The irony of anime being easier to legally enjoy than ever before, thanks to online streaming and simulcasts, is that I’m actually watching less anime than I did when I was younger. I’m not sure why, either. Maybe it’s because the flood of new series that comes out with each season is overwhelming. Or maybe it’s because I’m an old fart who prefers the general look and stylings of anime from the 80s and early 90s. Or hell, it could just be that the list of hundreds upon hundreds of games I want to examine is higher priority. As a result, there’s a lot of stuff I want to watch, and fully intend to watch… someday. Mostly stuff folks online have given high praises, like Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, Ore Monogatari, Tatami Galaxy, Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, and a whole shitload of Gintama. (And maybe some Ushio and Tora too, y’know, to satiate my love of out-of-left-field throwbacks.)
My viewing habits have changed, too: rather than buying DVDs volume by volume as I did in the early aughts, I prefer to binge-watch batches of stuff when the time arises. I make a few exceptions: I eagerly ate up SeHa Girls when it came out, and I’m watching the adaptation of Jojo part 4 weekly. Generally, though, I like my anime in meaty chunks — which is how I opted to view the subject of today’s article. I watched most of the first half of Osomatsu-san before I left for my Japan trip, and blazed through the rest of it last weekend in-between some writing, which was probably the ideal way to consume this show: Once you get a taste of the Matsuno brothers, you want another hit of it as soon as possible.
It’s a damn fine show, is what I’m saying.
Though I risk putting myself up for intense mockery, I must get this confession out of the way immediately:
I cried during Shirobako.
It was the arc during episodes 7 and 8, where Ema Yasuhara is struggling with her craft as a key animator. She wants to do good quality work, but she has to learn to do things quickly, because the production is falling behind schedule and deadlines are cruel in the world of making anime. But the people checking her are unhappy with her work, asking her to redo it. She just can’t seem to get it right to her and their satisfaction, and she’s terrified, because not delivering something acceptable means that people won’t give her more work. She wants to be proud of her work, she wants others to like her work, but her own self-doubts and frustration and a looming deadline are crushing her. All she wants to do is make a living off the creative work she loves, but now she’s doubting her ability to do that.
I cried alongside her as she voiced her fears to the lead character, Aoi Miyamori. I knew how she felt. I’d been where she was many times over. Sometimes I still find myself feeling like her. It’s a scary, scary place to be, and here it felt all too real. Even as I was watching it again to get screens for this article, it felt like a gut-punch: seeing her just barely holding it together in front of Aoi and going into full-blown panic after she steps away.
This is one of the many reasons why Shirobako is such a terrific show: the emotional highs and lows of the characters resonate with anyone who has ever gone to work in a field they were starry-eyed over. It’s a show about following your dreams, seeing the reality of those youthful dreams firsthand, and struggling to come to terms with exactly why you’re following those dreams.
It’s an anime about people who make anime.
A lot of folks are aware that I am a giant supernerd for Sega-AM2, and their fighting games in particular. Besides owning entirely too much stuff related to Virtua Fighter and Fighting Vipers, I collect various factoids and trivia about the games in an important area of my brain most people would reserve for something like remembering the names of their relatives. One such factoid has been the existence of a Virtua Fighter OVA released in 1996 by Production I.G., a 30-odd-minute outing that’s completely separate from the more well-known TV VF anime by Studio Pierrot. Called Virtua Fighter Costomize Clip, it was released in 1996 in very limited quantities, and it’s so unknown that even Anime News Network’s otherwise comprehensive catalog lacks any information about it.
I’ve been actively seeking a VHS copy out for a while (along with more chapters of Virtua Junky, a mid-90s manga about people playing Virtua Fighter 2), but actually obtaining a copy, even through a proxy, has proven extremely difficult. However, it was recently brought to my attention that the whole thing is now up on Youtube in a VHS rip. I’m not quite sure how I missed it for so long (maybe because I was looking under what its correct English spelling should be, “Customize Clip”?), but what matters now is that it’s found and oh my lord is it ever a nostalgia trip to the height of VF’s mid-90s popularity.
Let’s watch it together, shall we?
I must admit, when I first heard the news that the KEI-designed Sega Hard Girls were getting an anime, I was not terribly enthused. Not because I didn’t like the designs – hell, when I met KEI and was offered a sketch, I requested Saturn instead of the obvious Hatsune Miku – but more because the quality track records of game-themed anime and corporate-made material featuring moe anthropomorphics are pretty abysmal. Strangely, when I heard later that the show was being made in Miku Miku Dance – an inexpensive piece of CG animation software used primarily to create visuals for short music pieces – I became a bit more intrigued. After all, the delightfully absurd show gdgd Fairies had put MMD’s low-budget glory to utterly spectacular use. I said something on Twitter (which I can’t find – thanks, terrible Twitter search engine!) to the effect of “I would be perfectly okay with it if the Sega Hard Girls anime was just gdgd Fairies with old game jokes.”
Little did I know that that’s exactly what Hi-sCoool! SeHa Girls seems to want to be.