Well I guess that the title of this episode makes things somewhat awkward as an entire week has already passed since Christmas but I suppose that making up for lost time is for the best, after all a week is really that long in the grand scheme of things especially when one leads a busy lifestyle.
But enough about my delays, this episode is very is one that marks a strong changing point between the first half of the story and the second half so on to my review of both episode twelve and a short overview of my thoughts on the first cour:
Episode twelve picks up the story from where we ended last time with us witnessing the aftermath in the mahjong after the whirlwind that was Miyamori Aoi passed though. From this scene alone we can speculate that the role of Kanno-san will be a notable one and this much is amplified by the dramatic music that accompanies the subsequent phone call made by Onoue-san to inform Kanno-san that Aoi is headed his way.
With Aoi making the Musashino Animation staff look suitably impressive, Watanabe-san seizes the initiative and presses forward the discussions regarding the anime adaptation of the third aerial girls squad. With the meeting back on tract we are treated to a small insight in to the political aspects that lie beneath the surface of the anime world that we see. The discussions are very much give and take as both sides try to get what they want from the agreement. I would be interested to know how much of this much is common place and if so who’s real world experiences the scene here in Shirobako is based on but I doubt that this much will ever be seen and that this will be the closest we get. Once again the meeting ends with out an actual confirmation but it does end with all but that in the sense that Onoue-san announces that he will be suspending talks with all the other animation companies.
With this episodes the third aerial girls squad developments completed we return to Aoi and join her as she nervously stands outside Kanno-san’s house, the adrenalin form gate crashing Watanabe-san’s meeting apparently starting to run thin. Aoi manages to call Kanno-san on the intercom and he responds by opening the door but the reception Aoi receives is rather reserved and somewhat frosty.
Aoi is granted an audience and is welcomed in though and Kanno-san takes the time to have a look over the storyboards though this is out of respect for Seiichi-san who, as we later learn, worked as an episode director or
Eva Ava. In the meantime Kanno-san questions Aoi about her experience with his magnum opus, questions that Aoi must give a less than satisfying response to which emphasis the generation gap between the two of them.
Kanno-san, being the tier of animator he is, then proceeds to ask Aoi about the degree to which he would be permitted to alter the storyboards but once again Aoi is unable to give a satisfactory answer. The conversation so far is not what you would call unproductive though as Kanno-san as started to realize what this conversation is really about and as such next proceeds to ask Aoi why she asked him specifically to do the frames. Upon hearing this Aoi realizes that she has no real reason to employ such a famous animator when any animator worth their salt would suffice and that doing this is really rather rude of her. Kanno-san is not offended by Aoi’s moves though and comments on how the horse scene is actually a rather challenging one and perhaps looks like he will be willing to offer Aoi some help but as this happens we are left on a cliffhanger when Kanno-san takes interest in the fact that Aoi is from Musashino Animation.
The reason as to why Kanno-san takes interest in the fact that Aoi is from Musashino Animation will have to wait until later as we slow things down a little but as we transition to a scene of, not only Seiichi-san, but also a number of other members of the studio staff asleep in the office.
Leaving the sleeping people to their rest we transition to a very spartan meeting in the production office in which we receive an update on the status of Erika’s hospitalized father and also receive conformation that Tarou is still Tarou on the basis that rather than returning to the office after driving Erika about her decided to go for some food. Things can not be said to be going well with regards to the production of the Exodus finale however and sensing this, Watanabe-san interjects by scheduling an all hands meeting late on that day (Once the director has woken up).
Time passes and we move on the this last hour meeting where Watanabe-san attempts to be pragmatic about things look at this point, proposing the idea that no one want to hear; they will have to compromise on the quality of the final episode. No one wanting to hear this is an understate though as everyone has worked so hard to get Exodus this far and having a less than amazing climax would be a terrible way for it to end. But as Watanabe-san explains having no ending would be even worse. Shirobako is an anime however so a solution does exist and an interjection from Aoi serves to allow for just this.
