We really are very close to Christmas now aren’t we? To be honest it is not something that had really sunk in for me until the weekend just gone as I have been busy with uni work right up until the last day but now that I’m back in my home town with my family it really does feel really rather festive.
But I digress, on to my review of episode ten:
After the drama at the end of last episode we start of a bit more relaxed this time as we, once again, bear witness to the production offices morning meeting. Much like last time the things with regards to all but the final episode are going according to plan and look like they will not be sources of stress. However, in an impressive turn of events, Honda-san is able to announce the fact that it is highly likely that the storyboards for the final episode will be done very soon, much to the relief of the production staff. No one present (except for maybe Tarou) is able to delude themselves into thinking that production of the final episode will be plain sailing though as thanks to the delays caused by the director they will still be having to work flat-out to get this done in time. As for what this means for us as the viewers, we can consider this yet more conformation that this particular arc of Shirobako is rapidly coming to a close.
With the meeting pretty much finished and things getting somewhat off track, suggestions are made by Okitsu-san that the meting should be adjured soon. Suggestions which prompt Watanabe-san to remember a request made by the sound effects company that Musashino Animation uses for a peculiar musical instrument called a dombra that they are having trouble locating. For my part I feel at it would be nice if this, like a lot of things showcased in shirobako, were representative of reality as a symbiotic relationship between companies makes a nice change from what you normally see. As it turns out, making this request was potentially as fruitful idea as the president, upon hearing the request, reveals that he may have a lead.
With the meeting now completely finished, we cut away to the perspective of Seiichi-san who is diligently working away on the final episode storyboards but is every much immersed in it all, in a world of this own.
Returning to the production office, we join Aoi and Honda-san conversing about how they, and particularly Aoi, are going to be in for a hard fight to get the episode out in time and how enlisting the help of Maitake-san was not done a moment too soon. This conversation begins to hint at what is quite the prominent theme for episode ten; being in the right place. The idea of receiving help from, should we say, less conventional sources is one that we stick with as with the end of her conversation with Honda-san, Aoi receives a text message from Midori informing her of an email that she just sent containing information pertaining to the research Aoi is doing for her episode and that she had let Midori know she was conducting.
As can be described as standard procedure in Shirobako at this point, a text from an old school friend results in a phone call. This time Aoi is expressing her utmost gratitude towards Midori for, as suggested towards the end of last episode (but neglected in my review, oops), this research has been plaguing Aoi for quite a while. Midori blows it off as nothing but judging from the large pile of train related books upon her lap, her researching was probably quite involved. Aoi has no reason to feel guilty though as Midori clearly states that she rather enjoyed getting into the work, something that I can understand quite well as once immersed in research its hard to know when to stop (I can think of more than a few topics in both Chemistry and History that you’d regret asking me about for loss of hours of me talking at you).
The conversation between Aoi and Midori also serves to inform Aoi of Misa’s relationship with her job in a set up of events further into the episode.
Keeping with Aoi we next see her talking with the president, who has located the strange instrument mentioned in the morning meeting thanks to a friend of his in Uzbekistan (A country located between Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan for anyone who is curious). Delivery of this instrument to the studio is tasked to Aoi who one might think would be really busy but in reality may not have much to do as she is still awaiting the storyboards.
Arriving at the sound effects studio, Aoi discovers that the reception area is deserted and is at a lost for what to do. She doesn’t have to be boarded for long though as after only a short while an older man appears from a room, spots Aoi and hurries her in to the room for whence he came. Aoi’s confusion only increases when, inside this room filled with many strange props and set-ups, she is instructed to take off her shoes and don a pair of stilettos (Don’t worry this intently sounds dodgy). However the context for this, looking to be, quite concerning situation is explained by the old man who, whist Aoi was at a loss for what to do, has been setting up a microphone to make a sound recording. Now understanding what is happening, Aoi decides to help out and despite being initially forced into it ends up learning quite a bit about the world of sound effects whist rather enjoying herself.
After the production of numerous different sounds, Aoi and the old man pause for a cup of tea in the reception giving the old man a chance to offer Aoi compensation for her time, in the form of a box of doughnuts, and to ask who Aoi is. Timing in anime is always nice and continent so just as Aoi is about to explain, a member of the sound effects studio, who is looking for someone delivering the instrument, comes and does it for her. Now informed about who Aoi is the old man and her have a more focused conversation in which Aoi is given the advice that in order to get to the point in a job where you enjoy it somethings you need to work hard first. Aoi also extends an apology to the sound effects staff for the seemingly constant delays from the production side of the anime industry.
