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By Andrew Osmond.
Shirobako opens… misleadingly, actually. The first minutes of the film show a group of five close-knit high-school girls creating their own mini-epic anime. Once that’s been done, they promise each other, they’ll join up again to make something else. And then… the story skips forward two and a half years. Two of the friends, now young adults, are working at the same Tokyo studio, but their friendship isn’t the focus. There are many other characters. You can find out more about us by clicking here.Characters for us to meet. There are naïve newbies, and veterans who can be genial or forbidding, and they all have their own issues and conflicts. This is adult anime, much more complex than a high school club.
ShirobakoThe majority of the story takes place in Musashino Animation, an anime studio. The studio is fictional, but Musashino is a part of central Tokyo, and it’s home to several real studios, including Production I.G and the studio it grew from, Tatsunoko. In ShirobakoWe see the struggle of the staff to create TV anime through Aoi Miyamori. She was once the leader of her school club. Now she’s just a production assistant, which means she’s racing around the various departments, trying to liaise between people who can be very, very hard to deal with, while the clock’s always ticking down to deadline.
Aoi can occasionally grab a drink with Ema, her former clubmate who’s also at Musashino as a rookie animator. They’re joined by their other former clubmates, who offer glimpses into other sides of anime. There’s Misa (“Mii”) who works at a CG studio; Shizuka, a struggling voice actor; and Midori (“Rii”) who’s a university student and budding writer. Other characters, like the childlike, high strung director Kinoshita who is so important and his production supervisor Honda, must physically force Kinoshita to the right direction. These men are initially visually linked by their tubbiness. But eventually, this changes.
The 24-part series covers Musashino’s production of two different anime – one an original show, and the other adapted from a popular manga. Each production has its own twists and turns, but there are some similarities. One of the most painful things for anyone to go through is getting the Endless possibilities The series is on the right.
Today, many Anglophone anime fans are savvy about the industry’s production process. That’s largely due to the rise ofsakuga fan commentary – fans who break down a piece of animation into the individual shots and movements, and celebrate the many artists behind them, often translating Japanese sources or interviewing creators themselves. As of this writing, prominent English language sakuga websites include sakugabooru, fullfrontal.moeYou can also find out more about the following: AnimétudesAll are worth a visit.
For readers less familiar with anime’s production, some basic terminology is handy. For example, the term “a” is used to describe a television. “cours”A three-month television season. As used by Japanese, a “cut”We call this a “shot” rather than the “end of a shoot”. Then there’s a lot of talk of “key”You can also find out more about the following: “keyframe”Animation can also be written as: “key frame.”These frames define and shape movements on screen and passages of motion. These animations can be simple or complex. The frames of motion that connect key frames, are called “in-betweens”(or tweens, for short). It is common for experienced animators to draw keyframes while novice animators provide in-betweens.
Anime doesn’t start with the animation, though. Before that, it’s drawn as a comic-strip style storyboard – this may be done by the anime’s director, though that’s not always the case. (Storyboards are sometimes made available as extras on anime home releases, or else they’re published as thick books in Japan.) In Shirobako, The director Kinoshita actually does the storyboards. The agony that comes with drawing them is an important part of the first episodes. After the storyboards, there’s the layout stage. Layouts are visual aids for animators, background artists and other professionals. They show where characters will appear in a scene and how camera movements should be done.
It might sound dry at first. ShirobakoDramatizing the process by showing artists struggling to Get it right – for instance, we see the devastating effect on the newbie animator Ema when her key animation is rejected. That judgment is made by an animation director (AD), a woman freelancer called Segawa who’s quietly brilliant, though we’ve already seen how thin she’s spread. In part one, Musashino staff ask her to draw keyframes in the last minute due to a mishap. Rough keyframes will do, they say, but Segawa’s not having that. She’ll do them right, or not at all.
Is this about having professional integrity or is it a childish display of piety? Segawa’s behavior is childish. “her”A bit of a collective enterprise? That question will mushroom later, when one of the studio’s production team openly scorns artists who won’t wave through work fast and want it done better. ShirobakoThis conflict is the foundation of the film. For instance, there’s a male animator called Ryosuke who walks out of the studio in high dudgeon when he hears that a cut (or shot) that he was preparing, involving lovely, lovely explosions, will be made in CG instead.
Anime is more than just visuals. We get look-ins at the colouring department, and at the people who tirelessly provide all those footsteps and door-slams that you don’t register consciously, but would miss instantly if they were gone. As for voice-acting, that gets its own running strand as we follow the struggles of Aoi’s friend Shizuka to get a voice part, her confidence shaken by every stumble. There’s a scene where she’s with a bunch of other actors to provide voices for a background crowd (what’s called a “walla group”In America). Shizuka, however, tries too hard and shouts too loudly. She humiliates herself. If she can’t be a decent voice in a crowd, what hope is there for her as a voice actor?
The voice-actors will portray a production committee in part 14 (which is the next episode). It’s a sarcastic and biting portrait. Those are the company sponsors who’ve invested in an anime series and expect their due returns. One sponsor rep insists on a singer with the ability to sing tie-in songs as the voice of the lead. One sponsor rep wants the lead to be voiced a sexy female model who can do bikini shoots and live events. In the second half, Musashino Animation adapts an extremely popular manga. This is a highly prestigious project. But it leaves the studio at the mercy of the manga’s powerful and inaccessible creator, who can capriciously veto what the studio’s done and throw everyone into chaos.
