Warning: contained within are spoilers pertaining to Shirobako episode twenty-two and episodes preceding. It is recommended that you watch this before reading this review.
Well now that the Winter season,and more specifically Shirobako, is basically now over I really should hurry up and finish off my reviewing commitments whilst the shows I’m talking about are still relevant. I must apologies for the complete absence of content from me these last few weeks but depressingly my university thought it amusing to suddenly dump a load of work deadlines on me just as I was getting close to a point where I could claim to be up to date, *sigh*.
However, I am doubtful that anyone has some here to listen to me complain about work so I suppose I had better get on with my review:
As we move towards the conclusion of the series, we take the time to consider why one would want to work in the anime industry. This question is not something that has come out of nowhere as it is a topic of discussion that has been hanging over the entire series and spiking up at many moments, most memorably in episode seven when Aoi’s lack of though on this question caused conflict between her and Ema. This is a good question for us to consider for, if Shirobako is anything to go by, making anime is in incredibly stressful job that works you to be bone for only fleeting moments of recognition. Naturally going for the slightly more grounded approach there three episodes give us the general consensus that people chose to or simple end up working in the anime industry for a whole number of reasons and in typical fashion this is shown to us, the viewer, by the use of a montage of characters from the entire series offering their piece. In my mind, I like to think that the responses given in this montage and perhaps also responses to this question though out the entire series, are based upon some form of survey done within the P.A. Works team as it explains why many of the responses are along the lines of “just because”. Either way, the pure range of responses; from simple childhood dreams to abstract meta responses, really works with the diversity we have been introduced to and is the veritable cherry atop the cake for how human the whole series feels.
It would certainly be fair to say that the contemplation of this topic is the most prolific that it has been though out the series but it does very much fit into the story well. Much of the discussion around this topic in episode twenty is brought up as a result of meetings about how to do the anime original ending for the third aerial girls squad, in which the protagonist is needs a reason to return to the battle. Events of the anime within the anime are not the only reason why this question is a theme for this triplet of episodes as it becomes something we must consider as we are given exposition on Hiraoka-san’s character. Initially I was very much prepared to paint him with the same brush as Tarou -and am still doing as such even with knowledge of his past due to the fact that the two of them have formed an anti-Aoi team- but after an explanation his character and his complete apathy for work and hardworking people makes a lot more sense. With Hiraoka-san’s ast being the primary subject of investigation this time around we are also given a bit more of an insight into Erika’s past. It had been previously established that the two of them knew each other prior to Hiraoka-san joining Musani but it is now revealed that the two of them were previously in the same animation club (I fear that this is quite the recurring theme)along with Isokawa Hisamitsu. Isokawa-san’s introduction at this stage, as a character who is in awe of creators, is arguably a massive case of self-gratification on P.A. Work’s part but after shirobako I think that this much is fair. It is not a cast of his character simply being thrown in for this alone as he serves as a nice polar opposite to Hiraoka-san and his ideals do provoke thoughts from Aoi as to how she can improve her own workplace but I do feel that the introduction of a new character right at the end does leave him in a position where all we can consider is what he does for the story rather than who he is.
Let us not equate explanation with excuses though. Just because we understand why Hiraoka-san is so poorly disposed towards everyone does not mean that his actions during this triplet of episodes are excusable. In general it is his lack of motivation and effort that causes problems, he has very little time for quality and believes that the work simply has to be done and whilst this kind of attitude many be fine at a company like studio titanic it really does not rub off well on the Musashino animation staff who take pride in their work and are used to working with people who have a professional attitude. A divide in opinions that is exemplified by Segawa-san’s request not to be assigned work on episodes he is responsible for, suggesting that working with Tarou would be preferable. Hiraoka-san is not only sloppy but he is also rather standoffish and rude. He gets into an argument with Aoi when she tries to suggest that he should try to be a bit more engaged with his job and seems to have an innate dislike of Midori; making misogynistic comments to her suggesting that she has only managed to get her job by seducing her seniors. These instances are not the worst of it though, his incapacity to work in a professional manner produces its most dramatic results in the latter half of episode twenty in which a physical fight breaks out between him and Madoka-san after Madoka-san requests a second retake on some key frames and criticizes the slap dash work produced by artists Hiraoka-san called in. This kind of scene is unprecedented in a show such as Shirobako and speaks volumes about the gravity of the situation and the levels of stress that have been induced working in an industry that is stressful at the best of times.
This triplet of episodes are not solely about thought-provoking ideas and how much of a terrible colleague Hiraoka-san is though, there is plenty of time devoted to the animation club members. Aoi, Midori, Misa and Ema continue to demonstrate how well settled they are becoming in their respective jobs. Ema’s position is the one that sees the most advancement as in episode twenty-two she gets recommended for an animation supervisor position which she accepts. This perhaps represents the end of many of the troubles Ema has been going though throughout the series and leaves her in a position where she feels confident in her chosen career. Aoi too is climbing the ladder of progress -all be it indirectly- as she is gaining notoriety both inside and outside Musani with the aforementioned anti-Aoi alliance of Tarou and Hiraoka-san and the fact that she is becoming the topic of decision among Watanabe-san and his producer friends. Midori rounds off the list of Musani staff making progress with their careers as she has enjoyed increased responsibilities and tutorage from Maitake-san. I have to say that it pleases me to see what has been done with Midori’s character; as she is the would-be writer I initially was expecting her character to be mostly invisible with regards to the actual anime making side of things but the role that she now fits in -I’m not even sure if it is a specific job IRL- works well. The progression of these three is nicely summed up in episode twenty-one with a rerun of the first episode viewing scene in episode one but this time with the new characters, showing us that whilst so much has changed for the characters, anime production will go on as it always has.
Misa sees her career progression in a somewhat similar way to her friends as she is given increasing responsibility, most notably she is assigned to work on actual character models rather than simply on objects, which she engages with much enthusiasm and much like Ema before her ends up roping her friends into helping. She also has a scene with a similar outcome to that of episode six in which she as a 3D animator is able to progress her work thanks to advice from a traditional key animator, in this case Ema. Whilst the message of wanting to acknowledge traditional methods is just as strong as it was in episode six it is very fitting to see that rather than it being company veterans working towards a good composite of CG and Key animation, it is the members of the animation club doing as such -though in reality it is no longer really correct not to describe them as veterans now-. Shizuka however does not see as much in the way of progression and if anything things start to get worse as everything starts to get too much for her. This being finally exemplified in episode twenty-two in which we see a very dejected Shizuka watching a TV program about high school idols.
Well there you have it. After these three episodes we are full set for the series finale with the winds of the whims of the source writer blowing the production team off course once again. Hopefully I will have my review of the last few episodes out very soon as I am conscientious of the fact that I need to get things warped up before the start of the spring season, so until then.