Category Archives: Shirobako

Autumn 2016 Housekeeping

Just some housekeeping items. Links to relevant quoting. Bolded for topic. Some replies to blogs and some are just seasonal anime musings.

Shall we make a wish?

Usagi Drop is a solid anime, don’t let people who follow/read/gets spoiled by the manga tell you anything otherwise. It’s not about morality, but about mode of consumption and letting that dictate what you ought to do, when it might not be a good reason. When I read that post I thought about how anime adaptations sometimes live in this different world than the manga experience. Then again I dig these kind of controversial stuff so I am hardly unbiased.

The only thing I can say about Shirobako’s commercial success is that they sold out of the first run of the Blu-rays pretty fast, but that might have to do with low expectation to begin with. It already has a Blu-ray box on the horizon, too. Given the industry these days it would not be a surprise to hear in a couple years that PA Works will go back to that well. Certainly it would out-delight that recent announcement about Uchoten Kazoku.

I have mixed and some reserved feelings about Girlish Number (PSA: don’t put the (a) in there). I think it is also the anime made just for me. I say this only because a number of us have said this. Are you one of us? For well-intended Americans and Canadians, the show streams on Hulu on Wednesdays with 1 week behind-cast schedule. I might actually do this to rep the show (especially now there’s no more ads for paid service). Anyway, as much as I still have mixed feelings about the whole thing, I can’t expect any more than what it has already given me: a satire on seiota fandom/industry.

Adults are different, but overrated. I would even add a lot of people enjoy adults who act like this, what is the point of being one then… I can confirm this observation, although I made it when I first watched Yuri On Ice. When it comes to pro figure skating, age ranges can run the gamut…of young, as it’s not a sure thing based on the teasers. What’s more interesting isn’t why but what it does. I feel that can make some shows more interesting (Matoi) and some shows tried and tired (3gatsu). Maybe it doesn’t really matter. Man Shaft doing 3gatsu feels just all full of try-hard. I guess when Yamamoto Sayo is directing a girl-pandering anime in the same season, nobody can win against that. On that note, it’s good that we have adults, in the case of children hitting each other with butts and tits seem to call in the moral judgment police–that’s one valid use case.

Matoi and Mahoiku are both good shows to watch together if just for comparison’s sake. I can’t speak about magical girl anime or which tier of nerd hell we’re in in regards to talking about them, but these two approach probably very similar things in a different way. I mean it’s obvious Matoi’s mom will come forward as a key plot item, much like the dying game Mahoiku is doing. Can we get that idol killing game an anime too? (And … Idol Death Game TV TV would be delightful of a name for a TV anime. I kid.)

There’s some Chinese animation that passes for season fare this season. I’m not sure how to feel about all this, other than the toilet humor gag anime does work still. It really comes down to the core staff and material. Also, if the skill and process still need development, try not to create something too ambitious like Bloodivores. Maybe this is related to that one news bit about an animator thinking there are not enough animators to go around. Well, that seems like an obvious thing.

Izetta had me at episode 1 and lost me by the OP. This gun-riding witch thing is hilarious, in that while I’m okay with it as a matter of plot, I’m not so much okay with it when it is the main visual gimmick. It also reminds me of a D&D character I created who would swing around a Spell-Storing Broadsword. I have nobody to blame but myself, to a degree, but this is dissonant when you expect something closer to Indiana Jones and got Guilty Crown (ok not that bad).

Euphon S2 is great. I love what it has going, but I hate how it’s 2 episodes long for a pilot. This show doesn’t hold my attention very well…except if I can marathon it. The voice acting seemed to change even closer to live action. That took a little getting used to.

Nanbaka is dumb. Natsume is chill af, FliFla is weird I guess? I think I would tough it through if it had a good story to tell. Maybe it’s like reading some good writing on news blogs and only to realize the stuff they talk about is dumb and empty. Quality art/passion projects sometimes feel like more an exercise than a thing that can take on life on its own.

What else do I need to name drop? Drifters is OK. Udon no Kuni is not bad, and I like it more than Sweetness & Lightning so far. Trickster is uh, Gackt? I love how 1hope Sniper works in this and that always mean I end watching the episode smiling. Brave Witches is, well, a brave new sequel. I feel like Brave Witches is re-engineered for the present, in that this series incorporates some lesson learned from other franchises and its progeny. I have some hopes for this in fact.

Ping Pong Girls should deserve its own paragraph. It actually is less unlike to Ping Pong than I expected, which speaks volume for something mostly I consider as “throwaway Chinese anime.” Oh wait, I guess that would be Idol Memories (although the Chinese lessons are luls). I mean, what do you call these anime that are clearly made with the, uh, Tencent market in mind?

