Anime / Shirobako

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/shirobako_a_1389.jpg
Cute girls not always included; long hours guaranteed.

Don-don-donuts, let's go nuts!

Five high school friends — Aoi Miyamori, Ema Yasuhara, Shizuka Sakaki, Misa Todou and Midori Imai — vow to produce an animated series together. As the Animation Club of Kaminomiya High School, they worked together to create an animated short for the school festival. Soon enough the former three graduate, but all five vow to one day meet again and see their dream of creating an anime professionally fulfilled.

Fast forward to two-and-a-half years later: Aoi and Ema are now working as production assistant and key animator, respectively, at struggling Musashino Animation. Shizuka is a newbie voice actress, but still hasn't landed an anime role. Misa feels trapped in her well-paying but monotonous routine at a 3D graphics studio. Midori plans to be a writer, but is still in college. Day in and day out, they're exposed to the harsh realities of the industry they so loved, like long hours, production delays, and production staff at loggerheads with each other, never mind how this leaves little time for them to do what they want. Is it still possible for them to reach their high school goal of doing a series together?

A 24-episode (though it's been planned for 50 episodes originally, so it might get a second season later) Anime First production from P. A. Works directed by Tsutomu Mizushima (known for his work on Shinryaku! Ika Musume and Girls und Panzer), Shirobako (literally White Box, after the white box that finalized production VHSes are packaged in) takes a look at the workings of the Japanese animation industry, particularly on the studio side of things. It aired during the Fall 2014 Anime season.

Two OVAs were released for the series, both connected to the shows that the Musani staff animated, both bundled in as specials for the Blu-Ray release. The first OVA tackled an early episode of Exodus, a Musani-original series, while the final Blu-Ray included the first episode of Third Aerial Girls' Squad, the manga adaptation the studio worked on during the series' second half.

In a hilarious bit of Defictionalization, Takeshi Nogami released a complete volume of Third Aerial Girls' Squad for the 2015 Summer Comiket, published as it would have appeared entirely in-universe, complete with an advertisement of mousepad for Sailor Suits and F3s.

If you are interested in understanding more about Japanese anime and manga related fields, we recommend Sore ga Seiyuu! for voice acting, Bakuman。 for manga production, and Gi(a)rlish Numbers for a more cynical spin on anime production.


Examples of the following tropes have been rejected by the author. Funny story...:

