Warning: contained within are spoilers pertaining to Shirobako. It is recommended that you watch the entire series before reading this review.
Well here we are, the ending of what has most probably been the show I have enjoyed watching the most in both of the seasons that it spanned. For me, Shirobako is an anime that does just about everything and gets it right. Drama, moe, comedy and even dynamic action, it is all sewn together expertly having everything flow together and creating a real sense of weight to the ups and downs of its story leading us to a conclusion that is exactly what one should expect after a series like this yet unpredictable enough for it to be really rather moving.
However, I don’t think that it would be professional of me (Though professional and me are about as far from synonymous as it is possible really) to spend this entire review gushing over how much I like Shirobako so allow me to put some structure into this:
Episode twenty-three and twenty-four make up a case of climax and conclusion. At this point in the story it is fair to say that we have lost an awful lot of Shirobako’s semblances of realism and have very much gone all out with every aspect of the story but after all of the build up the completely outlandish events feel right and very human. One doesn’t sit watching Director Seiichi take down Yotaka Booksellers because it is funny to watch a fat man dressed as a cowboy fight people with not but his own weight, but because it is genuinely epic and the fight that Seiichi is going though is one of passion and meaning and one that would have lost more than a little impact if it had have been concluded with Seiichi and Nogame simply meeting in Starbucks to discuss things over an expensive coffee. So outlandish as it is it gels well with the scenes that surround it even though one is a comedic spaghetti western and the other is intense office work. I have to say though the conversion of Yotaka Booksellers from a company who are frustrating to collaborate with to what can only be decided as a “villainous mega-corporation” is one that only really serves the plot but it does pose quite the thought-provoking question with consideration to the existence of Aoi’s hallucinogenic friends, as to how much of this is real and one can certainly imagine that a company that cause crushing set back after crushing set back would certainly appear “evil” in the minds of Musani’s employees would it not? But to dwell on such matters is to miss the point. A confrontation with a villain is what your traditional epic climax needs and without Yotaka Booksellers Shirobako lacks an appropriate villain. As inept and difficult as Tarou and Hiraoka respectively are, I can’t really say that either of them constitute a villain and I can’t really see a confrontation between the Anti-Aoi alliance and the animation club being quite right for the situation.
Make no mistake though, the final two episodes of Shirobako are not exclusively defined by action for Shirobako is an anime of many faces and an ending of pure action would not have been a suitable climax for any of the many stories that Shirobako is telling and so it is that in episode twenty-three, Shizuka; who just an episode ago was beginning to lose hope, finally gets her break. The handling of this is something that really does call for a hats off to P.A. Works, throughout the series Aoi and her friends have been worried about Shizuka and her lack of progress so when Shizuka shows up out of the blue at the recording studio to record her lines in front of a bewildered and emotional Aoi it is again something that carries so much weigh for Aoi’s tears of relief and joy are ones that induce many the “feels”. A lesser show could have easily had Shizuka immediately tell her friends and follow it up with a party but rather than do that we have a simply beautiful scene that it befitting of the outstanding ending of an outstanding show.
The juxtaposition between epic action on beautiful emotion that is showcased in these two episodes is perhaps a plenary for what made Shirobako so good and it perhaps shows us the importance of keeping control of things, the climax to Director Seiichi vs Yotaka Booksellers is not an over-the-top fight to the death with Nogame featuring references to every Shonen anime going but instead a civil discussion between two adults who both care about the subject of debate ending with a rational compromise that is better than either parties individual ideas. Furthermore our ending does not forget about anything and between the epic action, emotional moments and dramatic police chases the episodes are filled up with little bits that completely flesh out the ending of the series, be it; Hiraoka, after having the chance to let off steam with Taoru, actually engaging with his job, Konogi-san producing work that is heavily praised or Aoi being able to make the phone call to the office informing them that the screening was a success. Shirobako never lets up the pace but keeps it at a level general level low enough to make the most dramatic events really stand out.
And merely saying that they stand out doesn’t do them justice, the final epic scene and last hurdle in the way of the Third Aerial Girls Squad’s anime a success really takes the biscuit leaving the viewer really wanting the production team to make it in time, sharing the feeling of “there is no way this is ending badly now” with the characters as they put their all into the last part of something that so many people have put so much into. Shirobako ends on a different kind of high note though, lower in octane but certainly no lower in emotion as we join Aoi on the way back to the office as she makes the realization that she enjoys making anime and that alone is enough of a reason. We finish of by joining the cast at the much deserved after party content with the knowledge that everyone involved would do it all over again and that for Aoi and the animation club, their dream of making anime together has been a resounding success.
Well I suppose that this much will about do, I do not think that I have entirely done the finale of Shirobako complete justice but have perhaps given a taste for it. Shirobako has come a long way since its first episodes in which we encountered problems with break-neck pacing and but extensive massed character introductions but over the course of the two cour season these problems have either been ironed out or have become quirks that we are accustomed to so it is difficult to level criticisms at it. In the end all I can say is that Shirbako is defiantly an enjoyable series and one that typifies excellence in anime that demonstrate multiple genres. I do feel that it is entirely possible that Shirobako will not be the last anime that goes for a composite genre as in many respects it updates the typical school based moe show, making it more relatable for slightly older anime watching demographics. I under no circumstances feel that this will replace the typical school based moe show and nor do I want it to but I do feel that we will see this kind of thing again.