Shirobako Watchalong – episodes 13-18
Part 3 of the four-part watchalong of Shirobako with Amelia, Peter, and special guest Miles Thomas!
1:27 Peter’s hopes from last episodes
4:44 Those damn stuffed animals
7:28 Aoi’s promotion
10:03 Sexism in the workplace
15:07 Shizuka’s job prospects
17:30 Amelia’s hopes from last episodes
20:46 Tarou’s still the worst
22:48 Ogasawara’s gothic lolita revelation
37:08 Andou & Satou
41:50 Iguchi’s growth
55:55 Next 6 episodes
1:00:41 Miles suprises
1:07:55 Erika’s return
Recorded Saturday 10th June 2017
Music: Open Those Bright Eyes by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
Listen to the final part, episodes 19-24
AMELIA: Hi, everyone, and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. My name’s Amelia. I’m joined today by Peter Fobian and Miles Thomas. If you guys would like to introduce yourselves?
PETER: Yeah, I’m Peter Fobian. I’m an Associates Features Editor at Crunchyroll and a contributor and editor at Anime Feminist. No features. [Chuckles]
MILES: Hi, I’m Miles Thomas and this morning to get ready for this podcast, I was looking for my mic and, on accident, three Shirobako wall scrolls fell on top of my head.
AMELIA: [Laughter] Is that true?
MILES: It’s absolutely true.
AMELIA: And that’s why we’ve invited you here today.
MILES: That is my role.
AMELIA: So, we are now in the third part of our four-part Shirobako watch-along where we watch six episodes at a time. Peter and I have not seen Shirobako before. We’re only watching up to the six episodes, and then we’re talking through them with Miles, who is a long-time Shirobako fan and generally accepted…I was gonna say “expert,” but how would you describe yourself, Miles?
MILES: [Laughter] Uh, I mean, I get recognized at conventions as, “Hey, you’re that Shirobako guy.” So, I think that’s good enough for me.
AMELIA: Okay. I’ll be saying that instead of “expert,” then. Fantastic.
MILES: There we go.
AMELIA: Okay. So, this week, we’re looking at episodes 13 through 18. The first half of the second cour, I guess. And we’re gonna look back and see what our hopes were for these episodes when we last recorded a week ago based on what we’d seen up to episode 12. So, Peter, what were your hopes and how did it shape up?
PETER: I said I wanted to see more from Mii and Rii’s side, which I’m not sure if that really…Well, we didn’t see much from the CG. Just a couple scenes where she was animating stuff. I’m actually not clear if she was doing work for their aerial girls series, ’cause I thought I saw her animating a plane–which I thought was kind of funny, ’cause she was probably just gonna do some tires on planes instead of cars–but, yeah. I’m not quite clear what’s going on with her.
I guess we got a lot from…I guess she’s “Diesel-san” now…That she’s joined the team as their script researcher to find out more information about planes, which I thought was a…I wanted to know more about how she might get into the industry and I think this was a pretty interesting trajectory to take. Just researching really obscure facts that they need to make it kind of accurate when they want it to be accurate, and getting hired that way. So, that was pretty cool.
I wanted to keep up with the fanservice, the lack thereof. And I think it was pretty good. Prove me if I’m wrong, Amelia. But I didn’t really notice any terrible moments.
AMELIA: I think the moment I was most going, “ugh” at was the calisthenics.
PETER: Oh, that.
AMELIA: Yeah, she…It’s just completely pointless and it just seems to be to show Ema being really cute. And then to show…It kind of serves a story purpose afterwards, when Iguchi is dealing with a little bit of artist’s block, but I just saw that and, ugh. I wanted it to move on very quickly.
PETER: I think they did one scene where it was…I may be wrong, but I think there was one short transition where there was a perspective from underneath the desk, kind of looking up at the character who was sitting at their desk, if that makes sense. Very brief.
Although, I’ve also been watching Star Driver, where that is one of the most common perspectives, so I may have overlapped that a little bit.
I remember…I think there was at least one. I also want to see how production’s restructured and if there was upward mobility for Aoi. I actually thought Erika was going to end up being in charge, but it looks like her father having health issues was a bigger problem. So, now I guess it’s called…I never heard of this before. So, she’s basically the head person for production for the entire studio, which is good. I’m glad they chose her. And the reasons for that were pretty obvious. It was ’cause she was good at her job and she was not Tarou.
MILES: Sometimes that’s all it takes.
AMELIA: That’s all it takes.
PETER: And seeing…They did cover a lot of how they reset after an anime, and all the steps they take leading into how they set up for Aerial Girls, which I thought was pretty interesting. So, I got–
AMELIA: But that episode…There was one episode where it was just: exposition, exposition, exposition.
PETER: I mean, if you want to talk about this now, yeah, I’m happy to.
AMELIA: Let’s talk about it quickly, now. So, the little pirate girl and the bear…
PETER: Quick question for Miles. Was there a change in directors between season one and season two that I’m not aware of?
MILES: No, no. Honestly, I feel like that exposition episode was more…It came after a one week break. There was the New Year’s break, and there was a new episode, and they were like, “Hey, we’re gonna do stuff. And then explain what you just saw” And I just…It probably was a different writing staff, a different writer for that episode, but, no, the staff was pretty consistent from cour to cour.
PETER: That’s weird. It’s such a tonal shift. Before the two-the little pirate girl and teddy bear–were kind of ways of figuring out what Aoi was thinking. They were kind of like her internal monologue. Now, they’re just these entirely separate avatars of the animation studio, I guess. It’s completely from out of Aoi’s perspective, ’cause they’re talking about…She’s fine with what’s going on, but they’re saying, “This is annoying.” Or…I don’t know. It’s just not in her head anymore. Basically what you said. It’s just this weird expositionary tool, which is completely unnecessary, because the writing is so good that they’re accomplishing exactly what they’re trying to achieve with those characters.
So, I’m just…
AMELIA: And they have the device of new employees right there, which they do use. They even use that device. And then they still have the bear and the pirate girl explaining everything.
PETER: I didn’t understand. ‘Cause I was like, “Oh, that’s cool. That’s what that meeting is.” And then she goes, “So what was that meeting all about?” I’m like, “Really? Really, little pirate girl? You didn’t get that?”
When she asked what a PV was, I felt like…I’m like, “Do you not even watch TV?” I don’t understand.
AMELIA: Someone on my Twitter made a really interesting point: the idea that the bear is kind of Aoi’s artistic side, and that the pirate girl represents her more business-focused side. And that the dialogue between the two of them represents her internal monologue.
But they’ve stopped using it that way, as you said.
PETER: Yeah, they’re not…That’s not Aoi anymore. It’s just these weird spirits that inhabit the animation studio and apparently don’t know anything about animation. I guess the bear knows everything and the pirate girl doesn’t know anything.
AMELIA: So, that was a little bit of frustration. It was just a shame, because the story’s been unfolded so carefully, I think. And then that one episode, it just felt like a brick had dropped on it.
PETER: Yeah. It’s weird. It’s like out of nowhere they decided they need training wheels for the information.
AMELIA: Yeah, exactly.
PETER: Where literally for 14 episodes, they’ve been doing a great job. So…
AMELIA: However, I was really pleased to see Aoi get some upward mobility. And I thought that the…It was kind of…I thought it was well done in the sense that they did get Erika out of the way so that Aoi really had to step up. It means that now…Erika’s just come back at the end of episode 18. The two of them are more like peers. So, Erika is gonna be supporting her as a senpai/kouhai thing, but they’re much more on an equal level than they were when Erika left. And I think that relationship will be really interesting to explore. Whereas if Erika had stayed around, Aoi would have been very much in the junior position the entire time. I don’t think we would have seen as much of her potential. Like somebody mentions at some point: “You’re a natural at this.” And that was fantastic to see.