After our look into a less talked about side of anime production we return to one of the issues at hand as we join Aoi, Ema, Midori and Misa in Aoi’s apartment for a Nabe party and a discussion about Misa’s stance with regards to her job at the CG company she currently works for. Aoi’s stance is heavily influenced by the advice she was give earlier on that day and suggests that Misa should keep at it for a while longer as after all she hasn’t even been there for a year yet. The late arriving Shizuka also takes a similar stance but Misa is not swayed, in truth she has already made up her mind that she wants to quit but is concerned about finding a new job afterwards.
With the mood looking undesirably low, Aoi decides to employ a secret weapon and presents the box of doughnuts that she was given earlier on. And, so with a throwback to their school days and episode one; we witness the return of the doughnut toast.
After some time Aoi’s friends leave in good spirits. However the evening has prompted Aoi to once again contemplate the lack of direction in her life though a most abstract portrayal of her inner thoughts.
Misa is also deep in though after the evening’s conversation and finds herself unable to sleep. Faced with this situation she decides to watch the GC film that first prompted her to look for a career in the company that she did. It is quite interesting to see that this is a similar plot device to the one used when Shizuka was having problems and in all honesty I find it a little disappointing considering how creative the show normally is.
Getting back to the happenings of episode ten, we rejoin Misa early in the morning as she stands dramatically against the big company logo in her office. She is presently joined by the company president to whom she hands her letter of resignation. Evidently she is still worried about her future and as such rather than trying to say her feelings aloud she has written them down (I’m kind of making this sound like a love letter aren’t I?). The company president is somewhat upset by Misa’s decision to leave as she looked to be a good employee but respects her decision and it is agreed that she will resign after she has finished her current project.
With Misa having made her move we return to Musashino Animation and witness the director nonce again working on the storyboards but this time in quite the alarmingly strange manner as it would be not too much of a stretch to look upon him and see a high-speed printer rather than a human.
And then he stops. He is done. the storyboards are finished. An act of such significance that Honda-san is moved to the point of near tears and unable to express himself fully in words he embraces the director in a moment of relief and elation. The moment does however have a spectator as Aoi is also in the room, looking on with a very exasperated face. The expressions of joy continue and sensing that this may take more than a little while, Aoi interjects to ask if she can take the completed storyboards and get to work. Permission is granted and Aoi leaves them to it. Emotions remain high the level that just before we cut away from the scene Honda-san lets slip the fact that after Exodus he will be leaving the company.
Now able to get to work proper, Aoi starts by making photocopies of the completed storyboards in the production assistants office and as such Erika and Tarou are able to have a look over it. They all agree on the fact that it is well written to the extent that the ever inept Tarou seeks to make some claims over it, claiming to have given the director advice. He is not fooling anyone though and in an attempt to move things along Aoi likens it to her favorite anime from her childhood. Unbelievably it is at this point Taoru is able to make something of a decent retort and in a forth wall breaking line he complains about the scene Aoi is imagining.
After talking with her fellow production assistants Aoi goes off to deliver copies of the storyboards to all those that require them. We don’t see Aoi delivering all of the copies but we do join her as she pays a visit to Shimoyanagi-san. Her visit to the CG department provides Aoi with the chance to ask another CG artist about his opinion with regards to Misa’s situation. Shimoyanagi-san is somewhat confused by Misa’s decision to move away from such a good company but upon Aoi explaining her reasoning Shimoyanagi-san sees where she is coming from. After a moments contemplation he realizes what Aoi wants to hear and mentions the fact that a friend of his in another smaller CG company is potentially looking for a new employee and by doing so sets up what is potentially the next step in Misa’s story.
We cut away from Aoi and rejoin Honda-san and Seiichi-san who are still in the store-room cage and still in an emotional state. A different kind of emotional state as our director has not taken news of Honda-san’s planned self redundancy as the two of them are now physically fighting with each other in a manner not to dissimilar for sumo wrestlers. As it turns out, Honda-san is the better fighter and is able to throw the director to the ground and with the fight won, Honda-san declares that he will still come by to deliver cakes every so often and though this implicitly states that it is nothing to do with the company or the job but merely a case of him wanting to do something else more.
