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SHIROBAKO Episode #17 Anime Review

6 min read
SHIROBAKO Episode 17
SHIROBAKO Episode 17

Just when things were turning in their direction, Musani is thrown another curve ball thanks to the obliviously stupid Chazawa. Can they rise to the challenge?

What They Say:
Episode 17: “Where Am I?”

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Things are now finally starting to move along as the author has approved Iguchi’s character designs and Musani can finally begin to do some real production work. We also have an old friend visit as Honda makes an appearance at Musani to drop off some cakes and say hello. Except…Honda appears to have changed a bit since leaving the studio. Much to the chagrin of Kinoshita. We also see Aoi’s fearless nature in action again, as she tells Atsumi and Kinoshita that she would be willing to approach a legendary background artist, Ookura, to provide some work for the show.

But all of that is just the opening bid before we get something of a “crisis of the week.” The show has not fallen back into the rut it had in its opening weeks, though, as this particular situation is used to good effect to show various aspects of the production process and the different approaches that one can take.

Playing charades with Kunogi is always fun
Playing charades with Kunogi is always fun

As usual, the cause of the problem is the feckless and self-absorbed Chazawa, the editor and liaison between the publisher and Musani for Third Aerial Girls Squad. He suddenly calls near the beginning of August and tells Musani that they need to put together a PV (promotional video) for the anime which can be screen at the book publisher’s booth at Man Fes (Manga Festival, an event for manga publishers). Musani basically have two weeks to put together a coherent short video that will “sell” the show and also demonstrate Musani’s talent (which is in question, as some of the early internet reaction to the news that Musani is doing an adaptation of Third Aerial Girls Squad is disbelief and even outright insult, as Kinoshita apparently will never be allowed to live down Jiggly Jiggly Heaven by some of the pathetic loners locked in front of their computers with nothing but time on their hands and bile in their minds).

This issue, the sudden need to do a PV, gives us a window into the different responses possible. As has been established, Hiraoka has been designated the mouthpiece for shortcuts and shoddy practices and his suggestion is, of course, to take the cheapest and laziest way out: just gather together animation cuts already completed and string them together, regardless of narrative coherency or quality. This is overruled by Watanabe, however, who orders a proper PV be made. He and Katsuragi will choose the best animation cuts from the first four episodes (which have been completely story-boarded by Kinoshita) and those will then be put on a priority track for completion. This upsets a few apple carts, since Musani had just told everyone in production to halt a short while before and now will be asking everyone to speed up production.

A cynic might note that PA Works here engaged in just the tiniest of shortcuts by replacing some running time of Shirobako with not just one, but two PVs during the episode. The first is a fake PV for an alleged anime about Mimuji and Roro, Aoi’s two plush mascots who have appeared in her delusional sequences throughout the show. It’s not useless or distracting here as it is used to illustrate exactly what a PV is like and PA Works have intelligently followed the old visual entertainment adage of “show, don’t tell.” The other PV will come later.

We see the hum of activity of a studio pushing itself to the edge in order to finish the PV. This involves seeing the new production assistants Satou and Andou becoming a little frazzled. While both a very apologetic, Aoi smoothes things over by letting them know that she, too, had her times when she screwed up, but that it will be fine in the end. In contrast, Hiraoka is becoming more and more a time-server, showing up only when he must and putting in the minimum amount of work. Tarou, of course, is just Tarou. As there needs to be some comic relief from all of the tension, we continue to see that the new key animator Kunogi, while quite talented, is also very eccentric, to say the least. Ema has pretty much become her main interface with the rest of the world as Kunogi is unable to speak even a single syllable to any other person (how did she even manage to survive the job interview for Musani?).

The show has not forgotten about our main band of girls as we do have a check-in with each of them. Midori is still doing research; Misa makes progress at her new workplace; Shizuka has an adventure in a pig costume that proves a positive experience.

And who said that show business isn't glamorous?
And who said that show business isn’t glamorous?

Of course, all of this is just the lead-in for the finale, which unveils the completed PV for Third Aerial Girls Squad. It is a pretty slick piece of work which does what a good PV should do: it introduces the characters and the setting, though it’s one of those PVs which are aimed more clearly at the manga readership who already know the characters and have full knowledge of what to expect. This is a PV that says “this is going to be an awesome adaptation of a work you already know!” And that is all it needs to be.

So, even if the crisis this episode was a touch on the manufactured side, it was there for a good reason: to continue demonstrating some of the challenges involved in making an adaptation and being beholden to the original source’s publisher and creator in various ways. The importance of marketing can trump the needs of the studio to devote as much time as possible to working on the entire project in an orderly fashion. Musani, however, is being held up as an example of a studio that does not sacrifice quality for convenience. The reality of many real PVs out there, however, show that Hiraoka’s methods are quite often used, otherwise the sting of calling them out wouldn’t be so effective.

Good stuff and I wonder what aspect of production shenanigans will come under scrutiny next.

In Summary:
In response to a sudden request (demand), Musani is force to prioritize creating a flashy promotional video for the manga publisher of Third Aerial Girls Squad. It’s hard going, but the studio’s production staff manages to get it done in time. We do see, however, the difficulties involved in doing everything on a very tight schedule and it’s no surprise that in the real world, there are surely more studios that take the easy way out that was suggested by one of the characters. Musani does things properly, though it takes a toll on the staff at times as Satou and Andou, the new production assistants, get a little frazzled by the situation.

Episode Grade: A

Streamed by: Crunchyroll

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

The slick promotional video for Third Aerial Girls Squad
The slick promotional video for Third Aerial Girls Squad
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