Shirobako

January 10, 2016

Everybody is a critic. Sure, it is our right to have our opinions on just about everything. And when we start criticizing and putting down something, most of the time we are guilty for not thinking for a second the effort and hard work put in behind it. And that is why people, despite there are so many movies, TV series, games and animes out there that suck and do not meet our standards and expectations, we often fail to realize that there has been a lot (if not some) effort put into those works behind the scenes. Yes people. It is time for us to realize that making anime is no child’s play. We need to realize and be educated of the long painstaking process it takes to animate your favourite character. And the best way to know all about that without going through the same hellish experience like those who did is to watch a decent ‘documentary’. Right?

Therefore, if Bakuman has taught us the harsh deadlines of writing manga, Love Get Chu and recently Sore Ga Seiyuu taught us that being a voice actress isn’t a bed of roses, how about an anime that tells us what an anime studio goes through to produce that anime so we otaku fans get to watch it same time every week? That’s right. If you’re interested in the process and the behind the scenes of making an anime series, Shirobako gives a very good understanding and awareness on how it is all done. Despite the fictitious company, characters and everything else, I can assure the process in doing so is as real as it can get. Get ready for a trip and free your conscience! You will be changed once you are ‘enlightened’.

Episode 1
Aoi Miyamori and her high school animation club friends make a doughnut vow to make an original anime. The quintet put in a lot of time and effort to finish their anime The Divines so that it can be shown in time for the cultural festival. Soon, Aoi, Ema Yasuhara and Shizuka Sakaki graduate and they hope all of them will be together in the anime production line. 2.5 years down the road, Aoi is one tired girl. Working the late hours a production assistant for Musashino Animation (Musani). She gets excited to hear on the radio about Musani’s upcoming anime, Exodus. I’m not sure if this relieves stress because she starts racing and drifting with a rival company and beats him to collect the work done by animation director, Misato Segawa at her house. Returning to office, she notices nobody at their stations. It is because they are all in the meeting room ready to watch the first episode of Exodus which is debuting at midnight. And now we are bombed with all the names of all the staffs in Musani. I don’t think I can remember them all… The airing of the first episode is great and there are lots of rave reviews already right after it ends. Yeah, episode 2 next week. So soon? Well, ganbatte ne! So we see the staffs in getting their usual hectic work before the next episode. Tarou Takanashi seems to have been slacking in his keyframes department which threatens to have a domino effect on the rest of the production line. Sorry isn’t going to cut it. So everybody is cracking their heads in trying to get the right animator to do the keyframes and with no other alternatives left, Aoi suggests Segawa. Despite already working on another episode, she agrees to do it although she seems to be in clashing mode with another animation director, Ryousuke Endou. Everyone is following a tight schedule because if you delay something, it will also delay everything else after it. Segawa finishes in time and Aoi goes to collect it. No wonder Aoi’s drifting has been so good. If the train breaks down, just ask her to drive you there. Like how she did for the dubbing team. First class drifting. When Aoi goes to visit Segawa to get the work for the next episode, there is no answer when she knocks on her door. She sees her collapsed on the floor.

Episode 2
Segawa is down with fever after working too hard. As Aoi is in charge of episode 4 production, she’ll see to it that it gets done somehow. She has been so busy with this that she hasn’t got the time to spare with her friends. Not even noticing a simple hello. During the dubbing, Musani’s director, Seiichi Kinoshita feels something is not right for a particular scene. The voice acting is great but it seems the animation for that scene just doesn’t match the animation. Needs more emotion? This has him clash with fellow animation director, Masashi Yamada. Yeah well, they talk a lot about on the back story of the character. It’s too deep. I don’t understand. The point now is if they should redo the entire animation for that scene. As you know, time is of essence. Aoi suggests before they fix anything, they should call a meeting to confirm about the characters and everything else on Exodus. So Kinoshita and a handful of staffs are discussing about the main characters of Exodus, their traits, likes, characteristics, everything! I suppose it is to understand and get a feel of the character better. So after all that discussion, I’m not sure if you can call this hallucination after that long deliberation, because now everyone can see and give shape to this main character how she is supposed to be. So real, right? Even if it is decided to do a retake of that scene, do they have enough time to redesign the character and scene? No problem for Rinko Ogasawara and Yumi Iguchi.

Episode 3
Aoi is swamped with work, tight schedules and deadlines. Fellow production assistant and veteran Erika Yano dispenses lots of great advice to her. Especially a certain animator who always claims no problem and will be in before the deadline but fails to live up to his words. Yeah, better start calling him. No answer. That dude is sleeping… I suppose his work hasn’t finished yet. Don’t panic yet, Aoi. More stress for her when chubby production desk manager, Yutaka Honda keeps breathing down her neck about what she has completed. We see Aoi rushing from department to department to get the necessary job done before the deadline for episode 4’s submission. She is on the verge of breakdown so Yano gives her some candy to stimulate the brain and also wants her to tell are the problems facing her. Because Aoi is the one who knows episode 4 the best and if she breaks down, that episode is done for. More woes when the FTP server is down so they can’t download the necessary contents. Luckily somebody still saved the work on a local hard drive although it will be hours’ drive away. Aoi again panics over her schedule so Yano reminds her that producing anime is all about teamwork. She can’t do this all by herself. More surprising when Yuka Okitsu from general affairs decide to help her out this one time (unlike the rest, she normally refuses to do overtime work). In the end, everything worked out fine and episode 4 is submitted in time for airing. Aoi thanks everybody for their hard work and effort. Aoi and Ema watch the retake of that scene. It definitely puts in a lot more emotion and fits the superb voice acting like a glove.

Episode 4
Shizuka is off to a voice acting audition. She’s practising her lines in a train and the crowd must be feeling weird if she’s reading some erotic novel or something. Seems there are like 120 hopefuls auditioning for this character and even the famous seiyuu, Rena Souma is here. During Shizuka’s turn, she starts getting nervous and fumbles some of her lines. Although it doesn’t amount to a big screw up, but I guess it was enough to leave her feeling dejected. Meanwhile back at Musani, Kinoshita is arguing with Hironori Madoka about turning on or off the air-cond while working. Aoi gets her day off and she gets a call from her parents who are ecstatic of seeing Aoi’s name appearing in the credits. They’re not sure what the anime is about but they keep playing over and over the credits section. Very proud parents. Aoi meets up with her old high school friends. They watch a movie and then discuss about it (even getting a little technical discussing how many frames were used for it all). The friends still remember their vow and are motivated to carry on to achieve their dreams. They can tell things did not go too well for Shizuka’s audition when she feels reluctant to tell but did anyway. The friends cheer her up and continue to give their unwavering support. The nice outing is disrupted when Tarou calls Aoi for something urgent. But from the sound of it, he seems like fooling around instead of getting to the point of the issue. She just hangs up. Shizuka gets a little drunk after a beer and the friends hope they could make their The Divines into a real feature movie one day. After they part and Aoi walks her way home, she gets another annoying call from Tarou. The same freaking annoyance. Hang up. Don’t let that ruin your night. Next day as Aoi returns to work, she sees Honda not pleased that Kinoshita has not completed the storyboards. Blaming it on the air-cond not being on? Then there is Tarou who is begging to Endou to listen but the latter has had it and if he wants another animation director for episode 8, find somebody else.

