Well we are already over 25% through Shriobako, its gone by so fast. It’s almost weird that we will have been watching for two months soon! Speaking of the passing of time, it is certainly starting to feel like winter and with winter my university work load is increasing massively as work that needs to be competed before the Christmas holidays becomes that more urgent, *sigh* it looks like the remainder of November is going to be busy for me.
Well enough about me, on to the review:
Our episode this week starts off, as we have come to expect from shirobako, with a crisis. However this particular crisis is perhaps slightly less serious than usual; Aoi has misplaced a sock!
Faced with a lack of time Aoi has no choice but to find a replacement sock and resign the lost one to its fate. The sock incident has, however cost Aoi time and as such is in quite the hurry, almost forgetting her phone. Her remembering to pick up her phone is something of a mixed good and bad thing as moments before she leaves Aoi receives a phone call from her sister who at first proceeds to light hearly mock Aoi’s choice of job and then to inform out of nowhere her that she will be paying Aoi a visit today. This is problematic for Aoi on accounts of her needing to go to work but her forceful sister is already on her way and wont reconsider resulting in Aoi having to leave a Key with Midori who apparently leaves above her. Shirobako makes a habit of suddenly springing details on us but before I get too critical of this I cast my mind back to episode four where we clearly see Aoi and Midori arriving late together, so rather than shirobako throwing this at us out of the blue it is perhaps better to say that we are just not told things and in quite the novel way details are simply established when they are relevant rather than in an episode one information dump.
Having dealt with her sisters impromptu visit for now Aoi heads off to work by bike and arrives in time. As she is chaining up her bike Aoi notices that Ema, who is apparently a fellow cyclist, has already arrived and thus we witness the first hint that the animation club’s animator will have quite the role this week. This much is future confirmed by a short scene showing Ema hard at work already as other animators arrive.
Ema’s time in the spotlight will have to wait though as we cut to the morning meeting held in the production assistants office. In addition to the usual rundown of the days plans and general housekeeping we get to see the continuation of the events surrounding Tatsuya-san’s transfer to a different studio. Much like crisis’s this built up over multiple episodes
type of story telling is rapidly becoming synonymous with shirobako which is quite a nice feature as it helps the weekly episodes blend together well and one would also imagine that I would make it quite the nice show to marathon all in one go. Returning to the events at hand, we see that this news provokes a very, well, Tarou like response from Tarou as he loudly inquires about the reasons for Tatsuya-san’s transfer, apparently having trouble accepting Tatsuya-san’s decision.
With is alteration to the production assistant line up, the reallocation of the episodes that Tatsuya-san was previously responsible for is the next issue that is addressed. Because of this Aoi is now tasked with the double-edged sword of a job that is being responsible for the final episode in the set up for an inevitable Aoi-centered happening with regards to this later on down the line. For now however Tarou still fails to understand that people do move on in their carers and begins baseless speculations, much to the annoyance of all present.
As we press on into the episode we see another shot of a struggling Ema. In addition to this being more foreshadowing of events in the second half of the episode we also see that the plight of Ema has been noticed by a recurring background character; the elderly animator Shigeru-san.
The time for focusing on Ema’s story has not yet arrived though and we return to Aoi’s perspective but we do mange to well establish the theme of this weeks episode: careers. As Aoi goes about her work she ends up talking about Segawa-san’s work with Yamada-san. With Segawa-san being one of the genius characters in Shirobako her work is naturally very impressive and comments are made about how she is more than good enough to do character design. With the topic of conversation already on the subject Aoi enquirers about Yamada-san’s career aspirations prompting him to admit that he himself doesn’t want to be a director himself. Apparently life is hard at the top.
This talk of career progression returns us to the topic of Tatsuya-san’s transfer and we are let in on some more details pertaining to the conversion we witnessed him having last episode. Of note is the detail that the other person in the car was indeed someone that Tatsuya-san is on good terms with and an old acquaintance from college. This is of interest as it establishes the fact that Aoi, in having lot of school friends in the business, is not an exception. I like the fact that Shirobako includes details like this as it paints Aoi (for now at least) as simply an average person working in the anime industry rather than as some kind of Shonen manga protagonist who, by default, has an amazing entourage of highly skilled friends.
