Its always interesting to discuss something or anything Shirobako, because I feel like it was a ground breaking anime that jumped started two different things. Back in 2014, media centered on anime production has existed. I can talk about the gainx self parody film: Otaku no Video, that one episode of Paranoia Agent, along Genshiken and Bakuman in the manga production world, but anime production has never been as much of an thing. Shirobako has helped people to look at the anime industry with a larger hunger then ever before. Take this with a grain of salt, but common knowledge about the anime industry by normal people started from Shirobako’s appearance. Also, I feel like Shirobako was a catalyst for more working girls slice of life anime. It’s not like they didn’t exist before, but there was an increase after it. With all of that knowledge, Shirobako: The Movie came out in Japan 6 years later.
The original Shirobako series is so good guys. At some point, I will have to watch and write a thing about it again, but for now you get this one paragraph review. After five girls worked on their animation project in high school, they all seeked different jobs in the anime industry so they could create their dream production bigger and larger than whatever they could create in high school. Shirobako is the story of these five girls, mainly Aoi Miyamori as a production assistant, as they get jobs in the anime industry. Aoi got a job at Musashino Animation and the anime is her job jumping between different production people as they create two different anime series. It’s really incredible with some of the best sad moments with the best happy moments after them that warm your heart. I can’t recommend it enough as you watch these donut girls achieve their dreams one after another.
With that said, Shirobako: The Movie opens up four years after the series where nothing is going right. While each of the girls has achieved a job of some kind in the anime industry and has moved up, Aoi Miyamori stayed with a sinking Musashino Animation. It’s obvious that something bad happened years back that drove almost all the production staff away to different jobs and we don’t see what happened until later on. For now, Musashino Animation in it’s shell of itself produces fanservice variations of the anime we saw them produce in the series to keep themselves alive. As Aoi and others doubt themselves, there is only one hope. To create a movie in nine months with the vague title of Shiva. A story about a battleship with no production materials behind it at all. As you would expect, it happens.
In that sort of way, Shirobako: The Movie does a great job of playing with the expected. We know that Aoi Miyamori and everyone else that left is going to find their way to Musashino to produce this film once again. Seeing these characters not be in the place they want to be and making a last grasp to fight for survival and for themselves is relatable stuff because not everything that a person imagines happening goes as planned. Its how we get back up that defines how people are. Seeing the down on her like Aoi finding that passion she lost once again in some very heart breaking and warming scenes was the light that this film needed to work and it does. The uniting of very simple and quirky people from the series to come back to create again is just something that Shirobako is good at even if this is very much a reunion film.
A lot of themes of the love of production of anime is in this film. I don’t just mean with these characters joining in to make a movie they are unsure about. The main villain of this film are those people who seek to profit off of those who produce anime. That is not only a massive hint to how Musashino fell apart, but the main villain of the film over all. Shiva was originally in the hands of a production studio that didn’t care about it. Aoi and others had to wrestle away the rights of those who seek to profit off of the team for the work some people never put into it. Confronting those forces that wrecked everything in the beginning to accomplish their dreams is a great way to give the film a tangible arc and goal. Which is something we all know is going to happen, but does that matter if its done well? For the most part, I don’t think so. If something is good, then its good.
The love of art and animation leaks into a lot of imagination scenes and moments too. Shirobako could just be a series that has people sitting down or standing up and doing their work with some displays for the anime they are working on shown all over the place and it would still be as good. Including moments that replace showing your badge as you walk into secure building with fighting them with various tools or having that epiphany moment of where a character founds their resolve again in a music moment instead. These are the flourishes that make Shirobako special because an anime about producing anime should have those moments where you feel the aww of what happened in front of you. It should also be fun unless you are doing something like Paranoia Agent where you are trying to destroy people. Yeah, not the most fun I think.
For me, Shirobako: The Movie is a good movie and not a solid one on my scale. That comes from that fact that this movie is a bit of a victim of its own success. How do you follow up what is widely considered one of the best series of all time? Not many sequels can do that. If anything, Shirobako: The Movie is like the tv series in how good it is, but it suffers from the lack of run time to have more fun with its cast. I really like 99% of Shirobako’s cast and seeing some members only get a quick scene or moment compared to others who have their own existential crisis once again really doesn’t match up. Still, I liked watching it and was desperate enough to just get outside of home to watch it with seven other people during a pandemic. I am not regretting that choice at all, but I just don’t think that Shirobako: The Movie will be in my head as much as the television show. I really need to rewatch the series soon.