Episode 5
Endou has quit for good! Aoi suggests Tarou tell Honda about this but he won’t. Why? It seems Honda has run out of ideas after telling everyone about Kinoshita’s failure in getting his part done. As suggested by Okitsu, Honda lures Kinoshita into the storeroom and locks him up in a mini cell where he must finish it if he wants to get out! Kinoshita remembers 11 years ago he won an award for a hit anime. But his subsequent anime flopped badly and he went under the radar. So with Honda having so much stress and a ‘prison warden’ over Kinoshita, there is no way Tarou could tell him. Aoi hears what really happened. It seems there was a deliberation to use CG effects for episode 8. Endou was against this because he felt this scene is his big break to show off his hand drawn skills. So with Tarou just playing messenger boy and passing messages around, he thought he mediated the situation when he says he loves hand drawn anime but supports CG since it is the new age and hand drawn is outdated. That made Endou furious. Yeah, it’s Tarou’s fault. So now he is trying to get Aoi to help him out? Solve it yourself! Endou is out drinking with fellow animator, Saburou Kitano. After Endou badmouths about CG, it seems Kitano is teaching 3D animators about the tricks of Japanimation. Endou didn’t like he is on the other side and views 3D animators as stealing hand drawn animators’ job but Kitano argues that they should use both techniques to produce the best works. Don’t be too quick to reject it. Tarou tries to call other animators to fill Endou’s place (he thinks it is easier than convincing him) but no luck. Aoi is surprised when Endou seeks her help. They watch the CG demo of the scene when Aoi gets a call from Hikaru Hotta who just finished the cut scenes for episode 9 using hand drawn. Because this scene is related to the scene that Endou was doing, they need to use his keyframes. Can’t replace it with CG, right? Sh*t just hit the fan. Why does Tarou look so happy that Aoi is now his accomplice?

Episode 6
We all know it’s Tarou’s fault and he’s got the cheek to tell Aoi not to play the blame game!!! I guess she has had it so she tells everything to Honda. Oh dear. That guy is so freaking stressed up and panicking. He is going to ask Kinoshita for advice but that fat guy somehow climbed out of his cell! Amazing! He is at the dubbing studio and the staffs thought he amazingly finished his storyboard. Till they get a call from Honda about the truth… But after it finishes, Kinoshita returns to his ‘prison’ and is motivated to finish it. Tarou continues to bug Endou by ringing his doorbell many times. Quit it! He said he is done with it. Aoi talks to Yano about hand drawn animators being replaced by CG animators. She also talks with 3D animator, Misa Toudou and she views hand drawn is still necessary as there are some things that cannot be expressed clearly via CG. Shizuka is surprised her voice acting tutor, Mari Tateo visits her at her part time work place. Shizuka explains the recent audition she went. Tateo can tell she has failed since she has been waiting for a call that never came. She invites her to watch a play that they are putting up. From this play, Shizuka gets to learn a valuable lesson that doing nothing in between while waiting won’t get her anywhere. As Aoi collects Segawa’s work, she gives to her remaining tickets of Idepon exhibition as given by Okitsu. However she says to give it to Endou instead as that anime was the one that sparked his interest in drawing. Aoi didn’t get to see Endou in person but she handed it to his wife. He came alone (obviously his wife wasn’t interested) but Aoi is also there. He thought she set him up because Tarou and rival 3D artist, Yuuichirou Shimoyanagi are also there. At first they were like being cold to each other but after they both rebut the young ones on their misinterpretation of Idepon, they started talking about their shared passion. It’s like as though they’re brothers! In the end, Endou decides to do the episode 8’s hand drawn scenes. He works all night and manages to finish it. Tarou is of course impressed at his work and even claims it was worth being so persistent! Endou and Shimoyanagi praise each other’s work and would like to learn hand drawn or 3D techniques from the other. Kinoshita is finally free but that is only short-lived because Honda reminds him he only completed part A!

Episode 7
Aoi has to rush to work when her sister, Kaori calls to say she is coming over. Aoi leaves the key to her high school friend and neighbour, Midori Imai. During the meeting, fellow production assistant, Tatsuya Ochiai announces that he is leaving by the end of the week for personal reasons. This comes to a shock to some. This means some of the schedules he handles we be passed on to others and Aoi has the ‘honour’ in handling the final episode 13. As Aoi talks to Yamada, she learns Ochiai is leaving for another animation company, Canaan. Ochiai wanted to leave after Exodus but his old acquaintance called and he can’t turn him down. The anime that Canaan is currently doing has even tighter schedules as Yamada relates the hell production of Kinoshita’s last work that had animation meltdown and everything. And now Aoi has the responsibility to make Kinoshita do his storyboards. Yeah, he is sleeping and nothing is done yet. Good luck. Ema is stressed in her keyframe work so a veteran old key animator, Shigeru Sugie gives her good advice about building up speed and experience during her youth. Aoi goes home after work to see Kaori using her place like her own home. Wearing her clothes, opened her beer cans and even used her shampoo… When Aoi gets a stern rebuking call from Segawa regarding Ema’s disappointing rush job that just wouldn’t cut it, Aoi goes to talk to her. However you can see that it is very obvious that Ema is tired and losing hope fast. She has already resigned to calling herself as a failure. No matter how pretty Aoi paints her optimism and positivism, Ema’s negativism is so much greater. How could she not be dejected seeing that she had to do retakes of not 1 or 2 but 4 cuts! No time to talk about motivation. She needs to get back to work. Working with tears in her eyes? Pitiful :’(. Meanwhile some people like Kaori and Midori have all the fun shopping…

Episode 8
You can’t blame Kaori for letting her hair down. Flashback shows her stressful office life. So Midori is being pampered as Kaori goes on a spending spree to buy her what she wants. Feels good, right? Ema continues to be stressed in her drawing. It’s not a good sign so Sugie talks to her about her reason and goal in drawing. Speaking of which, Tarou is talking about his big dreams to become a director or producer but without doing the hard work. You can’t blame Yano for wanting to beat this guy up. But the most surprising dream is Honda because he wanted to be a confectioner. Yano’s mental image of him just got worse. Aoi goes to hand some work to Segawa who also learnt about Ochiai’s departure. She learnt it from Canaan who also called her to help out with their anime but she turned them down as she already has her hands full with Exodus. Segawa is worried about Ema because she may break down. Speaking of which, looks like she is on the verge of it so Sugie has Iguchi talk to her. Iguchi has Ema take a walk with her to refresh her mind and broaden her horizon. Coincidentally they stumble upon a cat (Ema is having trouble drawing a cat and the reason of her stress) so they examine it till the cat feels disgusted being molested! But Ema gets the idea of what to do now. Lifting her spirits is Iguchi’s story when she first worked here and used to examine and copy her senior’s work. In fact all learning starts out as copying. How else would you improve? Many of the staffs are surprised to see Ema and Iguchi talking because many think the former is more of the introvert type. Aoi couldn’t bear to disturb Ema when she sees her really focusing on her work. After work, Aoi joins Midori, Shizuka and Kaori for a drink. No harm about talking of their big dream to make their own anime. At least they have the spirit. For now. Next morning, Kaori leaves for home and she doesn’t want to bother Aoi to walk her to the station since she is working.

