Well its very nearly December now so it’s almost close to Christmas or at least it is close enough that supermarkets are starting to consider playing Christmas music acceptable. No snow for us yet though but as last year was so disappointing with regards to snowfall in the UK I’m hoping that this year makes up for it.
Anyway, with my fingers crossed for a white winter this year, on to the review:
Perhaps the actual production of Shirobako has more in common than the production of Exodus than we realize as this week we start of with something of a lapse in continuity. At the end of last weeks episode we saw Ema back at here desk already but this week we backtrack to when she was on the stairs having just bumped into Eguchi-san on the stairs. Ema stays around for a little longer this time with something of a more alarmed facial expression a she watches Eguchi-san eat her doughnut. Eguchi-san can tell that something is up but doesn’t go out of her way to pry into Ema’s affairs, she does however give Ema the advice that it is better to regret saying something than to regret not saying something but Ema still runs off without saying anything.
After this exchange we transition, via the opening credits, to pick up on how Kaori’s trip to Tokyo is going. It is going well from the look of things as we witness her acting like a very stereotypical tourist on the upper deck of an open-topped tour bus taking lots of photos and loudly pointing things out to Midori who is still with her but is in a much less jubilant mood, perhaps a little overwhelmed and tired of Kaori’s impulsive actions.
The excitement of Kaori is perhaps justified now as we switch to a fairly short flashback sequence showing Kaori’s life back home where she works in a financial office. By comparison to how she is acting now Kaori seems like a very different person, she is meek and quite and perhaps something of a pushover yes-woman. With a work environment and colleagues like her’s it is actually quite understandable that she is much happier to be socializing with her sister or her sisters friends who she evidently gets on much better with.
Getting back to making anime, we transition back to Ema. Now back at her desk she is once again struggling with work. Noticing this, Shigeru-san, once again decides to talk to Ema. This time he talks to Ema about the reasons behind her choosing a career in animation and more over her choosing to draw in general. However, perhaps it is because of the age difference between the two of them, this much is not as effective as it could be as Ema, who draws barbecues she loves it, finds it very difficult to comprehend the lofty dreams of an elderly man.
The topic of dreams and goals is very much a central theme of this weeks episode as we sharply transition to the production office where the production assistants and Honda-san are loudly discussing their dreams and ambitions, most notably Taoru and Honda-san. The former, as you can imagine having very unrealistic dreams of fame and success but with very interchangeable directions, Director, Producer, it doesn’t matter to Tarou (If anything I am not entirely sure he understands the difference) The dreams of Honda-san are also quite strange, but for a different reason as he dreams of becoming a patissier. Apparently he is actually quite good and frequently bakes sweet foods for the Musashi animation staff to enjoy, however, whist there is nothing wrong with his dreams or cooking there is perhaps something wrong with the idea of him doing cooking as the first thing that Erika imagines is him wearing a floral apron.
Perhaps realizing that things are rapidly getting out of hand or perhaps simply getting annoyed by the excessive noise, Okitsu-san quickly hushes the room and the team members quickly return to their proper tasks.
With this as a launching point we now transition to a very dejected looking Aoi as she sits behind the wheel of her usual car at the traffic lights. The seemingly constant topic of dreams is clearly getting to her as we once again see the appearance of Aoi’s two desk dwelling friends. Their conversation articulates Aoi’s attitude towards the issue as whilst she may see them as a little on the childish side everyone around her, even her seniors, are working hard towards them.
Going unnoticed however is an appearance by the G.I staff guy who is once again, and in spite of his string of losses, looking for another race. Deep in though Aoi fails to notice the noisy challenge and sedately drives off when the lights change, a development so startling that the G.I staff guy loses control of his car and subsequently crashes.
Leaving carnage in her wake Aoi goes about her tasks unaware of what has just happened. Her first port of call is Kisa-san who despite his claims of a torn mussel she encounters, bicycle in hand, on the stairs. Aoi is clearly frustrated by Kisa-san and his lack of zeal for working and becomes more so as he goes on to explain that rather than working he is training for a hill race. However just when Aoi is almost at boiling point she is defeated by Kisa-san’s mention of the word “dream” and so lets him continue on with his training, much to his amazement.
With Kisa-san having been dealt with, we see a short transition scene of Aoi getting exasperated with her sister’s incessant stream of tourist photos.