PETER: Yeah. And they’ve kept consistent with Aoi’s strength, I think. ‘Cause she gets that one moment where all that stuff’s coming at her at the same time, and she decides to triage. And also, when they’re trying to get that guy to draw ruins in the background, they want to get this really famous guy to do it. She’s like, “I’ll ask him.” You’re gonna go to this industry legend and ask if he’ll draw stuff for her. Like, new anime, no deal exists?
And she’s like, “Yeah. What’s the worst that could happen? He’d say no?” And they’re like, “Wow. Yeah.”
MILES: I love that.
AMELIA: Yeah. And that built on so nicely, her experiences previously, with both Kanno–who was this industry legend that she just runs up to his house late at night and has a chat with him and asks him to work on her emergency–and also with Sugie–who was this legend who was just in the corner of their office and she had no idea. I thought it was really nice that it seems to her like the world of legends is becoming a bit smaller and a bit more within reach. That felt like a really suitable development for her.
PETER: Yeah, it seems like she gets starstruck a lot, but she’s not afraid to talk to them or even ask them for things.
AMELIA: I envy that. [Laughter] I was really pleased with that. How did you feel about these six episodes compared to the previous?
PETER: I, uh…I don’t know if I liked it as much as the past six, actually. The…If it was just a one-off with the bear and the girl…It’s sort of become a consistent piece of writing, where they keep talking about stuff, and it’s just like even though I like basically everything that’s happening in the show, that is wearing on me. I like when shows–
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] That’s amazing. I knew they bothered you. I didn’t realize they got under your skin quite that much, though. Ruining the show for you.
PETER: Well, I don’t know. It’s just like this really bad bit of writing that I’m constantly getting bludgeoned with, and I…It’s just not…Every time I see them now, I just groan inside my head. And that wasn’t happening in the past six episodes.
Also, I’m noticing a weird tonal shift in the way they talk in the office. I don’t really remember them saying blatantly sexist stuff before, but I think that’s sort of become part of the…That’s another reason why I asked about the new director–if there was a new director. ‘Cause there’s been some commentary in the office that’s kind of…It wasn’t there before, but some pretty bad statements, I think.
AMELIA: What are you thinking of?
PETER: When the director was describing how he wanted different characters animated, he said, “I want one of them to have gentle femininity, so that means she has to be clumsy and fall down a lot.”
AMELIA: Oh, yeah.
PETER: And then when…That was the director again. They’re taking reference shots at the airport. They’re talking about Deisel-san. She says, “Oh, I’ll just bring my friend in.” And it’s like, “Oh, is that a guy you know?” She goes, “No, it’s this girl. She’s going to college.”
And he goes, “Oh, it’s a military otaku, right? I thought that’d be a dude.” And unfortunately, the guy next to him goes, “That’s sexist.” I’m glad he said that.
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] That’s it. Because they included that, it didn’t feel, to me…It didn’t bother me. The fact that he thinks that way, it’s like, “Yeah, of course he thinks that way.”
PETER: I was glad he got the callout right away. And then, the last one that I remember was…Oh, she was talking about how all of them had gone to an all-girls’ school.
PETER: Yeah, yeah. And he went, “An all-girls’ school, huh?” And she said, “Please stop imagining whatever you’re imagining right now.”
AMELIA: Well, what she says to him is, “You know what? You’re gonna be really disappointed.” [Laughter] And I thought that was so true to my experience as an anime fan. And you see these things glorified, like the relationship between sisters and things like that. And you see these things really set up as something that they’re just not.
So, I quite appreciated the fact that he’s going, “Oh, yeah. All-girls’ high school.” And they’re like, “No. You have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.”
PETER: Yeah. The other one I feel like I don’t mind as much is where they were all having a discussion over which voice actors they should hire, and there were just those awful people that they had to listen to giving absolutely useless input. I guess one was about popularity, the other only cared if they could sing, and the last guy basically cared how big their chest was, and that was it.
And I get…I guess they’re trying to show you how awful that aspect of production is, because you get a bunch of people who aren’t part of the creative process giving input on the creative process.
I liked the three screenshots of the girl on the computer, ’cause they kept cutting to her just looking at those guys, and she had the best expression on her face.
AMELIA: I wasn’t sure who she was though.
PETER: I think she was out of the office or something like that. Yeah, she wasn’t a consistent character. But she was not–
PETER: Yeah. Not happy to be there right then.
AMELIA: I don’t blame her at all. I wanted to ask about that scene, though. Was that–Miles, was that ad-libbed?
MILES: That scene was entirely ad-libbed, actually.
PETER: Oh, wow.
MILES: But it definitely comes from a place of what production committees probably feel like. Because you hear of these business interests time in and time out when talking about anime. Because an anime isn’t made by a studio, really. And anime is made by a production company who chooses a lot of the details about how that anime is formed. Usually it’s not studios who come up with an idea for: “Hey, we want to make this anime next.” It’s the production company coming up to a studio and saying, “Hey, we’d really like to pay you this amount to make this specific anime. Go crazy. It’s yours now. It’s in your hands.” Or they’ll try to recruit a studio to become a member of the production committee, which kind of seems to be the case with this one, where MusAni will get a share of the pie.
But, as you can see, a share of the pie is not enough to determine everything, and these crazy interests are out to get you, and I loved the scene. It was so cringe-inducing the entire time. And I was rolling my eyes, but it felt very realistic.
AMELIA: Yeah, there was one moment where the guy…One of the guys delivers his line where he just stutters for a moment, and I heard that, and I was like, “That’s not a smooth line delivery,” and I just maybe wonder, “Is this…Was this scripted at all?” And I’m not surprised, actually, that it wasn’t. But it ran so smoothly, I think you wouldn’t have known otherwise.
MILES: I’m really glad you caught that. That’s a really good eye for that.
PETER: Yeah, I didn’t have any idea.
AMELIA: It was really crazy. Once I figured out that it might have been ad-libbed, I heard it again. So, it was really impressive. It was great improvisation.
PETER: Yeah, they really tied it together. I could tell how not-entertained everybody on the MusAni side was.
AMELIA: Yeah. So, that was…It was a nice insight, actually, ’cause I just assumed…I don’t know. I guess I’m used to the more traditional, story-telling narrative where you would expect that everything goes the way the want it to. You would’ve expected Shizuka to get the job, for a start. I thought it was a really nice touch. The director says, “She really has something, but there’s two people who are better than her. Who are better prospects than her.” I thought that was a really nice touch.
PETER: I bet you she’s getting the job, though. That person she was replaced with is pretty famous, and they said, “We have to get her quick. She has two other obligations,” or something like that. I’m pretty sure she’s gonna make her way into the anime somehow.
AMELIA: Maybe into the anime. I don’t think she’ll get that job, but maybe she’ll be given a part later. That would be really nice.
PETER: That’s my–
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] ‘Cause right now, she’s the only one not working on it–
PETER: [Crosstalk] Yeah.
AMELIA: –I think, which is so sad.
PETER:And they have six episodes left. She has to do some things. So, I think–
AMELIA: She has to do some things. [Laughter]
PETER: I mean, if she doesn’t, that would be really weird, I think. Unless it wants to get really real and she decides that she’s never gonna get involved and then she lives the rest of her life working as a bartender. I don’t think that’s gonna happen.
So, my theory right now–I’m calling it–is that something happens and she ends up playing whoever it was they asked her to do during the audition.
