Oh Shirobako[1] how I love thee, let me count the ways.

Seriously though Shirobako delivered the strongest opening episode of the Fall Season, and hasn’t faltered since.

I adore this show.

The Characters

Shirobako has done an exceptional job at making me engage with the characters, and their quest to deliver Musashino Animation’s Exodus to Tomorrow to TV on time[2]. The long suffering Aoi generates endless sympathy for her refusal to give up and get the job done somehow. In contrast her fellow production assistant Tarou inspires an endless number of “will somebody fire this idiot already? Or at least hit him?” tweets almost every episode[3].

However it must be said that most of the Loads and Loads of Characters are still fairly hard to keep track of. Fortunately we’re still getting on screen displays like this[4] as late as episode 6[5]:

With no less than 35 named characters[6] already on the Shirobako Wikipedia page this is entirely necessary, and I hope that the name displays continue throughout the 24 episode run of the show.

Aoi is still finding her place in the animation industry. That said I’m looking at how Aoi is handling herself now and seeing a full-fledged producer emerging from her production assistant shell in a couple of years.

Which is one of the strengths of this show: these are adult characters and their dreams have that much more depth to engage with.

Of the other four “main” characters from the High School Animation, aspiring voice actress Shizuka[7] has had the most screen time so far, but the group as a whole had a brilliant sequence in episode 4 I Totally Messed Up.

In essence they went to see the same anime movie but their subsequent discussion reflected their desired involvement in the industry – managing the cuts, the script, the key animation, the CGI, the voice acting. It put the ladies in context, and highlighted their continuing dream to make a full length anime feature together.

The Shout-Outs

Oh my lord. I’m fairly certain I’m not even getting half of these but the shout outs to other anime (or to the anime industry) with barely disguised or outright satirical titles is near endless. So far this has applied to voice-talent agencies, famous anime, ridiculously long titles from light novel adaptations, plus others that I’m sure I’ve missed.

The ones I am getting are just adding to the fun.

The Reality

At bottom Shirobako is a surprisingly real show. Yes, I’m sure that some creative licence has been taken, but even so the sheer panic and work involved in producing TV animation is being brilliantly conveyed.

In fact I’m wondering how much of Shirobako has been drawn from director Tsutomo Mizushima’s experiences with the scheduling disaster otherwise known as Girls Und Panzer.

Particularly poignant in the last couple of episodes was the subject of 2D cel animation giving way to 3D CGI.

The very nature of animation means that we don’t usually see who makes it. By extension the means we don’t see who gains or loses from this sort of transition, or the effect of it on their lives.

Shirobako handles this superbly, whilst reminding us that there are artists who truly care for their work on both sides of that fence.

The Interim Verdict

So far Shirobako is simply fabulous. There are currently four shows being released on CrunchyRoll on Friday mornings[8].

I only have time to watch one of these before going to work. Shirobako is the show I’ve been choosing for the last three weeks or so, and I don’t see that changing in a hurry[9].

If you are now, or ever have been, a fan of anime then I strongly recommend watching Shirobako. You won’t be disappointed.

I’ll leave with the fabulous opening:

[1] Courtesy of TV Tropes: Shirobako means “White Box” and is where a finalised production film tape is placed.

[2] I saw on twitter somewhere that the first episode of Exodus to Tomorrow is actually being made for the Japanese blu-ray release.

[3] Tarou is apparently based on the Director as a young man. So there may be hope for him yet.

[4] Yes, there’s a trope for that. There’s a trope for everything.

[5] Takanashi is the aforementioned Tarou, and Aoi-chan isn’t as angry at him here as she should be.

[6] Amusingly this includes 3 voice actors playing themselves playing the leads in Exodus to Tomorrow. Albeit with slightly altered names.

[7] The redhead in the third row.

[8] The other three are Argevollen, Your Lie in April, and Yuki Yuna is a Hero.

[9] Although Yuki Yuna is a Hero may be mounting a challenge due to [SPOILER DELETED].