I enjoyed Shirobako the Movie, and I hadn’t seen any of the series. Despite now knowing the end of the series, I think I’d happily watch it.
That’s intended to be high praise for the movie. It’s also as high as I’ll go here.
I watched two feature length’s at the Scotland Lives Anime festival that happened to be introspective commentaries on the entertainment industry, and Shirobako is my second favourite. Pompo wins out.
In the intro scene, you learn that a young woman motivates a failing anime studio into success. That’s the plot of the Shirobako series.
The twist comes straightaway. The movie is set a few years later, that success has faded, and the studio hasn’t found a new one.
I like Shirobako’s brutal honesty about the industry. Without work, the studio can’t hire staff, and they can’t get any work without staff.
The solution? Take a risk.
I also like how all this plays out. The commercials are believable with all those contractual pit-traps and daggers in the back, the characters are not but fun, and some of the scenes are probably rooted in truth. Would the notorious grind of anime production really lock a producer away until the edits were done?
What I didn’t like was more straightforward. The tour of characters meant nothing to me. We had people who seemed to pop in to say hello. Who are they? Why did it matter? Are they a new person for this movie or someone who played a crucial scene in one episode and was never seen again? Are they even one of the main characters?
Of course, this is only a problem for people who haven’t seen the TV series.
Look and feel
It’s the characters who are larger than life in Shirobako. The world feels very real, urban, mundane and largely unimportant.
We don’t see any fans either. This is anime making for survival, not for the art or joy of it. It’s not about the fans. They’re invisible.
Shirobako’s characters, on the other hand, are larger than life and glorious with it. Even the ones which remind us of the people we work with. That woman who always takes on more work, whether she has the capacity or not, that guy who’d instead be cycling or the chap who causes a problem because he didn’t want to create a fuss. I’ve worked with them all. Shirobako’s lot have style and class despite their flaws.
Some scenes prove the rule by being an exception to it, and these are all based around two imaginary narrators; a bear and a pirate Viking. I know, pirate Vikings aren’t a thing. I can’t argue why they’re here, but I concede they actually work as a juxtaposition.
What’s the point?
I think a fair question to ask of this anime is; what’s the point of you?
Without this question, we can’t tackle whether Shirobako the Movie is any good or not. Does it do what it wanted to do?
For fans, I’m sure the point is to return to these characters after four years and see how they’re doing. What we find is that life in anime production is challenging but that they’re still going.
Fans get to see meaningful moments of interaction between characters.
For newbies, for people looking for a feature-length about making anime, I think Shirobako the Movie is pretty good. It’ll entertain, but you’ll know you’ve not seen the series. It won’t make the movie unapproachable; it’s just a reminder you don’t have the full benefit of it.
It’ll still be worth watching the show, I think. With Shirobako the Movie, it’s not about the destination; it is about the decisions and road taken to get there. That’s the point of the show; to look into anime production and the people who do it, albeit as fiction.
Glad I watched it. I may catch up on the TV series, but I suspect unlikely to do as I defer to the steady stream of good looking new titles.
- Amazon; Shirobako the Movie
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