WWW.Working, on the other hand, seems to be made with the dumb audience in mind. It lacks a lot of craft and charm from the original series, but there’s enough carry-over charm to stick with it. Or maybe because the original series just wasn’t that good so the dropoff in quality doesn’t seem so bad, I’m too stupid to tell. Maybe.

PS. Such cramming for CG4th begins. Let’s see what that does to my viewing schedule. Someone asked me a couple days ago which shows are my top this season, and they were Yuri On Ice, Girlish Number, and maybe Occult 9 or Keijo!!!!!!!!. I don’t know if I have a number 3, but I can see a few shows making strong moves to that spot, with Takkyuu Musume, Matoi and Izetta probably moving up the ranks.

Year In Review 2015: Shirobako, Kurobako

I just want to leave this 2014 survey here to anchor the opinion I am about to express.

It’s rare that I can take something I watched in the year before and say “this is the best thing this year” at the end of the year. I am not really a futurist but I am casually familiar with the general concept that has been passed around the past few years, the ones that curious dudes might ask a figure like deGrasse Tyson (or whoever is popular at the time), about what is to come. “An anime about making anime that is actually remarkably good”? I think that was something long due.

Shirobako, to be fair, is not the kind of show that will engage everybody like, say, Parasyte or even Oremonogatari. But it’s the kind of show that at least, deserves critical acclaims. Especially from the people who comes to the show mostly from story/plot/character/theme perspectives. Also, I think the way people rated this show in the aggregate speaks a lot about online anime opinion echo chambers in general.

When people talk about how the people who make a ruckus online but don’t show up in stores, this is the sort of things it reminds me. People wanted mainstream narratives or mature characters (outside of a school context etc) or a non-harem thing, but it has been repeatedly shown that it is not what makes money in a very convincing sort of way. We want our SAOs, collectively speaking. Angsty teenage ninjas will always have a place in the industry’s wallet (and when set to Linkin Park, a place in AMV competitions). The sorts of shows we rep usually speak more about us than the shows themselves, because the anime industry isn’t a crapshoot. It is formulaic. Creators in general know what works, and continues to subsist via providing what the people want. This is, too, a lesson you can take away from watching Shirobako.

It’s important to always preface any Shirobako worshipping with the clear understanding that what was depicted in the anime is an idealized situation, in some sense. We have always make space for Kurobako, or the dark reality of what it means, sometimes, to work in that industry and in that context of being a contractor or employee in that capacity. It is what I think to myself after learning about Turning Girls earlier this year after reading about what Trigger did to produce it. (Oddly enough I don’t think about it when I watch Ninja Slayer…) That kickstarter to fund a dorm for animators. The lifestyle of these animators or people who worked in the front lines, at least from the real life accounts, can be something really scary. I think it’s all just baggage for talk though. What stops animators are just the hours and low average pay.

Did you know there are more scientists alive today than there were scientists ever? I think we have long gone past the point possible where more anime is created in a sliding 5-year window than there was anime that was created up to the start. That had to be around 2002-2006 or so if it had to ever happen. I could dazzle you with the math*, but there are not enough animators to create so much work within a short period of time. If we average 60 TV series a season, that’s about 240 IP a season, not counting the annual theatrical output, net shows, the LWAs of the world, what have you. We’ve been at this for over a decade, guys. Ten years ago was when the industry got asymptotic.

Which is to say, ultimately, the people like me who enjoy (or not enjoy) Shirobako are just people watching some anime. The industry belongs to creators and producers. What we say and do will only matter as much as the impact of these things. Because these things are made by human beings not so different than you or I. The human element behind anime is beyond the armchair quarterbacking practice on this blog, and I love it when we bring the artist back in the art.

I've been Hotel Moonsided

[*] Ball park: ANN Encyclopedia has 3286 TV series in the DB (checked on 12/1/2015 5:35 PM Eastern). Assuming this is complete, and assuming an average 240 IP a year, we’re approaching that point with a 7-year window and would have captured it well within the 2006 line with a 5-year window. There’s some fudging because if we discount ongoing series we’ll have a lower count on average. I tried using MAL’s DB but I can’t get it to give me data in a non-worthless manner. If we expand beyond TV anime it’s going to be more difficult because we won’t know where to draw the line between art projects and real commercial things, or how to treat movies in a franchise. ANN tags it at 7537 but that’s probably much less complete than the TV anime count.

Year-in-review 2015:

The Need to Praise When & There’s Not Much to Say

If that's not Maruyama, I don't know who it would be

I actually agree with this review, almost 100%, and want to make a corollary.  Author says great anime can’t be spoiled, but I think it goes a step farther: great anime doesn’t need to be talked about. Shirobako needs no advocacy, even if it’s always good. There’s no need to make a case for itself. In fact I had a hard time trying to do it. I could write about the simple stuff, like my first impression of Minami-san was that he’s a little intimidating. And I wonder what Maruyama-san’s cooking is like.

