The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials


Title: Shirobako
Genre: Drama
Companies: P.A. Works
Format: 24 episodes
Dates: 9 Oct 2014 – 26 Mar 2015

Synopsis: The Musashino Animation studio is in dire straights.  They are behind on the production schedule, the staff is overworked, the director is flaking out, and they have to take time to incorporate a bunch of newbies into the business.  Among the new arrivals is Miyamori Aoi who has just graduated college and has taken a tenuous position as a production assistant.  Though the job is tough, the hours are long and the pay is lousy, Aoi is so entranced with her love of anime that she doesn’t let the situation damper her cheerful attitude.

The Highlights
Story: A down-to-earth tales of the struggles of people in a small business
Characters: Strong cast of very cheerful individuals
Animation: Lively, vibrant and incredibly fitting

Shirobako is an anime about people making anime.  It’s an upbeat slice of life series following the trials and tribulations of various individuals who live the dream of being a creative professional.  This is a series aimed squarely at adults who understand the world of work.  This is not to say  younger people can’t enjoy it, but Shirobako hits on life experiences that you only truly appreciate when grinding away at a full time job.

Shirobako focuses on a small company that goes through a constant cycle of death and rebirth with every single anime it creates.  Employees constantly leave the company and new ones fill the ranks just as quickly.  Upward mobility is assured but at poverty wages with clearly visible limits.  The industry is portrayed as a life consuming and soul sucking commitment that is sustained by the childhood dreams of adults who refuse to say die.  Many movies or television shows would use this dour image as a means to push for reform, but this series endorses its characters’ cheerful and optimistic outlook, never letting the harsh realities cripple its cheerful gait.  The staff recognize their situation is bad, but keep their chins up and do their best.

This attitude is actually what makes Shirobako such a joy to watch.  Though the show can hit some raw nerves, it is never cynical about it.  As a piece of fiction, it’s not surprising the dice of life often rolls in the characters’ favor, but the little successes the characters undergo in each episode are genuine instances of personal growth. Though the show features a number of common archetypes, they never feel shallow or phony. These characters are given the right words in the right circumstances to really come across as human.

Though the the series does not take on the scope of a space soap opera like Gundam or a period epic like Rose of Versailles, it has the ambition and scale of such a series. The anime production studio in the show is staffed by the socially awkward, the dreamers, the geniuses, the flakes and the old men who have nowhere else to go.  It’s a wide canvas of personalities that mesh well to create a drama about a little office that makes anime.

Unless you care nothing about the industry, I wholeheartedly recommend this series.  Learning about anime production, including a few nods to popular anime, adds to an already fantastic series. The solid animation, effective music and, most importantly, the excellent script turns what could have been just another slice of life show into something unforgettable.

The Rating: 9

Reviewed by: Shadowmage

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