Eric’s 12 Days of Anime #12: Yo (K)anno

Whoops, almost forgot to put up my last 12 days of anime post. I wasn’t planning on doing this series this year, so forgive the rushed nature of these posts. I enjoyed writing about my experiences with anime this year, and if I’m still blogging about anime next year, I’ll definitely do this again, hopefully with more focus and preparation.

Shirobako, like many other shows this fall season, was a pleasant surprise. PA Works has a reputation as being another Kyoto Animation in my eyes: they typically make good-looking stuff but it’s all moe fluff with nothing else to hold my interest. Shirobako is still pretty moe, starting off with a high school girl club with aspirations of creating their own anime movie, but does a good job of transitioning into a more realistic adult world of office work and stress. I’ve heard some fans of the show claim the workplace drama is “too real” for them. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s too real, as the show cushions job stress with good humor and some fluffy optimism, but it’s certainly more honest about the real world than most moe anime I’ve seen.

The last two episodes of Shirobako’s first cour, centered around Christmas time, were standout episodes highlighting the growth of main character Miyamori and the tensions between the young and old generations of animators. One of Shirobako’s major themes is the uncertainty about the future. The young generation worries about whether or not they can make a stable career out of their new jobs in animation, and the old generation worries about the direction of where anime is going. The show strikes a nice balance between the young generation learning from their elders while still figuring out who they are for themselves, and that is exemplified when Miyamori tries to get acclaimed director “Mitsuaki Kanno” to draw some key animation for the final episode of the show Exodus.

Boy, he sure looks familiar.

Boy, he sure looks familiar.

Turns out “Kanno” is actually an homage to Hideaki Anno, director of Neon Genesis Evangelion. He only gets one scene in this episode, but it one of the funniest scenes I’ve seen this year and a definite treat for anime fans. Normally I don’t like to praise reference humor since it’s usually really cheap, but here it’s in service of furthering the plot and ideas of Shirobako, plus it’s funny more because of how into anime “Kanno” is than the fact that we know he’s referencing Nausicaa. Miyamori admits her knowledge of older anime isn’t that great, having only seen the Rebuilds of “Ava” and never seeing the original series, but her passion for anime is definitely real when “Kanno” brings up Andes Chucky, a kid’s anime she’d seen in reruns.

Since I’m a young adult still figuring out what he wants to do with the rest of his life and an anime fan interested in the industry and culture, Shirobako strikes a good chord with me. As much as I think the earlier episodes leaned too heavily in the optimistic direction, I would think about my future after watching a few episodes. Shirobako balances nerdy passion and dreadful realism. Though it does favor optimism, it never lets itself stray too far into it. Since the show is willing to address actual problems with starting a career, I think it’s allowed to be optimistic. I think Shirobako‘s ultimate goal is encouraging young people to not give up on their dreams, but trying to be a little more realistic about it than other inspirational dramas. 2014 was a depressing year, so Shirobako was a good pick-me-up.

Here’s to hoping that 2015 is another good year for anime. With more JoJo’s and Ikuhara’s lesbian bears, there’s no way it can be bad, right?

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