    open/close all folders 

    Tropes Present In The Main Series 
  • Adaptation Decay: In-Universe, this is what happened to the adaptation of Sailor Suits and F3s, an earlier work of Takezou Nogame (author of Third Aerial Girls' Squad, which MusAni adapted in the second half of this series). The otherwise fairly serious sports manga was retooled into a Gag Series, with its battle-hardened Action Girl protagonist being turned into a vapid moeblob. The ratings were so poor Nogame's reputation declined (even though he had no say in the way it turned out) and working on it was a big step in production assistant Daisuke Hiraoka, himself a fan of the original manga, turning into a burnt-out cynic by the time he was hired by MusAni.
  • Adult Fear: Computer artists replacing traditional cell animators is really stressful to the traditionalists, especially to Ryousuke.
    • Each of the five protagonists undergoes their own.
      • Aoi: Suddenly having massive responsibility thrust upon them.
      • Ema: Poor work putting her professional reputation at risk.
      • Misa: Being stuck in a career path with no chance for growth or learning.
      • Shizuka: Constantly struggling to find work in her preferred field.
      • Midori: Being unable to find a professional calling at all.
  • Bland-Name Product: Or, specifically, companies. Check their Shout Out page.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Aoi (honey-blonde), Ema (brunette) and Shizuka (redhead).
  • Book Ends: The series begins with the five girls putting together their animated short for the school festival, Shinbutsu Konkou: The Seven Lucky Battle Gods. At the end of Episode 24 they renew their vow to one day remake it for commercial release, and imagines seeing the characters in their short sail past by them from their flying boat.
  • Boss Subtitles: Because of its large cast, this is compulsory for everyone, even for Aoi.
  • Career Resurrection: In-Universe, Exodus! helped MusAni repair some of the damage dealt to its reputation by the disaster that was Jiggly Jiggly Heaven.
  • Cast Herd: There's too many people to cover for this show, therefore each episode would focus on a selected group of cast depending on the progress of their project.
  • Comically Missing the Point: The voice actress preferences raised by some members of the production committee for Third Aerial Girls' Squad in Episode 14 accounts to this:
    • A game developer representative wants a famous actress despite her voice not fitting her character at all.
    • A record company representative wants someone who can sing, even if that means an In-Universe case of Dawson Casting (i.e., a 60-year-old lady playing a 17-year-old girl).
    • An event organizer representative believes that Sex Sells, so his choice is a big-breasted ex-model who completely bombed her audition.
  • Conspicuous CG: The cars are rendered in this method (see the Shout-Out entry below).
    • The idea of CGI in otherwise 2D anime was also used as part of the conflict for a few episodes, and is shown on computer monitors in varying unfinished states.
    • The Zoo Park Story sequence in episode 10 is also done up in a different style. Though unlike most of the show's examples, it's a self contained sequence.
    • Also appears in the two one-off episodes as a result. Again, mostly used for vehicle animation.
  • Cool Bike: Nabe-Pi's old-school Ural with all bells and whistles, which also served as a model for the Alpine's bike in the Exodus.
  • Cool Car: Again Nabe-P and his classic Volvo, Okitsu's Alfa-Romeo in the finale.
  • Costume Porn: Somewhat understated and not in-your-face, but if you pay attention, it's easy to notice the amount of work that went into the character's outfits. This is, however, treated quite realistically: while the more fashion-minded almost qualify as the Unlimited Wardrobe — Aoi alone has no less than six or seven outfits that are rotated and combined throughout the series — the other barely change the T-shirts. Katsuragi, for example, is almost characterized by his pin-striped dress shirt and suede jacket.
  • Creator Career Self-Deprecation: The series runs on this, as it's pretty obvious that much of the production staff's (particularly Mizushima's) real-world experiences go into each episode. Even the high-profile voice actors cast for this series are tasked with the heaviest lines that shed light on the dark side of their glamor, which can be seen especially clear within the Third Aerial Girls' Squad Casting Committee.
    Nabe-P: "A voice actor's top priority is his acting (, not singing)."
    Yarase (in response to Nabe-P): "This is why the anime business is shrinking, we're not in the Showa Era anymore."
    Director Kinoshita: "You know, my ears get all confused after listening to more than 13 people (who auditioned)." note 
  • Creator Killer: In-Universe, Jiggly Jiggly Heaven ran MusAni's reputation to the ground and ruined the once-promising career of its director, Seiichi Kinoshita. Viewers hated it, and publishers became skeptical of their ability to make faithful adaptations, at least until they redeemed themselves with the studio's first original anime in six years, Exodus!.
  • Creator Recovery: In-Universe, at the start of the series Seiichi Kinoshita is still having nightmares about Jiggly Jiggly Heaven, but after the success of Exodus! restores his reputation and self-confidence he performs far better as director. He even completes the storyboards for Third Aerial Girls' Squad ahead of schedule, much to everyone's amazement.
  • The Ditz
    • This is a plot point in Episode 2, as Kinoshita and the rest of the production were arguing about exactly how ditzy Exodus!'s Alpine should be.
    • Among the characters, Tarou, the MusAni head PA, and Chazawa, a Yotaka Bookshop editor, have clearly graduated from here straight into The Load category, especially the latter.
  • Drives Like Crazy:
