Something that often feels so far from our screens is the world of production – the lives of the animators, sound technicians, producers and other staff. It’s easy to forget that they are all real people too – Shirobako serves as a great reminder for this.
Shirobako follows the lives of 5 girls who enjoyed making anime so much as part of their high school club activities, that they decide to become a part of the industry in the hope of one day working together to professionally recreate the anime they made in the past.
Most of our time is spent following Aoi Miyamori, a production assistant at Musashino Animation as they go about producing two entire animes over the course of the series. Many struggles are encountered along the way, ranging from technical mishaps to personal problem with herself and the other staff members.
Although the story is fairly simple, it gives an interesting and fairly realistic view into what goes on behind the scenes of anime. At the end of the day there’s really not much to talk about, the most memorable part of the series being the abundance of hilarious references to other animes and studios (my favourite of which is “Two Piece”). Story is a 7/10.
This is both the strongest and weakest part of the anime. On the down side, the main characters frankly just suck, they are so ridiculously cookie cutter that I cringed at points. The two dolls that Miyamori occasionally pretends are real (and act as the good/bad sides of her conscience) also annoyed the hell out me, and felt quite jarring as they talked over scenes I was quite interested in. There is also the fact that the main character’s design was almost identical to one in something I had watched earlier in the year. Whether this is intentional or not, it still irritated me.
On the other side of the spectrum to this, every other character is great. We are introduced very early on to an incredibly large cast of the various people working in the anime industry. They were all a joy to watch as their personality and motives were so diverse. The anime constantly has the name of characters as well as their jobs pop up on screen which I personally found very helpful, since there were so many that I struggled to remember them.
It’s also worth noting that the director of Musashino Animation is partially based off of an actual director – Seiji Mizushima.
As much as I’d like to applaud the great side cast and give a lot higher score, unfortunately, main characters are quite important, leaving characters at an average 5/10.
I already briefly went over the character designs, and there isn’t much else to say about it besides that they did a good job making characters look different from eachother (as the cast was massive). There were some quality fluid animations of the characters when they were… well… animating.
Other than what I’ve said so far, nothing really stood out for me animation wise – no stunning scenery or backgrounds, yet none of it was bad. Animation gets 5.9/10.
The background OST of this anime was another thing that I found quite unremarkable yet not bad so there isn’t much to talk about on that front and the same goes for the first opening. The second opening however, I disliked extremely. After listening to it a few times I just found it irritating for a reason I’ve never found before – it was so poorly mastered. I’m not sure if that was the actual product that the writers wanted for the song or they just didn’t have time, but the music sounded so badly mastered that I couldn’t help but cringe at it within the first few seconds. Maybe I’m being too harsh but I really did hate this one.
To end sound on a high note, both the ending songs were fairly catchy and I enjoyed the animation in the second one as it slightly changed: The process of animating the main characters was shown, one per episode. Sound ends up with a fairly poor 3.8/10.
Although at times I got irritated with the series, I never felt disinterested or inclined to drop it. Despite my dislike for the main characters, I still wanted to see them all succeed as I felt a deep respect for the real life animators that produce the content that millions view and enjoy everyday. The ending was ultimately satisfying and left a smile on my face. Enjoyment is 7/10.
Shirobako definitely isn’t a series for everyone as there were a lot of small problems that added up to become quite irritating at times. However, if you don’t set your expectations too high and don’t want a deep, you will be rewarding with a bit of fun and an interesting insight into the world of anime production. I’m giving Shirobako an overall score of 5.74/10.