Shirobako and How it’s Characters Reflect Different Phases of My Working Life
I started watching Shirobako recently-and love it to bits, but due in particular to my relation to the main characters. The thing about Shirobako is that while it exposes an insightful view to us on anime companies, it wasn’t depicted as an idealized working environment, and the characters are clear testaments to that.
Because I’m also someone who had entered the working community myself, I can identify the struggles the main characters are facing. In particular, I also find it interesting how the five main characters represent different phases of my working life.
Midori, the junior of the five main characters, is an aspiring scriptwriter. She also has a fearless thirst for knowledge and experience, and at this point of time, is still not bound down by logic and truth of the world. In a less childish way, of cause, I find her to be similar to Naru of Barakamon-bold, adventurous and curious. Midori very clearly represented the more younger and fearless version of myself when I was still in school. Curious and optimistic, and while doesn’t have a job, admires those who had and are earning money for themselves.
Sakaki‘s repeated failures at her voice acting auditions reminds me of my repeated rejections when I was just trying to find a job myself. It’s an especially tough phase of one’s life-the more longer you had to wait for the companies’ decision, the more anxiety and dread crept up inside of you, at least, it was like that for me when I was undergoing this aspect of my life. Indeed, it was a particularly painful part of my life to the point that I sometimes couldn’t even sleep at night due to anxiety.
Aoi, being the main protagonist, has a characterization where she doesn’t has any particular skills and is unsure of her future, despite having a job. But even so, out of all 5 characters, I feel I can relate to 2 of them the most, and Aoi is one of them. Like Aoi, I also don’t have any special skills myself, and I’ll be lying if I said I’m not anxious about my future. Similarly, despite my position at work, I also found myself frequently doing odd jobs which sometimes has nothing to do with my profession, which is the same case with Aoi. Do you notice that despite working in an anime company, her tasks have close to nothing to do with anime itself? Her tasks range from running around the company as a negotiator of sorts, driving around, constant calls and reminders (apparently, she also has to wake people up), serving people coffee and food, and just various management which has close to nothing to do with anime. In episode 4, when everyone was re-announcing their dreams once more as a sort of reassurance, Aoi hesitated for a second-which shows that she is well aware she doesn’t has the skills needed for an anime company, and is still in search for her own dream-a dream where she can utilize her own unique skills in.
I actually dislike the word “assistant” since to me, it’s a word pretty much associated with “odd jobs”. Don’t get me wrong though, I understand that as a whole, this is also important to the company, but I just can’t help but feel that when you’re dumped with such “odd jobs”, it’s a sign you don’t have the skills the company needed. I don’t know, perhaps this is the wrong perspective to look at. Nonetheless, I’m slowly, but gradually trying to develop more skills myself though! Last but not least, remember Takanashi? That annoying guy who annoys the newbie Aoi with just about any kinds of problems even though he is technically a senior? I can so damn relate to that. Well, this ended up longer than I thought, but I guess it shows just how much I can relate to her. I feel Aoi’s struggles and anxiety is the closest reflection to what young people just started entering the workforce would feel like. She’s an excellent character.
As for Ema, the root of her struggles mostly stem from her trying to seek enjoyment out of her job-key animating, in this case, since drawing is also her hobby. There was also noteworthy scene in an episode where she struggles with speed or putting up quality work. This is also something I’m struggling with at work. Do I become a perfectionist and sacrifice my speed? Or do I go with speed and sacrifice perfection? I think Shirobako’s answer to that is regardless of which, just take it easy once in a while, and to rediscover the fun in your job, especially so if this were a job dealing with your hobbies and passion-and you may become even more productive than you thought. Now I just started watching WWE sometime ago, not sure any of you watch it, probably not; but I’m reminded of the CM Punk incident. I just listened to his podcast sometime ago, and he suffered from this exact issue. He loved wrestling but work politics, accumulated stress and anxiety (and additionally with his drive to be on the top) instead just drove him further and further into despair. Now this contrast between work and passion is something I had noticed myself a while back, but having a living, breathing example in front of me, a superstar at that, of someone whose passion (wrestling, in CM Punk’s case) had instead turned into a misery; is nothing short of uncanny. It is indeed pretty idealistic to do something you love for your livelihood… but in the end, it’s just not that simple, huh?
Aforementioned, there are two characters who I relate to the most in Shirobako. The first one is Aoi, and the second one, obviously with the process of elimination-is Misa, the 3D designer of the group. She had an episode where she was trying to choose between stability or instability with her future. I’m being vague here to avoid spoilers but to elaborate (slight spoilers ahead), Misa was able to settle in a good company with a nice pay, but she is stuck designing tires in 3D for perhaps a few years, half a decade even, and she wanted to do more with her skills. Does she choose to break free of this “stability”? To “gamble” a bit to pursue higher grounds? Or does she choose to remain in this “stability”? Safe, stable, with good pay, but extremely routine, monotonous and most of all, unfulfilled? In the end, she chose the former, and I applaud her for that. Choosing the more dangerous, unsafe route is always a difficult choice.
Misa is a character which represents the most current phase of my working life – I’m also someone who had settle into a stable “comfort zone”, so to speak, but unlike Misa who had made a choice, I’m still in the middle of consideration whether or not I want to break free out of this stability, or to remain within it. It’s a very difficult choice, and it doesn’t help that economy here is getting worse. There’s no guarantee I’ll get a stable job after this, and there is also a possibility I will return to the Sakaki-phase of anxiety.
I seem to have an odd fascination for anime focusing on the aspect of the development of it’s own Japanese visual culture. I love Bakuman, and now Shirobako had also grasped my attention firmly.
I also like Mangaka-san to Assistant-san to for the record. I had always love just how insightful they are, showing us the “behind-the-scenes” of the things we love-how they came about, how are they being made; and the fact that these are anime themselves is the icing on the cake.
Shirobako took a step further however, and feature extremely relatable characters with identifiable struggles. All the characters, especially the aforementioned five characters, feel like incredibly real people with realistic issues those of us in the labor can discern. Shirobako may not be an escapist show, but it really hits close to home-it doesn’t make anime companies an escapism for us fans, but show us realistic problems which may surface just like any other companies out there.
If you’re watching Shirobako, what do you think of it so far?