Everyone is chasing after their dreams, though some have more trouble than others in pursuing them.
What They Say:
Episode 8: “I’m Not Criticizing You or Anything”
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Showing a group of young people chasing their dreams is a situation that many anime have portrayed over the years, to the point where it probably qualifies as a cliched plot. Here we are presented with yet another take on the subject, as we look at the young people of the anime production world following their dreams. This episode, however, shows us that it is possible to present a thoughtful, if not particularly fresh, perspective.
While we hear of and discuss a series of different dreams (no one knew that Honda’s dream is actually to become a pastry chef), the three characters who get the most focus are three of the high school friends who started this show, Midori, Aoi, and Ema. The dream pursuit that presents the least challenge so far is Midori’s, but that’s because she is still in school and youthful idealism continues to flow through her. She wishes to write a story that will have an impact one day; for now, she is studying the works of others. The very opposite side of the scale, however, is shown in the life of Kaori Miyamori, Aoi’s older sister. Whatever dreams she may have seem completely unobtainable as she labors away in dull, grinding monotony. Coming to Tokyo and doing tourist things gives her great joy. While Midori can’t quite believe that things are so different in the “country” (the small town the girls originally come from), Kaori tells us things are very different: we are treated to a montage of scenes from her life as a credit union employee…which is exactly as “fascinating” as you might expect. Soul crushing and mind-numbing are the only words that can explain what Kaori’s work life is like.
The person who presents the most challenge to the dream question, though, is Aoi. For Aoi still does not know what her dream is (a situation so common in anime that it likely should be considered a trope by now). We hear about the dreams of others around the production desk, from Honda’s desire to bake cakes to Takanashi’s delusions about becoming a director (he is genuinely delusional if he thinks he can become a director without having any experience on the animating side of the business, working up the ranks first to become an animation supervisor and episode director before getting to oversee an entire production). Commonly, production assistants work their up to be line producers and producers, but Aoi does not seem to have any true goal of her own. She does have her own hallucinations, though, while thinking about it.
Aoi’s situation is not one her coworkers nor the writing staff of Shirobako can solve (while the latter could “solve” it, it feels most natural and believable to leave Aoi in her wavering state). Ema, on the other hand, continues to suffer from the slump caused by Segawa’s rejection of her key frames involving a cat. She really could use some help, but is too afraid/self-conscious/young and foolish to ask. Even when that is brought up directly to her, she cannot get over her mental barrier. So, how will she be able to overcome the obstacle that prevents her from being a top-level animator?
In another cliche, but well deployed here, Sugie the senior key animator first tries some gentle counseling, offering advice that would make a difference if only Ema would get out of her funk and listen. Failing that, he asks Iguchi to talk to Ema. Seeing Ema pedaling furiously but going nowhere, Iguchi steps in to give some friendly advice. Take a walk. Go outside and get some fresh air and much more importantly, perspective. It’s something that Ogasawara the chief character designer and she learned from Sugie back when they were younger and became stuck. She also provides some advice of her own: it’s okay to draw upon the work of others to help improve your own work. It appears that Musani was once a large and impressive animation studio. It may be long past its glory days now…but it has an archive of key frames from many series that were made there in the past, a resource Iguchi drew heavily on to improve her own craft when she was younger. Take advantage of it.
So, a fairly predictable in many ways episode focusing on dreams and goals, with the girls falling into standard archetypes. There were some differences here though, as normally such an episode does not include an example of a dead end, which is what Kaori Miyamori’s life looks to be at this point. That rather realistic note contrasts sharply with the usual optimism and naivete that infuse episodes of this sort. While the use of the helpful father figure (Sugie) to get the young Ema out of her funk is also pretty cliche, this episode does give us an example of good execution of a fairly standard theme. This episode was not particularly fresh, but it was thoughtful.
Everyone is trying to follow their dreams, though some have a harder road to travel than others. Ema is having a very difficult time trying to overcome being stuck on one particular assignment. Trying to work harder and putting more pressure on herself is not going to get her out of her rut. This is when her senior coworkers step in to offer advice and guidance. At least Ema has a goal, however. Aoi still doesn’t know what she wants to do in the long term.
Episode Grade: B+
Streamed by: Crunchyroll
Apple iMac with 4GB RAM, Mac OS 10.6 Snow Leopard