Well with the 25th of December 2014 behind us I hope that everyone had a good Christmas and are enjoying the fleeting remains of 2014. With eyes turned towards 2015 it is only natural that we also look towards the next season of anime and I for that we have our preview post out.

Before I start talking of the next season though, it would probably be savvy of me to finish of my reviews from the current season so with that much in mind on to my review of episode eleven:

Rather than continuing on directly from where we left off last time, with the drunken Director returning to the studio to, presumably, be shouted at by an exasperated Honda-san. We start of from Aoi’s perspective as she talks to the in-house key animators who are dividing up the various scenes that need to be animated among them. This feels a little like a redo of the meetings held last time by one would presume that the different meetings are on different levels. There is a general feeling of enjoyment and enthusiasm among the artists but they are all aware of how challenging the directors wild story telling is going to be to recreate. We also use this time to catch up with the ever reserved Ema who is, though tight for time, doing well. This is emphasized by her progression as an artist being validated by her colleagues and requests for her specifically to take a certain cut of the characters descending stairs.As for Aoi’s mood she is enthusiastic as usual (evidently the events with the Director didn’t leave residual stress) but she defiantly has her work cut out for her and her key animators are all to aware of the task she must face.

Aoi is undeterred, and in the next scene we slip into something of a montage of Aoi phoning various animators in her contacts only for them to, for whatever reason, be unable to take on the work.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After a length period of slow going phone calls, Aoi begins to talk to Erika who explains that Aoi’s task is made all the more difficult by Seiichi-san’s less than shining reputation thanks to the flop that was Jiggly Jiggly Heaven. Aoi is still motivated and enthusiastic about finding animators. Erika however advises Aoi to employ caution in choosing key animators from outside her contacts, or from outside the contacts of those she respects, as any problems that arise from using these kinds of people will mean more work for her. This is quite the interesting commentary on the way non-self-contained businesses work in Japan and is something that has been repeatedly popping up though out Shirobako. Evidently, from the stand point of P.A Works, the key to getting work is for your employer to know of you in a good light; a system that is presumably very hard for newbies to penetrate.

After her talk with Erika, Aoi decides that rather than looking for key animators on her own she will ask other production assistants that she knows for recommendations and having exhausted Erika’s list of contacts she phones Tatsuya-san. The phone call only serves to show us just how hectic things are for Tatsuya-san at his new job though as he is unable to offer Aoi any key animator recommendations on accounts of him also being in a situation similar to Aoi’s.

As Aoi finishes on the phone we shift our attention to the happenings surrounding her in the office as Tarou sits at his desk reading the manga of the third aerial girls squad commenting on the need for an anime adaptation of it whist making wishful comments along the lines of “how nice it would be if we were the ones who got to do it” only to have these comments causally shot down by Honda-san. Not wanting everyone to become embroiled in a conversation about future projects, Erika reminds Tarou that everyone still has work to be doing but in typical Tarou fashion a proclamation of being “basically finished”. A proclamation with uncanny timing as it only precedes a phone call informing Tarou that his presence is required elsewhere to complete unfinished work.

With Tarou once again humiliated by none other than himself Aoi’s search for key animators continues. Though she is not letting it show we can speculate that the slow progress is beginning to take its toll on poor old Aoi as we witness the reappearance of  her, usually desk based, companions (seriously, hallucinating whist behind the wheel is just irresponsible).

Aoi’s search ends up taking her on a trip down memory lane and takes us into a flashback to a younger, business suit wearing Aoi who is attending an interview for a job in anime production. Going it to this scene, we can expect that Aoi was not successful in this interview but the very nervous and jumpy Aoi makes quite the change from the rather headstrong and determined personality we are familiar with Aoi possessing. Though that said, her lack of composure is somewhat understandable as the lead interviewer is a man with a quite aggressive personality and is rather intimidating. Our flashback scene also takes the time to show us Aoi a few days later having received notice of the fact that she was unsuccessful, looking like someone who is about to become a NEET. She is pushed back onto the right path by the intervention of her sister and her eye-patch wearing friend.