While names are fictionalised to protect the innocent (and guilty), some of the anime’s references are obvious. For example, two rival animators in part 6 bond over a love for a classic robot animation calledIdepon. That’s modelled on Space Runaway IdeonThe epic 1982 anime space-opera was apocalyptic, even by anime standards. It was created Yoshiyuki Tomino, father of Gundam. Shiraboko episode 12 sees the appearance of an industry legend whose identity will be instantly obvious to many readers – even his name is only a letter away from the real one. The only pity is he’s not voiced by the real person, who’s done anime voice-acting elsewhere. No, it’s not Miyazaki, though there’s a hilarious Miyazaki gag worked in too.
The part 19 is probably the most important episode. Aoi’s genial studio president Marukawa takes her to an old, shuttered studio, where he once worked. It’s a tribute to a bygone age when CG was just sci-fi and everyone worked with physical paints and plastic cels, making masterworks to inspire future generation. By judging by the “vintage”Animation that we can see, the old animation studio was operating in 1970s, perhaps even 1960s, and it made a wonderful animated cartoon about a courageous Alpine hedgehog. It reminded me of HeidiYou can also find out more about the following: The Moomins. If only this had been real. As for Marukawa, his name’s a giveaway. He’s surely based on Masao Maruyama, who’s been in anime since in the 1960s, co-founding Madhouse in 1972 and founding MAPPA in 2011.
These are just a few of the references. For a far deeper dive, there’s an article by Kevin Cirugeda on thesakugabooruSite called “Shirobako’s Secrets.”Cirugeda reports that, among other things the childlike Kinoshita director was cheekily modeled on Seiji Mitsuhima, who directed shows like the first Fullmetal AlchemistYou can also find out more about the following: Gundam 00. As for an insane piece of animation, Shirobako part 12 – it involves police cars, flying, and lots and lots of horses – that was actually guest-drawn by Toshiyuki Inoue, who’s animated everything in his time from Kusangi diving down a building (Ghost in the Shell) to a little witch in flight (Kiki’s Delivery Service).
ShirobakoThis series is a positive one, showing Musashino Studio’s rise in the industry. That’s surely a little self-promotion on the part of Shirobako’s real studio P.A. Works (which isIt is not clear how to get there.Based in Musahino (outside of Tokyo, in mountainous Toyama). P.A., founded in 2000. The company began by doing support work below the line, before launching shows like the exuberantly dramatic Angel Beats! (2010).
Since then, P.A. Since then, Works has produced a wide variety of work. From the heart-breaking fantasy film MaquiaThe delightful 2023 School Show Skip and Loafer. But one strong running thread for the studio was its “workplace”The series is about people who have to work in the ground. P.A.Works made the series Hanasaku IrohaThe onsen is a place where you can relax and unwind. Sakura Quest, about an organization that is trying to promote a remote community; The Aquatope in White SandThe 2023 movie is about a seaside aquarium in Okinawa Komada: A Whiskey Family, regarding a distillery. Slide in among them. Shirobako isn’t just about the rise of an anime studio, but the rise of the studio which made Shirobako.
One last issue is raised by the show’s title. “Shirobako”The word “Answer” is a way of saying “Do not be afraid”. “white box”In the animation industry, it is the box that contains a physical copy of the completed animation. This is usually a TV show episode. These were originally videotapes. “shirobako” box is glimpsed in part 3 of the series, it’s plainly for a disc. A digital file may be one thing, but tapes or discs are another. concrete proof of a studio’s efforts.
Indeed, ShirobakoThe show shows the dangers of assuming everything is digital. In an early episode, a server goes down at a crucial moment, meaning vital data can’t be sent and a hard drive must be couriered to Tokyo from an outsourced studio in the sticks. The series goes even further. At the climax, there’s a madcap scene where characters are taking tapes (not discs) of a finished episode and rushing them to broadcast studios around Japan, by plane, train and automobile. This isn’tBecause of a network meltdown. The script suggests that the broadcasters require the episode in a physically format. (There was a situation similar in the “Mellow Maromi” episode of Satoshi Kon’s Paranoia agentIt was ten before Shirobako.)
Viewers can be confused. Even when Shirobako was shown in 2014, wouldn’t an anime studio just send episodes to broadcasters’ hard drives? In fact, Japanese TV stations had been using betacam (with material in digibeta) as their standard format up until 2011, when the facility that was making these tapes in Sendai, Japan, was damaged in a catastrophic Tohoku quake. ShirobakoYou may have used a bit of dramatic licence and shifted the clock back a couple of years.
The show’s last episodes also include hilarious excursions into “anime”Reality is a crucial meeting of creative minds in a building high up that plays like Sergio Leone and Shonen Jump. Charlie Kaufman would be proud of the mad rush made to get the tapes out to the TV stations. Even while you enjoy the climax, you’ll be clocking the huge number of shots and backgrounds and characters and thinking how exhausting it all must have been to make. P.A. might have a reality that is hidden behind the artistic licence. Works wanted to portray a world as frantic as a car chase.
Original content by blog.alltheanime.com – “Shirobako – All the Anime”
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