The penultimate episode to Shirobako, episode 23, removed what little doubt I had that 2015 could possibly feature a better anime then Shirobako. Much like last year at this point of time, when I knew Hunter x Hunter had no need to worry about anyone rivaling it, I know I’ll spend the rest of this year looking for which anime will earn the number 2 spot in my year end countdown. There are many scenes from this episode of Shirobako that make the episode so memorable but there’s a small scene that really drives home how great this anime is.
The scene in question began with the staff of MusAni talking about the author of Third Aerial Girls Squad which they’re in the process of adapting into an anime and who apparently threw a fit about the anime original ending that was written for the anime. They remember that one of his earlier works had been already adapted into an anime. “Interesting,” I think to myself, “I wonder where this is going.” Then a funny thing happens, something I would never have expected, Hiraoka opens his mouth and this is what he says:
I felt like pausing and running outside to see if I would spot a squadron of pigs flying overhead or checking to see if Hell has frozen over (though I don’t know how one goes about doing that). Hiraoka just freely contributed something to the group without any of his trademark snark or attitude and mentioned his past love towards an anime/manga. It was a momentary urge because I realized they’ve been laying down the necessary parts to explain this change of character for the last several episodes now.
Why this scene stands out in my mind as a reason for Shirobako’s greatness is a lower quality anime would have just told us that author was upset over how his earlier anime was adapted. A better quality anime would assume the audience has a shred of intelligence and that we’ll figure it out from the information provided, which we do. A better yet anime tries to accomplish multiple objectives within the same scene; so, instead of just using a scene to tell us the author’s mindset, the creators of Shirobako also use this scene to advance a character arc by showing how much someone has changed and developed. Another step up in the quality department is an anime that concerns itself with the character development of a mere supporting character; there was no need for Shirobako to allow Hiraoka’s character to change over time but they did it anyways. Further up the ladder of quality is an anime that assumes the viewer will understand he/she has just witnessed an important moment in the development of a character and doesn’t need to be explicitly told so. Even better, is an anime that can handle character development arcs of it’s many side characters without disrupting the flow of the show; an episode wasn’t needed to devote to Hiraoka character development nor was this episode slowed from reaching it’s overarching story and plot goals for Hiraoka character development. And finally, the best quality anime series created by the true master craftsmen are the ones that make creating anime look easy and that’s what it feels like when I watch this scene from Shirobako, episode 23.