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12 days of anime #5 – Being Shizuka is suffering [Shirobako]


There’s one girl in the five major Shirobako donut girls that kept getting rejected by the anime industry. Her friends Aoi and Ema had landed safe jobs in a decent studio by the time the series began. Her two juniors were either intern or student at first, but they soon proved their competence and were employed in their desired positions as the series progressed. This girl Shizuka, however, she’s a whole other story.

I wrote about Shirobako in my 12 days series last year, as well as picked a Shizuka’s screenshot to introduce that post. Here, history is repeated as the second season of Shirobako surpassed the first and Shizuka even outdid her last-year development.

Shirobako 23 - Shizuka 2

Shizuka is an aspiring voice actress but she couldn’t get any role. Based on the optimistic atmosphere of the series, one would think that the payoff will sooner or later be awarded to her, as it has been for many hardworking characters. Episodes after episodes and we anxiously realised that, well nope, Shizuka was still a part-timer being left behind, forever seeing people going ahead while she herself was stuck in the dark. Her dream was crushed again and again and again. It really isn’t fair, seeing how others of the same series achieved theirs much quicker and more excitingly.

As audience started to wonder “What about Shizuka?”, the poor girl made one unforgettable comeback in episode 23. Only the penultimate one, but I had a feeling then that there’s no need for any further 20-minute episode to wrap up the story. To me the series was already perfect right at that moment. I left the desk, tumbled into my bed, feeling half numbed, half restless due to the overwhelming streams of thoughts.

She didn’t succeed, in terms of achieving the initial goal she had set out for. Yet there is consolation in being so uncertain about the future.

Shizuka definitely has grown as a character, especially when we do a little comparison between her first attempts at audition and the last we saw of her in episode 23. Less was focused on her hope, determination, anxiety or shyness; more on how humble she became. Quietly nodding and flashing a faint smile at Aoi, Shizuka went on to do a last-minute recording session with Musani studio. Her clothes plainer, her attitude calmer. She kept that smile throughout the whole time, projecting the image of an adult who had experienced defeats and was well aware of more defeats to come.

Amidst all that, Shizuka was one step closer to her dream.

The mere line both hurts and enlightens its audience, showering us with mixed feelings. It doesn’t save Shizuka from her struggle, not to say it necessitates further sufferings by painting a long arduous road ahead. At the same time, her line from the studio’s script is encouraging because it asks us to look at her own progress, her efforts, her personal battle against the odds; everything else is secondary, even occasional failures, inadequacy or envy. And it is also touching considering how she was genuinely happy at so small a step forward. Even more amazing is how Shirobako extended the scene with Aoi’s subdued cry, on behalf of all audience at home, the cry we would probably have for friends who undergo the same painfully long struggle as Shizuka’s.

Characters of Shirobako usually provide a variety of facets that make up the adult world of life and work. They do a good job at representing what I’ve been through after graduation. In the case of Shizuka, it’s the calmness of humility. Episode 23 of Shirobako features an epic scene. The scene doesn’t even need any grand movements. It happens during a recording session, in a studio room, lasts for 2 minutes with only some simple lines. It never ceases to resonate with me nevertheless.

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