Ever busy Aoi next visits Segawa-san to get work checked. As usual Segawa-san is curious about all the happenings inside Musashi animation and as the conversation develops the topic moves on to Tatsuya-san’s transfer with Segawa-san divulging the fact that the transfer is also a promotion for Tatsuya-san as he will be working as the production desk rather than just a production assistant. Having parted with this information Segawa-san asks Aoi for information in exchange. But rather than this being gossip Segawa-san wants to know how Ema is doing as she is concerned that the previous comments, which had been meant to motivate Ema, had been taken in the wrong way, perhaps after having heard about Ema’s depression from someone. Aoi, not wanting to cause further complications Aoi reassures Segawa-san that she doesn’t need to worry. A response that Segawa-san is not entirely satisfied with but accepts as she believes Ema is capable and wants to see her do well for herself as an animator.
Transitioning back to Ema’s perspective and as expected we find her at her desk working away but to no avail. As in the previous cases which we have seen her plight does not go unnoticed by her elderly neighbor but this time Sugie-san adopts a different angle of approach. Rather than talking to Ema him self he instead heads over to the kitchen and asks Eguchi-san to have a go at advising Ema. This method of approach is rather well thought out as Eguchi-san has more in common with Ema than he does and moreover, despite him advising Ema to do so, Ema has yet to talk to any of the other animators about her problems.
While Sugie-san and Eguchi-san are talking in the kitchen we rejoin Ema as she manages to somewhat traumatise herself with what she fears her Key frames will become. Desperately she rubs out what she is drawing and in the process manages to rip the paper.
However before Ema does anything rash Eguchi-san arrives and in a very friendly manner asks her why she chose the scene she did. In a notably more talkative mood this time Ema tells of how she has never done this kind of scene before. Eguchi-san offers her sympathies and explains why the scene is a challenging one but potentially very satisfying as a lot of thought has been put into it. Ema goes on to describe what just happened to her with regards to her traumatising visualization and much to her surprise discovers that it is something that happens to all of the animators. With this in mind she seeks advice as to what to do in this kind of situation to which she revives the simple advice of “take a walk”.
As is fitting for this weeks episode, straight after the midway point we rejoin Kaori and Midori, still out and about, and find that the topic of their conversation has moved on to dreams. Just as we have seen in what limited appearances she has made Midori is very much motivated to write a story suitable for an anime adaptation and dreams of doing just that. Kaori is more like her sister with regards to dreams, she however is unsatisfied with her office job and so wants to use her time in Tokyo to splash some cash with anyone that she enjoys the company of.
Afternoon tea for Kaori and Midori however is disturbed by a phone call form Aoi who is still frustrated by the picture spam. Aoi suggests that the photos would be more appreciated by her sister’s work colleagues but Kaori quashes this notion, not letting on that she does not exactly have the most sociable work environment.
With the focus back on Aoi, she returns to the production office muttering to herself about her impulsive sister. Overhearing this Erika, who is already at her desk, quizzes Aoi but is nonchalantly dismissed. Erika, however has more pressing queries for Aoi as she has just witness Ema and Eguchi-san heading out together and is curious as what is going on. Aoi, however, has no idea about this so goes of in search of her friend seemingly confused that someone else is solving the problem for her. She fails to find Ema but does encounter Sugie-san near Ema’s empty desk who informs her that Ema and Eguchi-san have gone for a walk.
With a well placed transition we switch to observing Ema and Eguchi-san on their walk. It would seem that they have gone rather far away from the studio as the scenery is now that of a park in autumn with the trees displaying a multitude of vibrant oranges and yellows. The scenery in general this episode has been very nice in my opinion and whist aesthetically pleasing backdrops have come to be expected of P.A Works shows I feel that this episode, particularly this scene and the scene of Kaori and Midori having afternoon tea are of especial note. But then again I am rather biased for autumn is easily my favorite season. As Ema and Eguchi-san walk and admire the scenery, Eguchi-san explains how there is something of a chain of advice giving among the animators and that the idea of taking a walk to gain perspective on things is a tried and tested method.
The direction of the conversation is suddenly changed somewhat by the appearance of a feline friend of Eguchi-san’s who serves to bring the topic of conversation onto drawing animals. Eguchi-san explains to Ema that she also started of having problems with this so resorted to a learn by copying approach to allow her to get down the basics and then develop upon this. Learning like this is not really all that rare as I myself end up having to work like this when it comes to producing work in a new format but it is understandable that Ema did not think to do this much on her own initiative as the fear of accusations of plagiarism is one that is very real for content producers. It is worth noting that this explanation is done during a flashback to when Euchi-san was first starting out but the one thing that stands out to me is the appearance of Ogasawara-san, who looks very much the same as she does now prompting questions in my head as to how old she is supposed to be! (before this episode I was under the impression that she was younger than Eguchi-san)
On the subject of copying, the appearance of the cat now serves a new purpose as rather than looking back though old key frames or resorting to looking in books, as we have seen earlier by the presence of cat encyclopedias on Ema’s desk, Ema is able to get a first hand look at the anatomy of a cat which in some respects brings us back full circle as the very first question Sugie-san asked Ema was “have you ever owned a cat?”.
With Ema in a more positive mood and things looking much better we cut back to the office and see Madoka-san and Yamada-san talking to a very distracted Director, who because of his lack of progress is still working on the episode thirteen storyboards, about Tatsuya-san’s transfer. The Director seems to have been paying minimal attention to this particular happening but with respect to the dire situation that the storyboards are in this much is somewhat understandable.
However, before the Director can make more of a fool out of himself, Aoi arrives to get work checked by Yamada-san. It is at this point that Aoi,being responsible and the polar opposite of Tarou, requests more time for Ema to get her work done as to the best of Aoi’s knowledge she is still having problems. Madoka-san is surprised by this request as the most recent sighting of Ema was of her returning with Eguchi-san in a most pleasant mood.
Surprised by this Aoi goes to check on Ema. Presumably confused by the fact that a problem has potentially solved itself with out her input. Aoi only gets as far as the corner of Ema’s work booth as even from there she can see enough.
Gently music plays and we transition to the evening as Aoi prepares to leave for the day. She is on the phone to her sister and apologies for getting angry at her then suggests that they have dinner together. The ever free-spirited Kaori however is already at the bar where Shizuka works with Midori and has had quite a bit to drink already. Aoi decides to go and joint them and the sight of Ema’s bicycle gives her the thought of inviting Ema but as Ema is now working hard she decides it is best not to.
We move to the bar and bear witness to, the now sleeping, Kaori after her long day of fun in Tokyo. The lack of Ema creates concern amongst her friends but Aoi puts these concerns to rest as after having seen Ema at work she is no longer worried about her friend.
As the night goes on, Midori re-expresses her desire to make an anime with just the members of the animation club, Shizuka too joins in with support of this notion. Aoi is somewhat more hesitant but is eventually pulled over to their side by the endless zeal of her two friends and agrees on the idea of doing this in three to five years. As for Kaori, well she picked a bad time to wake up as she is pretty much pushed into agreeing to pay for this anime. This scene is quite possibly a massive amount of foreshadowing as to what will happen in the second half of Shirobako and the time-frame of three to five years perhaps also hints at a possible time shift, presumably to better allow Midori and Misa to finish university/college. However we must remember that it is still early days and this much could also be merely the slightly drunken delusions of the three of them so we will have to wait and see if there are anymore hints in future episodes. Either way this occasion is celebrated with a photo and the night goes on.
Despite this point seeming like a good ending for this weeks episode we have on last scene. The next morning we witness Aoi waking up late after a night of drinking only to discover that her sister is just about to leave. Aoi is concerned for her sister and worries that she hasn’t been a very good host but Kaori is not bothered. At the start of last weeks episode we can see that she didn’t have all that high of an opinion about Aoi’s job in the anime industry but having seen how her sister is working hard she doesn’t want to get in Aoi’s way anymore.
Well I guess all is well that ends well for Ema. It was really rather nice to see that the animators have a policy of looking after their own rather than simply being isolated and it was refreshing to see that it is not only Aoi that has got problem solving skills. I suppose that for the most part we are looking at the anime production from the perspective of Aoi and Ema’s group but it could just have easily been set centered around any of the other age groups present in the team and this much kind of makes me want to see something of a prequel set a decade of so back about some of the other characters making a more, what we consider now, retro anime.
With regards to my comments on the presentation, we have now had two episodes with out the character introduction profiles appearing which I guess is Shirobako’s way of saying that we should have managed to remember everyone’s names by now. This change is something that I am in two minds about as I will not dispute the fact that at this stage they are mostly redundant, we have been with theses characters for two months now but on the other hand I did kind of like them as they were quite novel and gave the anime a slight hint of documentary about it.
Well that’s it for this week, see you next time.