First Impression – Shirobako


PA Works takes on the subject of… PA Works?

spring14-highwSo guess what? There’s a PA Works show this season, and I’m doing the FI for it! Shock! But we have a bit of a departure in style for them in this show, Shirobako. What will they do with a show that’s not about romance, middle-school, or even teenagers?

A Serious Take

Shirobako-It's an odd feeling hearing your coworker get reamed out

When your cow-orker is getting reamed out, keep your head down

When I heard about this show, which was touted as “a group of girls work on anime”, the first thing I thought of, since we always compare things to other things, was Mangirl!, a short anime from almost 2 years ago with a terrible name about a group of girls publishing a manga magazine. That one was silly and funny, but pretty lightweight. But even though I knew that PA Works wouldn’t be making a silly short, it was hard to get that image out of my head. So the reality of Shirobako was a nice cleanser for that idea.

Shirobako-Don Don Donuts

Don Don Donuts!

The setup is a group of five girls who were the animation club at their somewhat rural high school, who have each made plans to eventually work in Tokyo making anime. The show doesn’t spend much time on their high school days, just showing that they were able to produce an anime for the school festival, and also showing the hesitance of one of the members, Ema, to make up her mind about making such a big change to her life. It also shows that Aoi isn’t so sure she’ll be able to move to Tokyo either. She’s more of the general helper of the club, not the main artist (that’s Ema) or the seiyuu-to-be (that’s Shizuka) or even the animator (that’s Misa). She’s more of the assistant for all of that.

Shirobako-Ema's working hard

Ema’s working hard, but not the focus yet

So when the show moves forward 2 and a half years, we’re now following Aoi who is… a production assistant for Musashino Animation studio, working on their first anime series in 7 years, a idol adventure show named Exodus. Premiering that night, everyone’s excited for the show, but Aoi’s still running around getting check frames and getting things moving for episode 4. We see that Ema is also with the studio as a novice key animator, but we don’t see any of the other girls yet.

Shirobako-Life's rough

Aoi realizes life is rough for some people


Shirobako-PA Works Detail

PA Works brings their attention to detail and realism

This may be the most realistic show that PA Works has done. It’s the first one without any supernatural or magical elements since Tari Tari, and the goals of the people in this show are a lot more down to earth than that show was. Plus, you have to expect that it’s a subject that everyone is pretty darn familiar with. The question is whether they can make the day to day work at an anime studio interesting. And I think the answer to that question is a definite ‘yes’. They didn’t even really need the race scene between Aoi and Tomigaya, the PA for ‘GI Staff’ (including that stylized GI). That might have been the only unrealistic part of the show, since you don’t drift front wheel drive cars. But it threw in a little excitement.

Shirobako-Somebody smack Taro

Shut up, Tarou

Another real part of the show is coworker Tarou Takanashi. This is the jackass that pretty much every office has: a screwup who talks a lot but drops the ball when it counts. Oh, he also leaves early when everyone else is still working, and makes inappropriate sexist remarks. Basically, he’s the guy you want to kill because he makes your life harder, and pisses you off while doing it. But apart from Tarou screwing up the key frames, the production of Exodus is actually going pretty well. I really found the normal insights into the character’s lives to be interesting, like Madoka-san’s upbeat attitude and interest in social media, or Animation Director Endou-san’s stylistic differences with Segawa-san, but his willingness to set them aside when she is pulling their bacon out of the fire. I think the characters will really pull this show along, and keep it a good watch.

Shirobako-The three attitudes

Three different faces


So a little different direction for PA Works this time, with a show entirely based on their own jobs. This doesn’t rely on amazing natural wonders or landscapes, instead turning their attention to detail inside the office and on how people react. The scene with Aoi, Honda, and Tarou asking Segawa to do the key animation for episode three shows this, as she opens the door to the supplicant Tarou, obsequiouly smiling Honda, and “I’m here because we have the working relationship, and I’m sorry they’re screwing both of us over” look of Aoi.

I found the biggest thing this show had was heart. It is taking on a topic that is near and dear to the hearts of the people working on it, and I get the feeling that they want to show us all of it. The ups and downs, the joy and the despair, the beauty and the ugliness. It’s an earnest show, and it really impressed me with the feeling that they were able to put in. This is definitely a must watch for me.


Proving that you don't have to be young to love anime, I enjoy all genres and styles of shows. If it's not hurting anyone else, you should never be ashamed of what you like!
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32 Responses to “First Impression – Shirobako”

  1. skylion says:

    Wow. The TarouVirus is in every single industry. I think the Food and Beverage quarter probably sucks in more than it’s fair share…believe me on that….

    I’m still on the fence about this one. I really wanted it to be very much about that club. Which isn’t to say that the adult industry look isn’t a bad angle. Far from it. But the loads of characters going by in a flash made me feel a bit disconnected from the story. A bunch of people did stuff and an anime was made. Roll credits.

    So…I have faith in PA Works as good storytellers, so I’m looking at this episode as a reasonable spring board.

    • Sumairii says:

      I for one am happy that the show took the real industry route. I think it’d be much more engaging to see some of the realities of anime production versus watching a bunch of kids try to reach their dreams. The latter has been done so many times already.

      • Highway says:

        I agree with Sumairii there. We’ve seen so many shows that are “high school club does ersatz version of grown-up thing.” It’s not that I’m tired of it, but that there’s plenty of room for grownups doing the grownup thing. Even if the main characters are barely what you’d call grownups (at 20-21 years old).

    • Kyokai says:

      For the record, I fire TarouViruses in my agency. Yes, I’m brutal like that.

  2. Foshizzel says:

    Shut up, Tarou

    AMEN I hated that dude! Seriously damn…

    Not a bad first episode I was impressed with all the behind the scenes stuff even though I know some of it is probably exaggerated, but I suppose the creators could pull from their own real life experiences? If so then this is just a peek at how much work it takes to create an anime! I know Aldonah.Zero took three years to get off the ground.