An improved grasp of Tatsuya-san’s circumstances, whist interesting, is of little consolation to Aoi however, as with Tatsuya-san gone the work load of the remaining production assistants goes up. Yamada-san informs Aoi that it could be worse though consoling her from the angle of; it’s still nowhere near as bad as Jiggly Jiggly Heaven. It is at this point that Aoi, having heard many a reference to his show quizzes Yamada-san about just how bad it was and we are once again treated to a horror story from the past. Aoi has little time for thinking of anime past though as she is reminderd that now she is responsible for the final episode she is also responsible for getting the remaining storyboards out of the director.
With Aoi now entangled in the most problematic happening possible we finally get to witness progression on Ema’s story. We find her once again struggling with work when the ever slow-moving Shigeru-san decides to offer Ema advice. I can help but feel that Shigeru-san’s existence is very much to symbolise the tradition surrounding animation in Japan. This much is, at least in my mind, a justified self-indulgence as it is disputable that anime has a rich history so showcasing this is as much justified as showcasing the whole key animation or 3DCG issue.
The wisdom of the elderly is, however, cut off (rather rudely one might add) by the sudden arrival of Aoi who has come to get an update on Ema’s progress. Ema informs Aoi that progress is slow but not wanting to disappoint her friend and supervisor declares that she will be able to get everything done on time. Aoi fails to pick up on this detail and as she perceives all to be going well requests that Ema change the format my which she submits her drawings to ease up the pressure of Yamada-san and Segawa-san. The idea of making her job harder to make Segawa-san’s easier does not sit overly well with Ema but Aoi once again fails to notice (is she doing a Tarou or something here) and before Ema has the chance to protest Aoi is whisked away by phone call.
With Aoi now gone leaving new deadlines in her wake Ema is almost at breaking point. However undeterred by the previous interruption Shigeru-san returns to advising Ema. He describes a triangle system of experience, speed and quality and demonstrates that Ema can make it as an animator giving a case study of Ogasawara-san an Iguchi-san. Is advice is pragmatic in its nature and perhaps a little somber but it gives Ema much needed direction and pushes her to get working.
We reach the midway point in the episode now and pick up on the story started at the very beginning of this weeks episode as we witness the arrival of Aoi’s elder sister at the train station.
Having arrived in Tokyo Kaori, Aoi’s sister, heads towards Aoi’s flat. On her way there she notices a black haired girl riding a bike that she believes to be Ema so loudly does she call out but to no response.
With the possibility that she may have been mistaken and that she may have just called out to a random stranger on the street, Kaori continues to make her way to Aoi’s house where rather than a key in the postbox or under a plant pot she finds a note with instructions. She heads to the specified location to find that it is Midori’s house and as such is able to collect the key that Aoi entrusted her with.
Kaori and Midori proceed to enter Aoi’s apartment and the elder sister assess the condition of the younger sisters accommodation (she is suitably pleased). The two figures on Aoi’s desk who have so far in the series made more than their fair share of appearances attract the attention of Kaori as they are something that she remembers from their collective childhoods which is an interesting detail as so far it feels like evvery effort has been made to make the cast seem older and distance them from school age type events but here we have a very potent link to Aoi’s younger (although not that much younger) self in what I can imagine is a statement confirming the notion that simply because you are no longer in education doesn’t change who you are, this serves a twofold purpose in my eyes; firstly it servers to bridge the demographic gap in the shows audience being indiscriminate to both the viewers who are still school students and those who are no longer. Secondly it serves as a reminder of the fact that Aoi and Ema’s days in the animation club were not all that long ago and this much will be important as our story unfolds.
It is during Kaori’s assessment of Aoi’s flat that she mentions to Midori her sighting of what she thought was Ema. Midori is confident that it would have been Ema given the time and explains that she eats lunch at home and with this as context we transition back to Ema.
Reinvigorated Ema returns to work and with out so much as a montage we cut to a time later on in the day and witness a happy Aoi who is thrilled to find that Ema has managed to meet the new deadline. With her official work done for the day, Ema is invited to come over to Aoi’s flat so that she can catch up with Kaori but the sight of the other artists still at work compels her to decline; she is taking Shigeru-san’s advice to heart.
