by Rose Bridges,
On a more holistic scale, this isn't the best episode of Shirobako. It was a little unfocused, zinging between different characters' stories and struggles, and the connections between them weren't always seamless. Still, when broken down to those individual moments: this is one of my personal favorite episodes of Shirobako. It constantly kept me on my toes, from fantasy sequences to odd-yet-well-timed jokes. To me, the best anime are not just those consistently good, but remain so while taking chances. A lot of what frustrated me about Shirobako when I first began it was how much it was playing, in spite of the uniqueness of its subject matter. It's proven me wrong and then some.
Still, I won't say there weren't moments this week that made me worry a little. After the scene with Mii animating wheels before the OP, we switched back to Aoi and the production team for a good chunk, and I was worried the episode would put all its focus there. The weakest episodes of Shirobako have been those about Aoi and her production pals, as she's easily the least interesting of our high-school-friend protagonists, and her struggles the most boilerplate. Luckily, that wasn't the case; it spends some good time there but eventually jumps elsewhere, exploring Mii and her job further, touching base again with Zuka, and spending most of its production time re-focusing on eccentric director Kinoshita.
One thing I really loved about this episode is how much Shirobako referenced and made fun of itself. For example, resident office butthead Taro has become a fanbase whipping boy for how frequently he angers his coworkers, and somehow isn't fired for it. This week acknowledges that, with another person remarking on how he was actually right about something for once. We also get rosy-pink fantasy sequences during the episode's two emotional high points. When Mii is drowning in despair over whether she'll ever make an anime with her friends, she, Zuka, and Midori collectively imagine the characters from their high school anime production flying off through the sky. Kinoshita also imagines Arupin from Exodus reaching out to him at the end of his manic speech about the new ending he wants. This is, of course, a callback to how Musashino Animation's production team envisioned Arupin and her friends standing over their table in episode 2. Shirobako has established enough of a pattern that it can comment on itself, both for humor and for more dramatic purposes. The hallucinatory moments are a mix of both: on the one hand, they jar so much with the show's strict slice-of-life tone that we can't help but giggle. At the same time, they also remind the viewers and characters that even in the darkest moments of your artistic career, your muses will always be there to tap you on the shoulder. You'll always have your creativity.
Speaking of that, let's talk about Mii and the issue of the work that gets your creative juices flowing vs. what you do to pay the bills. I didn't think the show was capable of getting any darker than it did with Ema's animation mess-up, and the anxiety she develops as a result. Where Mii starts this week may be just as sad, though. She's getting frustrated animating nothing but tires. When she talks to her coworkers, hoping maybe things will change as she moves up the ranks, she learns they all have their own car-related specialties that are all they've done for as long as they've worked there. They praise the job for paying them well and giving them good benefits, but while Mii acknowledges this is why she chose it, she can't help but feel like that's a hollow benefit if she never does anything interesting. This hits all too close to home for anyone in any artistic profession. Shirobako plumbs the darkness of Mii's frustration plenty, but also serves up a solution. When her company announces it acquired another car-related video game and Mii storms off in anger, one of her bosses approaches her outside. He tells her she'll likely continue to do car animation, because that is their company's specialty. However, he reminds her that nothing is stopping her from making the anime she wants to on the side. You can still make what you want after hours even if your "day job" isn't satisfying you. You don't have to choose between your dreams and eating.
I thought this tied in well with Kinoshita's struggles to re-establish his reputation. Mii is worried that her career will never get off the ground; Kinoshita and his coworkers worry his career will never re-rail itself after the epic failure of Jiggly Jiggly Heaven. It's shown this episode that other companies are still hesitant to work with Musashino over this. Yet, Exodus is already restoring some good will, and with the encouragement of friends who can reign in his worst instincts (his laziness in early episodes, his tendency to run away with weird ideas in this one), Kinoshita can rebuild his reputation and get work again. Friends pitching in was another theme of this episode, as Aoi's friends offer to help her with research for her job.
As a type of artist myself, I find Shirobako very therapeutic. Part of that is because it isn't afraid to tell the harsh truths of what it's like for its young artists, and how much work you have to put in to even have a shot at achieving your dreams. However, it doesn't just show problems, but also solutions. It reminds us that if we want it hard enough, nothing will keep us back. When it's presented as beautifully and uniquely as Shirobako does each week, it's hard to argue with that.
Shirobako is currently streaming on
discuss this in the forum (164 posts) |