Shirobako – Anime Production Is Not Easy

  • Title: Shirobako (White Box)
  • Genres: Comedy, Drama
  • Studios: P.A Works
  • Episodes: 12 – 24min (Completed)
  • Date: 9 October 2014 — 26 March 2015
  • Source: Original


It all started in Kaminoyama High School, when five best friends—Aoi Miyamori, Ema Yasuhara, Midori Imai, Shizuka Sakaki, and Misa Toudou—discovered their collective love for all things anime and formed the animation club. After making their first amateur anime together and showcasing it at the culture festival, the group vow to pursue careers in the industry, aiming to one day work together and create their own mainstream show.

Two and a half years later, Aoi and Ema have managed to land jobs at the illustrious Musashino Animation production company. The others, however, are finding it difficult to get their dream jobs. Shizuka is feeling the weight of not being recognized as a capable voice actor, Misa has a secure yet unsatisfying career designing 3D models for a car company, and Midori is a university student intent on pursuing her dream as a story writer. These five girls will learn that the path to success is one with many diversions, but dreams can still be achieved through perseverance and a touch of eccentric creativity.

Should I Watch Shirobako?

The art of anime production has long since eluded the knowledge of the consumer. With every season producing tons and tons of new anime, the majority of us tend to take it for granted. But the fact of the matter is, anime production is not easy. Oh not at all, and Shirobako does a splendid job of portraying this on the screen. But that’s not all. In fact, this wonderful anime also takes a look at adulthood and the sometimes ugly disparity between dreams and reality. Work life isn’t easy, and neither is finding a job. Shirobako takes a look at all these and describes them in its cutesy splendour.

Shirobako to me is a one of a kind anime, and while it can be pretty complicated to follow at first, you’ll ease into it eventually. It allows us to understand so much more about work life and anime production, whilst being cute, sad, heartwarming and wholesome. It is definitely a worthwile watch for the more mature audiences.

yeah, mature…

My Review

Shirobako is one of the more respected titles in the anime scene, yet also a title that I’ve avoided for the longest of times. Back then, I just couldn’t appreciate it. But the years came and went, and the iconic gifs of Ema’s rooftop exercise has long since made its rounds around the worldwide web before I finally decided to give this another go. On hindsight, I’m glad that I completed this when it became relevant to me. Adulthood let me appreciate this masterpiece so much more.

oh Ema…

Throughout the show, what I admired the most was that you could tell that a lot of thought had been put into detail. Detail of the artwork, detail of the music and sound effects but most importantly, detail of the various aspects in animation production. Aspects like voice acting, illustrations, animation, CGI, storyboards and the list goes on. It felt like a lot of work went into every episode, showing all aspects of what anime production is like. It’s these details that make every episode awe-inspiring.

With a story that revolves around the behind the scenes reality of anime production, a lot of the things in the anime felt real. The people, the hardships and the work, while exaggerated as an anime should be, all had elements that encapsulate the people of the real world and the difficulties of the workplace. The characters wore different clothes and were off different sizes, with some even losing weight as the show progressed. All these small moments created an environment that felt lifelike and dynamic.

Earlier on, I had mentioned that the anime would be hard to follow, simply because of the language used that simulated the real world anime production scene. The complex jargon and the alien setting would make anyone without prior knowledge of these related fields (anime production) just baffled at what was being said and what was going on. But as the anime progresses, the constant exposure to these things ended up teaching us as the viewers a thing or two about the anime production scene.

Personally to me, the anime felt like an eye opener. The story and the style created an ideal environment to allow us to digest the motives behind the anime more easily, resulting in us being able to empathise and understand what the behind-the-scenes of an anime go through in much more clarity. As such, by the end of this wonderful wholesome story, I unwittingly found myself humbled and extra appreciative of anime in general.

The story was fascinating, as we explore the different personalities in the workplace and the influence these stark personalities may have on their work and their colleagues. The anime also questions our ambitions and our willpower by presenting us with such hardworking and ambitious individuals that were either working hard for a dream, or working hard in search of a dream. What impressed me is that given the setting of an anime production company, the company took on two different anime productions in the series, which meant that Shirobako itself had to work on those two different types of anime in its story, involving a lot of different styles and work. So essentially, the anime felt like three different styles and stories were being worked on to produce a single anime. That sounds like a lot of work, especially since these stories turned out really well in my opinion.

Moving on to the art and character design, I really liked the cutesy appearances of the female characters that paired up with the realistic looking male characters. If I were to look deeper into this, I would say that it symbolised the crude varying expectations that are placed on different genders. But it’s just moe anime, so I’m probably overreaching with that statement. So on an entertainment perspective, I think this let us as the viewers feel the diversity of a creative company. When you observe closely, you would notice that Shirobako also spends a considerable amount of effort in changing the clothes of a few characters, more notably Miyamori Aoi. Her often differing styles give us the realism of the passage of time in the workplace.

a room full of geniuses (?)

Overall, Shirobako felt like a wholesome and well-written piece of work. Maybe it’s because it’s an anime about anime, but writing a review on Shirobako forces me to pay more attention to the subtleties in the anime as a whole. Even minor motions and moments are something that I end up looking at a lot more intensely in the anime. And that’s the beauty of Shirobako, being an anime that analyses and criticises work life in the anime industry, to the point of being able to influence the viewers and to get us to feel all sorts of things in this topic. It’s also kinda cute.


TLDR; Anime fun, anime real, anime awesome!

Yes, this was a mess of a writing. I wrote this review 2 months back, but only finished it up now. So pardon me for my writing not having proper form or structure. The me from 2 months ago had a different writing structure, so writing over it as the me from now was quite the challenge. I couldn’t make up my mind on which style to adopt. Anyhow, thanks for reading!

3 thoughts on “Shirobako – Anime Production Is Not Easy

  1. That’s one anime that Chris from Never Argue With a Fish strongly recommended to me. It does remind me of a mix between Otaku no Video, Comic Party, and especially Animation Runner Kuromi, but it does look like it’s own thing when it comes to anime metafiction.

    Liked by 1 person

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