On the Sixth Day of Anime: “Too Real” (Shirobako)

One particular question I’ve noticed on ask.fm within the past few days asks about the concept of finding a show either “enjoyable” or “good”, and whether or not you can divorce the two qualifiers when reviewing it. And honestly, I’m kind of bummed out that I wasn’t asked this question. I mean, it’s not like I’ve written about the topic before. Nope. Nosiree. Not a single time. This is really all I ever talk about when it comes to my anime club. C’mon, man. Come at me.

Shirobako fits into this poorly thought-out intro because I identify the show as something I definitely enjoy but hesitate to call “good”. Do not get me wrong when I say that. This anime is, by far, one of the few I really look forward to every week alongside Mushishi and Parasyte. But why would I ever think that if I don’t even consider it to be as good as the others? Because it’s too real.

What’s so good about this show feeling “real”? It’s by far one of the most touted compliments towards the show. And considering the subject material is something that resonates with so many of us anibloggers with our dead teenage dreams and long, mostly thankless work hours, P.A. Works’s earnest attempt at capturing that “realness” happens to surprise in its accuracy and balance. What I mean by that is, Shirobako knows what it’s talking about when it comes to the hardships and worries of finding or securing a dream job. I’ve known how it feels when the more careful and fragile of operations ends up crumbling at the last minute due to circumstances out of your own control, and at a more personal level I know how tedious it is to keep scrubbing tea stains out of your cup that will eventually come back anyways (episode 3). I’ve also known, to a degree, people who’ve burned themselves out because their diligence prevented them from asking for help (episode 7). What this anime manages to do to me, what this show makes me feel, is that unlike the majority of anime I watch on a weekly basis I find very little problem with emotionally investing in this particular show. Because I identify with these issues. Because everything this show talks about has relevance to how I actually live my life at this point in time. Because this anime is simply “too real”.

Yet, is that in itself proof that this show is good? I ask this question of myself because my relation to the issues presented in Shirobako shouldn’t weigh in on whether or not the content was actually executed correctly or in an interesting way. And I feel that’s kind of overlooked when it comes to Shirobako: if you’re not particularly interesting in hearing about youthful work-related troubles or are indifferent to the likes of finding your way in society, many of Shirobako’s most pressing issues merely become plot points rather than elevated material. If I weren’t a starving college student worrying about my future, would I still be getting the same kick out of this show the same way I do now? I certainly don’t think so, and I know this because the only real thing that captures my attention with this show, despite how intensely it does so, is the concepts this anime brings up. Nothing more.

See, I don’t pay close attention to the characters in Shirobako because, compared to the issues its story brings up, their individual characterizations come off as a bit superfluous. Aoi doesn’t have much of an idea of what she wants out of life? Sure, just get in line with the rest of humanity. Ema needs some encouragement to get back on track and improve her artwork? Well, let’s use that as an excuse to talk about some generic life lessons, shall we? Zuka’s having trouble finding a job she wants? Take a number. None of what this show does with its characters is necessarily profound. The many references are clever but unimportant, and the conflicts are relatable but too trapped in its own realism to be about anything else than what’s on the surface.

And that’s basically what my trepidation about liking this show too much stems from: I’m aware that Shirobako is nothing more than a slice-of-life anime that’s specifically tailored towards my life. I like it so much because I enjoy how much it speaks back to me about my own worries as an adult who still thinks he’s too young to get drunk. Despite how depressing it can get with its realism, watching Shirobako weekly has by far made me feel good the most out of all the shows this season. I’m very glad that it exists. But I know, deep down, that this magic will fade away along with my youth and my concern towards finding happiness in society. That a lot of the enjoyment that I get out of this show is primarily based on my own personal history as an adult in a similar work environment. That an accurate portrayal of my own struggles, while deserving of its merit, hardly outclasses the inherent flaws a show like this picks up along the way. Shirobako can be, at times, boring and uninspiring if the problems/concepts presented don’t necessarily apply to you personally. Its earnest and deep exploration into the animation process can come off as either fascinating tidbits or cluttered storytelling depending on what you prefer in this anime. There will come a time where I feel the need to rate this a lot lower than what I feel it deserves right now.

But until then, until the magic finally goes away, I will enjoy Shirobako as a person this anime was catered towards.


  1. I actually had trouble thinking about negative things to say when it came to Shirobako’s “realness”. Perhaps I play too much into the Devil’s Advocate side of things when it’s not really needed.
  2. Fuck Tarou.
  3. No seriously fuck that guy.

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