Episode 9
The schedule for Exodus is going well. Except for episode 13 of course. The director still hasn’t come up with the storyboard yet. Will they have enough time to make it even if he miraculously completes it tomorrow? More stress for Aoi… Shizuka is going to make her voice acting debut. But it is only part of the background crowd voice (cheering in a baseball game). Shizuka is looking forward to it although this role goes uncredited. At first she was overdoing it so they took another take and this time she sounds so meek and toned down that you wonder if her voice would be even heard. Musani goes to talk to a book author in hopes of adapting 3rd Girls’ Fighter Wing into anime. At first he isn’t sure after hearing Kinoshita would be directing but Exodus is seemingly doing better. He needs time to discuss with his superiors. Midori and Misa join Shizuka for dinner. They talk about their work and if they would ever make their anime dream come true. Because Misa’s current role is just to design CG for tyres. And because the company has been requested to make a racing game, she might be just designing tyres for 3 years! She is very sick of it! She talks to the company president if there would be any chance for her to design anything else. Depending on her talent and her goals, it is possible. If she can’t picture her future, she won’t be able to start getting there. Honda goes to see Kinoshita’s progress. Almost there. But there is a problem. He feels there is something wrong with the ending. He can’t accept it! So now he wants to change it?! No choice, Honda calls scenario writer, Shimeji Maitake to help out. So with a little nudging, Kinoshita suddenly can picture what he wants as he passionately discloses the scenes as it starts popping in his head. Let the creative passion flow! I know some parts sound silly but if this is how he wants to end it, then so be it. And so Kinoshita now disciplines himself by locking in the cell and starts working on it.

Episode 10
The storyboards are finally going to get done and although the deadline for the final episode is 5 weeks, it isn’t enough time because on average an episode takes about 2 months! As Aoi is tasked to send some traditional central Asian music instrument to the sound recording studio, she is pulled in by a sound engineer to record several sound effects. It was a good diversion as Aoi learnt many things especially about this guy who has been doing this job for 30 years! When Aoi meets up with her friends, they learn Misa wants to quit the company although she has been there for less than a year. Misa hands in her resignation to the president early next morning and tells him of her goal to make stories with CG. Although she doesn’t have a particular place to go yet, she needs to keep trying. The president wants her to finish up her work first before leaving. Honda is so freaking relieved that Kinoshita has finished the storyboards that it is disgusting to see chubby men hug each other. Honda is happy that he can resign now. Wait. What?! And the fat guys do sumo pushing in that little cell… Later others find out about Honda’s plan. It seems he is going to follow his dream of opening a confectionary down the street. Aoi talks to Shimoyanagi about her friend who just quit a company and if there are any friends of his hiring. Aoi and Kinoshita attend the final recording session for Exodus. The voice actresses give him a flower bouquet as thanks and he is overcome with emotion. He joins in their party session and although he is only supposed to be there for an hour, he overstayed and kept ordering beers. Each time Aoi says it is time to go, it is always the last one. Finally she just pulls him away to return back to work where he should be hours ago. Yeah, you should see how many miscalls he got from Honda. Like a stalker… And Kinoshita is obviously drunk…

Episode 11
Aoi is in great mood is she gets the people to do the keyframes for the final episode. However there are a bunch of cuts needed to be completed and since they’re short on staff, she is going to make use of all the contacts and call up other animators for her. She’s going to need all the luck she can get because so far many (if not all) has turned her down due to busy, conflicting or some other reasons. While Aoi is waiting outside the house of an animator, she spots the president of an anime studio she once went for interview. Let’s say it didn’t go to well because the president used hard words to all interviewees. Like in her case, he asked about her passion in anime during high school but yet graduated from college in economics. Backup plan? Aoi was willing to do anything but he replied he hates that kind of answer the most because it shows one has no specific goal in mind. You can’t blame Aoi for getting dispirited. Thankfully the president doesn’t recognize her although she still panics upon seeing him. When she returns to HQ, Okitsu tells Aoi that she will be joining in an interview to recruit new staffs. Why her? Several staffs including Yano recommended her. So she could see all kinds of characters during the interview. Some passionate, some intense, some focused and some just plain weird. But this doesn’t bring good memories to her too since it reminds her of being in their shoes once. And what’s this? Tarou is testing their driving skills? I guess this is part of the job. But the old staffs know whoever they hire, they cannot be worse than Tarou! Spot on! Late that night, Yano suddenly sinks lifeless. The president knows something has happened to her father and tells her to go to him. As she lives quite far and the trains are not operating this late, I guess Tarou will have to send her. Don’t expect a depressed girl to drive herself, can’t you? Can’t be choosy now. Aoi endeavours in her keyframe recruiting spree so much so she interrupts on line producer Jun Watanabe’s mahjong game to ask him to recommend more people to her! His friend is willing to introduce the legendary Mitsuaki Kanno. She would love to and heads over to see him.

Episode 12
Watanabe and his friends continue to discuss about the arrangements for Musani to handle 3rd Girls’ Fighter Wing. The author has been approached by many great studios but is willing to put them on hold and bet on them. So bring the project plan ASAP. Aoi sees Kanno as he looks at the storyboards. He knows those remaining scenes are hardest to do. Watanabe calls for a staff meeting especially about Exodus’ final episode. Thanks to the limited time and manpower they have, he wants Kinoshita to change the storyboards or they will not make it. Honda is most vocal he is against this since this is what they’ve been working towards. Kinoshita is unsure when Aoi makes a suggestion. Kanno told her that Sugie could do it. Aoi learnt that Sugie was the one who animated her favourite anime, Andes Chucky. Aoi goes to Sugie’s home to request his help. After looking at the storyboard, he agrees to do it. Meeting with the animators, thanks to his vast experience, he can tell how long it takes to do the frames. But since they are rushing for time, he can do faster with rough keyframes. The other animators would gladly help do cleanup work. And so all the animators get to work and even take valuable notes from Sugie’s animating wisdom. Aoi is shocked when Sugie thanks her because had he not asked him to help, he would have ended his career as a dead weight. It makes him happy that he can still be of use and even happier that Aoi loves Andes Chucky. He thinks of holding a weekly workshop in the meeting room for younger animators. On the day of the deadline, it is a final round of checks and fixing. The most anxious one is the producer. Very anxious… Can they make it or not? And every redo or minor interruption sends his heart jumping out from his mouth. Finally everything passes after the preview and the staffs rejoice. To celebrate their hard work, everybody heads down to the pub. To add icing to the cake, Watanabe has the final product of the final episode for everyone to watch.

Episode 13
It is confirmed Musani will take on 3rd Wing as their next project. To Aoi’s surprise, she is being made production manager. This means she has to handle just about everything especially the schedules and character designs. She’s taking down all that needs to be done as said by Watanabe. And he just covered the basics! Gosh! It’s going to get busy! Tarou thought he got to be the director but Kinoshita is maintained as the director as many of the staffs that worked on Exodus will be retained. Aoi goes to talk to Kinoshita to put her foot down and lay down the rules. You don’t want the entire team to suffer thanks to his flip flop, eh? Kinoshita thought Ogasawara would be perfect for character design but she turns it down and claims she wants to refine her animating skills. She nominates Iguchi who feels this is too big a job for her to shoulder. But with Aoi pressing the right buttons, Iguchi takes up the challenge. Then they go see Yuuji Atsumi for art but this guy is so deep about clouds that Kinoshita is just lost. Shizuka gets selected for 3rd Wing’s audition and this boosts her morale. Aoi may need to go back to the drawing board because Watanabe reminds her that since the same staffs on Exodus are going to do 3rd Wing, she can’t just change the production team like that and they might get their rights cancelled. Watanabe then meets Shinsuke Chazawa, a publishing editor who is running 3rd Wing. The original author can’t be here since he is busy but Chazawa okays everything and believes it will be fine to go ahead without further discussion. He didn’t even take a look at the drafts and leaves as fast as he came (he was late too, by the way). And Kinoshita didn’t get to say a word… Aoi with Kinoshita and Maitake go to research some fighter jets as well as pilot terms that may differ in different countries. Kinoshita suggests putting off work for the last 2 episodes of this 1 cour series to wait on the source material as long as they can.

