We are three episodes in now so I’d say that it is at this point that we should have a solid feel for the show and I feel that this is the case. Shirobako is a good anime, it is possible to argue that the pacing feels rushed but I think that this is intentional, the fast pace of events helps create a sense of immersion for the viewer and serves to emphasis the rapid turn around style of work that is present in the industry being showcased. Moreover after episode one the pacing of the in episode content and the pacing of the overarching plot are not tied together hence the actual progression of the story can be at a gentler pace without losing the sense of day to day urgency.
Anyhow, onto the episode.
Episode three starts off a little differently from the previous two episodes with its playing the opening credits instantly which I guess works well with regards to how episode two ended. After one and a half minutes later the episode proper begins and we rejoin events not too long after where they left off but instead of being in a general meeting like the one at the end of episode two we are now in a more focused meeting between the Director, Iguchi-san, Ogasawara-san and Masashi-san with Aoi and Ema being observers of sorts. After the end of last episode it would be correct to say that everyone is on the same page as to the direction in which Exodus is going and this is very much reflected in the mood of meeting with the general feeling being a kind of; yes this will be hard but lets do it.
With the meeting adjourned we see the Directors dreams begin to take shape as Iguchi-san sits down for some serious drawing.
Interestingly enough we now bare witness to the first section that is about a member of the animation club who is not Aoi. We join Ema as she attempts to push her way through her workload that has most likely been significantly increased by recent events. However it is slow going as it is just not coming together as it should. It is now that she is, as most people in this kind of situation are, distracted by Iguchi-san who is getting in the zone by speaking aloud the lines for the scene she is drawing. In hope of getting a better view of Iguchi-san in action Ema gingerly approaches Iguchi-san’s desk. However Ema’s aspirations of being a master of stealth are very much dampened by her managing to trip on and knock over a waste paper bin. Instinctively she begins to tidy up the mess and apologise but stops mid sentence when she realises that Iguchi-san is so in the zone her actions have gone unnoticed.
Sadly Ema is unable to maintain the limelight and the focus moves back to Aoi, briefly centering on the director who, exhausted from the emergency meeting, is sleeping in the office much to the annoyance of Madoka-san. Through the medium of chibi containing thought bubbles Aoi runs us through the many tasks that she has ahead of her to keep both episode four and episode nine on schedule, needless to say she is very busy.
Despite seemingly having things under control, it is at this point that we start to get very noticeable signs that all is not going well for Aoi and the excessive workload and extra stress are beginning to take their toll as her vision starts to blur and she looses track of that she is saying.
However with the high levels of zeal she and all the production office staff currently posses she is able to snap back into focus and continue to make progress with overseeing the production of episode four.
As Aoi continues to phase in and out of being productive her fellow production assistant, Yano Erika, arrives and proceeds to converse with Aoi, checking that everything is going as it should. However despite her previous belief that all was going somewhat well this conversation serves to exemplify the plight of Aoi as she first learns that Kisa-san, one of her key animators, is not exactly the most honest person when it comes to reporting his progress and also that she has manged to forget that her other Key animator had already sent her his work via email. Erika begins to console and advise Aoi but again another figure arrives in the office.
This time it is the production desk Honda-san who is inquiring as to how the animation assistants under him are doing, Erika shows that she too is exhibiting the its a lot of work but we can do it mentality that is shared by the majority of the staff and also shows that she has things in hand. In stark contrast however, Aoi barely has things in hand and the mixture of Aoi who is very much out of it and Honda-san who is very easily worried does not look to be reacting well.
Sensing that this can only end badly Erika interjects with a slap to Honda-san’s chest and proceeds to remind him that Aoi is still very much a newbie and that this is her first job. Reminded of this Honda backs off a little and continues his enquirers at a more appropriate pace. This proves to be a much more effective route for getting information out of Aoi and we learn that a section of the work for episode four is being outsourced to a different studio. With Aoi still in her exhausted and overworked state Erika writes a set of three post-it notes containing advice she should follow and emphasises the fact that she needs to keep people informed with how things are going.