Leaving Ema to her self imposed overtime Aoi returns home to something of a scene of devastation. Perhaps devastation is not quite the right word but either way she returns to find that Kaori is using up all of her nice food and such much to Aoi’s frustration! This argument is stopped in its tracks rather quickly though by the mediation of Midori who recalls how the two of them always used to bicker like this. Aoi recalls her day to them and makes extensive reference to how stressful it is when every day seems to have some form of problem. The topic of hard work and stress brings them on to the subject of Ema and how hard working she is but Kaori has reservations about how good being very diligent is reminding Aoi that there whilst there are certainly positive things about it there are also downsides.
We cut to the next day and rejoin events with Aoi already in the production assistants office with a background of Tarou being his usual usless self and Erika chastising him accordingly.
Aoi’s day however is upset straight from the off set as she receives a most troubling text message from Segawa-san outlining some substantial flaws in the work Aoi had Ema do yesterday and the need for a redo. Aoi is alarmed at this development so makes a call to Segawa-san in order to get a better grasp of the situation. Talking to Segawa-san does indeed serve to clarify the situation but it also presses home the gravity of the situation and the importance that Aoi gets Ema to redo the key frames.
This situation is most problematic for Aoi as not only was she arguably responsible for Ema rushing the drawings, she is also her friend and as such, understandably, finds it hard to tell her friend that her work hasn’t made the cut. In search of advice Aoi falls back on her sister who was after all talking about the positives and negatives of diligent people. Kaori’s comments with regards to the situation are detached and talks about how diligent people are very prone to beating themselves up over their failings. The bluntness of Kaori’s comments can be forgiven though as Aoi has made it so that her sister doesn’t know of the context for the issue and as such are unbiased. This is of small consolation to Aoi though as she still needs to deal with the situation now knowing that it will be even harder.
With it being time to face the music Aoi and Ema meet on the roof to eat the doughnuts that Kaori brought from back home. As was predicted Ema is indeed hard on herself and very much damaged by the news, treating it as a very serious failure. Aoi does her best to comfort Ema and to encourage her but unlike all the previous crises she has had to deal with Aoi has no clear plan and so ends up making things worse.
As the conversation descends further into Ema’s problems she tells Aoi of her worries for the future and he fears of not being able to make it as an animator. She reaches out to Aoi for empathy but, despite trying, Aoi is unable to empathies as she has no really long term plan for herself and simply focuses on completing the task in hand.
Faced with her friend being unable to understand her, Ema recoils and flees the roof, still with uneaten doughnut in hand. Barreling down the stairs Ema collides with Eguchi-san who is out on the stairwell taking a cigarette break. Eguchi-san is able to tell that something is up with Ema but doesn’t get anywhere as Ema, after standing there silent of a moment runs off. Despite both of them being animators Ema is unable to talk to Eguchi-san about this.
The isolation that Ema feels is demonstrated by a scene of stark juxtaposition, showing Kaori and Midori out having fun shopping together as we see just how alone Ema feels right now.
We end the episode with shots of both Aoi and Ema, the latter nearly in tears, feeling dejected and depressed. An issue to resolved next week.
Poor Ema. This weeks episode was something of an emotional one as we witness the struggles of one who is less able to overcome the issues that she faces. Though out this episode, particularly the latter half, I very much found myself thinking back on the problems faced by Aoi in earlier episodes and how with determination and hard work she was able to overcome even the most adverse circumstances. However this is not so this time Ema’s character is not portrayed with the same dig in deep mentality as Aoi and, despite being diligent, as such is much more vulnerable when things go wrong. This difference between Aoi and Ema is very thought provoking for me as it feels very human and well though through, as much as we would like it not to be the case some of us are just not good at dealing with problems we cant see the answer to. Aoi’s role in this happening is also very interesting as she is unable to solve this problem in the manner she normally does as her friend is involved so there is more at stake for her here. As to how or who is the key to solving this, we will have to wait but I am watching most intently to see how Shirobako handles this one.
Also, for those interested, the full Shirobako opening and ending tracks are out so here is a link, consider it compentation for this weeks delays: http://hikarinoakariost.info/shirobako-oped-animetic-love-letter-colorful-box-single/