AMELIA:I don’t think that. Here’s my prediction. I don’t think she’s gonna get the part she auditioned for, either of the parts she auditioned for. But I think, maybe, if they end up re-doing the end, perhaps adding in a new character and saying, “This girl would be perfect for this.” I think she’ll end up coming in a bit later, as a different character, and maybe it’ll be written for her. That would be, perhaps,a bit too “good luck.” I don’t know.
But I think she’ll come in as a different character, and it’ll just be because the director remembered her and was really impressed by her audition, still. So, she’ll still get the validation. She’ll still get to be a part of this anime the others are all in.
PETER: We do agree she’s going to be on Aerial Girls, though?
AMELIA: I think so. I think it would be a bit too much if she isn’t, by the end in some capacity.
PETER:That’s why I was wondering whether the CG girl–I can’t remember her name, can’t remember if she’s Rii or Mii–
PETER: Yeah. That’s why I was wondering whether she was already working on the anime doing planes or not. I don’t know if they’ve tied that in yet, or if I just saw random clips of her and assumed that’s what she was working on.
AMELIA: I think it was the fact that when they were at the bar, she said she auditioned for that bit–
PETER: [Crosstalk] Oh, yeah.
AMELIA:–And they said, “We’re all working on this.” I think she was actually doing the tire of a Jeep when she gets praised.
PETER: That’s right. Yeah. That was the scene where they confirmed she was working on it. But I don’t know if they really straight-out said it before that.
AMELIA: Oh, I see. Yeah, I don’t remember.
Okay. I wanted from these six episodes…I wanted more about Segawa. We’re not getting anything on Segawa. [Laughter] It’s feeling a little bit like we’re just not going back to Segawa, which makes me sad.
PETER: She got a great scene, though. Where she tells the production assistant, “I’m gonna have to rely on you” directly in front of Tarou. And he went, “Yes, ma’am.”
AMELIA: Yeah. It’s not as much as I’d hoped for. She is the most senior woman in the entire cast that I recall, and we don’t see her as much as the other people of her level. Again, that’s a bit of a shame.
But, nevermind. I’m just writing that off now. I’m just not expecting that anymore. I wanted something positive to happen to Shizuka, which is not necessarily getting an anime job. And this is a bit bittersweet, because something positive has happened–the director has really noticed her and she got to audition for a second part within her audition because they liked her so much–but it’s not quite as positive as it could be.
MILES: She got to be the pickle girl.
PETER: I was gonna say that.
AMELIA: She did. She did very well there. I’m sure it felt like a triumph. But it was good, actually. It showed her improvisational skills, which I thought was quite a nice touch, ’cause we’ve only seen her reading scripts so far, and that might be something that comes in handy at some point in the future. That was something I really–
PETER: [Crosstalk] I feel like–
AMELIA: Oh, sorry, go ahead.
PETER: I feel like that scene was used as the basis for Sakura Quest.
AMELIA: I have to catch up on Sakura Quest.
PETER: Yeah, they have almost the same thing happen. I think it’s in episode three or four. Except it’s a chupacabra.
AMELIA: Oh, really? Is it like homage?
PETER: I don’t know. Maybe they just thought…I don’t know how that concept came up. But I feel like: “Man, this was really reminding me of that scene.” But, it probably has nothing to do with it. It’s Pickle Pig, after all.
AMELIA: One point I really like that they made in this set of episodes…I think it was Mii who did this. She said that the experience you have before helps you in the future, even if you can’t see it at the time. That was such a great point, and that is absolutely reflected in my own career. I don’t know how you guys feel about that, but it seemed really good…not advice, exactly, but an important perspective. It’s the kind of thing you can only really realize when you get a little bit further in your career. It’s really nice that we have characters that are adult enough and at the point where they can start recognizing these realities of working life.
PETER: Yeah. I remember I wrote something down when she said that line, ’cause it’s like, even if you hated the job, it might have given you a skill or two that helps you out later on.
AMELIA: Yeah, I think I wrote it down as well. It was: “You never know what experience will be useful where.”
PETER: Yeah. Nice moment.
AMELIA: It was a really great point. Speaking of which, Mii: I wanted her to be rewarded for taking a risk with her career, and she was. She ended up working on the same anime with her friends, and I’m so pleased. So, I think she’s in a smaller company. There is more of a risk to it. But she’s working on the same sorts of things she did before, but now it’s about telling a story about this part, so at least that worked out for her. I was worried for her.
And I wanted Tarou to be punished for being the worst. That hasn’t really happened: because he’s so oblivious he isn’t bothered at all by someone junior to him being promoted above him. So, he’s not feeling like it’s a punishment at all. He thinks the path’s just being left clear for him to go straight to become a director.
PETER: Yeah. I do appreciate that they ratcheted up how little respect everyone has for him, but it doesn’t seem like he gives a shit when people are constantly telling him that he’s useless and needs to leave.
AMELIA: He doesn’t care. He doesn’t feel it that way at all. He’s just like, “Yes, it’s right that you should be taking on these little jobs that have no relevance to my career as a director.”
PETER: Eh, maybe he’ll…
AMELIA: Maybe he’ll what? You’ve got a prediction?
PETER: No. I was hoping he’d have this existential crisis where he realizes he’s never gonna get that job. I don’t think so, though.
AMELIA: We talked about this in an episode, didn’t we? Where Miles asked us if we think he’s going to be redeemed. And you’ve heard something about this, so you can’t give a spoiler-free view. But, yeah. It’s looking increasingly likely that he will not be redeemed. I’m hoping he’ll get a wake-up call at some point, as I said in that episode as well. But it really doesn’t look like anything can penetrate that thick skin of his.
PETER: Somebody like the president of the company sitting down and saying, “You will never be a director, ever.”
AMELIA: Oh, I don’t…
MILES: Why would he do that?
PETER: That’s the only way I think he would realize it, though.
AMELIA: I think…Even then, I don’t think that would sink in. I think if it’s…
MILES: He’d be challenged.
PETER: I guess so. Yeah, he’s like, “I gotta work harder.” And by that, I mean: continue to coast.
AMELIA: [Laughter] Yeah. I’d like him to take Aoi’s success a bit more seriously and really recognize that it has consequences for him that she’s able to progress and he’s effectively being held back through his own complete lack of capability. It doesn’t seem like that’s happening anytime soon.
We’ll find out in the next six episodes, I guess.
AMELIA: So, in these episodes, one big thing I really wanted to talk about: we finally found out why Ogasawara wears the gothic lolita clothing. We finally found out. Peter, how did you feel about that revelation?
PETER: Uh…If I…I’ll use an example. You know how everybody says Keijo…It’s okay ’cause all the girls are down, and everything like that? They’re happy to be wearing bikinis and trying to push each other into the water using only their chest and their butts? It’s kind of like I’m that, where in-universe it kind of makes sense, but if you look at the level of realism in the series and try to assess that and take it seriously, I kind of was just like, “This still seems like an excuse.” Does that make sense?
AMELIA: Miles, you want to comment on that?
MILES: So, I think it was in the first episode, I said, “They explain it and it makes it kind of better, but at the same time, it circumvents it in a frustrating way.” And I do think that they get there. I do. I think they justify why she’s wearing it and I think it feels real enough to me that it puts it a little beyond, “We’re just here because we wanted to have a goth loli character.” But at the same time, I think it’s fair to be frustrated with this, even if I personally think it feels real enough to me that I’m like, “Okay, there we go. It’s explained to me.”
PETER: At least they went to the trouble, is what you’re saying?
MILES: No, I…I thought it was…I actually liked it. I liked her explanation. It felt like something that I would find in a real person. I mean, the whole…We have someone in our office who does the same thing. She wears gothic lolita outfits on days when she needs to be strong ’cause that’s what she feels strongest in. And so maybe it’s because I have that direct personal relationship with someone who’s like that, and it’s not really treated as weird, even in America, that I’m able to buy in.