The interjection that Aoi makes is one that astounds everyone and pertains to her earlier exchange with Kanno-san. Rather than having Aoi explain things though we cut to a flashback that picks up from where we cut off last time as we see Kanno-san inform our novice production assistant that his assistance is not needed on the basis that Musashino Animation already has an animator capable of doing such a challenging scene in such a short space of time. Aoi is confused by this but Kanno-san explains, revealing that Sugie-san is actually something of a genius when it comes to animation. This doesn’t really fit with what Aoi knows of Sugie-san -to her he is simple an old animator, a relic of a generation gone by- so she is a bit skeptical but Kanno-san goes on to try to convince her by listing the many titles that Sugie-san played important roles in with one anime, Andes Chucky, striking a key with Aoi. Having gotten a bite, Kanno-san proceeds to reel Aoi in by elaborating on the role Sugie-san played in the production on her favorite anime all the while striking dramatic poses and making enthusiastic expressions.
Returning to the meeting, Aoi has apparently explained that which she has learnt whist we were watching that flashback and boldly makes the proposal of asking Sugie-san for help. A proposal that takes everyone by surprise, but an expression of interest from Ogasawara-san is as much of a go ahead that Aoi needs and as such leaves to enlist the help of the elderly animator.
When we rejoin Aoi she has arrived at Sugie-san’s house and is being offered tea by Sugie-san’s wife whist she waits for him to reawaken (It is quite late in the day by this point). She does not have to wait long though as Sugie-san soon emerges allowing them to get down to business. Sugie-san takes his time browsing through the storyboards leaving Aoi and his wife to talk about Aoi’s love for Andes Chucky, a show which Sugie-san’s wife also worked on (maybe that is how they met?). A short time passes before Sugie-san poses the question of “is everyone still at the office?” , a response which is translated into Sugie-san’s acceptance of the job.
From this we quickly transition back to the office where we observe the meeting between Sugie-san and the other animators assigned to the episode. Thanks to his years of experience Sugie-san is able to quickly estimate the amount of time it will take him to complete the scene but even working at maximum pace it initially looks like there will not be enough time. Kanno-san was not lying when he said that Sugie-san was a genius though and no sooner had the problem arisen a solution had also been devised involving Sugie-san producing rough sketches of the frames that can then be cleaned up by another animator. A proposal that is met with a resoundingly positive response from all those present.
And so as Sugie-san’s plan swings into motion we transition in to a montage of the zealous animators going about their work with a new-found vigor. A montage accompanied by music that really conjures up feelings of hope leaving us feeling as though they will finally make it.
Our montage ends with a smooth transition into a preliminary screening of the horse scene which is to the directors liking but being a perfectionist Sugie-san is able to spot a small error and requests time to change it. His request is granted and from this we transition to a conversation between Aoi and Ema in which it is confirmed to us that Sugie-san is very much enjoying himself with this work as he feels like he is being useful to his company, a reason that rather surprises Aoi. As the conversation between the two of them continues Ema sings the praises of Sugie-san who is a very good teacher and now serves as a level to aspire to for Ema, reaffirming her dedication to her job as an animator.
Time passes and with keyframe production progressing smoothly we join Aoi as she busies herself with her tasks as production assistant. It is not long before she is interrupted by the unexpected addition of a certain confectionery item to her desk. The deliverer of this item is Erika who has just returned to work, her fathers condition having sufficiently improved enough for her to do so. By Aoi’s demeanor Erika is able to deduce that things are going rather well but is surprised that the progress has been as a result of Sugie-san. However by way as a quick cut to Sugie-san lecturing for the other animators, that presumably either represents Aoi explaining or the two of them eves dropping Erika is convinced and suitably impressed. Seeing this also gives Erika faith for her fathers swift recovery as he is notably younger than, the very active and well, Sugie-san.
Leaving the two production assistants to their work we move to see the dubbing of the episode and watch as sound effects and presumably, later, the voices that were recorded last time are added the key animation. The good progress seems to be a bit much for Katsuragi-san though as midway though the dubbing session, with the animation still far from finished he breaks down into tears of joy and exclaims how happy he is that he decided to become a producer. I do in many ways feel a little sorry for Katsuragi-san as despite his job of producer being quite the important one he is basically just a background comic-relief character who exists only to be that one guy who really can’t handle high pressure situations, begging the question of how he got to be a producer in the first place.
Moving on, we once again return to the office and witness a brief scene of Aoi at work in, a now, very busy environment. We don’t go into another montage though as we transition to Aoi taking her break in the kitchen. After a short time she is joined by Sugie-san who has come to her with a request for usage of one of the conference rooms on a weekly basis in which he will be holding tutorials for the other animators. A service which has apparently been requested on him in light of recent events. He also has reason to talk to Aoi specifically as he sees his being granted this redound purpose as thanks to Aoi. Aoi, who did not see Sugie-san in the same way that he was starting to see himself, is surprised that he sees her role as so important and in turn outlines the esteem of which she holds him in for his work on Andes Chrucky. Esteem that Sugie-san is very much flattered by.
