SHIROBAKO: Episode 15 – “Will These Drawings Work?”

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, and Midori has joined the staff working on setting production. Shizuka is a newbie voice actress at Akaoni Production.

Episode 15 introduces three new characters who are new employees at Musashino Animation. Sara Satou and Tsubaki Andou are production assistants, while Ai Kunogi is a key animator. Tsubaki is an anime otaku who seems to impress the director with her knowledge and enthusiasm for the medium, while Sara simply interviewed at Musashino for a career change that would cut down on her commute time. We see that Ai appears to be rather quiet and shy, and that she seems to be scared of bugs.

Tsubaki and Sara are almost as different as night and day. Tsubaki came into this industry because of her love for the medium. Being an anime otaku, she also has some understanding of what producing an anime entails. Sara, on the other hand, interviewed at Musashino with no real knowledge or interest in the industry, and is now having to learn everything about anime production while she’s on the job. But I have a feeling that these two nearly polar opposite characters will become good friends by the end of the series.

The main two things focused on during Episode 15 are Sara and Tsubaki’s training and all of the various meetings that take place on pre-production for a new series. During each meeting scene, Aoi’s dolls Roro and Mimuji explain to the audience what each meeting is for and why they’re being held. It’s actually more like Roro does all the explaining, while Mimuji keeps whining about the fact that she thinks there’s too many meetings. But as a viewer who has an interest in how anime is produced behind-the-scenes, I appreciated getting all this information. I never realized just how much went on behind-the-scenes in pre-production. And the way Roro and Mimuji explain everything kept these scenes from feeling dry and boring. Over the course of the episode, the meetings we see include a scenario meeting, a production meeting, a supervising animator meeting, an art board meeting, and a filming meeting.

With the emphasis on all the work going into the production over the course of the episode, a phone call that Watanabe, the producer, gets is very discouraging. It turns out that I was right about not trusting the editor for Third Aerial Girls Squad and suspecting that he was simply “rubber stamping” everything without truly looking at or thinking about anything. I’ll try not to provide a spoiler here, but I will say that the phone call Watanabe receives makes all of the work that happens in the episode be for naught. Needless to say, I found myself wanting to somehow physically harm that editor after this plot point was revealed.

With this monkey wrench that’s been thrown into the production of Third Aerial Girls Squad, I’m now very curious to see how the production staff will overcome this setback and still be able to get the first episode completed on schedule.

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