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SHIROBAKO Episode #09 Anime Review

4 min read

We are back for another look behind the scenes of animation production. Well, as much production as can happen when the ending might never happen.

What They Say:
Episode 9: “What Do You Think I Was Trying to Say?”

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
So, moving ahead with a non-temporarily-banned episode, we get an update on the production of Exodus, which seems to be going ahead well…except for the part where the Director has still not completed the storyboards for the second half of the final episode. This all falls heavily on Aoi’s shoulders since she’s the production assistant for the last episode, leading her to feel panic and go delusional again as her desktop ornaments (the stuffed bear and the little goth-loli-pirate chick start talking to her and moving) note what work needs to be done.

We do get something of a change of pace as we take a look at the other girls. Misa, the one who is working as a 3D animator, is learning the ropes of computer generated animation. Her company, Super Media Creations appears to specialize in animating cars. While they used to do other things, for the past six years or so it’s been cars…and only cars. While her company offers good pay and benefits…Misa is not exactly happy about the prospect of finding herself three years later doing the same exact thing. We also see Shizuka, who has gotten a chance to work on a big show…but only as someone brought in to do some “walla” (and good for the translator using the technical term for the conversation and chatter that one hears in the background of shows). It might just be walla, but it’s a major show (The Prince of Baseball…no guesses there as to what this refers to).

Even with her delusional resources at full power, Aoi might not get episode 13 done on time
Even with her delusional resources at full power, Aoi might not get episode 13 done on time

Returning to Musani, of course the company must already start planning on their next work (and could we possibly see Exodus end with this cour and the new work take over for the second cour of this show?). The president and his chief producers are trying to bid for the right to make an adaptation of a popular print work, The Third Aerial Girls Squad (which seems to involve girls and military aircraft, since land-based military vehicles would be too close to…something else). So, the producers go to have a meeting with the editor-in-chief of the publishing house. Fortunately for them, he happens to be favorably impressed by Exodus (a good thing, since he also remembers the debacle that was Jiggly Jiggly Heaven). The editor cannot commit, however, as he has to talk to the people above him for the final decision (and here we get a slight taste of the “production committee” process, where all stakeholders in the work will have to weigh in before the animation studio is chosen).

After the workday, the high school friends gather, though it’s only Shizuka, Misa, and Midori for the moment (as Aoi and Ema are still at work). Midori sits admiring the two older girls, saying they’ve made strides forward in their careers, though neither of them feels so. Shizuka’s experience as a background character hardly gave her much confidence, as she was too enthusiastic in her performance; Misa is having serious second thoughts about her job because of the monotony. They still wish to remake their high school festival project again, though that dream now seems further away, not closer.

It will be Misa who will get one of those transformative encounters that only happen in fiction. Her frustration starts to reach a breaking point when the boss, Kouichi Tateishi, announces that they have a new project: a car racing game. Going up onto the roof to work out her anger, she just happens to come across the president on a smoke break. When asking (rather boldly in a normally rigid top-down culture) whether she’ll be able to do anything beside drawing car wheels, he says that based upon her abilities, she might be doing other things in the future…though they’ll all be car-related. What Tateishi has done, as he lays out, is fairly smart: he’s specialized in CG cars to the point where his company gets steady work and when anyone thinks about CG cars, his company is the one that immediately comes to mind. It’s how he is able to pay 50 people every month regularly. While the little lesson in business survival (“do one thing and do it better than anyone else” is a classic business strategy and one that does more often than not work in the real world) is interesting and informative about the behavior of certain companies in the animation industry, the scene goes deeper than the brief lesson. When Misa mentions her dream of doing an anime with her high school friends again, Tateishi tells her simply that she must first imagine herself doing it. If she cannot envision a future where she makes the anime with her friends…it will never happen.

Maitake (at right): "I'm just here for the free coffee."
Maitake (at right): “I’m just here for the free coffee.”

Back at Musani, the crisis brewing over the finale to the show continues as Kinoshita cannot complete the storyboards for the end. The reason being that he is not satisfied with the ending as it is currently written. He wants to change it. This sends Honda up a wall, but there’s little he can do other than contact Maitake, the scenario writer. The writer comes to help out, though what he mainly winds up doing is pushing Kinoshita to spell out what it was he was trying to say with this work (since it is an original animation, not an adaptation of an established property, they can change it on the fly). Thinking about the reasons behind the show in the first place, Kinoshita comes up with a new ending (which is just as outlandish as the original one…I don’t think Exodus is the kind of show I would actually care for all that much, though I can see what kinds of popular shows it’s parodying a bit).

The most thoughtful bit of industry analysis this episode is Misa’s situation, where we learn that doing what you love is not necessarily what happens when you get your dream job. On paper, it looks like Super Media Creations is exactly where Misa wants to be. The pay is better than many other computer animation companies, the benefits are excellent too and the company’s president and founder once worked on an animated animal movie that Misa loved back in her school days. Reality hits when she finds herself doing nothing but drawing computer generated car wheels, to the point where just looking at a real car on the street, she can comment about the brand and model name and note how well it fits the wheel well of the car it’s on. This was not the life she imagined, but that’s the reality that hits for many people when they enter the world of work and discover the parts of the job that they don’t tell you about in school or in fictionalized versions of real life jobs. Yet, it’s not a matter of blame or cheated expectations. The president of the company spells it out clearly to Misa: if you have a dream, you have to make it happen.

At least the crisis at Musani was not the dominant theme (considering the real life crisis that must be hitting PA Works this moment, perhaps dropping some of the manufactured crisis, as this is an original work, not an adaptation, would be helpful to the staff’s collective mental health), though this has the side effect of pushing Aoi out of the spotlight. We’ve lost our focus character, though fortunately we are not adrift at sea, as the other high school friends have stepped in to give us other focus characters to follow as we see their different paths through the industry. And the crisis itself is coming to an end, since Kinoshita has finally gotten past his mental block and is finishing the storyboards for the final episode, with just barely enough time to make it happen. The end of Exodus is in sight, but the story of Shirobako will be continuing.

In Summary:
Not everyone’s dreams have an easy realization, even if outsiders think it so. Midori looks at Shizuka and Misa with admiration at how they are becoming real members of the industry while she has no clue how to become a writer, but the two girls are quick to point out that her impression is off. Collectively, the three think Aoi and Ema have it better as they seem to be constantly busy and making a difference…though we know that’s not the real case: they’re only busy because their studio is almost in meltdown owing to the director’s flakiness. The theme of dreams gets a couple interesting takes done on it, with Misa given some important advice about how to achieve hers while the other girls deal with the frustrations of making only slow progress towards theirs. At least the ending of Exodus seems to be firming up in Kinoshita’s mind.

Episode Grade: B

Streamed by: Crunchyroll

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

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