Before I begin, I’d like to take a moment to mention that I adore Shirobako.
For the uninitiated, Shirobako is an office dramedy set in fictional anime studio Musashino Animation. Through the eyes of production desk worker Aoi Miyamori, fans are taken through the production process for a pair of shows. While the scenarios are definitely romanticized to a degree, the series manages to pull the curtain back far enough to give viewers an idea of what goes on during the production process.
At the same time, though, it’s a show that likes to wax philosophical, giving candid answers to questions that seem to linger in the back of every fan’s mind.
Which brings us to today.
In episode 20, “I’ll Do My Best, Mustang!”, Musani’s upper staff members gather to discuss how the last episode to The Third Aerial Girls Squad, the show within the show, should play out. The group agreed that main character Aria, who hadn’t flown for a half a year, should take to the skies for the finale. It as the why that seemed to evade everybody in the room.
As the group begins to ponder this question, scenario writer Maitake quips that asking why Aria flies would be similar to asking why the crew are working in anime.
And, with this one comment, the question starts to spread through the studio, as members began to ask one another about their reasons for entering the anime world. Some were simply working out of adoration for the medium. Others enjoyed the company of crazies that worked in the business.
What really seemed to hit home, though, were the comments from the most experienced team members. Director Kinoshita mused that he honestly didn’t think about why he worked in anime, but he knew that he couldn’t stop. Scenario writer Maitake agreed, nothing that he never thought of a real reason. Instead, he simply tried to meet one deadline after the next and, before he know it, the years had raced by.
This sentiment is one that was echoed a number of times through the series, especially from the oldest members in the cast. Studio owner Marukawa and Ookura told tales of idealistic youths, who put their noses to the grindstone. By the time they looked up, those crazy days of youth were gone. And yet, even knowing this, they couldn’t dream of doing anything different, given the chance.
When I started writing about anime, I was 16 years old. Still in high school.
Dial-up was a fact of life, and VHS was still king of the market, though it was starting to cede its ground to DVD. Shows like Noir and Rurouni Kenshin were topping the sales charts, and fansubs were a natural part of the daily dealings in the market. Granted, fansubs were a different beast at that point, often consisting of third-generation copied VHS tapes. Digital video was still generally a novelty, and streaming services like Crunchyroll and YouTube were firmly in the realm of science fiction.
I celebrated my 30th birthday, this past July.
When I take a look at the world around us, it’s impossible to really ignore that things have changed. We now live in a world where powerful computers are wafer-thin, and able to fit in our pockets. Entertainment is instant and, depending on the content, free with just a few mouse clicks, or a few simple taps. In North America, anime evolved from a cottage industry to a full-on multimedia empire. Competing niche video services like FUNimation, The Anime Network, and even Netflix fight for our subscription dollars, and shows that would normally take a year or more to reach our shores are now available within hours of the Japanese airing.
Had you asked me in 2001 if I’d still be writing about anime today, you’d probably be met with a strange expression. It as a hobby, a way to gush about my favorite shows, while learning more about the industry I adored.
The incredible people that youth would meet, the events he’d witness, and the countless amazing memories that lay before him would still be just a fantasy. Much like Shirobako‘s oldest studio members, he’d be focused on that next article, that next review, that next series. He’d keep doing what he wants to do, as the years fly by.
By the time he looked up from the glow of his notebook, he’d see a rich tapestry of fandom, colored by those very moments he had been a part of through the course of that decade and a half.
It’s something to be proud of.
While there have been the obvious stressful moments, I’ve had a lot of fun through this crazy ride. Anime fans are an amazing bunch, capable of truly incredible feats.
We’re reporters. We’re artists. We’re performers. We’re dreamers. We create, we share, and we invite others to join, because we adore anime. It’s a positive energy that’s not like any other.
Looking back, I don’t have any regrets for my years writing about anime. Given the chance, I’d do it all over again, and I don’t think I could ever stop.