We cut to the next scene with a now much more collected Aoi pressing on with work. As stated and shown in Aoi’s earlier monologue, the first order of the events is to get Yamada-san, who is attempting to get into to the zone but is being distracted by Taro, to check the key frames. As happened with Erika and Honda-san, Yamada-san is curios as to how the episodes production is progressing but this time Aoi has adopted the idea of using a notebook and is keeping on top of things by writing the details down and as such is able to fill him in properly. Yamada-san is exasperated by how close everything is going to be but does not get overly upset on accounts of the fact that he full well knew what he was getting himself in to when he agreed with the revisions. This changes however when he learns that Kisa-san is causing delays again (so evidently this isn’t the first time he has done this). Yamada-san, however, doesn’t let this get to him for long and continues conversing with Aoi and confirms his work load for tomorrow. It is a lot, so knowing how he is not a morning person he instructs Aoi on how to get him to wake up early.
Having finished her in house tasks for the day Aoi returns to the production office and attempts to make a telephone call, as she once again fails to get though we can safely say that it it was Kisa-san that she was trying to get though to. Despite the previous show of energy and enthusiasm earlier, Aoi is still very much running on fumes and begins to lapse out of consciousness. The state in which we find Aoi in is easily summed up by the fact that the two toys on her desk begin to move fluidly on their own rather than in the more puppet like manner they have previously been portrayed in. The two desk based characters proceed to debate the situation back and forth until Aoi realises that she is dreaming/hallucinating and jolts back into reality.
Realising that staying awake any longer is futile Aoi call it a day. Iguchi-san on the other hand does not and by soldering on manges to finish the revisions the episode three’s key frames before
morning the day can be said to have started.
At around the same time Aoi phones Yamada-san to rouse him from his slumber, she is successful in doing so and as such is able to get things off to a good start. It is at this point in the episode we get to see the second appearance of stealth Ema and also the much anticipated scene of Ogasawara in action for the first time (she doesn’t disappoint).
Sadly the rest of the day does not go as well as the morning for Aoi as we lapse into a montage, set to a smooth jazz BGM, of her busing herself attempting to go about her days activities as yet more problems arise all the while apologising to just about everyone she encounters and harassing anyone else. The montage continues over to a second day and we begin to see the pieces once again fall into place for episode four just as they did after the near catastrophe of episode two.
Or at least that is how things are looking for a brief moment as once again evens conspire against the production of Exodus episode four. As mentioned earlier a portion of the work was being outsourced to another studio and it is at this critical moment that the file sharing server needed for Aoi to revive the portion of work chooses to go down. This set back is the final straw for Aoi as she essentially gives up hope at this point and drags herself over to the office kitchen where she takes out her anger on the tea stains found one finds in heavily used mugs. The fact that Aoi is at tethers end made all the more pertinent by the appearance of her two desk based characters who should be sitting on her desk but are now being hallucinated in the kitchen.
Wondering where Aoi has gone Erika comes looking for her fellow animation assistant and is concerned by what she sees. She proceeds to drag Aoi away from her campaign against the tea stains and takes her up to the roof for a much needed break and gets her to eat a snack bar of some description in an effort to provide Aoi’s brain with some much needed glucose. Despite trying to eat it whist still in the wrapper at first Aoi manages to do this much and is refocused a little. Erika presses, both physically and metaphorically, her for information on how the episodes she is in charge of are going and works on convincing her that giving up at this point is not the best plan and nor is it the only option.
Some time passes and whilst Aoi and Erika are still out we witness this problem spread like wildfire though out the office as people begin to realize that the server is down and start trying to troubleshoot. The office decedents into a desperate flurry as various alternatives are tried and phone calls are made but it is all to no avail as the realisation of the gravity of this problem spreads from Aoi to the rest o the staff.