With the topic of Andes Chucky being quite the prevalent one at this point we then transition to … well, I’m not quite sure what to call this scene but we next join Aoi as she drives her car whist singing and listening to the opening theme for Andes Chucky. As to why this scene has been included I can’t say for sure, if I were to speculate I would guess that it is to create something of a down time in preparation for the final climax. Though perhaps a little awkward I do feel that this scene does this much and this much is needed as after all we didn’t even get to take a pause for the credits in this episode as it has been a non stop series of preparing all the relevant aspects of the story for the climax and the second cour.
Having risen above the surfaced for air we once again plunge beneath the surface of the anime industry and move into another montage. This time we follow Aoi and the other members of the team as they make a final series of adjustments, on the day of delivery, to the finale, making sure that it is everything that the final episode of a best anime of the season should be. The montage is a good one and it takes us all the way up to the preview screening at the very last moment.
With this as a jump off point it looks as though we are about to be treated to a section of the finished product but a momentary freeze of the projector put that much on hold. The problem is far from a major one though and mere moments later we are back to the start of the screening. We have to wait for the screening though as we take a quick look at the office, which at this point in time only contains the usual figures.
This short interruption is only for a comparison with a later scene though and we are quickly back at the preview screening watching as the climactic escape scene begins. With consideration to the kind of anime that Exodus is the climax is suitably over the top and borderline silly but credit where credit is due it is done in such a manner that somehow manages to feel dramatic, sending an involuntary shiver down ones spine and leaving me with the felling “I kind of want to watch this anime now and see how it got to this point” .
Leaving the director and producer deeply moved we transition once again to the production office but this time it is packed with a whole host of people who are nervously awaiting any news from the screening room. The tension is palpable and an out of place phone call forces everyone to hold their breath. As it turns out it was merely one of Watanabe-san contacts asking after him but the phone call they are all waiting for comes moments later. And so, with a massive smile on her face, Aoi is able to pass on the good news to her colleagues. News that is meet with massive shouts of jubilation from everyone present. The popular decision that there will be a party is made ad with that everyone heads out, overjoyed that all has gone as well as it ever could have.
As everyone walks down the seasonally illuminated street Aoi and Ema encounter Sugie-san who, whilst sharing everyone else’s high spirits, decides partying really isn’t his kind of thing which is understandable considering his age. Aoi and Ema understand this much and offer him thanks for his part in the success and then watch as he heads off in to the night.
With Sugie-san departed we phase into our final montage of the Musashino Animation staff, faces smiling, heading towards their much deserved after party.
The last montage takes us up to the ending credits but is not the final scene as we soon rejoin the staff, now at the party, as director Seiichi gives a short celebratory speech. His speech is cut off by Tarou though, who loudly announces the arrival of Watanbe-san.
As is traditional at Christmas Watanable-san has arrived baring a gift, a DVD containing the final episode and thanks to a borrowed television the entire company staff sits down and watches the episode together, thus ending the cour finale.
Well that’s a wrap. But despite it feeling like was a finale this much is only the halfway point so if this is anything to go by then you can consider me incredibly excited for the real ending. Such a good ending at the mid-point does make me wonder as to why P.A. Works decided on a 2 cour set up rather than doing it as a split cour, as seems to be ever more popular but I suppose they have their reasons and one can hardly complain about this when it means we don’t have to wait around for an entire season waiting to see what happens next (especially with consideration to all the talks concerning the third aerial girls squad that we have listened in on).
As for my thoughts on how Shirobako has been up to this point; I have to say that I am pleasantly astounded. From the off set, we were thrown right into the deep end with endless character introductions and break neck pacing but now we are at this point none of those seems to be issues worth mentioning, nor really issues at all for that matter. As I said all the way back in the episode one review Shirobako is unconventional and as it turns out P.A. Works have manged to make it work in a manner that is ideal suited to the story that Shirobako is telling whilst facilitating a documentary-esque look into the anime industry that has been very interesting for me at least. And consider. if you will, for a moment what Shirobako would be like if it were done in an orthodox manner: I don’t feel like it would be anywhere near as good as it is.
So to sum up: P.A. Works, even though you made Glasslip, you are alright in my books.