#10 An Awkward Feeling of Validation (Shirobako)

Hey there, fella. Heard you like Shirobako. I do, too, but I have things to say and you may not like them.Don’t get me wrong, however. Shirobako is a really fun anime and I enjoyed watching it as it aired. In fact, it’s the most fun I’ve had with a show for a long time. Hell, I can even say that it’s a good show. I’ve always been interested in knowing how anime production worked and I appreciated the show taking the time and effort to educate me about the process. It even entertained me with a lot of plot threads and character arcs to follow as I was learning about the anime industry. I don’t actually know if all of the information in Shirobako is accurate or not, nor is it really any big concern of mine. But I still admire the show for being servicable as a s’life and a look into the industry, two things which I did enjoy watching by default.

But all that is over now. Well, it’s actually been over since the end of Winter but that’s not the point. I’ve had my fun. Laughs were had and bitter existential crises shared with the main cast about their futures. Extreme fun having was being undergone and I liked having it. Yet, unlike for many others I know on Twitter who still admire the show’s strengths, Shirobako has turned into a thing that aired last Fall and Winter for me. Nothing less, nothing more. Just one of many other shows I enjoyed watching and will never revisit in the future. When that last episode aired, I felt a strange satisfaction within me, knowing that the show had exhausted every last means of entertainment to keep me happy. So, I don’t believe I’ll gain anything from a rewatch. And at this rate, barring constant reminders about it on Twitter, I would end up forgetting about Shirobako within a year’s time.

I find that kind of weird to think about since I like this show so much right now, but I’ve had misgivings before, and I pretty much explained the jist of it when I wrote about the show for 12 Days last year: Shirobako’s environment is safe. I found myself agreeing with almost all the points the show makes about chasing dreams, working hard, and cultivating your talents. The lessons each character learns are almost always ones that I have no problems with. Issues in the production of anime are true and applicable to life but are miraculously resolved in time. Everything about the execution of Shirobako is meant to keep you empathetic for the cast and by God is this show good at it. But that emphasis, that goal, keeps Shirobako from being considered a favorite anime, at least personally. I tend to like stories that not only entertain but also challenge my perception of the world, and Shirobako in its 24 episode run managed to grab me with the former. The latter, however, is something Shirobako kind of wusses out on. Because its lessons are so agreeable that they’re practically common sense. And there’s very little to really think about when that’s the case.

For example, I think of a particular scene in episode 8 when Ema is having a lot of trouble with correctly drawing a cat. This is where the show touts the importance of improving your skills by imitating others first, exposing Ema’s narrow view of how she should be drawing and is essentially a good wake-up call. She doesn’t have to always rely on her own skills to get a job done, and there’s no shame in piggybacking off of other people’s talents. That is an excellent lesson. Learning from others is a good thing. It’s how I learn about writing, as well, even though I don’t see it as a particular talent of mine. Reading other people’s blog posts and articles informs me of how I imagine my own writing style to look like. It informs what kind of tone I should take if I want to convey my thoughts properly, or how I can effectively convey the level of sarcasm I need for more creative projects like monologues. Knowing that it’s okay to “steal” from other people is the best way to keep going, and it’s something I abide by with any form of skill. So when I get to this scene with Ema, I feel kind of disappointed. Not because the show did anything wrong, mind you. The scene itself is executed very well, in my opinion. But I was going into this show expecting to learn something new, just like I have been with the anime’s subject matter.

What I’m trying to get at with this is that I don’t really gain anything from finding everything agreeable. It even feels kind of bad, to be honest, when I’m unable to disagree with any perceptions or worldviews. I don’t like it. I don’t like feeling catered towards. I didn’t get into this show to feel so incredibly safe about myself and what I’ve been doing with my life. I feel as if this is not what I need right now. That’s sad, isn’t it? I’m supposed to be at an age where Shirobako’s messages of cheerfulness in the face of harsh realities resonate the strongest with me, and I’d be lying if they didn’t resonate at least to a considerable level. Yet I feel so uncomfortable about being told that how I currently think about the world is correct, especially when I’m so young.

I guess… I guess I just don’t feel good about it like other people do. That’s a pretty personal reason to hold back on a high rating, now that I think about it.

Again, please do not get me wrong. I’m glad that I watched Shirobako. I’m so happy that P.A. Works managed to produce a good anime this year. And I’m ultimately grateful that this show happens to match my worldviews so perfectly. However, those traits alone do not simply mean I can rate it amongst my favorites. The character development in the end really isn’t anything special, the informative bits sometimes drag to the point of taking me out of the experience, and I don’t really regard the show’s messages as highly as I think people expect me to. Shirobako is just a good, informative anime. I am as comfortable seeing people sing its praises as I am seeing people trash the shit out of it. But I will be part of neither camp, and perhaps in the future I will forget that I even made this distinction. Even now, as I think more about exactly what I think about Shirobako, nothing is really making me change the 7/10 I placed on my MAL.

I can say, however, that no anime has ever made feel as validated about myself as I did when I watched Shirobako. While that doesn’t translate into actual quality, it’s something that I’ll at least remember about the show.

Addendum

  • I first went into this with the full intention of dismissing Shirobako as unremarkable once all the fanfare dies down, even going as far as claiming that it wouldn’t stand the test of time. Now that the post transformed into something less mean-spirited, I now know that my actual feelings would not have been conveyed if I had continued trying to write what I wanted at first.
  • guys i swear i still like shirobako i just dont think its amazing or even the best anime of 2015 please do not subtweet
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3 comments

  1. Yeah, pretty much. I like to think of Shirobako as a letter of encouragement to folks in the anime industry. That does sort of run concurrent to it really challenging you since it’s core belief system is essentially ganbatte and everything will be fine. I don’t hold it against it though, since everything people seem to say about working in anime suggests that hey, maybe Shirobako is exactly what those guys need. Maybe not so much what I need, unfortunately.

    I still appreciate it a lot, though I rarely think I ever felt inspired by it, which is what I would normally ask for in a show like this. I think if it was less safe in both conflicts and resolution it’d have had more of an effect on me. This is why my favourite episode was the voice actor panel with the DAT ASS guy. To me, that was something the series really seemed angry about, and was actually willing to aim for the throat during. It also had that one production guy shouting about Dat Ass, which is just the funniest friggin thing oh god

    1. In the end, though, I don’t want to make Shirobako’s quality about whether or not I “needed” it. I learn a lot of useless insights from shows I like more than Shirobako, but those insights are surely not the only reason why I prefer those shows. As it should. There’s a wide variety of reasons outside “I find this agreeable” by which you can praise Shirobako, and I certainly would do just that.

      That meeting was a riot. I stand corrected. This show has taught me that butts can’t talk. You never know, though…

  2. Great post—I’ve likewise found that *Shirobako*’s faded a lot in my memory (and general affections) since it aired. I still love Aoi Miyamori to death, but her show is neither as gritty nor as transcendental as she is.

    I also suppose a lot of this comes from my love of Big Drama, but that’s neither here nor there.

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