Watching Shirobako has been a really awesome and informative viewing. There’s definitely a sense of sincerity and deep passion, not just at the heart of it all, but in every minute detail hand-crafted with the utmost earnestness.
Each of the characters are relatable in their own way, and the script and writing of the series remarkably manages to accomplish being both entertaining and insightful at almost all times in one way or another. Characterization is impressive, oscillating between times of stress and panic in the workplace and times of heartfelt enthusiasm for the work, driven by reminders of their passions and aspirations. Not a single scene goes by without me feeling something for the characters, rooting for them, laughing with them, being inspired by them… It’s all incredibly endearing.
However, I couldn’t help but make parallels to Animation Seisaku Shinkou Kuromi-chan. Shirobako’s wild and energetic predecessor if you will. It does quite a lot in only two episodes. In both cases you get to see the overall production of things in the anime industry depicted quite well, though in different approaches. Shirobako is the more nuanced, fleshed-out, and grounded way of seeing not just the work but the people behind the process, how it affects them, how they cope, and how they get through it all by the end. Whereas, Animation Seisaku Shinkou Kuromi-chan takes a more hyperbolic ‘cartoony’ route. A lot of the same ideas in Shirobako are present in this, but done so with dark humour and dramatization of the harshness the anime industry has to offer.
Comparatively, Animation Seisaku Shinkou Kuromi-chan is a lot more over-the-top and comical in how its characters meet seemingly impossible deadlines and reacting with some of the most exaggerated personalities and expressions I’ve seen out of anime. While Shirobako has the characters already in the workplace already knowing what their jobs entail, Animation Seisaku Shinkou Kuromi-chan puts the protagonist in sort of the same spot as the viewer (with her being a newbie plucked from training and giving scarcely any orders or guide as to what she’s supposed to do), for a more direct approach in expositing the ins and outs of the process involved, through friendly instruction in large thanks to Hamako Shihonmatsu.
This woman is nothing short of amazing. Despite her heavy workload, she remains a warm-hearted and caring individual. As animation director, and with such short staff, she also does in-betweens, which often end up being done from scratch due to certain people there working fast, but crudely so, with unacceptable drawings as their results practically all the time. Understandably, this bothers Hamako, because she has to redo the drawings and give herself more work, but she feels responsibility toward the studio’s production and wants it to be as good as it can be. Though she’d rather not do work at all than do it badly. Very few characters have left such a strong impression in such little screen-time, but Hamako is someone I can admire.
Now one of the main differences between the two shows is that Shirobako, though quite humorous at times, is more of a drama and is clearly trying to express the labours and loves of the anime industry alongside deeper insight on the process in a much more realistic manner than Animation Seisaku Shinkou Kuromi-chan, which is so ridiculous in its presentation that it does feel more like a comedy than a serious down-to-earth depiction of the industry and its staff. However, I find it charming in its parody, and believe it does well with its dramatized style in conveying its intended message and in showing the cruel side of the animation process.
Both shows not only manage to serve as deeper insights into the industry itself, but also entertain us as a dramatic showcase of these people’s lives, or a comedy making light of the stress and sufferings concerningly common within the workplace. They both demonstrate the pressures of production managers and catering to the artists as individuals with their own worries and insecurities, although Shirobako takes all these ideas a lot further, in large part due to its longer runtime and more serious tone. It should be noted that Shirobako is the only one of the two to show the goings-on regarding voice acting, and does so marvelously. Either way, anyone curious enough about the animation process will likely come away from both of these shows more knowledgeable, or if not, you may at least find them entertaining.