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SHIROBAKO Episode #04 Anime Review

5 min read

If the show’s title contains the word harem, perhaps you might not want to rehearse the lines in public.

What They Say:
Episode 4: “I Totally Messed Up”

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
This episode changes gears slightly from the “crisis of the week at Musani” model that the show has largely followed to this point. We get a variety of segments focusing on three different matters: a fairly major shifting of the spotlight to Sakaki Shizuka, the aspiring voice actress among the five friends from Kaminoyama High School; a further look into the home life and private side to Aoi; and yes, we can’t escape from it, the all-new crisis of the week at Musani. It’s almost as if Exodus is under some sort of curse.

Awaiting their turn in the torture chamber
Awaiting their turn in the torture chamber

Shizuka is auditioning is for a new TV anime I Think My Harem is Slowly Falling Apart, But I Might Just Be Imagining It (Not Final). Uh…yeah. It’s probably more frightening than anything else that that title is not entirely outlandish in the current anime market (and steers about as close as this show might dare to what could be a subtle jab at the current domination of otaku titles in the industry). We continue with the use of parodies of known quantities in the industry as one of the vocal hopefuls introduces herself as from “24 Produce” (57 away from the reality). We also have Rena Souma, a famous seiyuu, drop by for the audition (with a guest appearance by a very well known voice actress from the ever-17 brigade). The pressure is on for Shizuka. The production staff at the studio, on the other hand, just want to get through the process (in all fairness, they called in 120 actresses and are only about halfway through when Shizuka gets her chance). She doesn’t feel like it went too well, but the director appears to like her “unpolished style,” so there might be hope for her yet.

The rest of the episode is spent showing some of Aoi and Shizuka’s home lives as well as our first real re-introduction to the five girls who started this journey: Misa, Shizuka, Ema, Midori, and Aoi. Midori is the only one still in college as the others are all already working at the bottom rungs of the industry. They go out for an anime movie and a snack afterwards, during which the girls dissect the film the way audiences watching fictional takes on the industry imagine the insiders do.

After these enjoyable diversions into new territory, the only real problem arises when we find ourselves back at Musani. That’s because it means an unwelcome return to the never-ending crisis. Since we’ve already seen so much turmoil and drama created out of the childishness of Kinoshita the director and the disfunction of so many other staff members, it is getting a touch tiresome for there to be yet another Big Problem when Endou, one of the animation supervisors, threatens to quit his role for one of the episodes. Cue cliffhanger. The only thing lacking is some sort of dramatic musical cue to accompany it.

The old gang is back together
The old gang is back together

Overall, this was a somewhat more interesting outing as we have a look at another side of the industry, though again this is perhaps more informative for those who already have some knowledge of how the whole system works than for those who are just learning what is involved in animation production. While I was slightly surprised by the very high number of actresses (120; I felt the need to recheck that and yes, Nakayamata, one of the producers, clearly says “around 120”) called in to audition for what is going to be yet another crappy generic niche show (judging by its title), it was not in any way beyond belief. While we often see the same famous names involved in show after show, there is a very large number of those at work in the industry and also a very large number who are in training with talent agencies who are waiting for their breakthrough into the ranks.

The weakness, unfortunately, is when we get back to Musani. While I do not dislike Aoi and the cast of eccentrics at the studio, the focus on yet another dramatic screw up behind the scenes is getting just the littlest bit tiresome at this point. Of course things cannot just be smooth sailing since conflict and chaos are always at the root of drama and fiction (comedy too, for that matter). Yet they need to be somewhat more inventive with how they throw wrenches into the production machinery, since we’ve had a story based around “Staff Member X goes AWOL and screws everything up” already, which is apparently where things appear to be heading with Endou’s argument with the irresponsible production assistant Takanashi that ends the episode. Granted, they can always shift in a completely different direction in the actual episode. I hope they do.

In Summary:
If you ever though that voice acting is a glamorous and lucrative role within the anime industry, this episode will show you some of the hard slogging required to make it. Even experienced actors must audition along with the newest class of hopefuls just finishing their agency training. As Shizuka, the aspiring voice actress, tries out for a big role, we see some of this side. It’s the most interesting part of the episode. In addition, we finally see the five girls from Kaminoyama High School together again, all of them at the start of their dreams. It’s a welcome break from the crisis of the week formula the show has been riding from the start, but it appears we’re headed back there next episode.

Episode Grade: B+

Streamed by: Crunchyroll

Review Equipment:
Apple iMac with 4GB RAM, Mac OS 10.6 Snow Leopard

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