Episode 14
Kinoshita is at the voice audition for 3rd Wing and then later joins Aoi to request Atsumi for his help. Kinoshita isn’t optimistic about their chances but Atsumi surprisingly agrees to lend his talents after thinking about Aoi’s question she posed for him the last time. Daisuke Hiraoka joins Musani as the new production assistant and has been in the showbiz for 5 years in different studios. Meanwhile Kinoshita, Watanabe and a bunch of guys from other agencies are in a meeting to discuss the voice actresses for the regular roles. They start off with the main character and by votes it should go to Kyouko Suzuki. However the agency guys become vocal in what they want. One wants a veteran instead of an unknown, another wants one who has singing capabilities and the other is just judging from physical looks (what does butts have to do with voice acting skills?!). I don’t know. The way they argue for their picks seem to be turning this series into a comedy gold! You guys are funny! Read sarcasm, please. And don’t you think they just want their voice actresses based on their own interests? Anyway the role goes to Kyouko. Moving on to the next role… Oh God… Not again… Yeah, 14 damn hours discussing this! For the last role, Kinoshita noticed about Shizuka and convey his thoughts but eventually the team just went with somebody else. And yeah… The meeting finally ended in 2 in the morning!!! As Aoi is tasked to find out more about aircrafts, she thinks Midori who loves looking up things might help them again (she did a fantastic job with the diesel research for Exodus). The president suggests they call her over so they can talk. She is being informed about the information she needs to look up when scenarios are written and Midori can’t wait to start working part time here. When Aoi and her friends meet up, they are sad to learn Shizuka auditioned for a part in 3rd Wing but didn’t get the part. Because Aoi, Midori and Misa are all working on the 3rd Wing project. (Misa is now in a CG company designing crafts for the said anime). Aoi has come up with the production schedule. In-house they can handle 11 episodes but 2 needs to be outsourced. Hiraoka can introduce a studio who can take up the job. Aoi goes to Studio Taitanic and the place seems messy.

Episode 15
Musani is having a party to welcome newbies. Next year they’ll be celebrating their 40th anniversary so that is all the reason to do their best with 3rd Wing. This episode is mainly about the various brief meetings that the director and production manager must attend to see through the series. All are important and they do it like a ritual till the series ends. From the scenario meeting (which includes going out to the field and location because there is only how much you can get from books and internet – it gets even more intense since Atsumi is here and thus the discussion of what kind of sky and clouds are suitable), storyboard meeting (to set the direction and guidelines for the rest of the series – surprisingly Kinoshita finishes the first episode’s storyboard fast), animators meeting (how the ‘scribbles’ turn into proper drawings – Ai Kunogi is so tongue tied whenever Kinoshita asks her something and somehow Ema could ‘translate’ for her, Was it the bug no Kinoshita’s sleeve?), animation meet (to see how each episode will look), colour design meet (to see what colours best suit the characters and the scenes), CG meet (the planes will be animated in CG) and soundtrack meet (songs for the series and it is decided to play music to match the emotions and not the scenes). Tarou takes Tsubaki Andou and Sara Satou on the routes they need to go to collect work from keyframe animators who work from home. Aoi also briefs them about the charts and schedules that they have to update and keep in check daily. Yano is still on leave to tend to her father and just mentioning that name strikes fear to Tarou… Aoi leaves him hanging by not telling him when she’s coming back. Everything seems to be going fine and at full force till Watanabe receives a very bad news. He tells Aoi to stop all work immediately because the author wants a retake for every character. Everything needs to be redone again.

Episode 16
The author disagrees with the character design. Looks like Chazawa lied about getting his approval. Since the author is vague in what he wants, they’ll have to redo the designs but themselves. Rejected again. Even calling Chazawa doesn’t yield anything better. He just tells them it is their job to figure it out. But the more Iguchi redesigns the characters, the more it gets worse from the author’s perception. Naturally it gets to her but she isn’t totally giving up as she is starting to like the characters and that she can’t disappoint Ogasawara who entrusted this to her. As Kinoshita wants to focus on flashy visuals, he tells every department in what they do as the lead. Isn’t that like being a playboy flirting with multiple girls? But Iguchi’s morale deteriorates as he can’t see how to go about it anymore. This is when Ogasawara steps in to lecture Kinoshita, Watanabe and Aoi for abandoning Iguchi and leaving her to deal with everything. Sure, the author didn’t make it clear but they aren’t supporting her and putting the pressure load on her. It’s like they’re being lazy and leaving everything to her. And if the guys think of inviting her out for lunch, that’s not their job! Their job is to facilitate an environment where she can work without burden, determine what the author really wants and help Iguchi figure out how to adjust to designs. Ogasawara then takes Iguchi, Aoi and Ema to a batting centre, her place to relief stress. While the girls miss everything, Ogasawara perfectly bats and pitches every shot with precision and style! So much so Aoi might be breaking the fourth wall thinking this can be turn into some sort of anime! Ogasawara then tells her ironic background. She’s not from a baseball club but the Go club. She used to wear t-shirts and jeans. Her character designs always get rejected and she thought she was strong enough to weather through it. Apparently not. Like any other human being especially an artist, she has a sensitive and vulnerable heart. So she changed her image and donned this goth loli outfit as her ‘battle armour’. So happen this outfit design was from the heroine she drew. This change made her stronger. Going back to the root of the problem why the author rejected them, they believe his definition of cuteness may differ. Kinoshita admits they were trying to design a more moe character. Iguchi cosplays as the character and starts her redesigning. Now they need the editor’s approval. As usual, busy. Playing golf. His stroke gave him away so Watanabe knows where he is and drags him to get direct feedback from the author. And the great news we’ve all been waiting: Approved!!!

Episode 17
3rd Wing’s anime has finally been announced public. Honda visits Musani and he has slimmed down! So all the stress made him fat and not the cake?! I’m sure Kinoshita is jealous about their ‘chubby alliance’. More bad news for Musani. Chazawa suddenly calls about the author wanting a PV for the Manga Festival. He is sure he told them but I can tell you nobody heard about it. This means time is running out for them to do the PV. Satou and Andou go around the departments seeking their help to finish their part for the PV. But since they’re being blunt, they rather talk to Aoi. Kunogi is quite attached to Ema and learns a lot from her. Still can’t eke out a decent sentence? Shizuka is supposed to only be the voice over for some piggy mascot at a children’s live event. But the person behind the mascot is sick so Shizuka does a daring try to act and voice at the same time. It works out very well and a hit among the kids. Because Hiraoka doesn’t join morning meetings and comes in whenever he wants, Aoi talks to him about the need to do so or else he’ll keep missing on updated stuffs. Later Aoi gets a call from Satou that she got lost on some highway after picking up keyframes. She’s panicking since her handphone battery died. After describing the landmarks, Aoi uses Google Map to guide her back. Subsequently Andou calls. What’s the problem this time? Looks like she fell asleep in the train and missed her stop! Don’t worry, both girls come back in time and intact and learn a valuable lesson. Musani finishes the PV in time and have their traditional party to view it. Looking good.

