What They Say:
After making an animated film together in high school, Aoi and her friends Shizuka, Ema, Misa, and Midori made a promise to each other: to all get jobs in the anime industry and someday work together again.
Two years later, Aoi is learning that working as a production assistant at a small animation studio is far more demanding than she ever imagined, and Shizuka’s aspiring career as a voice actor involves more time waiting tables than recording.
Meanwhile, Ema’s slowly making a name for herself as a key animator, Misa’s moved from 2D to 3D and now works in computer graphics, and screenwriting hopeful Midori is lagging furthest behind, still looking for her first big break. But are they ready to give up on their dreams just yet? No way! Because while anime may come from inspiration, in the end, it’s the ones who’re willing to put in the perspiration that make their dreams real in Shirobako!
Contains Episodes 1-12
Sentai’s home-release of Shirobako is [unsurprisingly] brought to us containing only the Japanese dub. This isn’t a huge surprise, though, considering it might have been a little stressful to cast over 50 roles had they elected to dub the series. Regardless, the original audio quality remains fantastic. Shirobako features over 60 minutes of original background music as well as several original full-length songs. The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 and does not clip or peak at any point throughout the series.
The video specs for this DVD release restrict graphics to the quality of 480i with a basic aspect ratio of 16×9. Of course, not much else is to be expected from DVDs at this point in their lifespan. Despite the video definition, Shirobako still manages to utilize its extremely clean art style in order to keep the series looking beautiful. There are no frame skips, cuts, or jumps at any point in the series. One more thing to note is that the extremely varied color palette is only slightly diluted from video quality. But once again, that’s only due to the fact that you can’t really get much more out of a standard definition DVD release.
Honestly, I love the artwork on the first collection’s DVD case. The well-polished graphic displays Aoi and company amongst a blue and white gradient background with the bubble-letter logo displayed in the bottom left corner. The standard release [obviously] comes shrink wrapped and without a slip cover. The back of the case is riddled with thumbnails and an inspirational quote (Which I have posted at the top of the article) all wrapped up with another graphic consuming the top half of the cover. Below that is a brief synopsis of the first half of the series.
The menu screen for the first Shirobako collection goes a step or two beyond typical Sentai Filmworks releases. Of course, they managed to keep in their standard “Titles on left side, graphic on right side” layout. But the menu for Shirobako winds up looking a bit more polished and tidied up with its extensive color scheme and original Aoi Miyamori character design amidst the show’s logo. Clicking on the special features option brings up another original character design for Shizuka (Also known as best girl) against a polka dotted backdrop.
The standard release of Shirobako is lacking in special features, containing only the clean opening/endings songs as well as four trailers for other Sentai releases (La Corda D’oro – Blue Sky, Hanayamata, Locodol, and Tamako Market). There is nothing else to report in that aspect.
(Please note that the content portion of the review may contain spoilers)
I think it’s common knowledge that two of the most important things in the world are doughnuts and anime. But if you combine those two things with well-written comedy, a plethora of memorable characters, and an extremely realistic story, you receive something so great that it literally revives an entire genre of animation that has been becoming less and less creative as years go by. This mixture can be referred to as Shirobako, which can also go by the name of Watch This Show Because It Is Probably The Best Thing Ever. I’m not kidding. There’s so much packed within the confines of this slice-of-work/comedy/drama that literally anyone can take something out of it. Whether it be laughs, anime industry know-how, or even tears, we can all benefit from Shirobako in some way or another.
Following the lives of five girls and their respective ventures into the anime industry (But focusing mainly on one girl – Aoi Miyamori), Shirobako gives us a glimpse into the many different aspects that go into creating anime. Miyamori, being unsure of exactly what she wants to do as far as making anime goes, falls into the position of a production assistant tasked with basically making sure things get done on time. But apart from being a peek into the life of a production assistant, Shirobako is a tale of realizing your dreams and figuring out your place in not only the workplace but the world as a whole. Of course, there are obstacles along the way, there always are, but Shirobako shows how different people in different situations cope with said obstacles in order to make the most of not only their job but their life as a whole. This culminates in a story that is not only a blast to watch but a one that actually provides important life lessons that go on to parallel literally everyone who has ever worked anywhere.
It becomes clear early on that Miyamori is really struggling to live a happy lifestyle. Even though she appears to be bubbly and over-energetic to all of her coworkers, something seems wrong. Miyamori sees all of her friends working toward their dreams in specific sects of the anime industry while she, on the other hand, can’t seem to figure out what to do next. Yeah, she’s exactly where she’s always wanted to be, but what now? It’s actually a rather interesting scenario when you think about it — being right in the middle of your favorite thing in the world and still feeling empty inside. With this in mind, Shirobako begins deviating from a day-to-day detailing of anime-craft and becomes a journey of self-discovery for Miyamori as well as the rest of her friends.
The first half of this series focuses on Musashino Animation’s newest project, Exodus — which details three magical girls that fight crime or something like that. The plot of Exodus isn’t important. What is important, however, is all of the difficulty that stems from the creation of this series. Each episode starts becoming more and more rushed and the key animators and even the director himself start drawing blanks. The person who winds up feeling the brunt of all this is Miyamori. Her role as a production assistant has her communicating with each part of Musashino — which of course leads to things like conflicting explanations, stubborn animators, financial troubles, and the oh-so-common dimwitted employee. As the series goes on, these problems just become more and more heavy, morphing into a giant ball of materialized stress that goes on to consume Miyamori and everyone around her. This really causes a change in the way people look at making anime. A lot of people out there, even fans of the craft, see people who work in the anime industry as people who basically get paid to sit around and have fun. When, in all actuality, the industry is one of the fastest-paced out there in terms of film and television.
As if just watching Miyamori trying to get by wasn’t entertaining enough, we also get to experience the inner and outer struggles of her friends. And while I won’t go over the lives of each one, I will note that the portions of the story that center around Shizuka are more of a wake-up call than anything else the show has to offer. Shizuka is the girl from the group who, at a young age, seemed to be the most promising and talented one. The thing is, she’s also the girl who elected to become a voice actress. Considering the popularity of anime in Japan, the voice acting industry is one of the biggest, most competitive job markets out there. Even though Shizuka seems phenomenal to the viewer, the mass amount of other actors surrounding her forces her into a depressing and seemingly hopeless way of living. Almost every time we see her alone, it leads us to believe that she’s absolutely miserable. She feels useless. The more important thing is, haven’t all of us felt like that at times in our lives? Shizuka’s story is, in my opinion, the most realistic representation of trying to succeed in today’s world. She shows that sometimes working hard just isn’t enough.
It’s hard to explain just how important Shirobako really is. Thematically, the series is a monster. There are so many aspects of Shirobako for viewers to relate to that going through a single episode without thinking, “I understand how you feel” becomes virtually impossible. At the same time, the amount of care put into the series in terms of ensuring quality is just as apparent as the message it possesses. The characters are unique and realistic, the art is some of the cleanest I’ve seen in years, and the music boosts emotional tensity almost tenfold when the need arises. Honestly, Shirobako is one of my all-time favorite series and I feel like no matter what I say, I won’t do it any justice. The one thing I can promise you, though, is that you will learn something from watching it. Do yourself a favor and check this out. It’s a real diamond in the rough.
Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 Audio, English subtitles, clean opening/ending songs, Sentai Filmworks trailers.
Content Grade: A+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: A-
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: February 9, 2016
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i Anamorphic
Aspect Ratio: 16×9