While many anime fans love watching anime, the reality is that a vast majority of them don’t spend much time thinking about how it is made. While the controversies about animators inhumane working conditions and voice actors issues with Crunchyroll’s anti-union stance are slowly becoming more common, the reality is that for many decade's anime fans never gave much thought into development process of their favorite shows. This is one of the reasons many of them had no problems pirating the stuff: anime was this magic product that just appeared out of thin air as opposed to something that hardworking humans poured blood, sweet, and tears into.

Considering some of the tough stories we are now aware of when it comes to how our anime is made, you would think that animators wouldn’t want to make a show where they have to make entertainment out of their job. Yet this has happened a few times, where animators make anime about how anime is made. Few of these reached wide popularity, but there is one particular series that not only got critical acclaim, it managed to highlight some of the issues in the industry without becoming too much of a downer: Shirobako!

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What is Shirobako?

X Best Anime With Female Protagonists Shirobako

Shirobako is an anime about an animation studio who produces anime. The main protagonist is Aoi Miyamori, a woman that had dreams of creating anime when she was a teenager who ended up becoming a production manager instead. It is her job to motivate the directors, find animators to animate key sequences, and deliver the finished episode to the TV station in time for the program to air. The name of the series comes from the fact that Aoi delivers the episodes on tape to the TV station in a white box (shirobako is the Japanese word that refers to these white boxes).

What Makes it so Great?

Pompo Shirobako

What makes Shirobako such a fun show for anime fans to watch is that the series does not shy away from the difficulties that come with producing anime. Aoi is constantly overworked and stressed out. She doesn’t appear to have a boyfriend and most of the staff constantly comment how they don’t see their family much. There is almost no episode in which you see any of the staff members enjoying a day off or even sleeping anywhere other than at their desks. When a director for an anime has writer's block, Aoi locks him in a room until he comes up with a good script.

While the meltdown is played for laughs, there is a feeling that there is a kernel of truth to scenes such as these. While complaints are never played too seriously, there is underlying acknowledgment that what they do requires far more time than most people realize. Yet the series doesn’t take the position that you should feel bad for them. On the contrary, these people are HAPPY to be working on anime! For many of them anime made them happy growing up, and they are more than happy to create new memories for a new generation of viewers.

What’s more, the series pays tribute to some of the most famous anime creators and productions that have made the industry so world-famous, and fans will have tons of fun pointing out all the real life inspirations. Shirobako can be enjoyed by so many people because it will mean different things depending on who you are. It is either a commentary for the brutal business that anime is, or it is a loving tribute to a medium that makes so many people happy. That it works so well in both formats is where the genius of the series lies.

Can You Watch it?

The Shirobako Girls

Ironically, Shirobako was originally simulcast on Crunchyroll (the very company that is coming under fire for failing to improve the lives of the people who make shows they stream). It is no longer there though, so if you want to purchase the series, Sentai Filmworks has released an excellent BluRay for collectors. The Shirobako movie (titled Shirobako: The Movie) can currently be streamed for free on Tubi and Plex, with a BluRay release by Eleven Arts. It’s a shame there’s no convenient way to currently stream the series, but at least there are ways to purchase it series if you are interested in viewing what has been described by many critics as the best anime about making anime.

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