But I think at the same time, you know…They’re trying to make the character more appealing, so…
AMELIA: Yeah, this is a tough one. It’s…From my perspective, I really like the “donning armour” idea. I really love it when anime and manga do this. Princess Jellyfish is a really obvious example. They have this whole theme of putting on clothes and makeup and accessories is putting on armor, and that presents you in a particular way to other people that makes it more likely for you to get what you need from them.
And there’s truth to that. There really is. And I don’t own anything remotely gothic lolita, but I do put on…I do put on makeup on days when I really need to present myself in a certain way, or I need to feel a bit more confident. I maybe spend a little bit more time on my hair, or be more likely to wear certain kinds of clothes on days when I really do need that extra boost.
And, you know, the days when I’m most slovenly are probably some of the days when I’m not feeling as much myself. So, the core of this, I really do appreciate. The fact that it was wrapped up in gothic lolita specifically, that part particularly didn’t ring true to me. I have a few friends who wear lolita fashion. It’s a really high-cost, high-energy, high-commitment hobby. I say “hobby.” It’s fashion. It’s a fashion choice and it’s a very expensive one. And it takes a lot of time and a lot of work. So, that part felt like it was a bit too much. But at the same time, it’s an exaggerated representation of something that did feel very real, if that makes sense.
PETER: Mm. And I do…She kind of does…In acting the “goth loli” part…You know, always drinking tea, having very flat affect…I feel like that has kind of realistically portrayed some interactions she’s had where people didn’t quite know how to argue with her, I guess. When she said she wasn’t going to do the character designs, the director just…He didn’t know what to do, ’cause she basically said it very flatly and like a statement. And he…It didn’t feel like he even knew how he could get footing in that argument against her, so he just sort of had to accept that she wasn’t going to do it.
So, in that regard, I kind of see it working, and I can kind of imagine being in the same situation and not knowing how to argue with somebody. If it’s just like, “Oh, I’m not going to do that,” and then sips their tea. ‘Cause it’s kind of like you’re interacting with a character and…Yeah, yeah. I think I’d be pretty…I wouldn’t know how to handle that situation, either.
So, in that way I can see how it would actually even work.
AMELIA: Yeah. Yeah. And it was striking, the contrast between Ogasawara when she’s in her “gothic lolita” mode, and the flashbacks of her we see when she’s in jeans and t-shirts and she hasn’t dyed her hair and she’s much more emotionally expressive, and she’s much more kind of troubled by events in the workplace. Whereas when we see her from the start of the series onwards, she is very much in control of her situation. She’s supportive of the people around her. That continues. I love the fact that she put forward Iguchi and said, “She’s not done this before, but she’s more than capable and she’s definitely the one you should work with.”
And, again, that’s her kind of taking control away from the director, almost. Because she says “I know this situation best. This is definitely what’s best for production.” And whether she’s right or whether she’s wrong, the fact is that she is confident enough and calm enough that she is able to make her point and it is taken seriously.
PETER: Yeah. And Iguchi, herself, I think…She gets shot down a number of times before she even really seems to get discouraged. At that point, it’s like…I think Ogasawara points out that they’re not really helping her at all, and that’s become an issue, because they get the vaguest statement as to how to correct it. I think the author doesn’t. He just says, “It’s not her character,” or something like that. Just something completely unhelpful. And they say, “Since you’re in creative control of this, you need to help her figure out what he is asking for so she could make it happen for you.” The way Iguchi approached the problem, as well, was pretty good. It wasn’t like she just immediately lost hope and then they had to go into the batting cages for some reason. It was a process.
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] [Laughter] Yeah. What did you think about that? Her oasis being…Is it “batting cages,” they’re called?
PETER: I liked that. Yeah. It’s especially kind of like a “working out your frustration” kind of thing. I see…I don’t know if I see a whole lot of stuff like that, especially with female characters. And to have it be something that’s typically masculine and it be a physical exercise, which I think is generally what people retreat to when they’re trying to work out frustration. Like, actually hitting 90 mile-per-hour fastballs is probably a good way.
That’s like a realistic way, ’cause it’s kind of like…I don’t know if it’s a good thing to say. It’s violent. But…Yeah, it’s pretty violent. So, yeah. That’s like…That made sense to me. I was like, “Okay, I can see why she goes to the batting cages.”
I thought that was a pretty cool character quirk. That was not where I was expecting they would end up.
AMELIA: Yeah, I wasn’t sure where they were going with it at first. Because we’ve seen that Iguchi’s calm space to reflect and take a break from her work is this idyllic wood setting with a cat, and Ogasawara goes straight to baseball. It was, again, a nice contrast. And it perhaps felt like a holdover from her life back when she was in jeans and t-shirts and getting frustrated with her job more often, maybe. So, part of her identity would have to remain consistent.
PETER: She was kind of superhuman, too. She threw that underhand pitch so hard, she backflipped.
AMELIA: [Laughter] Yeah. They said, “This could be an anime.” Cutaway to that for a moment, and yeah, it felt really true, actually.
There was one moment that was awful, which was…Do you remember that moment where you just have this soft-focus image of Aoi and Ema clinging to Iguchi and they’re all in gothic lolita clothing in their imagination? Just this really soft-focus sexualized moment that was…It just felt unnecessary.
MILES: Super unnecessary.
AMELIA: Really unnecessary. So that was the one that really stood out to me. I mentioned Ema’s calisthenics earlier, but actually, that was nothing compared to this.
MILES: There’s a little context with Ema’s calisthenics, where it’s a studio trope to have…There’s this thing called the “egg dance.” They include it in…Up to this point, they had included it in some way in most of their series. And so that’s more of a nod to them.
I actually don’t like that scene, but people are obsessed with it.
AMELIA: Yeah, I mean…
MILES: So, I shared…Crunchyroll and stuff like that…I don’t know.
AMELIA: [Laughter] Yeah, I’ve noticed it on Crunchyroll, actually.
PETER: And radio calisthenics on the roof is a Japanese business thing. That’s very common. It’s just that the specific calisthenics she was doing were, uh…not…
AMELIA: I mean, I wasn’t even bothered by the calisthenics she was doing. It was like, “Of course you would have the most cutest, most reserved member of the cast go out onto the roof, on her own, and do these calisthenics alone. That’s so moe, right?”
AMELIA: So, it was…It just felt like it exists for the fans.
PETER: [Crosstalk] And then get embarrassed.
AMELIA: And, you know, we talk about fanservice as if it’s just physical characteristics. That moment felt like fanservice, because it didn’t seem to contribute to anything. It could have just as easily been the whole team, or it could have been a male character. It could have been somebody like Iguchi rather than Ema. Not Iguchi, herself, but it could have been Ogasawara. It could have been anyone that wasn’t Ema, herself, because she is really adorable and really beloved, I’m sure. And rightly so. I don’t object to that in the slightest. But, the fact is that they picked this one character to come out and do these calisthenics, and it just doesn’t feel like it’s for the story at that point.
Okay, the other thing I wanted to talk about: the new employees. We had a number of new employees in these episodes. We had two production assistants, Andou–who has the streaks in her hair–and Satou–who wanted to cut down her commute.
So, they interviewed something like five candidates before. I think two of them were women and both of the women got hired. And then we had a new animator, Kunogi, and we had a production assistant—experienced production assistant–called Hiroko.
So, I want to look at Kunogi first. Peter, how do you feel about her?
PETER: Uhh…I don’t really like her. I think it would be interesting to have someone who had a lot of anxiety about talking, but instead she’s just making these really weird baby noises and doing hand gestures and stuff, so she needs an interpreter most of the time.
It’s just a weird, meant-to-be-cute character trait that seems really out of place.
