SHIROBAKO starts out with five friends in a high school animation club producing an animation to screen at their school cultural fair. Aoi, Ema, Shizuka, Misa, and Midori swear that they’ll eventually reunite in Tokyo and make another anime together. The story then jumps ahead in time two-and-a-half years, where Aoi started as a production assistant at Musashino Animation on the Exodus anime, and is now working as production desk for Third Aerial Girls Squad. Ema is also at Musashino Animation working as an animator, and Midori has joined the staff working on setting production. Shizuka is a newbie voice actress at Akaoni Production.
Episode 19 sees Yano returning to work and helping Aoi through her stress. Yano jumps right back into things by taking on Episode Five of Third Aerial Girls Squad and working directly with Taitanic. She also takes it upon herself to ask a particular episode director named Iketani Hiroshi to direct the episode, and uses her talent of persuasion to get him to take the job.
But it was interesting to learn that Yano already knows Hiroaka. Through a conversation they have, we learn that Musashino Animation is the fifth animation company he’s worked for. It appears he has a tendency to quit his jobs due to butting heads with others too much. But I really liked seeing how Yano was able to keep him in check and make sure he does whatever she needs him to do in order to get things accomplished. Since she knows and understands Hiroaka, his attitude doesn’t bother her as much as it does the others, and she also knows how to handle him.
The highlight of this episode is when Masato Marukawa, the president of Musashino, takes Aoi to the building for Musashino Pictures, which was a company that went bankrupt and Musashino Animation sprang up as a new company after its closure. It turns out that this building is being used as storage by Musashino Animation, and Aoi gets to see that the cut bags stored here also include animation cels. The one she picks up has a cel for Andes Chucky, an older anime that Aoi really likes. Aoi and Masato have a very important conversation as she’s looking at the cel from Andes Chucky.
During this sequence, we get to see a flashback of when Masato worked at Musashino Pictures as production desk for Andes Chucky. I never would have imagined him having once looked like a hippie, because this is just so different from the Masato that we know in present time. We also get to see Masahiro Ookura as a young man as well. It was entertaining to see some of these older characters as their younger selves in the past.
After spending time at Musashino Pictures and getting to watch an episode of Andes Chucky while she’s there, Aoi realizes that she’s starting to find the fun in the work she’s doing and is ready to take on her role as production desk with a new energy. And things get even better for Aoi when she receives a call that Masahiro has returned, and she gets to see the background that he designed. He also tells her about how his career evolved, and I think some of what he says to Aoi helps her to understand that she’s not necessarily alone when she feels like she’s not entirely sure what her ultimate goal for her career is.
Between Yano’s help and the interactions with Masato at Musashino Pictures, it appears that Aoi is starting to get back into a better place mentally and emotionally. She was so distraught at the end of Episode 18, and this carried over into the early part of Episode 19. Yano couldn’t have come back at a better time, and Yano’s coolheadedness has helped to save Third Aerial Girls Squad.
I should also mention that the ending credits were different for Episode 19. Instead of the usual SHIROBAKO ending credits, we get to see footage from what would have been the ending credits for Andes Chucky, which is accompanied by a theme song that sounds like it came straight out of the 1970s era of anime. I thought this was a nice touch, and I really enjoyed it. I also thought the Andes Chucky theme song was incredibly catchy.
Now that a couple of major issues in the production of Third Aerial Girls Squad seem to be coming under control, I’m wondering what the next production challenge will be for the studio staff to deal with.