SHIROBAKO: Episode 16 – “Table Flip”

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 16 focuses on Iguchi and her struggles to try to fix the character designs in order to get the manga author’s approval. Unfortunately, the author’s emails give very vague descriptions of what he sees are wrong. And when Watanabe tries to call the editor for more input, it isn’t surprising when the editor says the author is too busy to deal with it and that the anime production staff needs to figure things out on their own.

But every time Iguchi submits new designs, the author shoots them down. Poor Iguchi finds herself struggling and after 10 days, she says she can’t tell what’s right anymore. That’s such a realistic reaction, because anyone who feels like they’re struggling like this, especially for that long of a time with no help or guidance, is going to start questioning themselves, their abilities, and their talent.

Rinko, the one who had recommended Iguchi, takes it upon herself to talk to Watanabe, Aoi, and Kinoshita about how they haven’t been supporting Iguchi. Rinko takes Iguchi, Aoi, and Ema out to a batting cage and then to a meal. During the meal, Rinko shares her backstory, which includes going through a similar situation that Iguchi is going through. It was amazing to me to discover that Rinko used to look so different. The reason she looks like a goth-loli now is because she based it off of the character she was drawing at the time in order to don “armor” to give herself more strength to get through not only that project, but for other challenges as well. Iguchi learns an important lesson from this interaction, and she finally knows what she needs to do in order to improve the designs.

My favorite part of Episode 16 is Watanabe and the other producer getting a backbone in regards to the editor of Third Aerial Girls Squad. He claims he’s too busy to talk to them while he’s on the phone, but from what they could hear in the background, they could tell where he was. It was awesome to see them driving as quickly as possible to get there to confront him. As slimy editor tries to get out of talking to them, both Watanabe and the other producer get into his face and let him have it! I so wanted to cheer when I saw this, because the editor has been such a jerk and he really deserved it. Especially since, thanks to him, the studio had to halt production of Third Aerial Girls Squad for a month!

The whole situation ends up getting the best resolution that it can, which I think most viewers would have expected in order for SHIROBAKO to progress. But I appreciated getting an episode that focused on Iguchi, since she was primarily a secondary character in the first season. The backstory for Rinko was also a nice touch, and it tied in so well with Iguchi’s story.

One thing that was a little frustrating, though, was finding out through dialogue that there’s been some kind of a jump in time. It was mentioned in Episode 16 that there are only three months until the first episode of Third Aerial Girls Squad goes on the air. While we saw all the meetings that were going on in Episode 15, there was never anything to indicate just how much time was truly passing over the course of that episode. I knew there would have to be more jumps in time compared to the first season, in order to get from pre-production to production, but I wish that it had shown more clearly just how much time was passing by.

Oh well. Even with that complaint about the sudden jump in time, I still enjoyed the episode. I’m looking forward to watching Episode 17 to see where the production on Third Aerial Girls Squad will go to next.

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