One show is done, but the other one soldiers on…
Given that we’ve reached the end of both the cour and and the series within a series, “Exodus” – and that early signs point to the parent show being a sleeper commercial hit – it seemed like a good time to briefly check-in with Shirobako since I’ve been watching it for the entire season.
First things first – this is a good show. Not a great one by any stretch, but pretty good – solidly entertaining most of the time, and reasonably well-produced. But more to the point, it’s an interesting one for what it says about the anime industry and for how it’s being received. My early take on Shirobako was that it was something like a WUG for the anime industry. And here at the end of the cour, I think that turns out to be pretty accurate.
Certainly, Shirobako is better. But in terms of form and function, I think the analogy is pretty close. At heart, I think, Shirobako is basically a wish-fulfilment story about a modern anime industry where right and wrong and idealism still have relevance. Where CGI and traditional animators sing “Kumbayah” over shared favorites. Where legendary directors kindly give advice to newbie PAs, and washed-up old artists left behind by moefication end up saving the day and being revered. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that in itself. I wonder, though, if people aren’t mistaking what sort of show this is.
There are really two separate questions at play here – how Shirobako wanted to be perceived, and how it is being perceived. And if viewers believe the sanitized picture it paints of the industry is in any way realistic, is it doing a disservice – whether it intends to or not? Yes, that was a question I asked about WUG as well. And I think it’s the most interesting aspect in considering Shirobako. Maybe this show should be taken as a fantasy (which it basically is). Maybe it can even be seen as a little subversive, agitating for a better industry than the one we have. But if it’s seen as quasi-realistic, might it not be doing more harm than good? Surely, anything that helps people continue to be blind to the huge problems threatening anime can’t be good – whether that’s its intention or not.
This season has seen several pretty decent shows that I haven’t blogged regularly – in addition to this one, GBF Try and Tribe Cool Crew spring to mind (and Ronja is finally at the good part of the story now). It’s just possible I may pick one of them up next season, as bad as it looks – and while Shirobako isn’t the best series of that group in my view, it’s probably the one that most lends itself to discussion. We’ll see – stay tuned.