Yeah, I know Shirobako is going to go on for another cour. I saw the advertisement that promised to introduce more characters and more problems. Still, there’s a reason this show isn’t popular on Nano and it doesn’t help that nobody wants to read the words of a man who hates their surprise-darling show of the year each week. As such, this will be the last I’m going to write about it, because after watching twelve episodes, I have to accept the fact that Shirobako (and PA Works stuff in general) is never going to appeal to me and move on to hating Ikuhara’s new thing or something. But before we part ways, I want to finalize some thoughts regarding why I’m not into this thing.
Obviously, I didn’t expect this show to explode in popularity (relatively-speaking) the way it did. But I sort of get why Shirobako appeals to the blogosphere. It has adult characters, which is considered rare in anime. It has snappy direction by the guy who made Girls Und Panzer, another critical darling that I don’t really care about. It’s about anime, and considering we’re anime fans, that appeals to a lot of us. And considering that a lot of us have jobs or are struggling to get jobs, it’s nice to see an anime that reflect that part of our lives.
But here’s the thing, I’m not like most anime fans. I’m not the strictest blogger when it comes to what I consider junk food entertainment or whatever you want to call it, but I am totally against Frog’s way of thinking regarding what’s considered fun. I don’t agree with Cara’s statement that you don’t watch Lain to be “entertained”. Because you see, I “do” try to interpret things for basic enjoyment. I “do” want my fiction to not spoon-feed me what’s going on. Even though I am capable of liking summer blockbusters and laugh-out-loud comedies, what separates the good ones from the bad ones tends to be elements that tickle the mind. And when my mind isn’t tickled, it tends to shut off completely.
Obviously, there are limits to that sort of thinking. I like Mamoru Oshii fine as a director, but he can be obtuse to the point of being impenetrable (Angel’s Egg, Sky Crawlers). Still, I don’t like Roland Emmerich’s blockbuster trash and there’s a reason why Ingmar Bergman is one of my favorite foreign directors. Now I’m not saying Shirobako has to be at the quality of a Bergman film. That’s too much to ask. But for all you fans of the show, answer me this: what exactly is in this anime for thinkers like me? Because being educated on anime production doesn’t really leave much to the imagination.
“What about how anime production affects the employers who make it? After all, that’s what you enjoyed about that one Paranoia Agent episode, isn’t it, Mr. Flawfinder?” It sure is, but here’s the thing: the employee died at the end of that episode as a consequence of his production fuck-ups. Shirobako’s biggest problem is that it never goes beyond threatening the characters’ work positions. That’s not an inherently bad thing, but that’s only intriguing depending on how the employees deal with said threat, and I’m not seeing anyone rob a bank in desperation. I’m not seeing anyone contemplate suicide. I’m not even seeing anyone make any kind of sacrifice to keep their job. I see people spouting textbook lines and…that’s pretty much it. This isn’t mind-racing. This isn’t even a plot. This is just fanservice without purpose, and I don’t do fanservice without purpose.
“But wait, Mr. Flawfinder! Considering who’s directing the show, surely you must be laughing at some of the jokes…” Okay, I’m going to have to stop you guys right there. Aside from You’re Being Summoned Azazel-san, Mizushima hasn’t directed anything I’ve really enjoyed, and the reason the former appealed to me so much – or at least the first season did – is because it was mean. It subverted my expectations in clever ways. It was borderline offensive. None of his other works do that, and Shirobako in particular isn’t even close to being mean. In fact, most of the humor comes from in-joking, and I hate that sort of stuff when it’s the crux of your humor. Hell, I found it (along with the lack of intriguing plot and character) painful in those Expendables films, and those movies are supposed to appeal to action fans like myself. And if I can’t like an action movie that’s pure purposeless fanservice, how do you expect me to like a slice-of-life anime that does the same thing?
The characters aren’t appealing to me because without good comedy and a good representation of anything I can sink my teeth into, there’s nothing else they’ve got going for them other than their character designs and the fact that some of them are parodies of real-life anime staff (and we all know I don’t care about those). There’s no actual plot that goes beyond the characters living their lives. It’s not even doing anything all that bad. It’s just “there”, and what am I supposed to say about something that’s just “there”? Psycho-Pass 2? Whether you hated it or not, at least it was upping the ante regard its crazy failures each week. Amagi Brilliant Park? That’s a highly-exaggerated comedic take on what Shirobako does, and yet I’ve written about every single episode despite only finding it decent at best because at least each episode succeeded or failed in a way that was fresh. Your Lie In April? It’s one of the worst dramas I’ve seen in a while, but at least it’s coming up with new ways to be tastelessly boring as it goes along – albeit not every week – and it’s overall failures are fun to discuss.
So if nothing is appealing to me in a good way, nothing is appealing to me in a bad way, there are no hints to indicate that this will change with the show’s second half, and it’s not even giving me good views, what else is there? Appealing to me in an average way? Yeah, that’s not my style, guys. Wake me up when PA Works makes an anime out of Jun Maeda’s new thing. At least that has a good chance of boring me in a way that’s fun to talk about.
PS: Yes, I know I didn’t write about Amagi’s 2nd episode. That was just an exaggeration.
PPS: Seriously, watch that episode of Paranoia Agent on Youtube if you have time. I rewatched it shortly after writing this post and it’s still one of the most biting insights into anime production/humanity’s faults I’ve ever seen.