When I was little, I was the type of kid who liked to ask why things are the way they are. Discovering what things were and how it worked was an amazing feeling when I was just a child. I wasn’t very handy, but I also liked reverse engineering things. I think I got that from my dad, who also did it habitually. The difference between me and perhaps someone who did took something apart and see how it worked was that I tried to model it in my mind and internalize how it works. To me, writing things down was symbolic, it was the act of putting some kind of physical representation down that reflected, expressed or symbolized something that was in my head. In that regard, I’m not too different today than so many decades ago.
Shirobako, the new PA Works anime that describes the workings of a fictional animation studio, hit me in such a way that reaffirms my feeling about anime. It’s hard to explain, so thus the prequel about little me. When I read a book or watch anime, or other things like that, the reverse engineer inside of me doesn’t really think too differently. My attitude, for example, when confronted with the gruesome end to Aldnoah.Zero cour-1, wasn’t to just emotionally react, but wonder why things were set up in such a way. After asking so many “why” questions over decades, as an avid anime viewer, invariably the chains of questioning goes up into and beyond the veil of the works themselves. And it didn’t even take a long time; I paid attention to who was making the stuff I was consuming at an early stage. That’s partly what made me a seiyuu otaku, too.
What really got across from the first episode of Shirobako, to me, was how the production staff felt about making anime. And I mean this in a way that isn’t just pretty girls making doughnut pacts as they graduate from high school; I mean it in the sense when I am moved by animation because of how it’s animated, not (just) because the story or acting or music or scenario is a certain way. As Shirobako described, there are a wide variety of types of people at the animation studio, doing different tasks and having different levels of experience and skills. It’s not something easy to describe through words or even action, and that’s what’s really artful about Shirobako to me, from episode 1, that it was able to convey this passion.
But I have to ask. Why was there a cool car chase? Because, after all, a life-like approach to the Japanese animation process is hardly exciting, unless you’re the kind of person who gets excited by juggling resources to meet deadlines, where LOEs and time estimates are more like rough guidelines than promises. To me that’s more work than play, and maybe that’s true for the average intended audience of Shirobako. So maybe that’s why there’s a car chase. Or maybe a bicycle chase is more apropos? I don’t know about production assistants, or the last time we’ve had an anime about making anime: Kuromi, the runner. I suppose there are no surprises here, given the nature of the job a runner has and how the assistant does have a hand in a lot of different parts of the animation process, it is a natural choice for the narrative focal lens.
Can’t wait and see what the line producer is like, LOL. Which is not to be confused with the President
In that sense, I feel that Shirobako E1 was really about the animators, and how they speak to us through their animation–not to be confused with the script or plot or designs or whatever. Those, too, do the job, but only together with their actual work. It’s like when the director and the runners got together to find someone who is appropriately skilled and experienced to cover a missing set of cuts.
Let me do a bit of annotation using the ED. It puts the people who worked on episode one front and center, and isn’t that just the most appropriate thing? And by front and center I literally mean it.
In some ways anime is turning ideas into reality. It’s also a representation itself. But it all starts on paper like most things.
Note the sequence of credits. Note that the credit scroll is just balls center up. So appropriate.
Wait, this guy was watching anime in his car? What a baller. Is that even legal in Japan LOL. That being said, listening to seiyuu radio that your high school buddy is guest starring in, on the show you’re working on, probably means something too. I really like this detail because it goes to show the hearts of these people are in the same place, even as rivals.
Mocap using optical markers, it’s pretty standard. But why baseball? I hope someone can explain that. I mean, moe anime right? Dancing right? Baseball? This is not Sunrise.
Why does PA Works keep on making anime that really resonate with me? Sigh.