As I was watching ME!ME!ME! last night, I thought about Shirobako. That’s not unusual these days, that every Thursday my mind kicks into Shirobako mode, starting out in the morning as matome blogs and Japanese twitter start to fill in with other viewers who are either anticipating it or have watched it. The day rolls on as the first wave of EN viewers tweet their reactions and responses, following up later in the day with viewers who have normal day jobs and can only watch it after work. I had somewhat of an abnormal day so I wasn’t able to catch up to Ema’s struggles until late.
Looking at ME!ME!ME!, that Animator Expo clip, it is a music video done by a budding animator that worked on a bunch of post-Gainax products–Panty Stocking, Khara’s Eva 3.0, what have you. It struck me in a way that is both poetic and sufficiently cred-hawking that separated the work from what typically passes as sexually aggressive and violent cartoons from Japan. The story might just be about the corruption of moe in how what we hold on as dear memories with our earlier 2Ds have transformed us (as in, a certain otaku subset) into dead people, being force fed of all this sexually gratuitous media over the years. It’s not something you can easily describe and come out as not condemning. It’s kind of like walking around Akiba and being handed tissue papers with scantily clad cartoon girls on the wrapper. It’s kind of like seeing Yaraon showing eroge PR posts in your news feed. It’s like, well, /a/ and 2ch, with a side of Sad Panda.
Poetic, because I found ME!ME!ME! to be a nice illustration of spiritual death. Regardless of its value at cultural criticism, at any rate, the barrage of tittays to the Japanese subcultural consciousness in this section of modern visual media induces some reaction for people who are sensitive to that type of content. And the only reasonable ways to combat it are either to ignore it, or grow indifferent.
That’s just one read. There are many ways to interpret ME!ME!ME!, and I think that’s what makes this particular entry in Animator Expo particularly artful.
But what about Shirobako? I think it comes down to the concept of monozukuri. In the same way, crafters make their art speak through its own being, in that sense that an anime is a sufficently malleable medium that one or one hundred people can come together and create, that there is a body of voices in the work as well an individual voice, in which each design or cut or scene or line of dialog or piece of music come together to express. It might be a pulse-thumping video where a bunch of tits are shooting anti-air weapons at you, or a struggling young adult trying to make it in her dream career. The details say a lot. Like how
NunuIguchi took RuruEma’s donut. It’s got so much stuff imbued in that momentary exchange in which leaves us (or at least me) falling behind trying to unpack it. Or rather, in the usual case, food for thought after the weekly dose is over. Will we get a follow up? I hope so.
How hard was it to write and direct, and to animate something like this? I don’t even want to know. Yet it is right here, laid bare in front of us. The spirit of SHIROBAKO is screaming like the all-cap letters in English script it is written in (officially).