Works seem to have have a good hand on the pacing for this episode as whilst there was still a lot of content covered it felt neither rushed nor dragged out and it is my hope that this quality of pacing is maintained through out.
The other key speculations I made in my episode one review were regarding the large cast of the series. My hopes were that, rather than trying to make the viewer follow the actions of all cast members at once, a smaller group of characters that are specific to the moment’s happening would be used instead. To an extent this has been done but it is perhaps not as clearly defined as I had imagined in my head. It is true that each scene is occupied by a set of characters but the rapid rate at which scenes are cycled through does not allow for the departmentalisation of characters. In tandem with this am also rather liking the manner in which the characters are being fleshed out, a necessary rejection of convention but a well done one regardless. What I mean my this is that because the setting of an animation studio requires instantaneous use of the majority of the cast introducing characters one by one would take too long and would be boring to watch, instead I feel the characters are being introduced simultaneously over the course of multiple episodes with key figures (this weeks example being Seiichi-san) receiving extra attention where needed. This I feel is a preferable set up to that which I proposed and thus leaves me with a “I wish I though of it like that” feeling.
I don’t have a bonus picture in the traditional sense but I do instead have something interesting I found over on /r/anime that I speculated might be of interest: