Well I guess I should start off with an apology for the lateness of this review but regrettably I have been somewhat overloaded with work from university as of late and as such have not really had neither the time nor energy to write anything, even something that I enjoy writing. Thankfully this week is the last one before I break up for winter so hopefully I will be able to catch up fairly quickly.
Anyway, better late than never I suppose so on to the review;
Our episode starts off rather differently to its forerunners as we start off with the focus on former animation club member Misa. We join her, sitting in a room filled with computer booths, as she disinterestedly works away at a 3D CG render of a car wheel. Despite her lack luster attitude work i progressing well which severs to impress the male superior who comes over to check on her progress. However, making good headway however does not seem like a good thing from Misa’s perspective as it lands her with more work. With respect to the setting, the room in which this exchange is happening is far from lacking in activity and we are shown a series of shots featuring the work being done by Misa’s contemporaries though the context in which this work is being done is unclear and at first thought I assumed that it was a college classroom rather than, as it turns out to be, the office of a small 3D animation company (this assumption based on the belief that Misa and Midori were the same age).
After the opening credits we return to more familiar ground; the production office of Musashino Animation. The morning meeting reveals that, by composition to previous episodes, things are going relatively well with the only problem of note being the inability of Director Seiichi to complete the storyboards of the B part of the final episode. With the final episode, episode thirteen, being recently handed over to Aoi she is understandably stressed about the storyboard situation but this much is not to heavily focused on as this is rather familiar ground for us by now.
Leaving the usual plight of Aoi behind us we join the directors and the company president as they look toward the studio’s next work. The main item on the addenda is a notably well selling series titled the third aerial girls squad which seems to be a series ripe for an anime adaptation and all three members of meeting realize that they will likely have competition from other studios for this title.
The general feeling of being over the worst of it continues on in the next scene as we catch up with Ema and confirm that her troubles are over now and she can return to working as normal. Or at least she would be working as normal were it not for the hold up caused by the directors inability to get the storyboards finished. Rest, however, is still some way away and for the meantime Ema is moved over to working on Tarou’s episode twelve (poor girl).
The exchange between Aoi and Ema doesn’t last very long and we quickly transition over to Honda-san’s perspective as he mulls over anime popularity rankings to see how the reception of Exodus is going. He is quickly joined by the ever easily distracted Tarou who is curious as to what Honda-san is looking at and so Honda-san explains. He also extends the stern instruction that Tarou is not to mention any of the rankings to Seiichi-san on the basis that the added stress would push his productivity, or lack there of, down to new depths. It is however, in a genuinely surprising moment, that Tarou makes his very first useful comment suggesting that Honda-san is paying too much heed to the rankings and should focus on working on doing the best he can. However this new-found enlightenment is rather quickly snuffed out as, in usual Tarou fashion, he has no idea that his comment was a good one when it is praised by Honda-san (I guess it is true that a broken clock tells the right time twice a day).
Inspired by Tarou’s comments Honda-san ceases his browsing and goes to check on the director’s progress. Honda-san’s inquiries at first seem promising as there are only four more pages lest until the end but despite being this close progress is basically non-existent with Seiichi-san, at this critical point, coming down with a serious case of writers block. Honda-san expressions say it all.
With Musashino Animation’s condition being best described by the acronym SNAFU we transition back to Misa’s story and join her as she eats lunch in the cafeteria with some of her contemporaries. As she talks with them we are filled in on the context for Misa’s current lifestyle and by extension are implicit told her age. We learn that Misa is working for a good company but is in what might be described as a dead-end job as ever since she started she has done not but create tires and wheels. Her colleagues are also in a similar situation but are not overly bothered by this on accounts of it being steady and well paid work unlike Misa who is somewhat bored by the repetition of it and wants to expand her horizons. In addition to this much about Misa we also learn a little about the president of the graphics company Misa works for which is noteworthy as, with consideration to events later on in the episode, he does seems likely to become a recurring character.
We cut away from Misa’s perspective but rather than going back to Aoi and Ema as normal, we instead cut to Shizuka who has finally manged to land a voice acting job. The part she has landed is an unnamed character who exists as part of a crowd but regardless of its lack of significance Shizuka is pleased regardless as after all, it is a start and represents some progress.
After the scene in the studio we rejoin Shizuka in her room going over a script when she receives a text from Misa wondering if she is working at the bar. Skizuka’s response that she is not prompts her friend, thinking that she might be sick, to call her but this allows Shizuka to inform Misa of the anime related work development. Misa is most happy for her friend and both of them express the desire to meet up with everyone tomorrow.
With these arrangements made Shizuka proceeds to practice lines for her job tomorrow and we are given a small insight into the details of this kind of job as it appears that this kind or role has no set lines and is done ad lib.
We skip the night and rejoin Shizuka the next day as she arrives at the studio and in perhaps a bad turn of events it is the same studio where her previous less than successful audition was conducted. She has no time to be looking back and reflecting however as she heads inside. Inside a very serious and if anything a rather stiff Shizuka catches a glimpse of the main voice cast before proceeding to the recording booth. Her inexperience however is very blatant as she mange to embarrass herself in front of the director and producers by forgetting to take her shoes off and we cut away before any more misfortune befalls our would be voice actress.
We next pick up the threads started earlier on this episode regarding the anime adaptation of he third aerial girls squad as we join the Musani producers at a meeting with the series’s editor. The talks start of fairly cold and the mentioning of the fact that Seiichi-san would potentially be the director is a cause for concern in the eyes of the editor as it stirs up associations with the notorious Jiggly Jiggly Heaven indecent. A reminder that he is also the director for Exodus does mange to put these concerns to rest however and as such the prospects of adaptation look a it better though nothing is confirmed either way and the talks end with a feeling of further talks will be needed.
After that brief development we return to Shizuka’s happenings. As could be forgiven for anyone in her position Shizuka is very nervous and on edge. It is due to this that things go about as bad as they possibly could with Shizuka nervously shouting out her planned dramatic line which well …. should we say leaves the wrong kind of strong impression and leads to a retake being needed. One in which a very embarrassed Shizuka quietly speaks a few more generic crowd lines.
Exhausted from the days events we transition to the evening and find Shizuka, having arrived ahead of the rest, reclined at a restaurant table looking as one might expect. It is not long until Mias and Midori join her and they begin to discuss the order of events surrounding Shizuka’s job. Shizuka gives the other two a run down of the days events, omitting much detail, but regardless of her less than exemplary performance her friends are still happy for her.
As they eat Misa explains her dead-end situation to the others and her frustration with her lack of progress. Both Shizuka and Midori are able to empathize with her as for all three of them the dream of making anime is as far away as ever. The conversation between the three of them presents an interesting juxtaposition to the life of Aoi and Ema and perhaps shows us that whist people working in production and skilled key animators are in demand other jobs such as scenario writers and voice actors are highly contested and goes to show us that it is not always easy to get the job you want. Shirobako being a fairly light heated anime though I do not seriously think that any of these three will have to suffer overall failure in their chosen path and this point is hammered home, at this point of losing hope, by another hallucination of sorts reminding them all of their shared dream.
With this behind them simultaneous text messages come from Aoi and Ema expressing apologies for their absence, reminding the three of them if their school seniors can make it then so can they.
The next scene we see is of a morning meeting (Is this a big thing for Japanese companies IRL or something?) however it is not in the usual setting nor are the usual characters present. It is, in fact, a meeting for the animation company that Misa works at with the key topic being the announcement of a new project working on a driving game. Whist the other employees look pleased Misa looks less than and this is only a start as, what we can assume to be, only a short while after the day started Misa feels the need for a break. On the roof Misa, believing she is alone, vents her anger on one of many a tires only to stub her foot. However before she can get angry she is noticed by the company president who has also come up to the roof but for a different purpose. He quizzes Misa on why she is frustrated commenting on how she is a valued employee with good potential. Seeing this as an opportunity to speak her mind, Misa informs her boss of her desire to work on other projects, specifically anime. Perhaps being able to empathize with how Misa feels, the president tells her that the repetition is a result of his (genuinely) sensible business model that has created a reputation for the company and established a regular flow of jobs that allow for him to employ as many as he does. He does however tell Misa that if she really wants to pursue her dreams that she should first sit down and think about how she will do it.
Leaving Misa deep in thought on the rooftop we return to Musashino Animation to see Honda-san talking with Director Seiichi about the ending of Exodus. Seiichi-san is having trouble working out to animate what he has planned to do, realizing that even for an anime such as Exodus, the main trio of characters ramping a motorbike off an aircraft-carrier and surviving is just too ridiculous. So at this late stage in the game Seiichi-san asks Honda-san if he can change the ending and so, with Honda-san choosing the less potent of two toxins a meeting is arranged with Seiichi-san and the scenario writer.
And so, we arrive at the last of this episodes many meeting. Honda-san’s decision to involve the scenario writer is perhaps one his best decisions as he knows just the right questions to ask in order to get Seiichi-san thinking in the right way, first questioning what the purpose of the anime is then reminding Seiichi-san of his original ideas.
A moment of clairvoyance is reached and everything falls into place, Seiichi-san knows exactly where he wants things to go and in a montage of shots from his head we see how Exodus will end. With a few gentle tugs from Honda-san representing the voice of what is not plain ludicrous (Jet powered horses? Seiichi-san plz?) the plan for the finale is done leaving just the purely computational task of drawing up the storyboards left.
With things in order Honda-san expresses deep gratitude to the scenario writer leaving the episode to finish with a post credit of Seiichi-san calmly returning to the cage for some self-imposed solitude.
This time my conclusion contains quite a bit in the way for gratitude towards P.A.Works as they have got the knotted tangle of string Shirobako has for an arc story line timed just right. Exodus is not Shirobako and so as we are getting close to the half way point we are beginning to see things come to a conclusion and so with the plight of Aoi and Ema over we have switched a lot of run time over to a focus on, the rather neglected thus far, Misa in a manner that only really leaves Midori needing a decent spat of development. I also feel that the change from a focus on problems spawning from over work to those created by lack of work or the monotony of repetitive work makes something of a refreshing change.
I should however express the fact that, at least in my opinion, the first half of episode nine did feel a little like the first episode with regards to pacing as it was a collage of small story segments showing many stories happening simultaneously. But then again it is not exactly a bad thing and something that can almost be expected at this transition point.
Well, that it from me, I plan to get at least one more review out before this week is over and hopefully be up to date before Christmas so stay tuned.