Shirobako – 03

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Shirobako spent so much time showing us the dizzy-busy world of making animation in such an frank way (read: never breaking character or the fourth wall) my brain melted. Here, check the key frames! You can see my gray matter dripping out and plopping on the floor!

In all fairness, Shirobako’s overwhelming detail makes for exceptionally educational viewing. Except, according to people I know on FX’s Archer, Cartoon Network’s ATHF and PBS’ Peep, this is not entirely how the animation goes down in the USA. It’s not totally different, mind you, but the structural differences and timelines don’t really match up.

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Unfortunately it’s not very educational for me either; it would be if I hadn’t done some animation in school and/or if I wasn’t married to an animator and been roped into several of her projects.

Blah blah blah enough about me and my spoiled eight years of art school. what happened this episode?

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Lots happened but none of the details matter! Not even the people matter, really. You’d have a very hard time remembering any of their names without constant name-blocks popping up on screen and, even then, they are just cogs in the process of making the show.

And making of Exodus Episode 4 was all this week was about. Things have fallen apart, new people are getting overwhelmed and the old-timers (and a 2.5-hour drive) save the day.

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Is Shirobako bad, then?

No. No, it’s pretty good. At least, it’s very well-constructed, visually appealing, and very coherent in so far as understanding who is doing what and what they are working towards. But…

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Oh my god! I don’t care!

Excluding the occasional dolls coming to life in the protagonist’s sleep-deprived mind, it’s a show about a bland magical girl show being made by a head-splitting number of characters. The subs can be massive and the details provide nothing interesting if you don’t want to learn how anime is made.

And I already know most of that!

8_ogkdrop_ogk

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Shirobako – 02

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Shirobako is a strange beast. It’s well-animated, well voiced and the plot and characters are moving on nicely. However, that plot is about a plucky young studio making a fictional anime, is deeply involved in the particulars of making anime in general, and features a cast so broad there is no way we will ever remember their names or come to know more than a sliver of them.

Oh yeah! Not only did it introduce new characters this week, but it sent a toss back to the opening of the first episode to remind us that the true story here is about the five girls who wanted to go into animation when they were in high school.

Ahhhh!

shirobako2_7Harry Potter is in the cast now…  for some reason.

This week, Exodus hits a few stumbling points. First, episode 3 and 4’s keyframe animator is sick and second, the wishy-washy director wants to redo a lot of work very very late in production.

Both of these challenges fall on the shoulders of our heroine, who’s name I can’t remember because she’s one of 40 characters zipping around all the time. Rather, she’s usually sitting down, but we are zipping from scene to scene.

Zooooom!

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Obviously, our heroine saves the day by finding a replacement keyframe lead and deftly directs the development conversation into better understanding the characters, and making those characters compelling enough for the crew to get on board with reanimating them.

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Then Exodus’ characters come alive right on top of the conference table. I have no idea if this was a literal scene or just an over the top manifestation of the crew’s communal vision.

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Because a show with a cast this large needed to introduce each voice actor for it’s own fictional anime. Rock’n!

Given how mundane yet technical Shirobako’s plot is turning out to be, not much is popping out for me to comment on. The show isn’t dull, per se, it’s just…unimportant? I mean, it’s hard to care about the world-building of an office that is debating world-building.

Yes! I went to art school for eight years, and Yes! I’ve done technical management and development in the creative industry for ten years, so Yes! I see this stuff all the time. But even I don’t find it very compelling storytelling.

…Yay?

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Cute jab at the industry and, basically, this week’s only “joke”…

I honestly don’t know what to make of this show. I’m not even sure I’m going to stop watching it — it’s very easy to watch and, while the characters may be played out if you have to work with people like them professionally, nothing is unbearable. But…

I mean what am I really watching? Why does this exist? It’s not especially compelling and the core characters are buried in extraneous other content. Crushed under it. Hrm…

8_ogk

Shirobako – 01

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Shirobako starts with a team of 5 high school girls who form an animation club to produce their own mini-feature for their school festival. However, the show quickly blasts through to their graduation and then beyond to director Miyamori Aoi’s first televised work.

Shirobako is claustrophobically packed with characters and details about producing an animated series. We get to know all the steps, people, and process along the way, strung together by Miyamori, who rushes to keep it all together.

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I found the characters easy to visually differentiate and, as only a few of them are important to the immediate challenges of the animation’s day to day, my complete inability to remember the 20+ characters and their jobs has not yet been a problem.

That said, I really have no idea who anyone is, except Miyamori. Even then, I had to watch episode one a second time just to see who she was earlier in high school.

She was the blond in charge who liked Donuts most of all!

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What’s the story? Shirobako presents the creation story of Exodus, a magical girl anime and first full season produced by a new studio. While operations run smoothly at first, an early mistake causes delays for episode 3, which sets a chain of delay-making dominoes tumbling and its up to Miyamori to drive people emotionally (and in her car) to pick up the pieces.

Miyamori also drives very quickly in some funky fun hot-hatch drift racing action!

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Emotional support role-play from your dolls: good sign!

It’s tight, colorful, believable and, given that one of the contractors passes out (or worse by the end) Shirobako is also emotionally poignant. There’s a price to the anime we watch and Shirobako makes a case that we should care about the people paying it.

That said…honestly I’m worried this she is a tad indulgent. I mean, This is an anime about a studio making an anime, by a studio making an anime. Like writers writing about writers…I feel it risks being preachy more than meta.

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However I may feel about the artistic validity of it’s concept, I did enjoy Shirobako. I’m just not sure I have it in me to review it this season.

8_ogk tbd_ogk