Episode 18
Aoi is in the recording session meeting the seiyuus for the first time. With Kinoshita and producer, Koutarou Katsuragi, they introduce themselves and say a word or two for motivation. Suzuki who voices the main character has to stay back and retake her lines since she sounded so different from the audition. Aoi tries to help and give her encouragement but it is the sound engineer producer that has her into the groove by talking to her normally and then using those words and expressions to say in her lines. Aoi goes to look for Masahiro Ookura in some bar to hire his talent to draw a certain scene. He is drunk of course and on a whim accepts the job. So the next day with Atsumi (who is an admirer of Ookura) go to see him, that guy doesn’t remember who she is! After much reminder and the name card she gave him yesterday, finally he does. But now he declines the job! He is trying to give excuses that nobody wants an old geezer doing hand drawn animation as they are now using CGI. He even tries to pass on the job to Atsumi to do it himself if his goal is to surpass him. When Aoi gives him dorayaki souvenirs from Musani president, Masato Marukawa, Ookura gets excited and eats them. He finds out too late and accuses her of baiting him that the snacks were from Marukawa without telling him first. Who opened it without asking? I suppose the nostalgia factor has Ookura reconsider his decision so he agrees to accept the job. Aoi gets all the cuts that Taitanic has delayed for Kinoshita to check. That guy isn’t going to have a break… But they were all so awful and requests ignored, they had to call them and the episode director just to redo it. All seems fine when he does. But soon the problems for Aoi start compounding. Ookura has gone ‘missing’ (assuming to be on a break) and can’t be reached by his handphone, that episode director suddenly quits and some other problems that you can be sure that Tarou has a hand in screwing up one of them. Aoi is close to breaking down. Panic setting in. Of course she can take things one step at a time but there is a limit to that too. All that is left is to get an episode director replacement. She is running out of ideas and names for help. Who? WHO?! Tell her, please! And then… Yano returns! Lastly, we see Ookura in the rural countryside beginning his scenic sketch.

Episode 19
Yano can see Aoi is in a mess and is desperate for a switch. But she tells her to go home and rest. The sleep helps especially with the scented candle souvenir Yano bought for her. But the production problem remains. Don’t worry. Yano has got a plan. She has Hiraoka drive her to Taitanic where she becomes their temporary production assistant to lay out the schedules. If they don’t do it, somebody will, right? Seems Yano and Hiraoka know each other. Hiraoka’s clashing personality has made him change several jobs. Although he calls Aoi an amateur and still has that passion, for him that sort of charm died out less than a year. Yano later goes to convince Hiroshi Iketani to be their episode director. This guy is a hermit and jobless but before he knows it, Yano already leaves him the storyboard for him to check and says Kinoshita is counting on him. Marukawa and Aoi head over to the old abandoned Musashino Studios to pick up something. Looks like time stopped there after the studio closed down after it went bankrupt. Aoi sees all the cell work and how animation was done in the old days. She is delighted to see a cell of Andes Chucky. She feels sad that if today’s anime has improved because she seems to be focused on the minor problems instead of making the anime great. Marukawa also mentions anime back then had its fair share of problems. Aoi is like blasted back to the past as she sees the studio in its heydays. Marukawa is a hipster?! There is Sugie in the team too and Ookura as the newbie who caused a stir when he designed the blizzard scene for Andes Chucky differently. After much deliberation, the entire team redo all their settings for this scene. Aoi is brought to tears seeing an old episode of her favourite anime. Marukawa talks a little about how everyone broke up after the studio went bust and how time just flew by. How does Aoi feel about anime today? She’s having fun and is going to make great animes. That’s the spirit. So I suppose this means becoming Ema’s model as she tries to sketch facial expressions when one eats something sour. Yeah well, keep eating those sour plums… Yano brings Iketani to meet Kinoshita. And here comes all the workload as an episode director… Feeling afraid? When Aoi learns Ookura has returned, she goes to see him and sees all the beautiful sceneries he painted. He must have gathered a lot of materials. Ookura briefly tells her about his wandering life and how he ended up in the art job of the anime industry. Before he knew it, 40 years has passed. Aoi is reduced to tears seeing his beautiful work.

Episode 20
Iketani tries to escape but Yano is waiting! Don’t worry. She won’t scold you. Just a gentle reminder to complete your work. With a smile. Later he does it again but Yano sure knows where to wait! Aoi and the rest are discussing the plot for the final episode considering the direction of the penultimate episode. This doesn’t sit well with Maitake since it would mean a strict deadline for him. They got distracted talking about why they make anime. Aoi is puzzled that Midori is taking assignments from Maitake. At first Midori wanted to become his apprentice to train to become a writer but since that is not his policy, he gave her assignments instead. Later when Midori passes by Hiraoka, he starts chiding her just because she is a girl and starts flashing a smile, she gets the job. How to take out her depression? Poor girl adlibs people’s conversation on the train. Of course we know she takes her job seriously. When Hiraoka sees Madoka for the layout checks and cuts, Madoka wants everything to be redone again despite this would only put more work on himself. Madoka couldn’t be happier if those who drew this quit. Then everything spirals downwards. Madoka reprimands Hiraoka that everyone he recommends does a sloppy job and they think they’re like king of the office. Shouting turns violent as they start throwing things. Tarou as usual who just walked in without a care almost hot hit by a metal rod had not Okitsu strike it away! They got reprimanded by her and later Marukawa talks to Hiraoka that despite his personality, he still cares because why get so worked up if Madoka said something off the mark? Subsequently Hiraoka apologizes to Madoka. Kunogi now knows where Ema lives! Oh God! Leecher for life?! Well, Aoi told her so she’s here to give some sweet potatoes as thanks. Still can’t eke out a decent sentence? Another round for Aoi and the rest to discuss the final episode’s plot and using emotions to convey it.

Episode 21
Iketani is trying to be the great escapist but whatever he does, Yano is always waiting. There is even this mini underground shaft escape. No light of hope waiting at the end. Only Yano of despair! Hisamitsu Isokawa, the CEO of his own anime production company, AC Tsuchinoko drops by Musani personally to hand Aoi cuts from an episode. This guy is a real joker. Joking-cum-shocking Andou and Satou that he is Aoi’s girlfriend and trying to get Andou to work for his understaffed company. He knows Hiraoka and Yano as they went to the same school. Hiraoka isn’t too thrilled to see him. Perhaps one of the best perks of the job is sometimes how fun it can be. Like Misa who is tasked to design the movements of a pilot in the cockpit, she calls Shizuka and Ema to ride the roller coaster with her to see their reactions. They have to sit the ride a few times. Scary or fun? Care for another run? On the night 3rd Wing debuts on TV, most of the Musani staffs gather as usual to watch it. Tarou brags his first episode hard work, blood sweat and tears. Nobody wants to listen to you. Aoi hits a major problem when Segawa complains about Hiraoka. She wants him off the episodes she works on because the keyframes he sends in are sloppy and he tends to pile up all the work and give it to her at one go. She is serious about this that she’s starting to think Tarou might be the better alternative!!! Aoi talks to Hiraoka about focusing on the quality instead of rushing to complete it but Hiraoka argues back about animators taking their sweet time and thus affecting the schedule. When this happens it is always the production assistant’s fault. He even threatens to replace him if she wishes. Aoi talks to Yano about Hiraoka. They were all passionate about making anime. But surprisingly Isokawa was the slacker and Hiraoka the hard working passionate guy. What happened? Yeah. Reality sucks, right? Can you blame him for turning out like that? Later Aoi goes to talk to Isokawa. He finds out Honda has gone to start his confectionery in which he feels a bit sad because Honda helped him in starting out this company and gave a few contracts as start. Maybe just like everyone else, their enthusiasm wanes. Isokawa continues about the reason he created this company as well as the importance of the production and creative staff finding a common goal they can share. Aoi tells Hiraoka to continue working while she tries to convince Segawa. And please talk to the keyframe animators and communicate with them better. But there’s a big piece of good news. Kinoshita finishes his storyboard for the final episode in just 3 weeks! But the deadline is just there. Just that they’re motivated to head straight for the finish.

