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The story is about five girls who, while in the same high school animation club, promise to one day make an anime of their own together. Years after their graduation, they begin their careers in the animation industry, only to come face to face with the harsh realities of working to make anime. It's a realistic take on the industry that doesn't shy away from showing its less glamorous side, but also showing how many people put their hearts and souls into making anime.
The treatment of the anime industry is, as far as I can tell, largely realistic, since it effectively portrays how much hard work goes into making anime. Many technical terms are thrown around, although some of them are explained for the viewers' benefit, and there are some sequences that help provide exposition on making anime. The protagonists' company, Musashino Animation, is shown to be a relatively good place to work, even if the two anime that it works on aren't necessarily masterpieces.
The cast of characters is fairly colorful, but its size can occasionally prove to be a shortcoming. In the early episodes, it's so hard to keep track of the 20+ characters introduced in the first episode that the show had to use Boss Subtitles on each character (a bit like My Hero Academia, but that series was better about gradually introducing characters and giving each a distinctive design). Later on, you may notice that most characters only become relevant for a short period of time, if at all (again, a problem that MHA also had).
On a more positive note, what the characters lack in screentime they make up for characterization. Most of them have likeable personalities, with believable reasons for their actions and some have interesting quirks. While it can be frustrating that a handful of characters are responsible for most of the problems that come up, all but one of those characters end up becoming somewhat more sympathetic by the end.
As of this writing, there's a single 2-cour season that has two story arcs, each of which focuses on the production of an anime- one original and one adaptation. Personally, I found the second half more enjoyable, in large part because some of the characters had become more likeable. Without spoiling too much, the ending ends on a relatively open-ended note, with the main characters having come a long way, but still far from realizing their dreams, leaving open the possibility of another season.
If you enjoy learning more about the anime industry, want to see a story about characters working hard at their dreams, or want to see a series with a relatively novel premise, Shirobako is right for you.
I've never really had dreams. Sure, as a kid I thought I was going to be a great comic book artist but those dreams faded soon enough. Since then I became like Peter in Office Space. What do I want to do when I grow up? Never had an answer. In college I arbitrarily picked a major related to computers. Out of a sheer lack of any other kind of external validation, I gave it my all and got a 4.0 even though I mostly hated the whole experience. Had an internship and hated it. The internship led to a job right out of college and I've been there since the start of this year, about eight months ago.
It's been the most miserable period of my life. I constantly feel like I'm not doing well enough I'm too far away from home. I never feel like I'm really contributing. On top of all of this, I just flat-out don't care about this field at all.
This show spoke to me right where I was, dead on. Aoi Miyamori knows she wants to make anime but doesn't know what she wants to do more specifically than that. The girl who's into 3D animation loves it but gets sick of working at a big company that does nothing but animate cars. The girl who's an artist wants to do it but fears that initial failures will preclude future advancement.
I love the director character. He's passionate about what he does but has fallen from glory after a big failure and often doesn't know precisely what he wants the shows to be. But as they talk things through he re-discovers what he wants for the show and perseveres through the doubt and despair.
I love so many little things about the show. I love how, whenever they're getting into the work, their characters materialize beside them as if their dreams are becoming real. I love Aoi's good angel, bad angel toys that give voice to her inner turmoil.
As I write it's Sunday. Tomorrow I go back to my job. Watching this show...might just make it difficult for me to go back to work. Or maybe not. Maybe this show gives me hope that even if you're struggling now you can persevere and figure things out as you go. I identify a lot with Aoi, but there's a difference. I don't even know what I want to get involved in at all.
Shirobako about the relationship between dreams and reality. It's about continual re-discovery of what you really want. It's about sticking with it because you never know how what you're doing will aid you in the future. It's about figuring things out as you go. It's a great show if you're interested in the production of animation, but the story is applicable to anyone's search for "your thing."
This show deserves a long, analytical piece breaking it down in detail but for now all I can do is vent my epic mixture of sadness but also joy that art like this show is made and can speak to people like me.
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