A number of my Japanese colleagues either watch anime regularly, or know that I do, so whenever we meet the conversation turns to what was good recently. Of course, last time it happened, I had to trot out Shirobako and then compress its essense into a conversation bite. I went for ep.12 as an example, and on reflection, there’s no better.
You see, I never had a high regard for Anno. While everyone falls over backward in reverence, I thought that Eva was perhaps half-baked and a bit on the psycho side. It became milked like Star Wars, too. Given that, Shirobako 12 succeeded in portraying Anno in a positive light admirably. At least I think I know now what about him is worthy of respect. It was a revelation, frankly.
To know the details of the revelation, one perhaps should watch the whole thing. But one example part that stuck with me in particular is how the meeting of Aoi and (K)Anno opened. In the course of the series, we visited a few homes, such as those of Aoi’s girl friends. All of them live in small, cheap apartments (except Rii), yet each place has a special personal touch. Some cook more than others and thus their kitchenette areas are more elaborate. Aoi, obviously, has her 2 toys placed prominently, and so on. This way to support a character study is nothing new, although it’s clear that someone among Shirobako’s creators spent an effort on it. One way or the other, the rooms look lived-in.
So, when Aoi enters (K)Anno’s meeting room, it comes as a shock that it’s completely empty. It has basic furniture, certainly, but otherwise it’s devoid of any small private artefacts… Except that positioned prominently is a giant model of a submarine in 1:48 scale, under a glass box upon a pedestal. The direction of that scene is astonishing. And of course, there’s more where that came from.
P.S. Another fantastic moment is that (K)Anno does not miss an opportunity to preach, such as mentioning that contemporary animators ought to pay attention the basics more. It sounds so amazingly him. But while his interviews serve to magnify this annoying trait, Shirobako manages to admit it, yet demonstrate convincingly that it’s not only natural and excusable, it’s small compared to his big vision for the anime, big thinking scope, big wisdom.
UPDATE: Chris e-mailed with additional details how the interior design of the room pays homage to EVA. While a great example of how good references are made, it’s not the thing upon which I want to focus. Otherwise, I’d ramble at length about possible link between the Surcouf and EVA and anime in general.