Episode 22
Aoi hopes Iguchi can also be the animation director for the final episode but since she is also swamped with other work, an assistant would be much welcomed. At first Aoi wanted to suggest Ogasawara but surprisingly Iguchi suggests Ema seeing how much she has improved. However she is still suffering from low self confidence so Aoi wants her to think hard about this. Aoi still needs to come up with a backup plan if Ema refuses. Would Segawa take the job? Asking her, Segawa asks back if Aoi is able to take all the responsibility. After assuring all that sloppiness that Hiraoka brought in won’t happen again, Segawa who initially wanted to refuse, accepts it since Aoi convinced her. Ema sees Midori scripting sound effects for the storyboard. Instead of being overwhelmed, she is excited as it is so much fun. Then there is this odd scene of Tarou and Hiraoka going out to drink together. The former is all set for it but Hiraoka has that I-wish-I-wasn’t-here look. But we find out how Hiraoka got this bitter personality. He worked so hard and with all the delays and retakes, he is just caught in between everything. Tarou is touched by his story. Hiraoka wants to quit after this but Tarou won’t let him. Aren’t they buddies who will rule the world?! Says who?! Misa talks to Ema about some keyframe animations between hand drawn and CGI. You jealous, Kunogi? As Ema is still having low self esteem problems and in a dilemma whether to become Iguchi’s assistant, Sugie tells her to go for it because it is an opportunity to learn. With that, Ema accepts the job. This also somewhat has a domino effect on Kunogi. For the first time, Kunogi is called to the meeting for the final episode. All by herself! Can she finally say something? Can she?! YES! Finally! Even if it’s a short sentence about panties, the guys are freaking surprised and even respond in a dramatic way as her! After the final recording session for the last episode is finished, it is supposed to be a teary happy ending when suddenly a call from Chazawa saying the author is totally upset with the final storyboard and has scrapped everything!!! FFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Episode 23
Gloom and doom. Better break it to Kinoshita who is happily partying away. Thankfully he gets tricked to go back to work. Katsuragi and Watanabe go to renegotiate with Chazawa but he twists every word he could and a no means no. Musani has to face the dark reality of redoing it everything again with very limited time and compromising quality. As the author wants the final episode to follow his original storyline whereby the main character doesn’t fly again after her comrade dies, it was the opposite in their original anime ending. Hiraoka mentions that this isn’t the first time this author’s works got adapted. There was one anime that was, it was just so crazy and didn’t follow the original faithfully even the author got panned. Honda visits to give Kinoshita some hope (that big cake helps). Then Kinoshita sees the author’s direct email address and sends one. Surprisingly he gets an instant reply to meet up. And so here Kinoshita is outside the publishing office. He is taking this final battle literally, isn’t he? That cowboy getup… With Chazawa and the other editors trying to stop him from seeing the author, Kinoshita’s other allies also help out to keep them at bay. Sometimes it is good to be chubby because Kinoshita used his flabby belly as a power tool to get past everyone to the final boss, the author Takezou Nogame. He of course instantly rejects Kinoshita’s idea and wants it redone. Both sides argue their points. At some point, they start to converge their ideas and work together to where the plot should head next. Finally they reach a conclusion that the main character should fly again with a reason of the deceased character’s little sister. Nogame will send him more details about this later and admits he never had so much fun with a company adapting his work. When his editors finally enter, Nogame is furious at Chazawa for keeping him in the dark. Yeah, we have already guessed it he didn’t consult Nogame after all. Don’t give excuses. You’re fired! With Kinoshita relaying the good news to his production team, they iron out a few tweaks. But for the voice acting part for the little sister, who should they get? Kinoshita hears the audition tapes again. Guess who gets the part? Shizuka! Boy, is Aoi surprised to see her. She plays her short part to perfection that it brings Aoi to tears! No kidding!

Episode 24
Despite only 3 weeks to the final episode, they are rushing for final checks and tweaking. Some of the highlights include Segawa moving in to work at Musani office till the end of the project, Ema takes her team on a field trip to a cow farm to animate the final cow scenes and a typo in during a dubbing take but the recording master easily fixes it. Despite the staffs rejoice that the editing completes the entire project, the last stretch is most daunting. Because it is the delivery of the tapes to the broadcasting stations. The staffs divide themselves to which station they will deliver. In the last mad dash to make it before the deadline, we see them taking all sorts of automobiles and transport to reach their destination. Katsuragi is panicking all the way and it makes him look funny. Okitsu volunteers to take the tape to the furthest station and her drifting has a line of police hot on her tail! Luckily she knows the police chief! Bad weather and traffic jam hinder Aoi’s journey so she makes the final stretch on foot. Run, girl. Run! And yes! She makes it! On the way back, she contemplates her next step. Since she loves anime, she will continue to make them. Musani is having an elaborate party with almost everyone involved in the project attending. Kinoshita is suddenly made to give his speech but with Aoi tumbling in late, he passes the microphone to her. She thanks everybody for making this happen and hopes to continue bringing more anime into people’s lives. Now bottom’s up everybody! Watanabe talks to Katsuragi that they have secured 2 animes for next season. One of them being the very popular, wait for it… Two Piece! Oh, you crack me up! Aoi is with her all friends for the first time since high school. With their increased knowledge and ‘power up’, they feel they have what it takes to make The Divines even better. They can even imagine it like real. Just like old times, they make a doughnut vow on it.

OVA 1
If you have an anime about an anime studio making animes, how much more fun would it be to see an episode that they animated? This is what the first OVA is about and takes a look at the first full episode of Exodus. Akane, Aya and Arupin are members of the small idol unit, Tracy. You know that they’re not famous as they’re singing to empty seats at an amusement park and their changing room is the toilet! Serious! Their social media followers are so paltry that you might think they might have just mistakenly stumbled onto their videos or something. They talk about stuffs and their future, especially their manager, Taguchi who wasn’t even at their show. Maybe it is because he is busy handling the other idol unit, Ginger who is more famous and has more followers. And Tracy is stuck with going to promote some supermarket store in their maid outfit as their next gig. Akane has decided that she is going to do it and leaves. Arupin worries that she might quit Tracy and Aya too feels that if she does that, she will also follow. When Arupin goes to find Akane, she asks a janitor lady who finds it funny that a similar girl also asked to same question. She thinks they’re involved in some love triangle with Taguchi. Arupin sees Akane running about ahead. When she catches up, she sees Taguchi’s dead body! OMG! Why did she pick up the knife?! Taguchi did leave his blood clue but the initial ‘A’ could mean anyone of them. Did Akane mean to kill him on what she has decided? Aya sees this and gets the wrong idea. Same case when Akane comes into the picture. Then a staff sees this and panics. The alarm is sounded. So what do the girls do? Take a deep breath and calm down… Taguchi’s handphone rings. Akane answers and it seems it is her sister (who is also part of the production team). They explain what is going on and can confirm that they didn’t kill Taguchi. Sister’s idea is for them to run away and then formulate a strategy to catch the culprit.

