Think Outside the “Box”

June 18th, 2015 in Shirobako by


Shiro Bako” (“White Box”) tells the story of five girls from high school who want to make it in anime. Having personally worked in television, radio, movies and theater, I could really connect with the problems that occurred. It’s just that they have ALL the problems happening. You can get a lot of them, but not both complete pages of the menu. Still, it makes for good stories and the overall idea of seeing if you can overcome adversity to attain your dreams.

In Kaminoyama High School, animation club members and good friends (left to right), Misa Tōdō, Ema Yasuhara, Aoi Miyamori, Midori Imai and Shizuka Sakaki, put together a really stunning anime for the cultural festival. All state they want to get into the anime industry. We flash forward two and a half years later. Ema and Aoi both work for Musashino Animation. Ema is a key animator and Aoi is a production assistant. Misa works in 3D animation for computer graphics studio Super Media Creations. Midori is in college, learning to be a scriptwriter and Shizuka is a voice actress for Akaoni Production, but is still trying to land a position. She works as a waitress otherwise.

Aside from seeing everyone go through their paces, we also see the efforts from Musashino to get out their 13-episode anime, “Exodus” and all the problems associated with it. This show has a rather capacious cast, numbering into 50. OK, you don’t see all 50 every episode, but you will see all 50 eventually. The 24-episode run is broken into two parts. The first part is watching all the problems and concerns in getting the first series out; the second is seeing all the girls come together to reach their dreams while working on the Manga of the Year and make it into the Anime of the Year, “The Third Aerial Girls Squad”.

It’s the second tale that had me bummed. On the one hand, you see the real nuts-and-bolts approach to things and on that they ring true, with everyone pushing their own agenda to further themselves at the potential expense of the show. It’s dull and boring and frustrating, but that’s the nature of negotiations. It’s just that a lot of the side characters are really annoying and you would like to stab them with your Copic pens or maybe stuff an onigiri down their throats so they will shut up. I know people like this exist, but, again, it is a situation where they ALL show up at the same time. I felt a lot of these second season problems could have been jettisoned or truncated or otherwise handled in a better manner than it was.

Although the ‘white box’ isn’t fully explained, I took it to mean the sheet of paper you draw on. It is white and the shape of a box. What are you going to put into your box? What is the happiness that you can find? (Hey, voice actresses don’t have a white box. Quiet, you!) It’s just that it may come off as a bit stiff and flat, even though two doll characters act as a caliber of narrator and viewer for the second part when everything goes right and wrong and 50 shades of gray in between.

Even with these problems, I still recommend the show, as I found it entertaining, despite some over-the-top characters and actions that are a bit strained to make the story work, as we lurch from one crisis to the next. At least get the first season; that is a real hoot. Oh, there is also talk of an OVA which would be the ‘first episode’ of the “Exodus” anime that they were working on for the first 13 run. I will give a later review on that, but it will be nice to see what they were trying to do. Now, if they do a second OVA of the first episode of “The Third Aerial Girls Squad”, that would be nice to see as well.
On a scale of 1 to 10:

Artwork 7 (A bit too hard for ‘moe’)
Plot 7 (Really pushes things)
Pacing 7 (Moves along consistently)
Effectiveness 8 (Good use of the crises)
Conclusion 7 (It reaches a ‘coupler’, but doesn’t really end)
Fan Service 2 (A similar show would be “Okamisan”)

Overall 7 (Dragged in key spots)

And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. Funny story…….

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