SHIROBAKO: Episode 2 – “Arupin is Here!”

SHIROBAKO starts out with five friends in a high school animation club producing an animation to screen at their school cultural fair. Aoi, Ema, Shizuka, Misa, and Midori swear that they’ll eventually reunite in Tokyo and make another anime together. The story then jumps ahead in time two-and-a-half years, where Aoi is working as a production assistant at Musashino Animation, a company that’s in the process of working on an anime titled, Exodus. Ema is also at Musashino Animation; she’s just getting her foot in the door as an animator. In Episode Two, we learn that Shizuka is a newbie voice actress at Akaoni Production.

Episode Two opens with Aoi finding Misato collapsed on the floor from a fever after helping out to get the third episode of Exodus ready on time. After Aoi helps her out, she gets Ryosuke to help finish up the animation on the fourth episode. So far, it seems like everything’s going to work out okay.

But then, during the sound design process, Seiichi Kinoshita, the director, becomes dissatisfied with the design of Arupin. He starts throwing out a bunch of changes based on his vision of her, which includes adding in elements that didn’t exist previously. There’s a lot of resistance, since it would require redoing the key-frame animation for an entire scene. The series has already fallen behind due to the issues with the third episode, so having to re-do an entire scene from scratch for the fourth episode isn’t an appealing option. Aoi suggests calling a meeting to decide how this will be handled. As a viewer, I could just feel the sense of tension as this portion of the episode played out.

After seeing how Seiichi wanted to make such drastic changes to the characters when they’re four episodes into production, it made me wonder if this happens more regularly than we think it does. It would certainly explain how some series I’ve seen change direction suddenly for no readily apparent reason. By the end of the episode, the production staff decides to go with the director’s idea in the end. But I’m seriously afraid it’s going to lead to their series becoming a trainwreck.

Also touched upon briefly in this episode is Ema and how she and Aoi don’t really run into each other much at work. It’s in large part to them being in different areas of the production, but it’s also due to the fact that Aoi is now busy trying to oversee the production of both the fourth episode and the ninth episode. I hope that Aoi doesn’t become so overwhelmed and overworked that she collapses from a fever as well! This could also potentially become an important plot point as the series continues.

Episode Two didn’t focus on Aoi and her connections with her friends very much. At most, we only got brief glimpses or brief scenes with Ema and Shizuka. But with the story that’s being told in this episode, putting more of a focus on that aspect really wouldn’t have worked. We’ve now seen that three of them are in the business, and I hope that we’ll eventually get to see where Misa and Midori ended up.

SHIROBAKO still seems to have a lot of potential at the end of Episode Two, and I hope that this potential continues to manifest itself as the series continues.

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