Cutting back to the present we witness Aoi, who was evidently lightly traumatized by her lackluster performance in that particular interview, having a shot exchange with the same man who interviewed her. He feels like he has seen Aoi before but can’t place her, which is probably for the best.  After the exchange, in which Aoi is told to park her car properly, Aoi manages to meet with,  Onodera-san, the person who she was originally planning on meeting. She might have been better off saving her self the stress and not have come though as Onodera-san is no longer working as a key animator. The exchange between them does serve to give us a bit of exposition on how well Exodus has been doing as in, what can only be described as a parallel to an “author insert fantasy” novel, it is stated that Musani is making a massive comeback thanks to Exodus.

And so, having witnessed the detailed version of a rejection we phase back into another montage of Aoi persevering through the countless rejections in order to keep progress at the ever slow pace it has been all day.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As we move into the second half of the episode, we transition to the next morning and rejoin Aoi as she heads into work. Her concern over the slow progress is beginning to show as she has nearly exhausted her extended list of contacts but still needs more key animators.

The morning meeting however reveals that her key animator problems will not be the only thing that she has to contend with today as she, in a twist of fate, has been recommended to appear on the interviewer panel for the interviews of Tatsuya-san’s replacement. A development that throws Aoi quite far out of her comfort zone prompting a response reminiscent of that which we saw during the flashback. Aoi is unable to talk her way out of the role though as she has been recommended for the role by just about everyone. The role can’t be described as overly important though, as Tarou has also been selected, a decision which has everyone somewhat concerned; the encouragement towards Aoi and the demands that Tarou actually is sensible with the role are equally prolific.

With this much decided and the meeting adjourned we transition into yet another montage (they really are coming thick and fast this time) of the various applicants. As for most of the applicants they can be, well…. considered somewhere around Tarou’s level, and in many cases below even that (At least Tarou likes anime!). There is a notable exception though, in the form of an easily excitable, doujin artist girl with blonde highlights, who seems to be right for the job and this coupled with her appearance in the key visual for the second cour makes it seem likely that this will not be the last we see of her.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

With Aoi’s part in the interviewing process over, we join her in the small office kitchen as she talks to Erika. The topic of conversation is naturally the interviews and Erika is, naturally, curious about any potential future colleagues but Aoi is unable to provide much of an insight as she is too concerned about her abilities to judge people and worries if she is really qualified to be doing so with respect to her own interview performances. A point that is rammed home by another flashback to an interview, this time at Musashino Animation itself. Erika gives a few words of engorgement to Aoi but also hints at the fact that she is getting rather tired as of last. Aoi interprets this as a result of her supposed unreliability and offers an apology but before this can develop Erika’s attention is drawn elsewhere by a phone call.

We leave Erika to take her phone call and transition to, what it perhaps a second phase of the interview process, in which we see doujin girl and Tarou in a car. From the passenger seat we watch Tarou trying to create an image of seniority in front of the new girl but to no success as she has no problem requesting that he shuts up and allows her to focus on her driving (We like her already).

Continuing on with this test, but from a different perspective, we  join the stopwatch holding Madoka-san whose comments with regards to the potential employees can be summed up with his decoration of “anyone that they choose will be better than Tarou” (It makes me laugh that everyone is so open about how useless Tarou is). Remarks such as these get a conversation between the three present in the office going which swiftly moves on to the reasoning behind looking for new staff members before the next project has been confirmed. The fact that Seiichi-san is the only one present who knows about the talks concerning the adaptation of the third aerial girls squad,cross referenced with Tarou and Honda-san’s conversation earlier hits towards the selective nature of the business of anime adaptations which I suppose makes quite a lot of sense in the fact that it would prevent people such as Tarou posting unconfirmed “leaks” on news sites that could have negative impacts on negotiations.

The talk of Musashino Animation’s next project segues us quite nicely on to the next scene, in which we see a meeting between Watanabe-san and Katsuragi-san the producer that hints at a meeting -over a game of mahjong- with the people from publication company that owns the third aerial girls squad. A meeting in which, according to Katsuragi-san, things will be settled on.