But in that sense it’s also a cheat in that as with all arts that are interpretive, we bring in as much as it brings us. The union between artwork and audience is no less sacred than the miracle of creativity in that sense. I think your experience as an anime nerd will not only play greatly, by referring to the art of the craft as the heart of its references it will disarm every late-night anime watcher, so most of us EN-speaking types can fall in line like all the JP viewers.

Perhaps the only thing equally difficult to keeping that spark and drive alive in salaryman life is being able to stay up and watch your late-night anime. Shirobako actually airs early enough in Tokyo that you can watch it before bed, but it takes some measure of dedication to get home and put it on, while not falling asleep watching it.

Action speaks louder than words, and it’s hard to find the words to describe it. I guess I did doze out during one particular viewing of episode 22 (since it’s kind of a filler to bring to 23?), largely to no fault of its own (a long day of touring + late night drinking + watching the raw). It’s like how I already internalized the “Taro,” the indifference of Hiraoka, and other representations in the office environment. Have you been working in such a thing long enough to see past it? Not just your own situation but the dramatized office of Musani? What is top shelf and what’s on the bar Shirobako serves its customers? Is your inner 10yo asleep?

But, because it’s such a cherished tale of animation production, based on a simple understanding of it that so few anime has taken on, it will stand as a classic just on that fact alone. Shirobako being entertaining enough to keep those otaku ossans awake late at night is just bonus.

PS. I found these tweets ironic. I guess it’s because PA Works tried very hard to make something that bucks the trend consistently. To say, for example, Hanasaku Iroha is following a J-drama formula misses the entire point that if not for PA Works being a studio that doesn’t chases after the latest trends (sup Glass Lips) that Shirobako even exists (see: the vol1 omake). They believe in their creators (Shirobako is very clear on this), and let them do what they think is best. Even if that means we have to sit through a Glass Lips now and then. And to be clear, this is a pervasive attitude-entitlement issue that manifests way too much among people who have opinions on entertainment, so my apologies to Toast for making an example out of him. It’s all of us. Buhiiiii.

Reeling in the Feels

After the rain?

Shirobako got my tongue pretty well. Episode 23 was another outpouring moment in a lot of ways, and I’m not really done processing it. Too busy grinding Ace Combat for gold boxes and it refuses to give any. Hopefully both of these statuses will change for the better soon.

I have about a month’s backlog in terms of sites to read and shows to watch. Of them, I was able to keep on top of my favorites of the moment: Shirobako, Saekano and Log Horizon. It doesn’t mean anything about quality or some such as I previously thought, but it hopefully endorses them beyond a certain duty I felt as someone who still habitually watch 10+ shows a season and the need to “review crap.” FWIW, I just got done with KimiUso, probably more because there are advantages to shows that end a week early, so all these animubroggers have “wrapped it up” in such a way that compelled finishing it first, if just to avoid spoilers.

I also realized today I had a chance to visit the Shirobako collab at Musashino’s shopping street outside its JR stop on the Chuo while I was in Japan. I had a half-free day that I spent walking aimlessly looking for amps. Sigh. So to feel better about myself I end up working on the camote backlog, and run up against this entry. The name is not only familiar because of the seiyuu connection (as someone who visited ANN’s encyclopedia you wonder if people credit things correctly every now and then) but because of aforementioned ANN connection, sometimes I wondered what did the animator Tanaka do, and if it is noteworthy. Looks like she’s one of the core Ghibli types since the early Telecom days, so, yes.

[Wait they still have her credited in Pitaten storyboards lolol.]

No, reading camote brings more dread than joy, partly because it’s so dry and a lot of it is not too relevant to my interests. The relatively business-like imprints and being solid info makes them a good read to reel back the feels, as they say. It’s like when people complain about seasonal anime goodness, I’m like, what are they smoking? Shirobako has ran for 2 cours (almost), so it has been two really good seasons of anime. This is AOTY 2014 and it probably will be AOTY 2015 unless something else jumps out at me.

The reactionary response also prompts me one other thought: after episode 12, I was like, this anime is basically already really damn good, it can only screw up from this point on. And so far all it did was to repeat itself, which is more than what I can ask for. At the same time, seeing episode 23 play out makes a good wrap-up point that the first cour didn’t quite have. So are we all done here? I was done since last Christmas, so all of this is gravy really.

The word is that there is enough material planned for 2 more cour, where Aoi takes on the role of line producer, and then main producer. I guess those are stretch goals for those delicious blu-ray sales.

Voices, Social Structures

I read this and I don’t get what the other end of the spectrum is. And to be fair, aren’t we all Evirus wannabes? Who are these exceptions?

Some incidental spoilers on Shirobako ahead. It’s not a post about Shirobako so I didn’t think it’s a big deal.


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