    I loved the drifting moment at the start! Wow PA Works where is your Inital D remake? xD

    • Highway says:

      You know, I doubt there’s that much exaggeration in a story like this. The exaggeration might only be in all the things that happen in a short period of time. But there are plenty of crazy things that happen in just about any office that you could retell into interesting stories (if you’re not me, that is. I’m not that good at telling stories). Usually you accumulate these over years, but for the interest of a series like this, you could compress them into the time it takes to make a single-cour anime.

      Ugh, the drifting annoyed me. Little FWD cars don’t drift, unless you pull the e-brake. And then they’re just as likely to fall over.

      • Animeblue says:

        Once again I’m super later to the party, So I’ll just respond to Sumairii/Highway’s talks of exaggeration in Shirobako.

        Sumairii/Highway, Actually there no exaggerated going on here, its more like they’re sugar coding it. The production is more brutal than what they shown in Shirobako.

  3. HannoX says:

    I loved this episode and think I’m going to love the show. I usually like behind-the-scenes stories.

    And there was a time I was involved in the production of several independent comics and an illustrated novel. I can attest to the fact that some artists don’t get their stuff done until the deadline or even after which leaves the production company scrambling to get everything together and off to the printers in time to make deadline for the announced debut. And sweating it out for the comic to arrive in time. More than once stuff arrived from the printers the day the con opened or even not until the second day.

    I know a lot of characters were thrown at us in the animation studio this episode, but I trust in the future PA Works will showcase various ones so we get to know them better. But I’m sure part of the reason behind having so many characters in this episode is to show just how many people with different skills are required to produce an anime.

    I look forward to seeing the other three girls re-enter the show and seeing more of Ema. I also like having an anime focused on adults and their work. Which is one of the reasons I really enjoyed Servant x Service.

    • Highway says:

      That’s the reason there are deadlines. But what really cooks Tarou’s goose is that he hid the information. His Key animator refused to do it, and he looked for others, but had no luck. But instead of telling the next guy up, he hid it until it wasn’t hideable anymore. Then he got in trouble, and screwed everyone over. That’s what turns him into that cow-orker jackass.

      Important Rule for everyone: Don’t be the highest-up person who knows about an unsolved problem. Even if it’s to let your boss know about the problem, you don’t want to be holding the bag by yourself (plus, sometimes your boss will help fix the problem).

      I also didn’t have a problem with so many characters. To me, it was obvious that they were just introducing people like a new person would get shown around the office and introduced to everyone. There’s no expectation that anyone will remember the names of everyone, but you might start the process of associating a name with a role or hierarchy.

      • skylion says:

        Cow-orker is a job description in Mordor I think.

      • HannoX says:

        Even with deadlines there were a few who couldn’t seem to meet them. I told the publisher several times he should set the deadlines earlier for a safety margin, but he never did. So too many times there was that last hour sweating it out.

        • Highway says:

          Actually, what I was trying to say is that if everyone just did the work they could do without distraction or other time lost to stuff, there wouldn’t be a need for the concept of deadlines. There would just be “the time when the thing will be done.”

          And setting the deadline earlier doesn’t help. The people who push deadlines also ignore them, because setting them to give cushion is quickly seen through: “Yeah, but when do you REALLY need it by?”

  4. HannoX says:

    Oh, Spammy, I know I had a lot to say in that post, but did you really have to?

    • Di Gi Kazune says:


      I have learnt that especially for long posts to c&p into a txt file. Then I can war with spammy.

      • Highway says:

        That just makes it difficult for us to pick which post to keep so you don’t have 3 of the same posts. It’s very rare that a post that’s caught in the spam filter gets deleted. Stuff will get saved. Only if you don’t see it for about 8 hours should you repost (unless there was an obvious website error that indicates it didn’t get posted).

  5. Kyokai says:

    I’m going to love watching this because I’ve been really interested in the production process of an anime. I’m glad PA Works tried something new rather than their generic romcom drama.

  6. JPNIgor says:

    I loved it. Different from Kyokai, I’m actually kind of sad there will be one romance anime less because P.A. Works is doing Shirobako, but oh well.

    Everything P.A. Works does well is here, so I don’t really have any reason to complain.

    And I’m a sucker for rally and racing stuff, so the over-the-top street racing drifting stuff from the beginning was a really welcome addition.

    I just thought it was really weird that from a happy and crappy animation club from high school it suddenly shifted to the graduation and then, another sudden shift to a new animation studio. It all felt so rushed, I really hope they go back to explain some missing stuff.

    • Highway says:

      What do you think is missing from the high school time? I think it was pretty cut-and-dried. It was rushed because it’s ultimately pretty unimportant what they were doing then, apart from the fact that they all were aiming to work together on anime for their careers.

      I am a huge racing fan as well, and that’s exactly why the street racing stuff annoyed me. If they had had the Musashino WRX STi vs the GI Staff Evo 12, that would have been better. But two kei cars is just unrealistic. It would have been fine if they had done the turns with them pushing out wide and really heeling over, too.

  7. Namika says:

    I loved it. Seriously loved it. I remember, while watching Bakuman, I thought – how awesome it would be if they made an anime about making anime too. Several years later, that’s what I got 😀 Looking into this industry is so interesting and strangely satisfying. But at the same time Shirobako was quite realistic about it, and that’s what I loved the most. Can’t wait to see the next ep! ^w^
    Also, what I enjoyed about it is that it looked different. Every show from P.A works that I watched or just layed my eyes on looked completely the same. But they’ve started to change it up slightly, which is good.

    G.I production worker as the ‘bad guy’?? Srsly?? 😀

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