Twelve Days 1: Shirobako

I wrote a bit about Shirokako before. It was great. I was pleasantly surprised, particularly as the first episode nearly made me quit watching. I thought all the incredible “side characters” would be ignored for the core high school group. I was wrong, and I am happy to have been. Just look at all those people!

I thought since the show is very deeply about where people come from and where they’re going, I would do a simple three card spread for Miyamori: past, present, and future. This can get more complicated if you layer more cards on, which we may do at some point. I may actually use this format for a lot of the posts this year, but I want to mix it up a few times at least.

Before I deal my cards, here’s what I have to say about the show: its characters are really incredible. It was obviously fascinating to see the inner processes of anime production. I’m actually very glad it focused on the production team, since most anime or manga about making stuff usually focuses on the artists. That’s understandable, of course, but this was just refreshing.

I kind of love how the anime they’re making make no fucking sense. The weird stampede of horses plot just, you know, gets in there. No one questions why or how this is happening.

Shirobako‘s grasp of time is very good, too. The flashbacks and depth of history with these people is fantastic. The old offices, decaying cel frames, and clocks are really important individual symbols of the time things take and the effects of time on things we make. This show is kind of an animated Ozymandias: the show will fade, but the people who made it are still here, “somehow.”


So if Miyamori wanted a tarot reading, it would probably be about her future. Tarot readings are pretty bad at predicting the future, unless it’s already in some way incipient now. But we give them what they want, right?



The past was magic, wasn’t it. The Magician is the actor of the first set of tarot cards. Immediately after the Fool, the Magician shows someone with a mastery of something, but we’re not sure what. Often the Magician connects the upper and lower worlds — see the way he holds his hands, one up and one down. In this deck, the Magician is disappearing through a doorway, apparently floating. He looks a little untrustworthy, though. For Miyamori, the past was magical not because she’s nostalgic, but because she got what she wanted. She slipped into the world she wanted to enter, animation, through a series of synchronistic accidents. By the present, the paths of all her high school friends lead them to the same studio. Not all of them come because of her — only one of her friends is there because of her. The others all made it on their own. Everything “fell into place,” so to speak. No wonder the future scares her: the past was perfect.

The present is great. I used my screenshot of the big team portrait from the last episode as my header earlier. It doesn’t just represent all the people; it represents the work and the satisfaction as well. The six of cups is about emotional satisfaction. This version has an adult and a child, probably a mother and her child, watching a rainbow. This card is often not just about happiness, but about passing happiness on from one to another, one generation to the next. Miyamori has been handed the reins, so to speak. People have passed on, like her senior who’s baking now. She inadvertently convinced the older artist to teach everyone else what he knows. She already has a reputation for doing anything it takes, and that’s opening doors all around her. The magician does whatever it takes, and in Miyamori’s present it has led to a lot of happiness.

The future is uncertain, but actually kind of bad. Miyamori ends the show never answering her question, not really. She keeps wondering why she’s there, why she wants to make anime. The show tries to answer that, in the end, by showing all the club members visualizing their own anime in the sky. That’s not really an answer, though: it’s a goal. By the show’s end, nearly everyone has given her an answer to that question. The Knight of Coins is a problem in a single image. The knights are all about motion and activity. They ride out into the world, excited to bring their suits’ strengths to the world. But the Coins are sedentary. They put down roots. They grow, they don’t run. This deck is quite sarcastic, and so the knight of coins is using his horse for a seat. He sits and reads books about everything under the sun. I believe the accompanying book says something like “smack that horse, get him moving!” Miyamori risks getting stuck in her life, since she has to focus so much on the day to day details. She’s putting down roots, but how is she going to get that show of hers made? Does she mean to make her own studio? Or will she bring it to her studio here? Who will direct it? The show illustrated, quite clearly, the importance of every role. I can’t help but think about how the club doesn’t have a director: they all helped do that, back in school. The knight is reading a book that says “yes/no.” She has a binary choice: get rooted or get moving. Which one she picks will depend on the answer to her own question: why is she making anime?


I saw someone last month say they couldn’t understand why a new season of Shirobako hasn’t come out yet. At the time I was surprised. Why the hell does it need another season? I thought. I still think it works very well on its own, as it is now. But I think I just talked myself into wanting to see more, too.


The deck I used today is called the English Magic Tarot. You can learn more about it here.


One thought on “Twelve Days 1: Shirobako

  1. Pingback: 12 Days of Anime 2017 Omnibus – Better Living through Symbolism

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