    • Aoi and Tomigaya make a habit of racing to get the same parking spot, doing terrifying jumps that shouldn't be possible and drifting around corners — in the cheap ultracompacts, mind you. One shot to the speedometer shows "50 km/hr", however, so this may be an exaggerated glimpse into their imaginations.
    • In episode 16 even Nabe-P does this, driving his old Volvo with Katsuragi to find Chazawa.
    • Satou in episode 17, after she ended up in Ogawa, a good 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Musashino, because she has No Sense of Direction and missed her ramp on a highway — all the while everyone were awaiting her and the keyframes she went to deliver.
    • Okitsu in episode 24 does this while delivering the final episode of Third Aerial Girls' Squad to the broadcaster. It's hinted in that episode that she's had a prior history with the police because of her driving, earning the nickname "Speed Limit Goddess" by them.
  • Easter Egg: Musashino Animation's supposedly fictional phone line does work in real life! If you dial their Japanese number throughout it's airing season, that phone will connect to an answering machine with Aoi's voice actress, Juri Kimura enacting as Aoi as if Aoi's answering your phone call on behalf of the company and then start to go berserk, shelling out all of her inside gossips or stress on you with whatever was going on with her during that week's episode in under 50 seconds. Some fans managed to catch some of them in time.
  • Epic Fail: Jiggly Jiggly Heaven, MusAni's previous work before Exodus!, bombed so hard Kinoshita and Yamada were psychologically scarred for life. The anime was plagued with three Whole Episode Flashbacks (for a 12-Episode Anime, even), one of which was a flashback of a flashback, loads of Gainaxing which never sat well with Moral Guardians and Media Watchdogs, and grating examples of Off Model which alienated otakus everywhere.
  • Evolving Credits: The ending of Episode 12 has a subtle one, where the bear doll finally succeeded in giving the other doll a love letter.
  • Executive Meddling: In-Universe, Yotaka Bookshop ends up being this in regards to MusAni's adaptation of Third Aerial Girls' Squad. The demands of the author, Takezou Nogame, are even described as "God's Words." The editor, Chazawa, would frequently wait to the last minute to drop editorial mandates note , causing production to halt to a complete stop.
  • Fallen Creator: In-Universe, MusAni's in-house director, Seiichi Kinoshita, was an up-and-coming talent, having won a major award for his first directorial work, The Naked Hypnotist. Then he announced during his acceptance speech for said award that his next project is an original, Jiggly Jiggly Heaven. By the time Shirobako started, Kinoshita is now seen as a has-been almost nobody expects good work from due to his previous project's Troubled Production, and MusAni a production house on the verge of collapse.
  • Fanservice: Aside from the characters' Generic Cuteness and a bit of Costume Porn, completely averted in the main series. They make up for it in the official art.
  • Foreshadowing: Kinoshita often says that his goal for Third Aerial Girls' Squad is to produce a "win-win" project that will make everyone happy. Then in Episode 23 he goes to talk with the author, Takezou Nogame, trying to find a compromise that will give the anime a proper ending while staying faithful to the source material. The conversation not only results in Kinoshita getting the permission to make a much happier ending than Nogame originally demanded, but it also helps the latter decide how he wants to proceed with his manga. This conversation even results in Shizuka Sakaki getting her first significant anime role. This was foreshadowed back in episode 14, where she was the director's second choice for Cathy; she ends up voicing Cathy's younger sister, a new character created for the compromise ending. "Win-Win" all around.
  • Generic Cuteness: Completely incidental to the show's Work Com plot, but all characters in the series are uniformly gorgeous. Even the elderly ones, like Marukawa and Sugie spouses are pretty easy on the eyes. The only possible exceptions are the Joke Characters like Tarou and Tomigaya, but even they are Hollywood Homely at worst.
  • Gilligan Cut: Episode 1 starts with a flashback to the five girls vowing to work together one day as professionals by holding their donuts in the air, ending with a shot of Aoi's donut. The scene then abruptly cuts into the steering wheel of her car as she frantically waits out the traffic light in order to check on Misato Segawa and her work for Exodus! Episode 4.
  • Hate Sink: For the first half of the series, Taro screws everything up and doesn't even try to be remotely useful, and a good chunk of the early problems in the series are his fault. However, he improves in the second half, when Chazawa manages to prove worse in every way possible, and with even less redeeming value.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: A lot of staff members has this, which was resulted from various stages of Reality Ensues. Hence, most of the character arcs come from this, and can become easy PTSDs depending on the person:
    • Honda's practically Once an Episode cry of "We're out of options!", at various levels of despair.
    • Yamada's first stint as episode director was Episode 9 of Jiggly Jiggly Heaven. Said episode was was so full of Off Model, that the episode achieved an In-Universe Memetic Mutation, and he has refused to check online feedback regarding his works ever since.
    • In Episode 5, it was implied by Honda that the reason Kinoshita is slacking off was due to the poor ratings of Jiggly Jiggly Heaven, which dashed his passion.
    • As Aoi founds out firsthand, the animation industry isn't pretty, and production schedules can be held back if one person in the chain screws up. Taro's bungle in Episode 1 note , for example, disrupts weeks' worth of pre-planning.
    • Ema has one in Episode 7, when it turns out that she cannot easily balance her efforts between speed and quality yet, and has to do retakes for the full four cuts that she rushed the previous day, severely hurting her self-confidence.
