Frankly speaking, the studio known as P.A.Works has never really impressed me before. Some of you may not care about the production side of anime but I’m sure you’ve heard of the shows produced by this company. Titles like Angel Beats, True Tears, Canaan and Another, to name a few classics, come to mind.

I've never really watched any of those classics unfortunately because it was before my 'time' but I have tried watching many of their more recent shows without actually realising that they were all produced by the same company. Now, looking back, with that same absence of realisation, I noticed a pattern of always dropping the shows or getting bored halfway through.

My personal examples are Tari Tari, Nagi no Asukara, Glasslip and Charlotte. Now before you kill me for spitting blasphemy, hear me out. I used to like pure shonen, romance and slice of life stuff when I was in my teens. I mean, growing up, it's natural to seek out mediums of similar expression. In this case, aspiration, love and maturity. But now that I've grown up, my tastes have altered slightly. Not entirely so that I can't watch a good romance anime but points given if said romance anime followed a more matured storyline or if it had good comedy thrown into the mix. Furthermore, there's one big factor I tend to look at when starting or getting into new shows. It can't have too slow a pacing and it can't be all-drama. First impressions are crucial here.

Now we arrive at my examples. Those animes were mostly slice of life with high school characters as their main cast, all wrapped up in the emotions of youth and the eruptions of love. That in itself should give you the answer as to why I dropped them or lost interest almost entirely. Honestly, the pattern was there and had I bothered to research the studio, I probably would have avoided all their shows for good, writing them off as a niche studio not catered to my likings.

Presently, I have researched the company. What I said before would be true. I would actually have avoided this studio. That is, until I watched Shirobako.

Fellow author of the blog, Lance, wrote an article about Shirobako long before I started. I recommend you read it before continuing with my article.

As Lance wrote, Shirobako is an anime about making anime. It’s like how Girlish Number was an anime about seiyuus but while Girlish Number was a very satirical show, Shirobako is literally just about people making anime. You follow their day-to-day with a bit of narrative thrown into the mix. Honestly though, it really is about just watching them stress out over their work over the many aspects of making an anime.

How is that good you might ask? I mean, they're just doing things without actually doing anything. Aside from simply shoving Flying Witch into your face as an example (a great show that has a similar lack of narrative direction), P.A.Works has their own sort of sub-genre known as the ‘working life’ where they simply showcase, well, the working life. While you might think that that’s very much like a boring sub-genre to the ‘slice of life’, I can assure you that for Shirobako at least, it works very well. Shirobako won an Anime of the Year award and for good reason.

Firstly, the thing I realised about P.A.Works is that they don’t lack a budget or rather, don’t lack the will to spend it. Their animations are well made with a lot of attention to detail. This explains why I’ve tried so many of their previous works. They all look great! Good enough for me to want to try it out! But this especially is important for Shirobako. When the characters in the show are talking about art and animation and CG, you can’t just expect them to narrate all of that while living within their own world of wonky animations or misplaced art. That's just a cruel form of meta-humor. Execution is important for Shirobako when the importance of execution is the topic at hand.

Voice acting is important too! Again, if the topic at hand is about voice acting, the delivery of that topic should have great voice acting. Shirobako definitely succeeds there, especially so because of its characters. I went in initially thinking I’d probably not like at least one of the characters but lo and behold, even the annoying comic-relief character was well received! They don't even play any particular character archetypes. They all sound like real humans and behave like real humans.

Note: If you ever meet a real life tsundere, do give me call.

But see, after having said all that, the charm of Shirobako doesn’t come from its budget. It doesn't come from the fact that it's a well produced anime about producing a well produced anime. It comes from how the show surprises you without actually surprising you. Shirobako likes to plays with itself quite a bit. Want to show off your budget but also teach a character about art direction? Toss in a very well animated and very cool baseball batting scene with a gothic Lolita as the lead player. Want to change the pacing of an otherwise sombre mood? DANCE EXERCISE!

Aside from the humour, the show informs you in the best way possible. It doesn't tell you what's right about a particular art form, it shows you. There are a lot of moments where the show talks about improving or changing a certain aspect to their in-show anime. These aspects are later applied to future episodes of Shirobako itself. It's a small thing but it adds flavour. When you notice the self-referential statements, you can't help but smile.

Shirobako delivers you on emotion. It delivers you on just what it is. I never expected to tear up about people accomplishing their dreams because well, that happens. It always does. You expect it! But yet, watching that scene, you should know that I got all teary eyed and fuzzy on the inside. These fictional individuals doing stressful fictional work invokes such a strong atmosphere that it grabs you. It draws you in, but not to cheer for them. To appreciate them. To appreciate yourself. It succeeds where a lot of shows fail at; being genuine. And for that, I rate Shirobako a 10/10.


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