Quarter-life Crisis in Shirobako

What’s in the box?

Shirobako Miyamori

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.

Shirobako Dostoyevsky
“Well, right now, I’m really into Dost…oyevsky.”

“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.

Third Aerial Girls Squad finale

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.

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10 thoughts on “Quarter-life Crisis in Shirobako

  1. I’m a first year medical student, so I should call you senpai.
    I hope you find your meaning in medicine, or a specialty to fall in love with, or at least something without crazy hours so you can have time to yourself.
    頑張りましょう!^_^

    1. @inksquid43:
      A fellow med student! Good luck on the long road ahead.
      I still have a year before I really have to decide on my specialty. It’s a pretty big decision with so many factors to consider, but I have my preferences. Hopefully, things will turn out fine.

      Anyways, thanks so much for reading! (You’re my first commenter on here! Much love. ^ ^)

  2. Ah! You should have mentioned a quote from this show that really applies to a part of your theme here:

    “I’m just an old guy who missed his chance to give up.”
    — Shigeru Sugie

    (in the last few years I’ve begun to feel that way myself)

    1. @Cratex: That is such a befitting quote from the show; I’m a bit sad I forgot about it in my cynicism, especially because it’s kind of comforting. Old guy Sugie is doing what he loves and having a great time, because he beared it. I actually do feel a little more inspired thinking back on that part of the show.

  3. ->For me in my late twenties, it might be too late to switch careers—I am too far in and too undecided

    Foo. Never to late. Actually, 27 was when I made a major change in my goal. After spending nearly 4 years in grad school for physics I decided it and I were not a good match and went into computer programming (which I had learned on the side as a needed tool for most physics studies anyway). Though, admittedly the first job I got was because I was a programmer who understood orbital mechanics – not that I’ve ever actually used any math I didn’t learn in high-school (still a bit of a sore spot with me). 27 was over 25 years ago now, and I’m still programming, though for a major financial investment company – a long way away from where I started.

    1. @Cratex: At 27 and in grad school for physics… That must have taken a lot of courage and soul searching. Maybe it’s not too late, but I think it’s hard for me to imagine doing so right now, because I’m not sure what I would switch into if I do switch, and I do like medicine… I’m just not sure if I love it (or if I need to love it).

      Anyways, I’m really happy things worked out for you!! Cheers~

  4. Ah this strikes a chord, I’m a penultimate year medical student myself. I’m not even practicing as you are Yi but increasingly I find myself wondering “is this this life I saw for my life”, you know? I think for me it is more the system in which medicine is practiced in my country. Quickly I have become disillusioned by it. So I too question whether my dedication to medicine can sustain a lifetime of practice.

    I find solace in the fact that I do love the study, even if the reality of the practice is less than ideal. But also solace in that no effort made in earnest is ever a waste of time. Even if you don’t continue with medicine forever it is not a waste. And equally it’s never too late to change. “I’m just an old guy who missed his chance to give up.” I actually didn’t take to the quote well, because I think this applies to many people at a variety of ages- 20, 30, 50, 70 years – and even across grades in the profession- juniors, residents, senior clinicians and consultants. It’s rather idealistic but I do think the only time its too late to change is when you’re unwilling. Equally as you said, meaning and certainty may eventually be found in the future, quitting too early can be just as bad as never mustering the courage to quit. Ultimately I think you shouldn’t question *whether* you have enough passion or dedication, rather, is it what you want to be doing at that moment. If you find yourself answering ‘no’ in the future, then perhaps its time to consider a change. At least, that’s how I’ll approach these difficult questions in my medical career. I rambled a lot here about my personal thoughts, apologies for the essay. I hope you find your answer and and peace of mind on this 🙂

    1. @Naussicaa:
      “Ultimately I think you shouldn’t question *whether* you have enough passion or dedication, rather, is it what you want to be doing at that moment.”

      I like this. A lot.
      Since my summer vacation ended, I’m back to rotations. I’m enjoying most of it, especially because I’m doing my electives for the first two courses: surgery (G.S., pediatric, and thoracic) and urology). Keeping myself busy and enjoying the day-to-day of scrubbing in, studying, and taking patients has kept my mind off the career crisis I’d been having for a while now. Perhaps, the question really is whether I’m enjoying the moment.
      The disconnect between the practical grinding reality of medicine and the ideal still exists, but maybe I can have some peace for now.

      Anyways, thanks for your lovely thoughts!

      p.s. I’m actually in the penultimate year of medical school myself too, but the systems probably differ for you and me. Internship is the last year of medical school, and the penultimate year is clerkship.

      1. Ah, didn’t see this reply until just now!

        Well I’m happy if my thoughts helped you crystallise your feelings in any way. I didn’t realise you were still a student, I think we’re in a very similar place then. I have rotations all year as well. I’m finished with general medicine and the surgical blocks, I move onto specialties in the new year. I find myself feeling a bit opposite to you, I’m growing tired of the hospital. I’m more eager to flex my creative, muscles; write, do photography etc. I’m sure it’s just the winter spirit though, makes me eager to sit in warm places doing things that warm the soul aha.

        Anyway, I hope the new year brings new excitement for the both of us in our medical careers!

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