… has had one of the best opening three episodes ever.
So far this show has perfected the moe slice-of-life genre of “cute girls do cute things” (CGDCT). While pioneers of the genre (Azumanga Daioh, Lucky Star, K-ON) featured cute girls doing either boring-as-fuck or purposely cutesy things, Sora yori mo Tooi Basho makes what happens interesting by itself. The actions, rather than the characters, are cute. Look above at Hinata and Mari’s stupid-looking grins as Shirase panics.
What about Mari’s “sexy pose”?
It’s with good reason I had to look up the characters’ names while writing this post. I don’t remember them, and moeification/sexualization is not the point here. So far this show has succeeded because it hasn’t wasted time deliberately trying to make waifu material (a la Mio of K-ON), as shown in the really low number of favorites for the four main characters on MyAnimeList: 20, 9, 8, and 5 favorites out of over 25,000 people watching the series.
These past three episodes have been fantastic, but with the gang all together, I’m a little worried about the future. As long as the series can stay away from overused, stereotypical scenarios and dialogue I can predict minutes in advance, it should easily break into my top 20.
A wise man once said:
“One top 20 anime list is worth a thousand blog posts” -flomu
The same man also said:
“Judge a man not by his blog posts, but by the content of his top 20 anime list” -flomu
I’ve found it hard to talk about which anime are “good” and “bad” without any context. How can you trust my judgment of Shirobako when you don’t even know what I’ve seen before? What if I’ve only seen Berserk 2016 and Berserk 2017? Maybe Shirobako isn’t so good, then. At the same time, it’s overkill to have to look through my entire anime list — a top 20 should be good enough to tell you what I’ve seen and what I like. And here’s that top 20.
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  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.
Character of the century, right here.
It’s not hard to see why ~*Erased*~ is so popular and highly rated. In all my years of watching anime, I can’t think of any characters as instantly endearing and likable as Kayo. She’s the damsel in distress trope, dressed up in cute little girl form with a touch of tsundere to boot – a weeb’s dream, huh? The voice actress behind Kayo (Aoi Yuuki, known for voicing Madoka) delivers raspy lines that ramp up from shy and quiet whispers to fully confident speech.
My favorite anime, Eureka Seven, takes its full 50 episodes to build up Eureka’s character from a stone-cold, emotionless wall to an emotional and outspoken love interest. With Erased, the same thing happens but over only 6-7 episodes. It’s Eureka Seven-level character development in its rawest form, and it’s just so satisfying to watch.
Unfortunately, after taking out the most interesting character, the last third of the series can’t even get close to the magic of the first arc. I read some people saying it’s just that fans felt like their SatoruxKayo pairing got ruined, and I think that’s essentially right. The overarching mystery plot got thrown away early on in favor of developing Kayo’s character and a romantic drama subplot. This bit got out of control, dominating each episode until Kayo basically gets cut out of the show… cold turkey. My and others’ feverish addiction of Kayo can’t be satiated by simply returning to that husk of a mystery show! I don’t care who the killer is! Give me more Kayo!
Time to read the manga. I heard that ends differently.
Continued from last time… Meiko kicked Taneda out of the apartment because Meiko’s mom (Momko) came over.
Taneda took Kato’s keys, planning on sleeping over at Kato’s place for the night. However, he runs into Meiko, who’s walking around outside after having yelled at Momko. They go back home and see that Momko has left, leaving a note on the table saying that she knows Taneda lives there. As Meiko and Taneda have sex, Taneda reveals that he’s very distant with his workaholic parents, and is jealous of Meiko’s relationship with her mom.
The next day, Meiko and Taneda meet up with Momko at some fancy restaurant, and they have an extremely awkward conversation. Meiko can’t stand it and leaves for a bit, and Momko tells Taneda:
A long time ago, I graduated from a college here and worked in the city. The times being what they were, I ended up back in Akita. She probably doesn’t realize it, but Meiko sees me as someone to avoid becoming. And that’s probably why she doesn’t want to come home.
There are times when I wonder what might have happened if I’d done things differently, but… am I happy? Yes, I’m very happy.
Anyway, I think the two of you should be free to do whatever you want right now. When you’re young, you think the only way to happiness is the hard road… but it’s actually much simpler than that.
Mr. Taneda, please take care of Meiko for me.
Meiko walks in as Momko bows to Taneda, and then they leave, etc.
I included Momko’s entire monologue up in the summary because aside from Taneda talking about his parents, this is the only part that really matters in the chapter. Momko’s advice is basically Asano’s advice – this is the first instance where any character really tries to answer the central question: “what does it mean to be happy?”
Momko’s answer: to be content is to be happy.
It’s a really… mature response that directly contradicts how Meiko and Taneda are leading their lives. Whereas Momko has found happiness in her family, Meiko and Taneda think that chasing and achieving their dreams is the key to happiness. Yet Momko doesn’t rule out this “hard road” — she says that Meiko and Taneda need not take such a path, but she still wonders what could have been.
It’s a really vague answer to a really vague question, but Momko’s monologue really succinctly and effectively gets the point across. The line about the hard road in particular is worded so well:
When you’re young, you think the only way to happiness is the hard road… but it’s actually much simpler than that.
It’s such a different take on happiness than what Western media (or maybe popular media) typically puts out. Motivational quotes based on “chasing your dreams” permeates everything we do. It’s the topic of shows like American Idol, the popular interpretation of the road not taken, and goes down to #yolo. It’s not just about trying to be different, but about trying to live life to the fullest and to die without any regrets.
Yet in this chapter, Momko presents a decidedly different view — one that represents older generations, and perhaps more Japanese? (I know almost nothing about the #yolo culture in Japan, so I’m not going to say anymore about this.) It’s so refreshing, yet elicited such an immediate, knee-jerk response in me. Maybe that’s Asano’s whole point. It’s hard to tell only four chapters in whether or not Asano is trying to preach Momko’s solution of contentment, or promote Meiko’s solution of chasing dreams.
At least he got me thinking.