With that much as foreshadowing we once again return to Aoi’s never-ending quest for more key animators and once again bear witness to another rejection and apology. With credit where credit is due, Aoi is still managing to remain composed in front of her potential colleagues but as she walks though a buys shopping street her hallucination reappear with unprecedented vividness leading her to see herself as a poor street sales person (despite the fact that she is looking for employees rather than employment) walking the streets bare footed accompanied only by her two, supposedly, desk bound companions.

Showing no signs of abating, Aoi’s imagination descends into an ever more detailed world as Aoi, like a dickensian orphan with her nose pressed up against a toy shop window, watches quite the variety of pixelated mascot characters work away in the production houses of all the big name anime studios. All the while a jolly festive tune plays, capitalizing on the spirits found around December. The use of the pixelation style censorship really came as quite the shock for me as referential anime never usually has to go this far but I must admit that I haven’t really done much research into this one but I am guessing that it has something to do with the copyright problems that episode six had (link to an article on this).

A rather jarring cut takes us back into reality and back to the Musashino Animation office where we are just in time to see Ema notice the departure of Sugie-san. We do not stay with our animator friend for long though as we rapidly transition to the drama unfolding in the kitchen. In the kitchen we find the contents a kettle and the kettle itself on the floor along with a very distressed Erika. Naturally everyone is worried and migrate the scene, at which the president asks if this is about Erika’s father who is apparently hospitalized. The decision that Erika should head home is made and with consideration to the timing of this happening, going by car is the only real option. As he is free Tarou is designated as a driver, it being deemed unsafe for Erika to drive herself. Tarou’s role as driver is one that he goes about with much zeal which frankly feels very out-of-place in this scene but lets just be charitable and assume that he is trying to cheer up Erika in his own way (it is better to think this rather than labeling him as plain insensitive).

With all the other production assistants out of action for the time being, Honda-san informs Aoi of the situation and is rather frank about how bleak the prospects of getting the episode done in time now look, proclaiming that he is on the verge of running out of options.

The sudden increase in the gravity of the situation leads Aoi to a newly thought of last chance salon and with a fitting change of music we transition to the mahjong game cum meeting that Watanabe-san and Katsuragi-san are attending moments before it is gate crashed by a fired up Aoi. This development takes Watanabe-san by surprise and before he has a chance to collect his thoughts with regards to the situation Aoi lays out her request for new contacts. Turning to Watanabe-san was Aoi’s final hope.

The sudden appearance of Aoi is not something that is ignored by the other players and neither is the conversation that ensues. But in a surprising turn of events interjections are made by a player, the bookshop owner Onoue-san, who makes the half serious suggestion that he could introduce her to a Kanno Mitsuaki, the director of Neon Generation Avangaldon (*sigh* yes, this is really what they are doing). As to why he makes this comment we can only speculate but it is most likely not designed as an offer of help to Aoi and is more likely either a shot of teasing or a chance taken to show off his contacts. Aoi however, turns the tables on him and despite realizing that he is offering an introduction that one should really shy away from, presses him into actually giving her the contact.

Leaving Onoue-san somewhat humbled Aoi leaves the room and with her departure come realizations from all preset that they have just watched the work of a veritable diamond in the rough.

In all honesty, before watching this episode I was slightly worried that, based on the feel present in the last few episodes, we were going to have a low point between the two cours as there certainly was a feel of things winding down. However with respect to this episode winding up many have been a more appropriate phrase as we certainly see an increase in tempo that preludes the cour finale very nicely.

In terms of actual progression towards the finishing of Exodus we don’t see very much this time as much of the episode features a progressively more despondent Aoi in search of new Key animators which is, in all honesty kind of expected at this stage of the story as Exodus is all but finished. We do see that there is some more progression on the future project front but this much is mainly a set up for developments that will come in episode twelve. So with that much in mind I guess there is little else for me to say here other than; I’ll see you in the episode twelve review.

  Bonus Video

A video? Indeed. This mornings YouTube subscription feed check revealed a video containing coverage of the Shirobako gallery event held at the Tokyo Anime Center, which I thought might be quite nice to share here:

Subtokyo YouTube channel link

Subtokyo Twitter account link