As they escape and rest outside the nearby park, they see their social media followers spiking through the roof! They have become hot topic on the internet and trending right now! All for the wrong reasons? Akane clears the air that what she has decided to do was to talk to Taguchi to give them better jobs or transfer them to a different manager. Otherwise they quit. As they talk of their dream to sing in this dome, the crowd starts to recognize them. Sister guides them to the underground where she has prepared a bike and a secured phone for them to escape. Inspector Miho Koigakubo is confident this will be her case that will make her shine is on the hot trail of Tracy. The trio ride out into the streets as the police are not far behind. They block the bridge but they get scared and gave them way when Aya points a gun and fires a warning shot (earlier on stolen from a bungling policeman). Then they hope off the bridge and onto a dump tugboat. They missed their mark a little and fell into the sea. For the first time they see each other without makeup and hardly recognize each other! The janitor lady is revealed to be the culprit behind the setup and although things didn’t go well as planned, this is not the end yet. And so the Tracy trio continue their worldwide run till they can clear their name with Koigakubo hot on their ass.

OVA 2
This time it is the first episode of 3rd Wing’s turn. We start off with a few technical terms of comparisons between the few fighter jets of our main casts. If they sound like high school girls’ talk, please be informed that they are the (in)famous 307 Aerial Squad of the Chofu Base. The squad AKA Hell Alice that contains the (in)famous pilot ace known as Ice Doll. Along with the multi-national fighter squads from around the world, they approach a huge towering top-like structure made by the mysterious Builders for their next mission. Lots of cool CGI jet fighter dog fights here. Especially from Aria Hitotose AKA Ice Doll who is such a pro in taking out her enemies like as though she’s a machine. The main team is supposed to retrieve some girl in this towering base but they were all wiped out in an ambush. This tragedy unfolding before Aria reminds her of a similar tragedy in her past. Recklessly, she decides to complete the retrieval mission. She manages to do so but the enemy is hot on her tail in trying to take her down and take back the girl. Her superior sacrifices herself to protect her from the enemy’s firing path. With the retrieval mission a success, the fighters leave and return to base. Some comrades commented on Aria’s icy personality because she continued to act normal and didn’t shed tears for her superior’s death, hence her nickname. However the retrieved girl didn’t think so because Aria was in pain, crying all the time. She thanks her for saving her, causing Aria to cry harder. She will always remember her saviour’s name. However she doesn’t remember hers. Holy cow. Amnesiac?! It is briefly explained about Builders who mysteriously built those ever growing towers around the world that jams all form of electronics. This is perhaps why only jet fighters from the 70’s can have a fighting chance against them as they lack all those electronics in today’s fighter jets. Back at base, the boss of 307 Aerial Squad introduces them to a new member: Catherine “Cathy” Weller. That amnesiac girl? So did she get her memories back? Not quite. The only thing she remembers is how to pilot a plane and thus she wanted to join this squad. Since it will be troublesome not to have a name, she took the liberty to call herself by this name. She is also instructed to live with Aria. Lots of teasing from this American girl and you can see Aria putting a myriad of blushing faces that you would normally never see. Then the alert sounds. The enemy is approaching so our girls make a sortie to engage the enemy.

Running On Passion!
Well, it was quite an interesting insight indeed and well done. Unless you are not into the industry or your curiosity isn’t there, you might find this a boring watch but personally for me who has been watching anime for around a decade, this brings a lot of enlightenment. It is good to know that producing a weekly anime can be this tough sh*t. Everything from A to Z needs to be think of and the slight delay along the line can actually hinder and jeopardize a single episode. Now I’m so ‘scared’ of even thinking of working in the anime industry! No kidding! I don’t think I have enough time to spare if I end up working like that! I may need to extend my life. No, clone myself! Argh! Oh anime production, why do you have to be this ‘scary’? But at least I know all the sh*t that has been gone through. And now I am ‘forced’ to appreciate or at least think for a second the hard work put into every anime no matter how crappy they are. That’s a good thing, right?

It is very eye opening to see all the process down the line in making just a single episode. Although it is not shown in chronological order or a systematic way, seeing the way that a production assistant goes through daily to check the schedules and following up on every department is a really one truly respectable and great feat. The schedule could be worse than a personal assistant of a CEO of an international conglomerate! Some departments explain more in detail their process and some just breezes through but the important thing is that each of the departments is essential in making just that one episode. If they really want to go into the deep process of every section, I think this anime would be expanded to a couple of more seasons. It might be a good and bad thing because you get to learn more about the process behind the scenes but when you are watching such for so long, it makes you feel like you’re watching a documentary instead of an anime that is supposed to be both educational and fun at the same time. So I think that having certain departments just making brief and simple cameos are just the right tonic and pace for this series. While many of the process are realistic, there are some scenes which I feel are exaggerated like the drifting driving (don’t ever do this no matter how tight your deadline is!) and Kinoshita’s ‘battle’ to see Nogame. All this is of course for comedic effect and make the series less boring.

Despite the overwhelming characters, it is unfair for me to say that some of them lack the deserved screen time. The way they spammed all the staffs in the first episode was already ‘scary’. And as the series progresses, you’ll meet even more people from inside and outside the production line. It makes you wonder if you could ever remember them all. Heck, I don’t think I managed to. In fact, I think everyone in the line from top to bottom are just amazing doing their stuffs and then everybody putting it all together. All of the characters feel like somebody in the workforce we can related to. There is always the big mouth and show off. The joker kind is always there too. The lazy slacker who is always missing from work. Then there is the quiet and reserved person. Not to mention those that are very good mentors and very good at what they and you respect them for it. And of course the kind of colleagues that we hate most are those with such arrogant, nasty and f*cked up attitudes. You don’t see it here in this anime but Hiraoka’s unfriendly behaviour comes close to that. Essentially with a diversified work force with so many personalities, the bottom line is that everybody needs to work together to get things done and I believe this is what this anime and this Musani is trying to show us. It is not godly miracles or anything. It is solely the hard work, dedication and passion of these people who made it possible. So once again, let me say hats off to these people with nerves of steel doing something that I would never ever find myself doing.

Many of the characters in this anime you will find likeable. Like Aoi as the main character is a pretty steadfast girl. Like many of us being put in such a demanding and important position, instead of complaining or having negativity (on several occasions she might find things impossible but that is just temporary till she finds her motivation back up again), you see her take on the challenge. Helming that post at such a young age, I believe she’ll gain lots of valuable experience and if this was a game, she’ll level up in no time and do greater stuffs and reach greater heights in no time. There are many points where Aoi is on the verge of breaking down and thoughts of giving up are too tempting. What doesn’t kill her makes her stronger. She is living proof of that. Sometimes I think her stress and thoughts are personified as a couple of imaginary characters, Lolo the white bear and Mimsy the pirate goth girl. They make more appearance in the second half of the series and while mostly playing the role in explaining certain processes and all. Sometimes they give Aoi the much needed motivation to push ahead. Well, I think most of us have this kind of inner thoughts that make us go further when we’re about to give up.

It is also great to see that her high school anime buddies are also now working towards their common goal and making their dream come true. Slowly but surely. Ema who started out with very low self esteem has now improved a lot especially in her drawing and even has her own style (and an apprentice who sticks to her like a leech!). Misa has gotten better in her CG expertise while Midori’s knowledge and writing skills are increasing at an alarming rate. Shizuka might seem to be not heading anywhere due to the lack of roles and the unsuccessful auditions she attends. But she never gives up nor loses sight of her goal. And could this minor role in 3rd Wing be the big break? Despite you may notice the repetitiveness of the character development (mainly trying to hone better their skills), it never gets boring because it showcases that the character has some room for improvements.

