Shirobako is a 24-episode anime series produced by P.A. Works and directed by Tsutomu Mizushima. Effectively, it is an anime series about making anime.
The plot of Shirobako follows five girls and best friends, Aoi Miyamori, Ema Yasuhara, Shizuka Sakaki, Misa Toudou, and Midori Imai. After working together in a high school animation club, they all entered the anime industry in order to pursue their dreams of creating an anime series together.
The focus of the series is on those five girls as they cope with the daily hardships and troubles in their respective jobs. Aoi serves as the protagonist, and the anime focuses on the work of the animation studio Musashino Animation.
Shirobako has a huge cast. Whenever someone is introduced, they will often have a subtitle stating their name and role. Expect to see that a lot, constantly throughout the entire series. Some characters may prove to me more memorable than others, and not always for particularly good reasons (Tarou Takashi, for example… though he gets slightly better later on).
Still, everyone has a set role to play within the creation of the anime series Musashino Animation produces, so it isn’t like there are characters who just exist for the sake of it.
It is also interesting to see what exactly it is that goes into making an anime – storyboards, key frames, CG and whole lot more besides.
The theme of dreams vs. reality comes up in Shirobako. Sure, Aoi and her friends were able to create their own anime together in high school club, but they all quickly come to learn that a lot of hard work is required to achieve their goal.
This is arguably best exemplified with aspiring voice actress Shizuka Sakaki, who spends the majority of the series trying to pass auditions.
Another point of interest is the way in which creating anime has changed. There is a conflict between 3D and 2D animation, and one of Musashino’s older members considers himself a relic.
However, often these older members are on hand to provide advice to their younger colleagues, often helping them out of a bind or encouraging them to keep at it.
Even with the characters constantly busy, Shirobako manages to have plenty of comedic moments too. These are often thanks to the director, Seiichi Kinoshita. Some extreme measures are put in place to ensure he gets his job done in the first half of the series. Towards the end, he gets a brilliant sequence which involves a few Street Fighter references.
There are also fantasy sequences featuring Aoi’s toys Mimuji and Roro – a doll and a teddy bear, respectively. Generally, their purpose is to explain the ins and outs of the animation industry, by directly addressing the audience.
The conclusion of the anime is a joy to behold, though saying any more would spoil things. Definitely well worth watching.
Shirobako demonstrates just how much work goes into producing anime, making it an interesting watch throughout. The way in which it covers dreams vs. reality and old vs. new makes for some compelling viewing, with plenty of comedic moments mixed in.