Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Shirobako Review

I think it's common knowledge that two of the most important things in the world are doughnuts and anime. But when you combine those two things with well-written comedy, a plethora of memorable characters, and a realistic and interesting 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 later on, 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 glance 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 essentially 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 positions cope with those obstacles. This culminates in a story that is not only a blast to watch, but actually provides various life lessons and a bunch of general knowledge along the way.

This show originally caught my eye because I've always wanted to bust my way into the anime industry. And just like Miyamori, I've always been unsure of exactly WHERE in that industry I want to be. It wasn't until just a few years ago when I finally realized where that was. But, achieving that goal isn't even remotely easy. And Miyamori, as well as the other girls in Shirobako, show you just that. Working in anime isn't all fun and games; it is a job. And like any job out there, it requires hard work, determination, and a clear view of what you should do next and when you should do it. But that's enough rambling on the hardships of anime-craft. It's time to dive into the depths of Shirobako and figure out why it is just so damn great.

Music: 9/10
The OST for Shirobako is underrated. The music easily fits the tone of the show at all times. It's happy when it needs to be happy, it's sorrowful when things aren't going right, and it's well-produced and well-written. Even though it features over an hour of original music, the soundtrack to Shirobako is often overlooked due to the fast-paced dialogue and never ending onslaught of jokes the show shoots out at you. But one aspect of the soundtrack you simply can't overlook would be the opening and ending themes. I'm not usually one to be overjoyed by catchy songs spilling out happiness all over the floor, but Shirobako's opening just forces me to smile every time I hear it. PLUS, the actual voice cast of the show are the ones that are singing these songs. AND THEN Miyamori shows up smiling and holding a doughnut as the opening plays and you literally have to look away from the screen to avoid exploding due to cutesy-happiness overload. Bravo girls, bravo.

Characters: 10/10
Shirobako has perhaps the most extensive cast of characters I have seen since Mahou Sensei Negima! But they need those characters considering they have an entire damn animation studio and you can't run that with just the five main girls. But the cast here is not only extremely varied, it is extremely realistic and extremely lovable. This show absolutely nails every type of person you will ever work with. There's the spontaneous and overly-confident dude, the quiet and knowledgeable girl always willing to lend you a hand, and then the fat guy. Who can forget about the fat guy? It's not just the characters themselves that are great either. The way they interact with and even intertwine with one another is what makes those relationships so believable and so important. After all, this is a studio we are talking about. There will obviously be problems within the workplace, but these characters are smart enough to know that they need to work together in order to accomplish a set goal. Oh, and not to mention that each one of these characters has their own unique dream constantly pushing them forward. I'm going to stop here so that this section of the review doesn't take up half of your web-browser, but I just want you to know that you will never find another cast of characters this realistic anywhere else.

Art: 10/10
Shirobako looks about as pretty as an anime of this genre can get. The art-style is consistent every episode and each character is drawn with intense care and precision. The color-scheme is bright and joyous, but not overdone to the point where it doesn't seem real anymore. Character-design is fantastic and each character isn't solely equipped with just one outfit (A problem a lot of anime faces nowadays). The art is subtly reminding you that these characters are basically real people. Real people change clothes sometimes. That's just how things work. Another aspect of this show that kind of just blends in with how great everything is and winds up being overlooked would be the facial expressions of these characters. While watching this, keep a close eye on the faces. Shirobako doesn't go through the typical cycle of excited face, sad face, and embarrassed face. Every emotion the characters must portray is intricately woven to a point where that face can only fit one situation. It is these different levels of human emotion that are put together so perfectly that really make the art in Shirobako as great as it is, and only overdone when needed to elevate a joke to the next level.

Story: 9/10
As I said before, Shirobako is a glimpse into the inner-workings of the anime industry that can be inspected by those who either appreciate or want to delve into it. It works the same way movies about movies work. Obviously the viewer will be interested in how movies work if they are watching a movie -- the same goes with anime. How often is a show founded entirely upon reminding you that it is a show? Answer: Not often. But it isn't just this that makes the story of Shirobako one to remember. What makes the story memorable is how the dreams inside of it play out. In the real world, things aren't always going to work out the way you want them to. Some times, the outcome or a scenario will be laden with sadness instead of a resolution. When that gets taken into account, the show isn't necessarily all that happy anymore. Shirobako becomes less about comedy and more about a girl struggling to realize her dreams. It is that double-meaning that creates an atmosphere where you get to have a great time while still caring about each and every thing that happens.

Maybe Shirobako isn't the most perfectly-woven anime ever created. But this is a review. And I just want to remind you that when reviewing something, there is a category that a lot of critics either miss or just forget about. That category is "Enjoyment". It's hard for me to say if I have ever enjoyed a show as much as I enjoyed Shirobako. In looking back on it, I can't ever recall a moment where I didn't care -- a moment where I got bored. The fact is that I was so constantly looking forward to seeing what happens next that Shirobako created an experience for me where the characters felt more like people I cared about rather than an animated cast just moving along my flat-screen television. I would find it hard to believe that anyone else who followed the show to completion didn't feel the same way. 

Overall Score: 10/10

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