If you look at the bunch of staffs at Musani, you can surely see that they are a motley crew of misfits banding together to produce a show. Tarou is a good person for laughs (and one of the few reasons preventing this series to be a bore) because he talks big and even if something is his fault (which usually is), he still slacks and continues to be nonchalant. I suppose that this guy does get his job done. Otherwise why would he still be around instead of getting fired? Still he is the kind of joker that even laughs in the face and times of danger. The only person who can put him down is Yano. She has given Aoi lots of handy tips to stay top of her game. She’s pretty cool and calm when it comes down to it. If she wasn’t in the anime industry, she could be a motivation speaker or stress relief advisor. Lots of us can be categorized as Hiraoka. Most of us started out as passionate with big goals but throughout the years, the stress and everything could have burnt us out. So you can’t really blame him when he puts up that sourpuss attitude and just doing the bare minimum to get things done. Luckily for him, his colleagues are understanding enough and he is sensible enough to change his ways. Nothing that drastic but at least something tolerable.

Then there are those big guys like Kinoshita, the kind of person who needs lots of motivation and easily loses them. This guy is the king of procrastinating if somebody doesn’t put his foot down and put him back in line. So many times Musani could have fallen in danger thanks to him putting off his work but eventually even guys like him can turn around. Most companies would also have ‘the guy with the connections’, Watanabe. This is the kind of person you need to get your deals done with cool and suave PR tactics. And then Katsuragi, this guy is like living on the edge. He has got this panicky attitude that any bad news could send this guy into heart attack. Please don’t scare this guy. Colleagues come and go and some like Honda would sometimes pay his respects by visiting the company from time to time. Some you’ll never heard of again like Ochiai but since he is still working around in the same industry, you’ll hear about him from time to time.

Cool veterans like Sugie provide valuable advices from their years of experience. Iguchi and Ogasawara are also very good in what they do so learn as much as possible. Kunogi is funny because of her inability to string decent proper sentences so much so it feels like Ema knows her so well that she could read her mind and finish her sentences. It’s like she’s her mom! Even if she still stammers and could say a few words of her own, at least she’s trying. Argh! There are so many nice and memorable characters that I can’t list them all here. Sorry about that. I got a writer’s block just trying to think about it.

If you noticed that Musani’s president, Marukawa may look like a senile old doofus (that eternal grin of his may make him look like a silly old fool) who does nothing ‘stressful’ around the office except cooking for the staff. But I think he is as important as all the animators and production staffs as well. No doubt he is the head of this studio but he takes care of them well. Don’t think that cooking is something trivial. When the staffs are stressed and having emergency meetings to figure things out, nothing like a little home cooked snacks to freshen up and stimulate the brain once again. Don’t write off Okitsu as just someone who works from the typical 9 to 5. She is in fact the most resourceful person being able to help out in the 11th hour. It’s good to have such people by your side. If I may point out the only ‘antagonist’ in the series goes to Chazawa as his high and mighty attitude has been the source of lots of trouble for Musani. Good thing he got fired.

As an anime that produces anime, the art style and the animation are reasonably good. It shows that being simplistic can still bring out the vibrant feel and you don’t need to resort to flashy exaggerated visuals to catch your attention. There might not be very fast action scenes or even elaborate backgrounds but I believe that there are lots of detail and important minor visual stuffs that they put in during some scenes like when we see the artists animating on paper or part of the computer effects. It would be very ironic if an anime about making animes didn’t put enough decent quality into the production whereas in the anime, the studio tries its best to strive for quality. This might be trivial put I just want to point out that somehow I feel that the character designs differ between male and female. What I mean is that while most of the females have that wide eyed bishoujo anime look, many of the guys in the production look more ‘real’. Take a look at guys like Kinoshita, Katsuragi and Yamada have this ‘realism’ look. Big. Chubby. Otaku-like. Whereas many of the females like Aoi and her friends do look pretty enough even though they’re under a lot of stress. Of course there are pretty guys like Watanabe and even Hiraoka himself.

I wonder if the in-anime like Exodus and 3rd Wing will get their own anime adaptation because watching their first episode seems interesting and quite promising. Especially with 3rd Wing as it has all that nail biting action as well as cool CGI effects. Not to mention a main character maid! Yahoo! Ahem… If they do, it won’t be the first time that an anime has turned its in-anime into its own series. Genshiken did it before with its Kujibiki Unbalance. Maybe if that ever happens, it will be quite some time in the future as I believe those animes are not based on any actual manga and were just created inside the anime for the plot and setting of the main one. Personally, I think if they want to make another sequel to Shirobako, they should make these animes instead because another season of watching Musani stressing out over the same thing may get boring since we are already aware of the ‘vicious cycle’.

With so many characters, some come and go, the cast list is a very extensive one. And I mean a very long list. Though, there are a handful of seiyuus that voice multiple roles. Especially some that starred as themselves. Well, not exactly. Their names are slightly modified in the anime but you can tell it is them (and then give out a little grin) and that they sound familiar. For instance, Mai Nakahara, Shizuka Itou and Ai Kayano other than voicing some of the staffs in Musani, also make their cameo as ‘themselves’. Generally, the voice acting is as good as the art and they fit the characters very well and give them their unique personality. The opening and ending themes are pretty decent too. Colorful Box by Yoko Ishida is the first opening theme while Animetic Love Letter by the trio of Juri Kimura, Haruka Yoshimura and Haruka Chisuga is the second. Masami Okui sings Treasure Box as the first ending theme and Aoi and friends get to sing Platinum Jet as Donut@Quintet for the second ending theme which is pretty cute with lines that go, ”Neru na luna~”. Some of the other special themes for the in-anime are also fun to listen like the Andes Chucky theme song as well as the Exodus’ cutesy idol lyrics and 3rd Wing’s anime rock based outfits.

Overall, this anime is very well done and a very good insight and eye opener to the world of producing anime. One thing good about this series is that it doesn’t glorify or idolize the anime production line and all that we have seen. You really need pure raw passion to get through this kind of work. Though, I get the feeling that in real life, the stress and hardship is much more severe than this. Because despite all the hardships that we have seen Musani gone through, there is still a feel good ending to it all. After all, this is still an anime so it doesn’t hurt to have a little satisfying feel to it. In the real world, I am assuming that many would have gone crazy or losing that spark after putting in such long demanding hours as opposed to see everyone smiling here! Making this series even more interesting is the fact that it is not based on any manga/novel like Bakuman or Sore Ga Seiyuu or game like Love Get Chu. An original anime about making anime and it does keep things fresh. Of course there are some little trivia to spot from other parodies of other animes like Kill La Kill, Gundam, Crayon Shin Chan and Space Runaway Ideon.

This anime serves as a good wakeup call and reminder with the ever expanding influence of anime around the world. This show is good for all anime enthusiast as well as those who want to get into similar industries. And then you decide if this is really what you want and willing to sacrifice before you jump onto the bandwagon. While you can still criticize any animes you see and deem they are not up to par by your standards, the most important thing is to appreciate what has been done to bring those animations to life. It is the equivalent of saying grace before every meal. It is without a doubt that all kinds of anime, great or crappy, epic or fail, it proves that the industry is capable of creating and making dreams come true. Therefore I salute to all those in making animes and persevering through it all. But still, a crappy anime is still a crappy anime no matter how many justifications you give. An excuse for me to go back criticizing sh*tty animes and skip this ‘appreciation’ process. Heh. I’m human after all.

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