AMELIA: That was pretty much how I felt. It seemed like Ema had a really believable amount of self-doubt, and she’s…Her journey in the workplace feels really relatable, I think. Where she starts out really not believing in her abilities at all. And she’s not as good as she needs to be at that point, but the point is that she will grow, she’ll improve, and at this point she is mentoring…not necessarily mentoring, but supporting a newer member of staff. That’s great. But Kunogi walks in, and is just completely helpless, and that’s just a step too far, it feels like.
PETER: I was trying to imagine what her interview looked like.
AMELIA: Yeah. How would she even get there?
PETER: It wouldn’t be an interview, right? I mean, even if her work looks great…
MILES: You don’t need an interview.
PETER: Do you not need–?
MILES: You wouldn’t really need an interview for that kind of role. You’d just show them your portfolio, pretty much.
AMELIA: Oh, okay.
PETER: Okay, and they just say…You can just email it to them and they’d say, “Come in. We’re starting on Monday?”
MILES: Not in so many words, but…It’s not…Again, every studio’s different. Not a lot of studios have in-house key animators necessarily. But this is not an unrealistic way that someone this severe could get a job. I don’t find that part unrealistic. I just…This is a detail that is only obviously getting included because people are getting excited about it.
AMELIA: What do you mean by that?
MILES: This is fanservice. She’s an entire fanservice character to me.
AMELIA: It’s frustrating to watch. It’s like…So, she is practically acting like a baby. With the gestures and being almost completely nonverbal, and when she does come out with words, it’s just words. It’s not full sentences. And she is an adult.
PETER: I think having somebody with her social anxiety would have been interesting for Ema, because she was like that before. So, stepping up for that person…Her dynamic with the character past literally interpreting is interesting, ’cause she’s kind of mentoring someone who was very similar to her. But the fact that the character is just a caricature removes the benefit.
AMELIA: Yeah. I agree with that. And if she’d just spoken in sentences, or whispered everything, or even written notes, it would’ve felt a little bit better. But those quite desperate toothbrushing gestures in front of them and pointing at words, it was a bit too much. It was a step too far to be realistic or believable in any way in the workplace.
So, that was…Yeah, she was a little bit frustrating. But maybe by the end of the series, we will see her grow as well and maybe be able to exchange sentences with people.
AMELIA: Who knows. Andou and Satou. How do you feel about those two?
PETER: I…It depended on the scene. I really enjoyed the meetings. I thought that they were useful for exposition. And I also noticed that they–specifically Andou–seemed like she’d done a lot of research. She knew a lot about the people she was working for, the different anime they’d made. So, I liked that they weren’t just coming in as completely ignorant, just watched a Ghibli movie and didn’t do any research ’cause they thought the job would be easy–something like that.
I also like…I liked one scene when the director asked them what they thought…I think it was when they were in the color meeting. When they come back in, I think he sort of plays off what he asks, but it felt like he wanted to know what their opinion was. Or wanted them to voice their opinion, at the very least. So, I thought…He goes, “I pretty much decided anyway,” when they…I like to believe that he was just saying that to take the pressure off, ’cause they had felt like they had made the decision. So, if it didn’t work out well…I don’t know. That was a 50-50 scene for me. But I liked it.
AMELIA: See, I thought that was…I thought that he was telling the truth when he said, “I pretty much already decided. I just wanted to see what you thought.” I mean, he’s…We know he’s a bit of a weak character in many ways, but he does have a strong vision, and it makes sense that he would have a preference.
And it was…I thought it was kind of nice validation for them that he says, “Yes, you’re thinking along the same lines as the director.” Like: “You’re thinking in the right ways.”
PETER: Yeah. He basically said, “That’s what I also chose. So probably a good choice.”
AMELIA: Yeah, exactly.
PETER: But then, I guess there’s a cartoonish element to each character. So, both of them respectively get lost at one point, and their phones die. That was kind of…yeah. Once again, a 50-50 scene. ‘Cause I like the resolution where they both got back, and obviously it had stressed out Aoi but she had kind of…That was also an opportunity for her to show that she was good at helping people get back on whatever they’re doing. And then when they came back, she had food for them. So–
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] She’s such a good boss!
MILES: [Crosstalk] What a good boss.
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] Yeah, exactly.
PETER: [Crosstalk] The resolution of that scene was–Mm-hmm.
AMELIA: That was my first thought when I saw that. Watching that scene, my thought was, “Oh, she’s such a good boss. She is a natural manager.” And managing people is really hard, and most people aren’t naturally good at it. You have to work. You have to learn. And Aoi’s just instantly great at this. I’m so impressed.
PETER: Yeah, so I’m glad…What they did with that scene, it was a little bit cartoonish that they got so…One of them, I think, just drove straight out of Tokyo. But…
AMELIA: I mean…You say that. I have a terrible sense of direction. That 100% could have been me. I was very sympathetic to that. And then the other one fell asleep on the train. And I guess Aoi’s ultimate point was: “You get tired. You make mistakes. I’ve been there. I’ve done that.” And that was a really nice loop-around.
PETER: Yeah, that might be…Come to think of it, I just…Maybe I’ve been lucky with most of my car trips. And Japanese work culture, I guess falling asleep on the job…It shows you’re working hard, right? That’s what their perception of it is? So…
AMELIA: Falling asleep on the train is a pretty standard part of your day.
PETER: Yeah, yeah. So maybe that was a very respectable thing that she did, actually.
AMELIA: [Laughter] I don’t know how it was interpreted necessarily in-universe. But I didn’t think it was…I didn’t think either one was cartoonishly bad. I thought it felt…The one moment I had was when…It was Satou, wasn’t it, who drove straight out of town?
She was calling from a pay-phone, and I thought, “She doesn’t have a cell phone? She doesn’t have any way to contact them?” And then they said, no, she’s got no battery. So, I was glad they included that little detail, ’cause I was just thinking, “Why is she not looking up the maps?” You know?
PETER: Yeah, that is one thing, too. It seems like even if they get into these situations…Some of it, I guess, is just cartoonish, too, because the series is a comedy. But the payoff is very consistently good. They had…With that scene, it showed that Aoi was a good boss, and with the Iguchi thing, something they did mention was that when she finally got it…She had that moment where she said that she’s alive or something like that, and then they ended the episode with the key art of the character that she’d been spending so much time drawing, and then the character moved. I thought that was a good moment.
So, the payoff at the end is always really, really good.
AMELIA: And, as well, with Iguchi’s growth…There was a temptation, early on, just to think the author’s being unreasonable and putting unnecessary demands on them. Is there something going on here? Is it a bit office-politic-y? And then at the end when she gets it, you realize: no, actually, the author had a point. There was more work she could do. There was better that she could achieve. And she ended up achieving something really special.
I thought that was a nice point to make, that it wasn’t just about an unreasonable author. Which I had been waiting for. I’m glad it wasn’t that way.
PETER: Yeah. I think it was…It didn’t seem like the author’s demands were necessarily that bad, ’cause the whole time they were trying to talk to him directly to get more information from him. And–
MILES: [Crosstalk] “Funny story.”
PETER: Yeah, that “funny story” guy is so shitty. They could never talk to the author. So, that was the problem. It wasn’t so much that the author didn’t like it, it was that they got the information super late and were unable to have a conversation with him because the “funny story” guy was playing golf or some stupid shit.
AMELIA: In defense, it didn’t seem like the author particularly wanted to talk to them. If he really wanted to, he absolutely could’ve made them schedule the visit, right? He was already communicating with them. He could’ve said, “Let’s meet and just hash this out,” and just chose not to. So, I didn’t think it was…
PETER: Well, they did say he was super busy, on a book tour or something like that.