The mention of cake brings us on to the next scene where Honda-san is still explaining that he is moving on but this time to the production assistants. This time elaborating more and it is explained that he is finally going to pursue his dream of becoming dreams of being a patisserie. The production team are naturally sad to see him go (though not quite to the extreme levels seen from the director) but Honda-san is keen for work to press on as normal, not wanting to be a source of delay for any of the remaining time he has at the company. On a more amusing note we learn that Erika has more than one reason to be saddened by this turn of events for her letting slip an expression of he beat me to it perhaps suggests that Erika too wants to making a living baking cakes (Now that I think about it we never did her where she wants to take her life did we).
And as the production assistants press on with work we too continue to observe the anime making machine that is Musashino Animation come to life. Rejoining the, now more emotionally stable, director we slip into a montage as he and Aoi hold meetings with the various animators to divide up the cuts. Accompanying this montage is a suitably industrious sounding background track, well-fitting music is certainly a point in Shirobako’s favor and it quite often impresses me how music of so many different genres and styles can fit so well into a twenty-four minute section of a story.
These meetings go on for a notable amount of time and by the time that we leave to montage to run on its own it is already evening. At this point we switch to observing Ema, who has presumably just been assigned her cuts. As she is leaving she is called out to by Segawa-san, a call that throws Ema into a most flustered state and rapidly offers apologies for the problems that she encountered a few episodes ago. Segawa-san, however manages to remain calm and whist acknowledging the fact that there were some issues proceeds to praise Ema on how good her work has been since and makes specific mention of how result yielding her cat observation tuned out to be leaving Ema very relived(nearly to the point of tears).
With one more lose end tied be move back to Aoi and continue on with our episodes central theme of career decisions as we see another scene from the inside of Aoi’s head as she watches both Honda-san and Misa-san (Aoi presumably being informed of Misa’s decision of screen at some point) at both metaphorical and literal forks in the road but being able to choose a path. Leaving her, when it is her turn, unable to see let alone chose a road.
Such thoughts are quickly expelled from her mind though as she rededicate herself to the work at hand leaving us to slip back into a montage of her and her friends working towards their respective goals.
With yet another montage behind us we end up at the recording session for the final episode voices. The mood is high with everyone, director Seiichi in particular, looking forward to being finished and sensing that it is finally near the end. This good mood does however, present something of a danger as regardless of how close they are time wise there is still much to do.
The recording session goes down with out a hitch and in what I am assuming is customary within the industry, flowers are given to the voice actresses. The voice actresses also have flowers for Seiichi-san as a token of gratitude of his work to direct such a good anime and for allowing them to have an enjoyable job, an act which deeply moves the director leaving him practically in tears of joy (this seems to be happening quite a bit this time).
With the voice actresses part in Exodus over we transition to the much mentioned after party where, in a throw back to his suit wearing past, we witness director Seiichi being smooth (Or at least as smooth as a portly post mid-career crisis anime director can be) and drinking more than a small amount of alcohol.
Aoi too is at the party but is defiantly the odd one out but not for the wrong reasons. As the production assistant for the only lagging episode she is keen for the director to leave and get back to work, as he should, but Seiichi-san is very much enjoying himself and Aoi is not forceful enough from dissuading his incessant requests for one more. Aoi is not the only one who understands the issue of time here and upon realizing that Aoi wont be able get the director moving, Watanabe-san takes matters into his own hands and call a taxi for the unwitting director, thus forcing him to leave.
We end our episode with Aoi and the, now quite drunk, Seiichi-san heading back to the office in the taxi, problems looking imminent.
Another review from my backlog completed and another episode analysed. We are still working our way towards the halfway point of the series but in some respects it feels like we are spending a lot of time on episodes with a kind of wind-down feeling which I guess may leave me feeling like shirobako is not so much a single 2 cour anime but two 1 cour anime seasons run back to back but I guess that this much is somewhat expected in an anime which is shaping up to have a lot of changes halfway though.
It is really quite interesting to see the changes being made to the supporting characters such as Honda-san as it makes quite the change from the norm where the roles of characters are very rigid and the idea of a character simply retiring to pursue an entirely different career path is basically unheard of (I’m just imagining your generic shounen manga protagonist deciding that, actually fighting evil is not really his thing and perusing a career in accountancy or something). Moreover it is interesting to speculate how these changes will hold sway over the coming stories and indeed if they will have unforeseen effects.
Well till next time, Andrew out.