Shirobako Special 1 — Are We Still Under The Delusion That The Scream Franchise Is Funny?

Been struggling in terms of putting out a new review this week. You see, I was planning to do Daily Lives of Highschool Boys, but I had a hard time sitting through the episodes on Youtube because they share the same problems as every other comedy Shinji Takamatsu directs: too reliant on not knowing what the punchline is, too much time spent on in-joke dialogue, stupid signs pointing out the joke, and basically being so unfunny I had to watch Nichijou skits just to remind myself that it could be worse. Unfortunately, I ended up realizing that at least (and I’m being generous here) half the jokes were as funny as Nichijou’s except without the good animation, so I gave up on the series after sifting through five episodes and now all I have to show for it is a one-line review.

Might as well publish it since I went through so much effort: “Daily Lives of Highschool Boys is unfunny, hypocritical garbage that pokes fun at a genre it is no better at in terms of laughs, characters, or animation!” There. Review over! Now what? Oh wait, I finished a Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu rewatch recently and it was a way better school comedy/parody on virtue of I finished 13 episodes in two days whereas with Nichibores, it took me a week to get through five episodes. Maybe I could review that…what’s that? Shirobako released a special that’s basically the equivalent of a modern-day Kujikibi Unbalance and it’s only one episode so I won’t have to waste much time on it? Download!

Now I don’t remember enough about Shirobako to have a firm grasp on what Exodus actually is, but based on the first “official” episode, it’s some magical girl/idol/80s cop parody about three girls in an idol group called Tracy who are on the run after being framed for murder due to the fact that they are idiots. The main cast of Shirobako is making it because of behind-the-scenes stuff and/or personal feelings I’m not qualified to comment on, but I’m pretty sure that regardless of they’re happy to just be working on the show regardless of what they think of the quality and it pays the bills, so eh. Isn’t going to stop me from making fun of it though. What goes on behind-the-scenes is irrelevant to my judgment on the anime’s quality.

Not that I’d feel guilty either way considering the main cast of Shirobako is fictional. Now while I’m sure the real people behind Shirobako and this special are in a similar position to how the former portrays its staff, at the end of the day, you put your product out for purchase and thus I am going to thrash it if it fails to entertain. I already did that with your main show, and now I’m going to do it with your DVD/Blu-ray bonus that was apparently included because why not? Considering how much the fans worship Andes Chucky and whatnot, it makes sense that you’d allow them to experience what their favorite characters are experiencing.

As for the Exodus special itself, my main issue with it is that it’s not very good on its own in the same vein that the actual Kujikibi Unbalance anime doesn’t stand on its own. This kind of cartoon works in the background whilst the actual characters are doing other stuff because, well, it’s in the background and you don’t need to pay attention to it. Put to the forefront though, it’s like watching Haruhi: Episode 0 with no effort put into it whatsoever – with a dose of meta added to the whole mess, because anime still seems to be under the delusion that those Scream films are funny. Every single joke is uninspired matter-of-fact dialogue that either plays everything completely straight or comments on the weirdness and then goes back to being straight, which isn’t humor at all. That’s just trying to be bad and failing at it.

Within the first few minutes of the episode, we see the Charlie’s Angels trio talking to each other for a long long LONG time in the toilet because they’re using it as a dressing room due to being losers. This is an okay setup for jokes like maybe someone’s dump smelling worse than Pepe Le Pew in the neighboring stall or a toilet bomb being in the building for whatever reason, but no. The joke is literally that they change into skimpy outfits in a public restroom and that’s pretty much it, so let’s hope that the audience will continue laughing whilst our characters spout meandering dialogue. Another joke is that the characters comment on their Twitter follower account and how it’s miniscule, but then grows at an alarming rate due to the strange things they get involved. However, that’s not funny. That’s just Twitter acting like the Youtube-level evil platform it always has been. It might have gotten a laugh if they sent a tweet asking for people to save them ending up in a legion of fanboys to come out of nowhere, but nothing comes from it and the buildup is about as funny as watching a clown cry about marital problems because it turns out his wife is actually an ostrich.

You could argue that this special is a meta-commentary on how even the most likable and hard-working of people can’t produce good entertainment – which is certainly true of the Shirobako cast – but what exactly is it saying with that knowledge? I mean everyone already knows that the animation industry is awful and how hard it is to make the stuff and all that. Being purposefully bad in terms of jokes, animation, etc. in order to convey that point wasn’t even really that fresh when The Simpsons did it and it’s about as new as expired ice cream drowned in swamp water by today’s standards. Not to mention, if you showed this anime to someone without any knowledge of Shirobako, there’s a good chance they’d mistake it for a bad 80s OVA, so not only is this special not saying anything interesting and has no funny jokes, it falls under Poe’s Law of being completely indistinguishable from real bad anime that actually does what it does.

I know I’m probably being too hard on something that’s DVD-only and thus is made for the fans of this show, but would fans of the show really like this? Well okay, the MAL forum posters are eating it up alright, but they’re a very tiny fraction of Shirobako’s fanbase in general, let alone the anime fanbase. But regardless of its “special” status, the fact remains that this thing didn’t even get a smile out of me and that if this is what qualifies as parody/satire in anime, that genre is about as dead as the “spoof film” one. And at least Nichibros had someone getting stomped in the balls…oh wait, no it did not. Seriously, why did people ever think that show was funny?

Further Notes:

– Fully aware that I used to be a fan of the show in the past, thank you very much.

– For what’s it worth the “bag in a tree” skit and that one in the school festival episode where that girl was insulting the blonde dude was a little funny.

– I should point out I never grew up on old-school screwball comedies like What’s Up Doc?, Bringing Up Baby, or The Three Stooges, which a lot of anime seem to borrow from. Only ones I’ve really enjoyed are Some Like It Hot and The Great Race.

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