    • Episode 15's finale was one for the producers, after Katsuragi and Nabe-P learn that Takezou Nogame, author of their current project Third Aerial Girls' Squad, didn't like the character designs af all, and ordered to redo them — after the first episode already progressed well into key animation stage. The blame for this lies with Shinsuke Chazawa, Nogame's liaison and probably the worst man on the job after Monthly Girls Nozakikun's Maeno, who airheadedly reassured MusAni that everything is OK without even consulting Nogame in the first place.
    • The first half of Episode 22 explores at length a past one of Hiraoka, who was hit by the dark side of the industry, so much so by the time he was introduced he is but a burnt-out shell of his past self.
    • The second half of Episode 22 has another one for Katsuragi, which mirrors the character design crisis in Episode 15, only this time Nogame the author didn't like the script, with Chazawa to blame again. This is resolved when Kinoshita defies Chazawa and arranges a meeting with Nogame himself, who turns out to be a pretty nice guy who agrees on a compromise ending for the series and later has Chazawa sacked for his incompetence.
  • Imagine Spot: Aoi has an active imagination, and frequently imagines her two favorite dolls talking to her, offering advice or giving voice to her fears. Occasionally the two will also act out little skits to illustrate Aoi's state of mind.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Aside from the newbies like Shizuka, the more popular voice actresses are practically copycats of their actual voice actresses, some of which are even Bland-Named.
  • It Was with You All Along: Episodes 11-12 revolve around Aoi's desperate search for someone to animate a herd of horses for the Exodus finale. Her meeting with Kanno revealed that Sugie, one of their senior members, was a master at animating animals, including her childhood favorite Andes Chucky.
  • The Load: A number of characters' less than stellar performances have endangered the studio more than once.
    • Tarou Takanashi is an airhead who always forgets things and has the sensitivity of a sleepwalking hippopotamus, though at least he can be trusted to get the basics right with regular supervision. In spite of his shortcomings, he is cheery, enthusiastic and readily available to lend a hand at the mere mention of his name.
    • Shunsuke Chazawa, the editor assigned by the 3rd Aerial Girls Squad's publishing house to oversee the adaptation, is even worse, so much so he makes Tarou look like a workhorse. He's a Lazy Bum who barely shows at meetings and discussions, consistently fails to connect the studio with the author despite this being his main job (leading to a pair of crises in Episodes 16 and 22-23), and always runs off to have fun in the middle of work.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: The first episode alone introduces more than twenty characters in a single go. It's bad enough that, in the first 6 episodes, whenever someone connected to a production is on-screen, their names and positions are always included.
  • Long Title:
    • Episode 4 involved Shizuka attending an audition for My Harem Might be Falling Apart, but I Guess I'm Just Imagining Things.
    • MusAni's second major title, Third Aerial Girls' Squad, is also quite a mouthful, which is why even in its original form (it's an adaptation of a hit manga series) it was shorthanded into "SanJo"/「三女」, an abbreviated form of its Japanese name, as it can be seen written in Kanji on a titular shirobako in a new opening.
  • Memetic Mutation: In-Universe, Yamada mentioned that his first stint as an episode director for anime was Jiggly Jiggly Heaven Episode 9. It was so full of Off Model the episode became famous for all the wrong reasons, and the Internet Backdraft burnt him so hard he lost the guts to read online feedback regarding his work ever since.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: To be precisely, "Most Japanese Animation Industrial Workers Are Japanese Animation Industrial Workers." This show is obviously talking about anime production from the eyes of the anime staff.
  • Nerd Glasses: Realistically speaking, a decent amount of people working in this industry wear glasses. It's a lot easier to count the cast members that actually don't wear them than the ones that do.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Or "No Known Anime Production Staffs Were Harmed."
  • Not So Different: Shimoyanagi and Endou might be rivals, but they are actually pretty similar to each other and have the same interests, bonding over the Idepon Exhibit in Episode 6 — it was a show that motivated both of them to take up animation, in fact. By the end of their argument arc they even asked each other to be taught with their respective disciplines.
  • Off Model: Episode 7 provides an in-series example in the form of the "legendary" Episode 9 of Jiggly Jiggly Heaven. Cut through Yamada's flashback in full Nico Nico Douga style. And good grief was it truly famous for all the wrong reasons! No wonder Yamada and Kinoshita constantly goes BSOD whenever they hear it..
  • Poor Communication Kills: In episode 5, huge schism grows between the 2D and 3D department due to Tarou doing a really bad job relaying messages about who would do an important cut. 3D's opinion that them doing it would give 2D time for other cuts is relayed as 3D being much faster than 2D. 2D's response that doing it by hand leads to more expression is relayed as 3D being crappy and not as good as 2D.
  • Prequel: The manga spinoff, Shirobako: Kaminoyama High School Animation Club, which, as its title implies, details Aoi, Ema, Shizuka, Misa and Midori's high school days.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Endou and Shimoyanagi.
  • Roman Clef: Nearly every character is a thinly-disguised version of a well-known personality within the anime industry. The inspiration for Chazawa real-life editor for Nogame's counterpart even threw a fit on Twitter...in response to his assigned author, who perhaps took advantage of this scenario.
