Shirobako: Learn How Things Are Made

It seems that I’m doing a lot of reviews with each of my passing posts, huh? It’s not intentional, it’s just that this is what I consider to be interesting and I think that the titles I feature here are worth sharing. I’m not sure if this is where I say “deal with it” because I don’t do this frequently enough. Eh.

Anyway, today we’re talking about another anime, and this time, it’s Shirobako. This little piece of Japan came out in 2015 and tells the tale of five friends who made an animation in high school together and made a vow to enter the anime industry and work on an anime together. The main aspect of the show is Aoi Miyamori, a production assistant at Mushashino Animation (it’s not a real company, I checked), and the Mushashino team as they work on anime projects and all the obstacles that come with them. Along the way, we also see Aoi’s friends:

  • Ema, an animator at Mushahino
  • Shizuka, a voice actor
  • Misa, a 3D computer graphics operator
  • Midori, a story writer

For the most part, though, we stick with Musashino and the people that work there, which I consider the thing that provides this anime’s biggest positive and negative. The positive is that you get a pretty decent course in the process of making anime. I’m a big fan of learning how things are made, especially when it comes to entertainment so if you’re like me and like behind the scenes featurettes, you’ll get something out of this.

In addition to learning how anime is made, you also see the characters talk about why they got into anime, which to me was a testament to what it’s like to take creative work seriously and pursue a career in the field, and anime can be replaced in this line of thinking with anything creative, such as movies, TV, or comic books. I got that message, especially in the last few episodes, and in a sense, you can put this on and binge it if you feel you need something to kick yourself into gear and work on whatever project you’re on, like me with writing. I also kind of feel like Aoi in the sense that I’ve had that position where I didn’t know what I wanted to know what to do in my field in terms of what discipline I wanted to pursue. It took until my sophomore year of college. So, there’s the connection aspect hooking me.

One of the things that I didn’t like about Shirobako was that for the most part, it seemed focused on Aoi and Mushahino, and the other girls would show up rather sporadically. In addition, that high school animation that we see in the first episode (and the one that got the girls interested in making anime and entering the industry in the first place, doesn’t get mentioned much after it’s introduced, but I think that’s a story thing as it’s more about the girls and their current jobs. That being said, I can’t help but feel that not revisiting that first animation is kind of a missed opportunity. It can help that Aoi is the main character and we see everything from her point of view in that she’s the one that’s undecided about her future in the industry, but the fact that we spend most of the time with one studio where only two of the five main characters are working just screams “wasted potential” to me. I really believe that had Shirobako lasted more than the 24 episodes it did, we could see more of these girls and their careers and the final season could be them working on that high school animation and updating it to be even more awesome thanks to their skills…but since Shirobako isn’t an anime that’s an adaptation of some mega-popular shonen manga, it’s just 24 episodes. And that makes me sad. I’ll just have to deal.

As for the score for this anime, I feel pretty comfortable giving this a 7/10. It’s got a good concept and rolls with it, and it has emotional moments that I believe any person in a creative field would be touched by, but at the same, time I really can’t shake the wasted potential and the main characters that are put to the side by an admittedly decent supporting cast.

If you’re ever interested in learning how anime is made, I’d suggest Shirobako is an anime worth checking out. Alternatively, you can just watch this video. But either way, Shirobako is a pretty cool anime, and I enjoyed watching it.


Fairy Tail: Looking Back

So, It’s over. It’s all over. After eleven years, Hiro Mashima’s manga Fairy Tail has published its final chapter. I started watching the anime adaptation of this title during my junior year of college, and once I finished all the episodes that were available for watching at the time, and then I read the manga volumes that the Free Library of Philadelphia had in circulation. Something that took me to three different branches because some volumes were only in one branch. And I fell in love with these characters. I followed this story week after week after week until this final week.

So what is this about? Fairy Tail takes place in the Kingdom of Fiore and follows the adventures of the eponymous guild of wizards (some usethe word “mages” to describe the Fairy Tail characters) and their adventures and mishaps. The first chapter introduces us to our two main characters Lucy Heartfilia and Natsu Dragneel and it ends with Lucy heading to Fairy Tail to join the guild. And what follows is adventure. The following story arcs introduce us the many other members of Fairy Tail, the other guilds in Fiore, and story arcs that deal with loss, redemption, adventure, and friendship. That’s the big word when it comes to Fairy Tail: friendship. Reading Fairy Tail, there were a lot of times when it seems that all hope was lost, there would be a speech about friendship and the power they have from their friends believing in themselves that would seemingly give them some sort of powerup to defeat the villain of that arc. Especially with this final arc, it had this as well as the display of Fairy Tail wizards taking out enemies in one shot. If you were in the subreddit r/fairytail,  you would have found discussions and comments calling out what could be seen as an absurdity. At least you can say that Fairy Tail has a fanbase willing to call out flaws.

Anyway, that’s enough of that. Why do I love Fairy Tail? What made me want to read this manga on a weekly basis? For one, I’d say that the big thing was the sense of unpredictability. Every week, there was this sense of “what’s going to happen this week?” that I haven’t felt in anything in a long time. The Fairy Tail wizards always had this sense to get into mischief in their quests and while the stakes got higher as time went on, their was still a sense of innocence. Also, the fights. They were freaking awesome. The reason I say this is because of the different types of magic that were used by all the characters. It’s just something about the fact that very few wizards are similar in they fight, so the ice wizard Gray Fullbuster will be totally different from Erza Scarlet, who’s never seen without a sword in battle. It’s totally different from Dragon Ball Z where it’s just seemingly beams and punching.

Also, it’s pretty funny and lighthearted. Something about Fairy Tail always makes me smile. And I found something that made me happy with every arc. Maybe it’s a joke, maybe it’s just the song that’s used as a theme song for the anime that I bought off iTunes, but there’s something about Fairy Tail just puts a smile on my face, and it always has, and now it always will. It has its heart in the right place, and I think Hiro Mashima is a great guy and a great part of the manga industry.

As for a score, what should I give it? Well, I’ve given all my positives in the above paragraphs, so why don’t I acknowledge its flaws? the whole “friendship” thing can get hammered in at times, and defeating in one shot may get old for you after a while. In addition in the last arc, stakes may get high for some characters, only for them to come back down again, and some things are brought up and aren’t really addressed with the proper weight and gravitas. That’s all I’ll say without getting into spoilers.

For that reason, I’ll give it an 8.5/10. It has some drawbacks stopping it from getting it into the 9-10 crescendo, but the feelings I get from it are great enough to make it one of the best manga I’ve read/one of the best anime I’ve watched.

Fairy Tail will always have a special place in my heart, and if I can afford it. I hope to buy all the Fairy Tail volumes and maybe the anime DVDs. This is a title worth having in your own two hands.