Man, poor Ema.
If I had to describe this episode in one word, it would be “real.” Shirobako has already shown it is not adverse to getting down to the meaningful content very quickly, but this episode really hit that home.
And as much as I want to be a critic in some way, I’ve gotta say that I’m really loving it.
Aoi’s Cute, But Everyone Else Is Too
Why is Aoi so cute?
I’d just like to start off by reiterating for the…what, fourth time now, that Aoi is unfairly cute, helped immensely by the amount of detail that’s put into her character design, and animations. She is a real, relatable character who works hard, and puts her foot down, and this just makes her moments of imperfection, really lend themselves to her cute personality in general.
Not many anime choose to focus on such small details as losing one sock at a time, or reconnecting with family, but, you know, Shirobako does. And it’s making Aoi an immensely, immensely enjoyable, immensely relatable, main character.
Beyond that, this episode gave me a rather solid feel for the purpose of Aoi’s character in Shirobako as a whole, and I’ve gotta say, I can’t help but be exceedingly excited for it.
We start off the episode by following Aoi as she prepares for work, gets a call from home, and of course, continue the episode by following her as she deals with miscellaneous shenanigans at work. However, as is customary for Shirobako at this point, we also have an episodic focus on another character–in this case Ema–but we’ll get to that later.
That all being said, the whole point of noting this structure, is that, throughout the episode, although various events happen that focus on other characters, we always come back to Aoi. She’s the home base, the observer, the one doing their job and living their life, while steadily growing the entire time.
Overall, having realized this during this episode, I must say I’m really enjoying this structure.
It puts Aoi into a position to grow, setting her up for the rest of the series. From being put in charge of the thirteenth episode of Exodus, to continually dealing with the stresses of her co-workers, she is clearly, gradually growing into a more mature, self-confident person. But, her development is done slowly, allowing for episodes like this, which provide a huge amount of focus for other characters that need it, while still allowing for Aoi to confront the tough questions.
But I digress, I’ve been talking about Aoi a bit too much, and this wasn’t even her episode to shine! Rather, the main star of the show was Ema–who deals with problems that I’m sure many, many people out there can empathize with.
Ema, I Feel You
It was about time for Ema to get some solid growth, and I’m happy to see it. Dealing with the stresses of her work as an animator–in particular, needing to balance out drawing quickly to reach a quota, and drawing well for the sake of quality. It’s a question that makes sense, and one that I’m sure many people can relate to, in many, many fields.
However, that question leads to some rather tough situations. Worrying about growth like this, Ema ends up messing up in delivering her quota, drawing frames that just aren’t quality. It’s a rather key mistake, one that demands she redraw the frames from scratch, but, as one might expect, it hits Ema hard.
What we see here, is a diligent, hard-working person, trying to do their best, and dealing with the inevitable consequences of their actions, plain and simple.
This episode presents a situation which many can empathize with, myself included. It’s a real, if undesirable situation to be in, and that just makes it all the better, that Shirobako is tackling it in such a blunt fashion.
The episode doesn’t shy away from the tough ideas, the ones that sometimes hurt to consider, and garners a rapport with its audience by doing so. EVERYONE, or at least, most normal people, have hurt because of these thoughts, and as such, it’s getting really easy to get invested in the series. Shirobako isn’t establishing a whole new world, a whole new plot, a whole new story we’ve never seen before, and expecting its viewers to get invested–rather, it presents the story of everyday life, and allows its viewers to vibe with, and understand it.
This is what I thought, when watching Ema’s story. And man, it’s not even resolved yet!
That’s not even getting into the technical, storytelling-based details, of how, when Aoi walks a way, the animators took care to shift her expression from a fake smile, to a clear-as-day frown. How we see her alone, working hard on her drawings, or how we don’t see her eyes when she’s sad.
Overall, I LOVED how Ema’s development was done this episode–and I can’t wait to see how it’s resolved in episode 8.
I could say more about how Shirobako established a unique company vibe, and really felt like real life in many ways, but the stories of these two characters