    Takeshi Nogami: "I wanna kill that Editor."
  • School Club Story: The manga prequel, serialized at the same time the anime airs. It's mainly about the time when the girls were still in high school.
  • Schoolgirl Series: The manga prequel.
  • Sequel Hook: Watanabe and Katsuragi announce that MusAni will now have to work on two projects at once; also, now that they finally made a professional work together, Aoi, Ema, Shizuka, Misa and Midori renew their vow to one day remake their animated short from their high-school days.
  • Serkis Folk: Shown during the opening theme.
    • Though oddly enough, no motion capture occurs in the actual series.
  • Shameless Self-Promoter: Turns out to be painstakingly funny, especially when a character gives flattering comments about "Voice Actors".
    Tarou: "Oh Boy~ Voice Actors sure are AWESOME!"
  • Shout-Out: Now has its own page.
  • Show Within a Show: Given the nature of the show, this will naturally abound.
    • Exodus! is the project for the first cour, a 13-episode anime which has its first full episode OVA release tied into Shirobako's DVD/Blu-ray Volume 3 limited edition.
    • Third Aerial Girls' Squad, the A-list project for the second cour and the adaptation of the popular manga by Takezou Nogame.
    • Andes Chucky, Aoi's favorite anime that was produced in The '70s, among whose artists was none other than current key animator Shigeru Sugie, and had a great deal of input by his then production manager, current Musashino Animation president Masato Murakawa, who was personally responsible for the very tone of Aoi's favorite episode.
    • Jiggly Jiggly Heaven, the infamously fanservice-overdosed anime which drove MusAni's reputation to the ground and ruined Kinoshita's once-promising career six years ago.
    • Sailor Suits and F3s, a previous work by Nogame, which suffered an In-Universe Adaptation Decay, the backdraft of which slightly ruined Nogame's reputation and served as a further catalyst for Hiraoka's bitterness.
    • Shinbutsu Koukou: The Seven Lucky Battle Gods, Aoi, Ema, Shizuka, Misa and Midori's animated short during their high-school days. At the end of the series they vow to one day remake it.
  • Sitcom Archnemesis:
  • Sleeper Hit: In-Universe, this is how Exodus! was described, in the process helping Musashino Animation regain its reputation dashed by the infamous Jiggly Jiggly Heaven. In Real Life the show itself is this for P. A. Works, being their first A-list hit after a series of lackluster performances.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Tarou, who somehow thinks he's the greatest thing to happen to Musashino. That he manages to avoid being a Know-Nothing Know-It-All (as he practically brags about how incompetent he is) while pulling off this trope says much about his character. Word of God also has it that Tarou is essentially series director Tsutomu Mizushima's projection of his younger self, when he was incredibly arrogant and self-important but had little to back it up with.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The series begins with an intense car chase between Aoi and Tomigaya to see who gets first to Misato... all the while Aoi sings along to the cheerful opening theme of Exodus! over her stereo.
  • Stock Footage: The whole "first episode broadcast party night" scene at MusAni note , even some staff members' spoken lines are completely the same. This is basically P.A.Works' sarcastic way of saying "Here We Go Again".
  • Theme Naming: P. A. Works somehow loves the name "Musashi," based on the legendary samurai Miyamoto Musashi, and can be seen littered around on anything in the Shirobako universe ranging from company names, people's names, and random brand names.
    • Musashino Animation
    • Takezou Nogame's first name is written with the same kanji as "Musashi," which was leaked as a Freeze-Frame Bonus prior to his introduction, But was confirmed with a different reading upon his formal introduction.
    • The Exodus! universe has an amusement park named "Musashino". There is an amusement park in Musashino in Real Life, but as it is in the middle of a large Inokashira park that straddles the border between the Musashino's neighborhood of Kichijouji and the adjacent Shimorenjaku, most of it is technically in Mitaka, a neighboring suburb.
    • Musashi was an ancient name of the province where Edo was located, so it naturally survives in a lot of names in the Tokyo area, especially to the west of the city, including the suburb of Musashino ("The Fields of Musashi") itself. Miyamoto Musashi also took his name from the province of his birth, his original name being Shinmen Takezo.
  • Those Two Guys:
    • The editors, Yamada and Madoka, are frequently used like a compound character which is a foil and the Only Sane Man to the childish Kinoshita.
    • Watanabe and Katsuragi, the producers, also regularly work as a unit.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: Quite realistically varied: some characters are almost never seen in the same clothes, or at least regularly mix-and-match their available options. Others, OTOH, are characterized by their Iconic Outfits.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: This anime literally dumps Loads and Loads of Characters filled with professional terminology Boss Subtitles towards us right from the first episode, with no further explanations. note  As if they assumed their target audience knows everything about the business already.
  • Writer's Block Montage: A couple for Kinoshita, though in his case it's the storyboard sheets and pencils that suffer rather than typewriter. In fact, it was Exodus scriptwriter, Maitake who pulled Kinoshita out of his blockage by clever managing their script brainstorming session. Inverted when work begins on 3rd Aerial Girls Squad - apparently, the process of working on Exodus invigorated Kinoshita, and he manages to finish the storyboards ahead of schedule, as also shown in montage.
  • Work Com: More on the work side than comedy, however.

