Tomoko Kuroki is hoping to become a popular girl in high school, after having only one good friend in middle school. The problem is she is incredibly socially awkward, barely speaking to anyone and at an audible level too. What's worse is that thinking she talked to boys before, like 6 times, she thinks she is popular and that she is on her way to become popular. But even the little hint at doing something she hasn't done before is seen as a improvement and that she is progressing, only to blow the next opportunity to socialize with someone, making her regress even more. She does realize that perhaps she's not the popular go she thought she was, so she makes attempts to rectify the matter. She tries to converse with popular brother, but he just finds her annoying yet she tries to humor her in her predicament. Her attempts to make conversation with boys at a rainy bus stop, hang out at a popular burger joint or having to work with a fellow boy student doesn't really help with her social skills. Her middle school friend does encourage her to keep doing her best, though something always seems to ruin her chances, be it an embarassing situation or even more awkward moments in her life...
This is a very funny show, but it's also sometimes painful to watch. Being a painfully shy guy myself, more so when I was younger, I always yearned for more social acceptance (but sometimes wanted to be alone), and yet I was able to establish some longlasting friendships not to mention actually get a girlfriend/wife in the end. Seeing Tomoko's attempts to try to fit in, to be more accepted are sometimes hillarious in their results. She even hopes to be molested on one of those tightly packed Japan trains so she could "fit in" with the other girls who have experienced it, and yet is of course horrified when she thinks it has happened to her (but in the end she wasn't after all). Trying different hairstyles, try to "change" her facial expressions and her inner monologues of jealousy and "plans" make you chuckle. You can't help though but feel for her when she tries to speak to someone--you can sense the awkwardness of the moment and kind of want to urge her on or go into the anime and try to help her. I'm glad this issue is being addressed in an anime series. Not every anime schoolgirl is all perky and outgoing, tough, a genius or can make friends from the get-go. This is a more realistic depiction of a person trying to fit in to their new surroundings, but of course in anime style so ideas and thoughts can be expressed in extreme and exaggerated ways. Besides being a humorous show, it has a decent insight as well as being an unshallow anime with a message. Thumbs up.
5 school friends consisting of Aoi, Ema, Shizuka, Misa and Midori are members of the animation club and their big project was to create an animation short. With their work and experience, all of them hope to work in the anime industry to work on an actual series in some capacity. 4 of the gang graduate while Midori, a year younger than the others, stays in the club. They succeed in getting a job in the industry, with the story focussing on Aoi. She becomes the production asisstant of Musashino animation, while Ema is the key animator of the company. Aoi's job has her driving back and forth, distributing cels that need to be colored and bringing finished ones back. She's also on hand on solving problems, such as if someone on staff gets sick and they have a deadline. She's also a mediator to solve arguments, and even comes up with ideas for the series they are working on: Exodus. Not only do they have a dilemma with the deadline, but one of the staff heads has an agreement over the director of an already completed scene, and requests it to be redone. There's a long discussion and Aoi states the staff must believe in the series, the characters, and that they are there with them in the studio. Suddenly they see a vision of the characters of Exodus floating above the meeting table, looking and smiling at them.
I was always fond of Animation Runner Kuromi by Akitaro Daichi. That was a hillarious take on what happens at an animation studio, featuring a new employee. Shirobako is similar in that vein, though with less exaggerated moments. I find Shirobako a more realistic take on the story featuring a young woman trying to get into the anime business. The setup is something we've seen before: a group of friends in high school with the same interest, run a club, then plan to use their skills to start a career (K-On! comes to mind). We have an extensive collection of characters running the studio: veterans, newbies, shy, outgoing, serious, silly, confrontational and friendly. They even have the elderly boss that makes food for everyone (reminding me of Hayao Miyazaki a little). We get to see their progress in all the aspects of production: working on the animation itself, and even see the voice actors doing their jobs. The challenges of bringing everything together is clearly seen. The animation director of the series had problems with his previous work and doesn't want to create another flop, while the director is not satisfied with a scene and the performance of the VA, suggesting to redo the scene, even this would set back the production. It's great to see scenes like this, and gives you a better idea of what happens during the creation of an anime--that it's no so easy and not everything is the fantastic final product that we see on TV like we do. The story gets you interested into seeing whether or not the company can pull it off, and on time. The whole idea itself is post modern, which I find intriguing: an anime series about people making an anime series. It makes for intriguing viewing and I look forward to more. Thumbs up.