an outsider’s view of shirobako

MAL score progression for Shirobako (now it’s 8.46) [1]

Recently I’ve gotten an excuse to do nothing but watch anime every day for hours on end (I got finger tendonitis), so I’ve been going through my anime backlog. I’ve been out of the scene for basically five years now, so I haven’t watched or even heard about all but the most popular shows since 2012.

I think it’s worthwhile to give my unbiased view on Shirobako. Judging from the progression of the score on MyAnimeList (top image), people came to like it more and more as the show went on, going from a trash-tier 7.18/10 to a top-100 anime score. And from the few blog posts I read [2,3], the cultured individuals of the blogging community have held it in high regard.

So this is where I come in, I guess. In my aimless browsing of memes on reddit, I ended up watching one of ProZD’s videos [4] where he mentions Shirobako as a top-10 anime. Although my taste in anime is completely different from ProZD’s (i.e. I wouldn’t put any of the other anime he mentions into my top 20), I started watching Shirobako almost immediately after, ran through it in four days, and slapped on a 10/10 score.

Obviously, it’s meta-good: watching Shirobako will give you a much better understanding and appreciation of anime production. I can still say Kabaneri was shit, but at least I now I can see the stressed-out staff behind the anime. Because its angle is documentary-based, I’m having fun while learning. As Scamp put it – edutainment.

This alone makes it good. It’s a documentary about anime presented to anime fans in anime form by anime-loving anime creators!!! How can that possibly fall flat? This target audience is a huge bullseye one millimeter away. As some random guy on reddit put it – it’s “a love letter to anime,” hand-delivered right into our sweaty otaku palms. What’s more heart-pounding than that?

I hope everybody caught these Nichijou figures…

Shirobako is an exceptional anime masquerading as a mediocre one. There was no point during the series that I said “wow,” unlike with my other favorite anime. The story is predictable, the visuals so-so, and the characters shallow. It’s actually funny how much they talk up the difficulty of drawing the horse scene, and then that “Exodus” scene comes out looking… sub-par.

Rather than impress me with one thing, Shirobako sticks to its theme and hits all the spots just right. Just the right amount of anime references (in particular, Nichijou figures) without going overboard (Genshiken). Introducing and maintaining a wide cast of characters without too much emphasis on the core characters (New Game). A lot of information a la documentary while steadily pushing the production along.

It’s the carefully balanced sum of all these ingredients that makes Shirobako stand out, and the brilliance is that it looks so natural and effortless. I could have easily fixated on how unrealistic it is for five high school graduates to make an anime in three years, or on how one-dimensional every character seemed to be… but it doesn’t matter, because nitpicking any small thing is beside the point.

Exodus is a nightmare, though…

I’m easily influenced by others’ opinions: my slight like/dislike of a show can be amplified or reversed based on some Youtube video or blog post. So after watching Shirobako, I’m glad to read that other people love it too.

P.S. I started getting into anime 10 years ago (2007), and since then I could only bring myself to give out three scores of 10/10: Eureka Seven, Welcome to the NHK, and Nichijou. Yet last week I gave out two “perfect scores” back-to-back: the best anime adaptation of all time, Made in Abyss, and a modest show about anime production, Shirobako. Anime is getting better and better.


[1] Reddit/r/anime post: “MAL Score Progression – Winter Season 2015” April 4, 2015.

[2] Scamp @ The Cart Driver: “Shirobako should be required viewing for anime fans” March 19, 2015.

[3] otou-san @ Shameful Otaku Secret: “Shirobako: Flippin’ Good” January 29, 2015.

[4] ProZD @ Youtube: “5 More Anime I Love” August 30, 2017.

2 Comments on “an outsider’s view of shirobako”

  1. flomu says:

    P.P.S.: merry thanksgiving, and good sales to all!

    Also, forgot to mention: Shirobako has the best ED I’ve ever seen. It shows the production of a really detailed frame, character-by-character and step-by-step, with six different ED sequences for the various characters. Not to mention how well the music syncs with everything. The effort that went into just these EDs is astounding.

  2. […] Flomu at, er… flomu takes a look at Shirobako, and breaks down what makes this show so damn endearing. From the industry insights to the countless playful references, they managed to describe the […]

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