    Tropes Present in the Exodus OVA 
  • Art-Style Dissonance: The three main characters have cutesy designs that make them look as though they've stepped out of kid-oriented idol franchises like Aikatsu! or Lilpri, which contrasts with the murder mystery plot of the anime (as well as all the Fanservice the girls provide).
  • Color-Coded Characters: The three main characters; Akane is red, Aya is blue, and Alpine is yellow.
  • Idol Singer: The three main characters are this, making up the idol group Tracy.
  • Older Than They Look: Alpine's publicized age is 17, but she's actually 29. Aside from having a noticeably bigger chest, she doesn't look that much older than the other two idols.
  • Really 17 Years Old: Inverted; Alpine is 29 years old, but her age is publicized as 17.

    Tropes Present in the 3rd Aerial Girls Squad OVA 
  • Ace Pilot: all the girls are incredible Aces, taking their outdated late-60s aircraft up against F-22s and F-35s, and winning.
  • Alternate Character Reading: Aria's surname is read Hitotose ("one-year") yet written with kanji that means "Spring-summer-autumn-winter."
  • Everything Is Big in Texas: Cathy plays just about every Texas stereotype perfectly straight. Outlandish cowboy outfit? Check. Grew up on a ranch? Check. Always talking about cattle? Check.
  • Multinational Team: The five main girls hail from Japan (Aria), the United States (Cathy), Sweden (Christine), Israel (Noa) and Russia (Tatiana).
  • Rei Ayanami Expy: Aria, at the beginning. Stoic, emotionless girl with a short bob haircut? Yep! She turns more into a Defrosting Ice Queen over the series.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Anime/Shirobako