However, just before a mass exodus to the kitchen for the seeming inevitable war on tea stains begins, respite arrives from an unexpected source. Okitsu-san, the studios general manger,has manged to get hold of the contractor studio and has arranged for them to bring the hard drive containing the data Aoi needs all the way to the studio.
Feeling a second wind from this new found hope Aoi prepares to press on with her episode nine related tasks but she is stopped by Erika who can see where this is likely to end. Erika reminds Aoi that as she is the production assistant for episode four her presence is needed in the office more than anyone else’e and that she isn’t the only staff member. Realising the situation Honda-san seizes the initiative and begins to reassign the episode nine tasks to other people truning the office into a have of activity but with all the other production assistants overstretched it is Okitsu-san of all people who picks up the shortfall. Through this action and subsequent comments from Tatsuya-san we are teased as to what Okitsu-san’s past was like as it is evident at this point she is rather experienced in the industry. Whist agreeing to this she makes comments along the lines of this is a one off but I personally doubt that this is the last time we will see her in action as this very much feels like a set up for an episode later down the line.
We shift up a gear into what is the most dramatic montage we have seen yet which is accompanied by suitably dramatic music. The BGM of Shirobako is a point I haven’t really gone into much yet but as now is an appropriate time I feel the need to do so. Due to the nature of the industry that is being showcased heavy workloads are to be expected and the way in which Shirobako communicates this is though its use of montages. This is where the effective use of music to set the mood becomes very important as it allows us to gain an appreciation for what is going though the head’s of the characters at the time. With regards to the range and quality of music being used I can say that I am satisfied in both regards in this episode alone we have had both smooth jazz and very dramatic pieces both of which have sounded good and fitted their scenes well which is all one can ask for.
They make it in time.
With a change to a very relaxed BGM that makes very good use of its juxtaposition with the previous track, we see a slow paced interaction between the studio presidents which emphasis both of their experience as if they have seen this kind of happening play out hundreds of times before. The starkly contrasting Aoi expresses her deepest thanks to the contractor studio’s president and so ends this episode’s final day of days.
The calm after the storm relaxing music stays with us as we transition to the final day covered in this episode and we join the Director and the two producers as they are watching the first screening of episode four. At this point we do not actually see any of episode four and are instead showed the facial expressions of Seiichi-san as he struggles to hold back the tears induced by the work that he and the team he leads have created.
We do not stay watching for the entire duration of the episode and the next scene we see is a phone conversation between Watanabe-san and Honda-san briefly informing that latter that the episode went down well with the director. Honda-san then goes to tell Aoi the good news and congratulates her in a very much Senpai and Koihai manner. Honda-san decides that the correct this to do is to let Aoi be the one to tell the other member of the episode four team and just before they part ways he divulges, to both Aoi and the viewer that Seiichi-san lost his battle against the tears.
Aoi finds the episode four production casually chatting in their office and informs them of the good news. The news is very much welcome and the decision to take the next day off is made.
The episodes final scene is of Aoi on the phone how now facing the prospect of a day off finally finds the time to return Shizuka’s call from the previous episode and organises the planned animation club meet up. As the phone call ends it is shown that the call was taking place in a viewing room where Ema is also present. Together Aoi and Ema watch the results of all their hard work.
A comparison between the original and the amended version. the results speak for themselves:
And thus ends episode three of Shirobako, I feel that I have said enough about my thoughts with regards to the large cast and the unconventional pacing both in my previous two revues and though out this one which leaves me with very little to critically discuss here in the conclusion. I guess the main feeling I find myself experiencing at this point is optimism. Shirobako is an anime that I am very much enjoying watching and look forward too each week so I hope that I have been able to get this across in my reviews. I have high hopes for where this series will take us and unless something drastic happens (Which after watching this series is perhaps a little bit more likely than I would like to think) I feel that these hopes will be fulfilled.
P.A Works, perhaps you will be forgiven for what you did to us with Glasslip.