by Rose Bridges,
And now we're at the end. The final episode of Aerial Girls was delivered, the wrap party is over, and Shirobako ends with them. Or so it seems. There's always the possibility of more seasons, but for now, the adventures of Aoi and friends are complete. The show couldn't have ended on a better note. It's not the strongest episode of the show by far, but it's exactly what it needs to be as a conclusion.
As of last week, Aoi and her high school pals finally achieved something like their dream. They haven't made Seven Lucky Battle Gods yet, but they're all staff on the same anime. That reaches fruition this week, when the other four girls insist on working on Zuka's scene in Texas. Ema draws, Misha does the 3D work, Midori researches cows and of course, Aoi oversees it all. Anime is a process involving hundreds of people, as we see at the end of the episode. Yet for this particular slice of it, most of the work is from our five protagonists. Aria finds a reason for flying again as they all learn why they love anime.
The middle of the episode is all about delivering the tapes to their affiliates around Japan, and that's where this installment really shines. It gives attention to a part of Shirobako I neglected to mention before: the music. Shirobako has a fun, bouncy score that's always tuned expertly to the mood on-screen. Never has this been more evident than in the last two episodes, with its genre riffs. The tape-delivery starts out as an '80s training montage (with the appropriate kitschy music), then turns into a chase scene. The pulse-pounding jams don't slow down even as Aoi dozes off on the train. It's not just making planes and racing down cops (yes, really) that should get our blood pumping. Aoi can't fall asleep! And she can't get stuck in traffic! All of these are equally important to making sure people see the last episode when they should. It fits with Shirobako's theme of respecting every piece of the anime-making process. Anime is a collaborative effort and everybody matters.
The final minutes give Shirobako the best kind of ending we could hope for it. It ties everything together emotionally, with the girls musing on how they've now worked on an anime together and dreaming of their own ideas becoming reality. However, it's not so final that it could slam the door on a future season. That's important, since Shirobako is wildly popular in Japan and could very well get more. The ending dangles hints at future projects, with a joke about "that huge pirate manga" Two Piece and then a more earnest statement about a Kinoshita passion project. Either way, this ending works: it could end here, it could go on. Either way works.
Personally, after following the adventures of Aoi and pals for 24 episodes, I can't wait to see more from them. Shirobako started in familiar character territory, but has fleshed out its large cast impressively. Aoi isn't just a generic perky girl, but a truly strong leader. This episode showed how much her skills have developed in its early parts. She's an expert delegator, understanding of others' specific needs, even authoritative when she needs to be. That last trait wasn't always true, so it's a testament to how much she's grown over the course of the series. Her natural enthusiasm and kindness means she pumps people up, even when she's nervous about it (as in her toast at the wrap party). I'm eager to see Aoi and her friends play even bigger roles in Musani's next production. While all the girls have grown throughout the story, I'd like to see the other four get Aoi's depth of development. How does a role in Aerial Girls impact Zuka's career, and change her? Was Misa's financial sacrifice for more creative work a good choice in the end? What kind of writing opportunities does Midori get now that she's established at Musani? These are all potential directions for new seasons. And they're all ones I want to see.
Shirobako is the kind of show that lends itself well to whatever episode count the creators want. Fantasy/sci-fi adventures and teen romances usually have finite beginnings and endings. But workplace drama is never-ending. Even as employees and trends come and go, the anime industry churns on. There are always new stories about what goes into the making of viewers' favorite shows. Shirobako's presence brightens the anime world, so I hope this isn't the end. I'm glad it set itself up so that it doesn't have to be.
Shirobako is currently streaming on
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