SHIROBAKO Spring Festival: The Event Fans Were Waiting For
posted on by Kim Morrissy
The main takeaway of the Musashi-Sakai x SHIROBAKO Spring Festival on April 28 is of course going to be the announcement of a brand-new SHIROBAKO film. The announcement must feel especially vindicating to the fans who have attended the various SHIROBAKO events since the series first aired four years ago. For years, there have been no major announcements at any of those events, likely because the core staff members have been busy with other projects. Even at the film announcement, the producers were quick to stress that the work on the film has only barely started - there isn't even a script yet. All of this gives the impression that the staff has seized upon the very first opportunity to make more SHIROBAKO.
This announcement only happened at the very end of the SHIROBAKO Spring Festival, so what else was going on? I'm not sure what I was expecting when I walked into an event for an anime about making anime. I should have had an inkling that the show's producers would take the main stage to talk about the making of SHIROBAKO - I just didn't think that they would do so for hours on end. Shoji Soma (P.A. Works producer of the movie, line producer of Shirobako TV), Kenji Horikawa (President of P.A. Works), Kohei Kawase (Warner Bros Producer), Takayuki Nagatani (Producer at Infinite) had an hour-and-a-half-long roundtable discussion from 1pm and had another hour-long discussion at 3:30pm before the movie announcement at roughly 4:30pm. All of this happened in the blistering heat, too, so all in all it was quite impressive.
The staff member walking around in the Roro mascot costume all day was arguably even more impressive, though.
I didn't stand around for all of the staff talks, but the main gist of it was about the role of producers and managing companies in making anime. Takayuki Nagatani said that a producer is someone who makes it possible for creators to do what they want to do. They have to sell a product that hasn't even been made to the companies that could fund it, which means that producers are usually just as passionate about the anime as the director. Managing companies are also important, too, because the average anime production is going to involve the cooperation of dozens of companies, and there needs to be people who can bring out the best in all of them. When you think of it that way, producers are the unsung heroes of anime production.
There was also another stage specifically for the voice actor talk events. These shows were held at the Nippon Veterinary and Life Science University campus, a short walk from the Musashi-Sakai station. Over the course of three shows, the voice actors Juri Kimura (who plays Aoi), Haruka Yoshimura (Ema), Haruka Chisuga (Shizuka), Asami Takano (Misa), Hitomi Owada (Midori) revisited their favorite scenes from SHIROBAKO. It was a strange experience walking into a university campus in order to watch a voice actor event, but there were many kind volunteers showing the way, so I never got lost.
It was evident that the event had been arranged with the sanction of Musashi-Sakai's government. The governor of Musashi-Sakai gave a quick talk at the closing ceremony, thanking everyone for coming. There was also a stamp rally to encourage everyone to walk around Musashi-Sakai. This stamp rally was actually quite difficult to complete because there was no map and the locations were not given to you - you had to find the real-life locations from the anime with only screenshots from the show as hints. The prize for completing the stamp rally was a clear file depicting the SHIROBAKO characters standing in front of the real-life Skip Dori in Musashi-Sakai.
You could get another clear file for donating blood at a blood bank van parked nearby!
And you could even get some badges for buying food at the food stalls run by local businesses. These were all incentives for fans to interact with the local community of Musashino, where the story of SHIROBAKO is set.
Some of the stalls at the event were weird, though, like this stall for the Japanese Self-Defense Force which they set up to recruit people. When I asked the managers of this stall about whether anime fans have an interest in the military, they admitted that anime fans aren't like that in general, and SHIROBAKO itself has no relation to the subject anyway, but they want to have a presence in areas with young people, and a lot of young people are anime fans. That's why we have this poster of the SHIROBAKO girls in military outfits.
Assuming Aoi Miyamori ever finds herself fed up with the anime industry, she'll have another career choice waiting for her.
The anime in-jokes brought a smile to my face. My favorite parts of the event were the opening and closing; the crowd brought along donuts (or some other donut-shaped objects) to raise into the air as the organizers cried, “Don-Don Donuts! Let's go nuts!”
This was a fairly low-key yet fun event. As work begins on the SHIROBAKO film in earnest, I expect to see more events of this type pop up - I look forward to them.