AMELIA: Well, that “funny story” guy said that, so I’m not sure.
PETER: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. He’s not exactly a reliable narrator, is he?
AMELIA: Exactly. Miles, how do you feel about the production assistants and Kunogi? You have the benefit of a bit more knowledge than we do, but do you enjoy watching them? Or…
MILES: I remember even just the beginning part where I was first watching this show week-to-week, and I was, at first, like: Oh, there are so many great characters I want to spent time with; I’m a little frustrated that they’re throwing characters on this already-huge cast.
Especially the fact that they’re not based off of real people in the way that a lot of the greater studio cast is. And I was more interested in the behind-the-scenes stuff, so that would be more interesting to me, inherently, right?
But…I think it was the scene where they get lost. That really kind of drove it home to me that I really liked these additions. Even if it’s just as a vehicle to show off how Aoi is grown or how great of a boss she is, I’m very happy for them and I feel like it would be hard to communicate Aoi’s growth without that yardstick of these two girls who are very much in the same kind of world that Aoi was in just a few episodes ago. So, I like them from a story perspective.
PETER: If you get promoted, there are more people beneath you, so it was necessary to have more people to show that Aoi…If she got promoted and she didn’t have understudies or people she was giving directions to, it would be kind of a meaningless promotion.
I liked how they both have this…where they needed to do the PV, and she basically said, “Go around to everybody and tell them they need to prioritize this certain work.”
AMELIA: Yes! [Laughter]
PETER: Both of them tackled that pretty good. The person would say, “Well, I’m gonna have to put down everything I’m doing and immediately start on this if I’m gonna do the PV for that scene,” and they went, “Okay, could you do that please?” Just over and over again. I don’t know. They just made it so that the other person had to talk to a wall that was just like, “Yes, please. Do that.” So, I liked that they… I guess there was a nice mix of them randomly getting lost but also being able to pass down directions and enforce them when they were told what to do by Aoi.
AMELIA: And it seemed like, to an extent, ignorance was bliss. They were asking the animators to do things, the staff to do things, regardless of the consequences, ’cause they weren’t really completely aware of what the consequences were for what they were asking. And it reminded me of Aoi going to Kanno and asking him to come work on her episode. She just had no clue of the…what a big situation it was, and she didn’t understand what the consequences might be of asking this legendary director to work on her episode. So, I thought…Again, it was like an echo of something that she’d already done. I really enjoyed that.
So, the other one is Kunogi. Miles, how do you feel about Kunogi?
MILES: Uh, I mean…I think I already talked about this to the extent that I have opinions about her. I think she’s only here ’cause this is an anime, and in a series that otherwise does a really good job of having people be based on real–again, like Satou and Andou, the biggest criticism I have about her should be that she’s not based on someone real. The five main girls are the only girls I want to be the in-universe only girls. But, unlike Satou and Andou, I don’t feel any affection towards her. I don’t feel like she adds any charm or personality to the series. And I feel like her entire role is just completely fanservice. Even though she does show growth in Ema the same way that the two girls show growth in Aoi, I don’t feel like that’s justified by the amount of cringe I experience watching her on the screen.
AMELIA: Well, that wraps up her very nicely, I think.
PETER: There was one good scene I liked with her.
PETER: Yes. Well, just a funny scene. But I thought…The one joke I thought was kind of okay is when Ema is drawing and it’s got some happy music playing, and then the music stops and she sort of looks up and turns around and Kunogi is staring at her. And she jumps, but then she immediately recovers. But I think that’s just kind of like a good “quiet person in the office” kind of joke, where the person comes up behind you and taps you on the shoulder and you lose your shit. [Laughter] That was okay. I liked that joke.
AMELIA: There was one moment in the earlier episodes where Ema’s watching–I can’t remember who she’s watching now–watching someone else draw, and she knocks over a bin and she starts apologizing only to realize the person drawing hasn’t noticed her at all.
PETER: Oh, yeah. Was that Iguchi?
AMELIA: Was it Iguchi? I don’t remember. Miles, do you know?
MILES: I don’t remember.
AMELIA: Okay. But she…I thought maybe that was a reference to the fact that she’s growing, but she’s not quite at that level yet where she can get completely hyper-immersed.
PETER: Where there could be a fire in the building and she wouldn’t notice?
AMELIA: Yeah, and she just wouldn’t notice. Exactly. So, she’s not quite at her professional peak, yet. Which makes sense. She’s still growing.
Okay, last new employee. Hiraoka.
AMELIA: [Laughter] Peter, how did you feel about Hiraoka?
PETER: He gave…He warned them, right? When they first meet. They said, “Please introduce yourself.” He says, “I have a lot of connections but I am an overbearing asshole. I don’t work well with other people.” Or something like that. And he made good on that threat.
So, I think they’ve sort of shown…I appreciate that he was introduced that way, ’cause I do think that some of the things that he’s shown has been that he’s well connected and really does know what he’s doing a lot of the time, but on the other side, he’s just kind of a jerk and he doesn’t really work well with other people. And some of the decisions he makes are kind of inimical to working together, like not going to the morning meetings. He doesn’t know what’s going on in the office. And hopefully that’ll change now that Aoi chewed him out. He’s not as bad as Tarou, of course, but yeah. He is kind of needlessly a jerk who puts people down for no reason.
AMELIA: Well, I question whether he’s not as bad as Tarou, actually. I thought that he and Tarou were kind of two different sides of the same coin of the male coworker making his female boss’ or female coworker’s life difficult.
So, Tarou makes Aoi’s life difficult because he’s completely incompetent and he doesn’t care. Whereas Hiraoka is competent. He knows how to do his job. But he doesn’t want to support Aoi. He doesn’t feel part of this team in any way. In a way Tarou really does feel part of the team. He’s part of MusAni. And he’s looking to his own career. He’s ambitious. But he is a part of the team in that sense.
Whereas Hiraoka has absolutely no interest whatsoever in fitting into their routines, into getting to know the others. He’s not social in the slightest. And that…For Aoi to kind of manage him, that’s a huge challenge. And it’s one that she doesn’t face with Tarou at all, because he’s fine going along to the drinking parties and watching their things that they’ve created. He really does get into it. So, in some ways, I have to acknowledge that Tarou isn’t quite the worst, which I wasn’t thrilled about.
But, yeah. Hiraoka’s pretty bad in some ways. I imagine if it were me in Aoi’s position–she’s new to this and she’s trying to manage him as well–and he’s undermining her at every step. That’s really hard for her. And I hope the step she’s taken to deal with it do actually pay off. I imagine they will. But that was a little bit hard to watch. I hope that develops in the way I want it to.
PETER: I think it was…It struck me as a bit more realistic because…Well, I guess in Tarou’s situation, it’s maybe a kind of cultural thing, where I can see someone like Hiraoka in an American workplace, but Tarou, I feel, would just get fired very quickly.
So, that’s somebody you would consistently need to butt heads with, because he’s not…He’s technically doing his job. It’s just he’s making everyone else’s jobs harder in ways that’s difficult to put on a reason that you got fired. And it seems like what she’s doing to deal with him is sticking as opposed to Tarou, where it’s like he doesn’t notice when people are directly telling him he should jump off a cliff.
So, yeah. I guess I feel like there will be a better payoff with him. But yeah, when you say it that way, I can see…Basically, he’s kind of just there to make her job harder. So…And in kind of a way where you have to question maybe…I don’t remember who brought him in. Was it the ponytail guy?
AMELIA: I don’t remember.
MILES: I don’t remember either.
PETER: Depending on who’s working in the office…I mean, maybe they just randomly brought him in. Would he act the same if it was Honda running things?
