What’s in the box?
Shirobako follows Aoi Miyamori, a production manager at Musashino Animation, as she navigates the anime industry, acting as the liaison among all the branches and people involved in making anime: directors, key animators, CG animators, inbetweeners, writers, voice actors, et al. She has the perfect vantage and cheery front to be our illuminating guide. However, although she enjoys the satisfaction of episodes released, the collective efforts come to fruition, and the upward mobility of her friends in their respective careers, she struggles to find meaning in her own work.
“If one wanted to crush and destroy a man entirely, to mete out to him the most terrible punishment … all one would have to do would be to make him do work that was completely and utterly devoid of usefulness and meaning.”
—Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The House of the Dead
How fitting that Midori should be reading “Dost.” As a foil to Miyamori, Midori has yet to enter into a career. However, she clearly knows what she loves: books and writing. With just that, she is eventually able to land a position on the writing staff. By contrast, Miyamori seems to have just somehow landed in her position as Musashino’s production manager without ever knowing if this is what she wanted. Now she routinely deals with unreasonable scheduling demands and irresponsible people. She is torn between growing indifference and a desire to find fulfillment.
Grin and bear it.
That is the approach of her co-workers when they are forced to pull consecutive all-nighters because people suck; or when her friend Shizuka has to don a mascot suit in sweltering heat after another failed voice acting audition. They do so because of passion. Without that, how can a wavering Miyamori continue to grin and bear the drudgery of work?
I am in my late twenties, and in a few years, I will be a resident at a hospital. Medicine is a consuming field that requires a lifelong commitment to studying, taxing efforts, and awful people. It is a scary prospect, and I am afraid that I do not have enough interest to sustain this path, that my interest in medicine is just fine.
Inside this white box is a depressing fill of uncertainty and doubt.
No, there is still some hope. The series ends on an optimistic note. The anime within the anime has its lead girl find a meaning to her flying. Likewise, Miyamori finds her goal at the end. For me in my late twenties, it might be too late to switch careers—I am too far in and too undecided. But, maybe it is fine to not yet reconcile personal fulfillment and work. Maybe meaning will eventually be found.