SHIROBAKO: Episode 18 – “You Set Me Up!”

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.

The theme of Episode 18 seems to be “obstacles,” since so many of them seem to be thrown in Aoi’s way over the course of it. The first obstacle is the lead voice actress, Suzuki, not sounding like she did in her audition. There’s some concern, but fortunately, between the efforts of Aoi and the sound director, they are finally able to get Suzuki to sound natural and give the performance they want for the character. As the episode progresses, we discover this is one of the most minor obstacles that Aoi faces.

Next, Aoi goes to talk to Masahiro Ookura, the art director that Kinoshita and Yuuji Atsumi (the art director) really wanted to do the background for a particular scene. She tracks him down, and he’s drunk. Aoi goes ahead and talks with him anyway, providing her business card. He agrees to the job right before falling into a drunken stupor. When Aoi and Yuuji go to see Masahiro the next day, he keeps claiming he’s never meet Aoi, until he finds her business card in his wallet. But he keeps trying to find ways of getting out of the job, much to the dismay of both Aoi and Yuuji. It’s especially hard for Yuuji, since his respect for Masahiro’s work is the reason he went into the business in the first place. But after Aoi presents Masahiro with a carefully chosen gift and words from Musashino president Marukawa, he ends up agreeing to do the job. This was definitely a more major obstacle than the voice acting one, but Aoi still managed to pull this one out… until she learns later that Masahiro has suddenly gone off for two weeks without saying where he’s going and isn’t answering his cell phone. Poor Aoi starts expecting the worst.

And then there’s the fiasco with Taitanic. Musashino hasn’t received even one layout for episode five yet, so Aoi has to get on the phone with them. She has to insist on having their Episode Director start to get these submitted. The next day, they receive a large stack of layouts, but Kinoshita quickly discovers that there are a ton of glaring mistakes, and it appears that messages that were sent from Musashino were overlooked. The Episode Director is called in and basically acts as if they’re making too big of a deal out of the situation. Later, Aoi learns the Episode Director at Taitanic quit, and that there’s no one else who can do it there except for the Production Assistant that she’s been talking to. Aoi gets so frustrated that she actually slams the phone down on this person, which is something we hadn’t seen out of her before. But when you consider the circumstances and how idiotic they are ultimately are, I can’t say that I blame her at all for that reaction. It figures that Hiroaka’s friends at this studio are just as lazy and egotistical as he is. And the Episode Director for Taitanic came off as being rather unprofessional, so it’s a good thing in the long run that he dropped out of Third Aerial Girls Squad.

Unfortunately for Aoi, the situation just mounts after this as she starts receiving issues and complaints from the production assistants. She looks like her brain’s about to break, and we see her stuffed animal and doll serving as voices inside her brain and illustrating what’s going on inside her mind. She comes up with a short-term response for the smaller issues, but is stressing out and stuck over who to ask to take over as Episode Director for Episode Five. Fortunately, she receives a ray of hope right at the end of the episode…

At this rate, between the “funny story” editor, the idiocy they have to deal with from Taitanic, as well as the various issues plaguing Third Aerial Girls Squad, it’s starting to look more and more like it’s going to take a major miracle for Musashino to get the series done in time in order for it to start airing when it’s supposed to launch. It’s going to be interesting to watch SHIROBAKO as the series continues, in order to see what other obstacles or issues Aoi and the others will encounter by the end of it.

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