AMELIA: And that’s what I wondered. I did wonder that. I genuinely don’t know. But he directly challenges Aoi’s authority, whereas Tarou just doesn’t respect…Well, I don’t know if he actually disrespects Aoi. He doesn’t do his job properly, but I’m not sure if that’s anything to do with Aoi herself. It’s just Tarou being incompetent.
MILES: I don’t think they take Tarou seriously enough to feel disrespected even if he would. And I also don’t think he has enough…I don’t think he’s the type of person who would disrespect someone purposefully. He disrespects someone because he’s so full of his own self and obsessed with his own world, but he would never go out of his way to disrespect someone. And he would genuinely feel bad if he ever disrespected someone.
AMELIA: So, how do you feel about Hiraoka, Miles?
MILES: I love Hiraoka.
AMELIA: Controversial. [Laughter]
MILES: He is the worst character in the show. He’s way worse than Tarou. And I love to hate him so much. I think the is a fantastic addition to the show. And I just don’t…The difference between Tarou and Hiraoka is night and day.
One of my biggest shameful secrets is I actually relate to Tarou way more than I probably should. Especially…I think back to College Miles. That-era Miles. And that was actually just me.
AMELIA: Oh no! [Laughter]
MILES: I was always Hiraoka. And I feel like I’ve grown up a lot since then, and so watching the character is actually cringe-inducing and frustrating, for me to see…Yeah, I was…Maybe this is why I jump to his defense and say, “He would never do anything evil. He would just be a dumbass, and that’s why he would do something rude.” [Laughter]
‘Cause he’s me. He’s a younger me. And the fact that he’s also based on the director…I understand. Anyway, but Hiraoka is just the worst kind of person. My least favorite kind of person. I think cynicism is the worst possible approach to life. I think being jaded day one at a new job shows that you’re not worldly. That you’re just an insufferable person.
And I feel like the fact that he can get away with that represents a lot of where business culture–and this is certainly not exclusive to Japan or anime–but just where international business culture is. Where you’re actually way better off being a Hiraoka than a Tarou. And that’s maybe good, maybe bad. I like to think it’s bad. ‘Cause you can’t grow out of that. But you can grow out of being a Tarou, as evidenced by me and the director of Shirobako.
AMELIA: Miles’ coworkers, if you’d like to comment on this, please do. [Laughter]
PETER: [Laughter] I’ll definitely be looking at the office differently.
MILES: Like I said, I grew up. But, no, he’s the worst and the way he treats Aoi is just unacceptable.
AMELIA: Well, in the next six episodes, hopefully we’ll be able to wrap up Tarou’s arc in a way that’s somewhat satisfying, I’m hoping.
Peter, where do you want to see it go from here? Final six episodes.
PETER: Yeah…Well, first of all, I would like my prediction about Sugie to be right.
AMELIA: Which one? Which one is that?
PETER: About her getting the role of…I think it was Audia or Risa or something like that?
PETER: No, no, no. That’s the name of the character…Yeah, Shizuka would be getting the role of Aria. I think it’s Aria.
Hopefully less of the…I guess I don’t mind pirate girl and the teddy bear, I just…If they just returned to their previous role, that’d be really–
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] Really? [Laughter]
PETER: –really great, if they just did what they used to do. I felt like they were really cool in that capacity.
Both of you said that Hiraoka seemed kind of unmanagable, but I mean…Obviously, he went to the meeting, even though he was kind of sitting in the corner, and actually that was a cool scene where Tarou is the one who ends up coming up to him and goes, “Hey, we’re coworkers. Let’s celebrate together.” “Oh my god, did you do something cool?” [Laughter]
So, I hope maybe some of their bad parts cancel each other out. He could maybe tell Tarou how to do his job, and Tarou could maybe keep dragging him to events and make him a bit more enthusiastic about his work, something like that. That would be really interesting.
AMELIA: That’s a really interesting idea. I hadn’t thought of that.
PETER: I’d also just like to see…I think Aoi has handled him pretty well, but to be able to see that she has some effect on him and maybe create some improvements would be nice. I guess that’s pretty much it. Things have been pretty good past some weird exposition, so…Just maintain the course, I guess.
AMELIA: I think I enjoyed these six episodes much more than any that have come before. Seeing Aoi in boss mode has just been fantastic. I’ve enjoyed every minute of Aoi just doing her job and showing that she’s capable and confident and…She’s still struggling, but she’s not drowning. She’s coping. And I think seeing that growth that we had from the first twelve episodes kind of be the foundation that they’re building on now…That is so satisfying to watch.
So, I’m looking forward to seeing that develop even more. Same with Ema. I felt that her growth has been really lovely so far. I really look forward to seeing her build even more confidence in herself.
It’d be nice to have more of a focus on the five of them before the end. It’d be nice…If Shizuka comes into this production, which I think she will, then it would be really great to have all of them in the room together watching the anime that they worked on. And it’s not gonna be their seven lucky warriors, or whatever it is. But that’s still really meaningful. It means they’re all on the right path to achieve their dreams, which is always great to see.
I’ve given up on Segawa. I don’t think we’re gonna get anything from her, and I’m so sad about that. I want to know what the deal is with her and Endou. I want to know why she doesn’t get involved more in…why they haven’t involved her more in the story. I thought maybe there’d be some reason for that, some career-related reason, and we just haven’t seen anything.
So, I’m giving up on ever finding out. I think she’s just been a bit like Kaori. She just kind of shows up, serves her purpose for a little bit, and then walks away.
I have confidence that it’s all going to wrap up in a way that I find rewarding. I’m definitely pleased that I’ve watched it. That’s a positive way to go into the final six episodes, I think.
PETER: Yeah. One consistent thing about the show is every subplot is wrapped up in a very satisfying way. Very cathartic, especially if you’re kind of a hardcore anime fan. They really reinforce the “everybody loves anime,” and…I don’t know. The thing with Iguchi…I don’t know. I have the expectation that even if I don’t like certain parts of a subplot, that ending will be satisfying. So, I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.
AMELIA: Yeah, I think that’s a fair comment. And I look forward to seeing what they do with the new characters who have just come in. My expectation is that by the end of the series, we see all of them on a path to grow as people in a positive way. And I would love to see that, especially for characters like Hiraoka, who currently is really difficult. It would be nice to see him softening a bit, over the course of the series. And maybe getting a bit more involved. So, we’ll find out next time.
Miles, anything surprised you about our discussion, or is it more or less as you expected?
MILES: No, this is probably the biggest gap I would’ve expected.
AMELIA: Oh, really? What did you expect?
MILES: Yeah. I thought you would talk a lot more about Iguchi and her subplot and her…She also got promoted. So, basically, in this six episodes, we see three women get pretty significant promotions, and I thought we were gonna spend most of this episode discussing the how and why of that and what that means for this kind of workplace environment.
‘Cause in the two other episodes, we talked a lot about the workplace environment rather than specific plot points. So, I thought that was an interesting switch. Aoi getting ahead because her superior left–which, you know, there’s a lot to say there. Iguchi getting it because they’re taking a chance on her. She’s worked hard and I thought it was really validating that the reason she got that opportunity, that really cool role, is not because she was aggressively seeking it out, but just because she worked hard and she was recognized for her talents. And then Ema getting–not a real promotion–but getting a mentorship role because they recognize and value her within the company…All three of those, I thought…Those were really valuable to me. I was surprised we didn’t talk more about that. Not that I’m upset or anything.
AMELIA: I don’t know. To me, it felt more like…I mean, I may be wrong on this, but it felt more like they were the ones who were there. They were the ones who were left. Aoi was kind of the only choice, because the other alternative was Tarou. And Iguchi was not the only choice, but when Ogasawara put her forward, she became the only choice. And it was really validating that she got that support from Ogasawara, but I think…If they had said no to Iguchi, and Ogasawara said no to them, they would have been really stuck.
