SHIROBAKO: Episode 14 – “The Ruthless Audition Meeting!”

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 started as a production assistant at Musashino Animation on the Exodus anime, and is now working as production desk for Third Aerial Girls Squad. Ema is also at Musashino Animation, working as an animator. Shizuka is a newbie voice actress at Akaoni Production.

Episode 14 introduces a new character named Hiraoka Daisuke, a new production assistant at Musashino Animation. He comes across as a stuck up jerk, and I hated him the instant I met him. His subsequent appearances in the episode only helped to cement my dislike of this guy. When Aoi discovers that Musashino can only do 11 out of 13 episodes of Third Aerial Girls Squad with their in-house staff, Hiraoka says he knows of a studio that can help, but they’ll only accept if he talks with them. When we see the studio, we learn it’s called Studio Taitanic, and it looks like no one really bothers to keep the place tidy. If the name of the studio and its condition hadn’t given me enough bad vibes, when the person Aoi talks to asks if Kinoshita is super picky really made it clear that this is a place that’s not to be trusted. This only made me like Hiraoka even less than I already did.

The cast auditions for Third Aerial Girls Squad are also held during this episode, and we see Shizuka exuding so much confidence during her audition. We also see her being asked to read for a second character, which has never happened to her before. That was definitely a big step forward for Shizuka, and I found myself rooting for her to get a part.

A lot of Episode 14 focuses on the debates over who to cast for the various roles. There are three gentlemen at the meeting who are from companies helping to fund the project, and they each have their own agenda. Because of their various agendas, they keep trying to push particular people, much to the dismay of the director and the rest of anime staff at the meeting. I liked how the sound producer shot these three guys down and pointing out how this smells like political casting, and that it would be found out eventually and only hurt the production. Unfortunately, these guys didn’t get the hint because they kept trying to push their own agendas with each cast member they’re trying to decide on. There were times where I wished I could just reach into my computer monitor and physically harm them in some manner to shut them up.

The untrustworthy editor of the Third Aerial Girls Squad manga makes an appearance both at the voice casting meeting and in a phone conversation with Nabe P. He still keeps claiming that the mangaka is too busy or is down in the dumps to be involved personally, and ultimately continues to make decisions without consulting him. Of course, “making decisions” is really an overstatement when it comes this editor. He basically just “rubber stamps” any decision being made without really considering anything. During the phone conversation with Nabe P, the editor gives him the go-ahead to proceed with the anime. I still suspect that the mangaka is completely in the dark about the anime, which will cause problems later on. And if Studio Taitanic gets the contract to help out with Third Aerial Girls Squad, I can only imagine how many more problems this could create on top of any potential fallout from the mangaka.

Episode 14 is also important because Midori gets a job at Musashino Animation working on setting production. By accepting the job, this allows her to get paid while doing the research that Aoi asks her to do. And with that, three of the five friends are now officially working together on an anime. We learn that Shizuka wasn’t cast for the series even though she was in the running for one of the characters, but it was mentioned that the girl they chose over her was waiting to hear back on other auditions. Perhaps the other girl’s other auditions will come through and she has to choose which projects to work on and has to pass on this one? If that were to happen, then maybe Shizuka could get the role and be involved with the series as well. It was also mentioned that Misa is now working for a new company where she’ll be working on planes all the time. As soon as I heard that, I was like, “Aha!” Planes are important to Third Aerial Girls Squad, so could it be that a foundation is being laid for Misa to get experience making 3D planes so she can be brought in for some computer animation of the planes for the series?

So far, I’ve really enjoyed how this season of SHIROBAKO is allowing the audience to see what goes on during the pre-production phase for an anime. With Aoi working production desk for a new series, it’s now possible to see this phase of the business and to realize that it can be just as crazy and chaotic as the actual production phase. I’m looking forward to seeing how pre-production will proceed for Third Aerial Girls Squad, as well as to see if I’m right about some of the predictions that I’m making for what could happen over the course of this season for SHIROBAKO.

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