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 21 sees the new company that Misa is working for being approached by Musashino about helping out with the animation for a particular scene. Misa is asked to do this assignment, and it turns out Ema will be working with the older animator at Musashino on this scene as well. So this episode proved that a prediction I made earlier was correct about Misa becoming involved with the production of Third Aerial Girls Squad.
This episode also introduces a new character named Isokawa from A.C. Tsuchinoko, the owner of a new startup animation studio. It turns out he went to school with both Yano and Hiroaka, and this explains how Yano and Hiroaka knew each other before he started at Musashino.
Aoi receives complaints about Hiroaka from Segawa, as well as from other animation supervisors and episode directors. Aoi tries to talk to him about it, but he flies off the handle at her. After talking with both Yano and Isokawa about what Hiroaka was like in school, Aoi and the audience gain a better understanding as to why Hiroaka acts the way he does. It turns out that he had big dreams of working in anime back in school, but the reality that he found in the industry didn’t match his expectations. But he believes in his dream enough that he sticks it out, even though he seems to constantly get fired. This was probably meant to try to make Hiroaka more sympathetic, but I have to admit that I’m still not entirely sold on Hiroaka as a character. And I liked seeing how Aoi ultimately handled the situation with Hiroaka, because that was probably the best thing she could do for both Hiroaka and the production of Third Aerial Girls Squad.
Episode 21 also sees the debut of the first episode of Third Aerial Girls Squad, as well as a major surprise: the director actually finished the storyboards for the final episode in three weeks instead of three months. So we at least know the storyboards for the final episode aren’t going to be an issue. At this point, there are only three more episodes remaining for SHIROBAKO, so it’s going to be interesting to see what the remaining obstacles are for the characters before they complete production on Third Aerial Girls Squad.
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