So, it did feel like they were put in a [unintelligible], but–I don’t know. That’s a really bitter way to look at it. I’m not sure.
MILES: I think, especially with Iguchi, yeah. ‘Cause they could have…Character designers you can get from…I mean, you can’t get a character designer from anywhere, but they certainly have a large cast of animation directors who could’ve done the same thing. It could’ve been Segawa-san. It could’ve been anyone.
AMELIA: Okay, maybe that was kind of necessary context, then, to appreciate the gravity of that particular promotion.
MILES: And then the other thing that I was interested in is: I…maybe this is also me really liking the character, but of the five main girls, I really like Aoi. She’s the main character for a reason. But Diesel-chan. Midori gets a lot of screentime this six episodes, and I really liked seeing her role within everything. We talked about that one aside from the director. The whole, “Don’t say that. That’s sexist.” That was pretty funny.
But her role within the studio is a very interesting one. To examine…Just seeing her relationship–I forget the head writer’s name, but there’s–
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] Maitake? Is it Maitake?
MILES: Yeah, yeah. That sounds right.
AMELIA: The guy in the flat cap.
MILES: The guy in the flat cap. Kind of to see her be very intern-y and her be just completely unfazed by being in this complete position of…She’s just so desperate to do anything and to get any work done, and because of that desperation, or–maybe desperation’s not the right word–but because of that intense unending drive, she ends up squeezing in right out of college in a pretty interesting and engaging role. And I think that that’s…That was exhilarating to watch. I was exhilarated.
AMELIA: I would agree with that, yeah.
PETER: It was one of those situations where she showed a skill so prominently that they decided that that was something they wanted rather than having a need they needed filled, if that makes sense. They looked at what she could do, and said, “Oh, we could really use something like that around here. We didn’t even know that’s something we needed.” As opposed to, “We have this set role that every production company has and there’s a vacancy and we need to fill it.” She proved so valuable they decided to create a position for her.
MILES: And then I guess the last thing that I was surprised we didn’t talk about is: Aoi’s job is miserable. It’s so hard.
AMELIA: I thought her job as an assistant was miserable and hard, to be honest. This just felt like the same thing squared.
MILES: I mean, I think she’s not getting any more or less stressed out, but just because the stakes have been raised, she…Anything she gained from getting ahead of it before is now lost.
AMELIA: What do you mean it’s “lost?”
MILES: So, basically, it’s kind of like in a video game how you can level up a bunch, but then when you go to the next level all the enemies are stronger, too. So, it’s just as hard as it was before. I really enjoyed that.
AMELIA: I don’t feel like that’s necessarily the case though, because it’s not like she’s learning specific skills. It’s more like she’s learning coping mechanisms. She’s building networks. And those seem to be the things that are paying off now. But…
MILES: And that is true. But doesn’t she seem just as stressed as she did last season?
AMELIA: Yeah. I feel like that’s inherent to the job. Honda seems stressed all the time as well. It just seems like a horrible job to me.
PETER: I don’t know. I don’t think…There was a couple, in the first cour, scenes where she has a breakdown and needs help. I don’t think she’s actually gotten direct assistance from anyone yet. Also, there’s the dynamic where…They have that scene where she was cleaning the glass where they used the two toys to show you what she was thinking, but they’ve sort of stopped using that as a mechanism to look into her head now. So, I don’t really…I don’t really remember getting the feeling that she felt lost, like she did in the last scene.
The biggest one was when eight things were going wrong, and she sat there for five seconds and then immediately came up with a task for everybody to complete as she was still stressing out.
I guess the only…At the very end of the last episode was the one where she was like, “Oh, I actually don’t have enough people to deal with all this. How am I gonna do it?” And then Erika comes back.
AMELIA: Erika comes back.
PETER: Yeah. That was the one moment where I felt like she was trapped, and then somebody shows up.
AMELIA: And I’m really looking forward to seeing how their relationship has changed from in the earlier episodes. Erika was protective towards her and supporting her. That support–the nature of that support-will naturally change now that Aoi is in a more powerful position. So, I’m really looking forward to seeing how that goes.
MILES: Quick question.
MILES: Did either of you roll your eyes when Erika showed up at the end of episode 18?
MILES: That slow pan up her. No?
PETER: I thought…I was thinking…I don’t know. I was thinking, “Would that shot be very different if a hero arrives?” I don’t know. Where you see the boots, and you’re like, “Oh, is it Gandalf?” or something like that and then it turns out–
AMELIA: [Laughter] “Is it Gandalf?”
PETER: Well, yeah. Where they…The person…The hero arrives at the last minute. Or especially if it’s the unexpected person, I think they would use a pan-up shot in that situation because you’re not quite sure who it is yet. And then it reveals: there’s the person.
AMELIA: Sorry. We’re in the middle of a season of My Hero Academia and you go to Lord of the Rings?
PETER: Has that scene happened in My Hero yet?
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] I would like–
PETER: [Crosstalk] Okay, so, that’s pretty much–
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] –the hero arriving.
PETER: Is it All Might? “Those are pretty much the quads. Is it All Might?” Yeah.
But, I felt like that was maybe a dramatic choice instead of a…That was my impression at least. I guess it could’ve been interpreted that way, too.
MILES: I mean, I think while you can definitely argue that this was a…So, yes, you could say that, but I guess I’m coming from the perspective of having followed every use of the Shirobako hashtag for the last three years. Which is to say that a lot of people will post that gif or that combined image as something that they’re interested in in other ways.
So, maybe I’m letting the fandom get to me a little too much, but…
PETER: Poison the well.
AMELIA: I mean, the tilt-up in general is a way of introducing characters in different contexts which I don’t particularly like. And it’s something I’ve monitored more closely at different points in time, and the amount of times that women are introduced with this kind of slow tilt up their body, it’s…It’s something I don’t like. But now I think I’ve become a bit used to it. So, there’s a chance that I just didn’t clock it because anime does it all the time–
MILES: [Crosstalk] All the time.
AMELIA: –especially for female characters. It does it for men, too. But not quite as often, I think, based on my experience.
So, yeah. I didn’t notice it. That’s probably because it’s been completely normalized for me. Thanks, anime.
I think that wraps it up for today. Just a bit of housekeeping. If you want to find more of our work, you can go to www.animefeminist.com. You can find this podcast on SoundCloud, on iTunes, and on Stitcher. You can find us on Twitter, @animefeminist, on Facebook at facebook.com/animefem. We now have a Tumblr, animefeminist.tumblr.com.
And we do have a Patreon, which is www.patreon.com/animefeminist. We’re now comfortably beyond $900 in income and we have, as a result, got weekly podcasts, which is great. So, you are listening to, hopefully, the third of four weeks’ worth of podcast episodes in a row, which is the first time we will have done that. Fantastic.
Our next funding goal is to be able to pay the team when they edit a contributor’s work. So, I’m not sure where we’re at now, but I think we’re almost at a thousand dollars. We need $1,140 to be able to pay people $15 an hour for their work. So, if you can spare a dollar a month, it really does add up. Please go to www.patreon.com/animefeminist and send us a dollar a month to continue our work.
One new thing we have introduced recently is we have a private AniFem server on Discord, so currently patrons who are supporting us with $5 or more a month have access to the Discord server, and we’re having some amazing conversations already. We have channels for anime, channels for manga, games, airing shows–you can discuss without worrying about spoilers–and even comparing notes for Japanese study. So, if you can spare $5 or more a month, we would love to see you there and start speaking with you in person.
So, thank you so much to Peter and Miles for joining me today. We will be back next time for episodes 19 to 24.