This past Sunday, I stopped by Makuhari, Chiba, for a little event – the Shirobako Aki-Matsuri (fall festival). There were doughnuts, dances, and (the voice actresses of) pretty young anime girls. So it was a pretty good time.
First off, don’t expect a full translation of everything that was discussed during the “talk show” portions. I was able to pick up a bit from my understanding of Japanese and the general context of the conversations, but most of the finer details went right over my head. I’ll mention the important stuff that I remember. Also, I was specifically told not to take pictures, so while I wanted to have a crapload and maybe even some video footage, I couldn’t get half as much as I would like.
For those not “in the know,” Shirobako is an anime about five high school friends who aim to get jobs in the anime industry, hoping to eventually work together on their own project. This is actually the second fan event for the show, as the first was held last month (unfortunately, I couldn’t go). I’m not going to be dishing out spoilers, but I think this post will appeal far more to people who have actually seen the show.
This event took place in front of the Aeon Mall, about half an hour out of Tokyo in Chiba prefecture. It looked like about 95% of the crowd was composed of males, generally in their mid-20s or so. As for the total number of people, I’m not sure. I’d guess somewhere between 500 and 800, but it’s hard to judge when you’re right in the middle of everything. I’ve never been good at those jelly bean jar counts either. I’m also about 99% sure that I was the only foreigner there.
They had miscellaneous Shirobako merchandise and doughnuts on sale. With my wonderful luck, the thing I was planning on getting was already sold out when I arrived, so I showed self-restraint for the first time in my life and just decided to buy a bunch of doughnuts, which acted as my breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The general schedule was an opening ceremony, “talk show” with two of the producers, talk show with the voice actresses of the five protagonists, talk show with everyone plus some questions from the crowd, then a dance and closing ceremony. In-between, everyone had the opportunity to get pictures with Roro and Mimuji, Aoi’s stuffed toys(/alter-egos?), but I did not take advantage. Also of note, Kimura did their voices for the anime, and their live voices here as well.
The opening ceremony began without too much fanfare, introduced by Noriyuki Nagatani, one of the producers for the show. But then Kimura Juri (Aoi’s voice actress), Yoshimura Haruka (Ema’s VA), Chisuga Haruka (Shizuka’s VA), Owada Hitomi (Midori’s VA), and Takano Asami (Misa’s VA) came out on stage and gave their introductions, and everyone livened up a lot. A lot. After a good “Don-don-donuts, don to ikou!” everyone dispersed to pick up merchandise, eat doughnuts, or head over to the other stage to wait for the next event.
Random comment – Kimura’s natural voice isn’t much different than Aoi’s, but Yoshimura’s is a bit more “normal” than Ema’s soft voice. The reason I specifically mention Kimura’s natural voice being similar to what I’ve heard from Aoi’s mouth so many times in the show is that it came across a bit unusually in a real-world environment. It doesn’t sound awkward or fake or anything, just… unusual. It’s a bit hard to describe, and it may just entirely be the result of me watching the show too many times and exclusively associating the voice with Aoi up until that point.
After a brief “check the internet and inform people where I am to hopefully inspire jealousy” break, Noriyuki and Horikawa Kenji, another producer for the show and the president of PA Works (and a production assistant for Neon Genesis Evangelion back in the day), went up on the other stage for the first “talk show” of the day. They talked about quite a bit of stuff concerning the production of the show, so I’ll just focus on the details I understood that were interesting. Acting as MCs were Yamaoka Yuri (Yano’s VA) and Ikumi Hayama (Andou’s VA), and they were quickly assaulted by the wind when they went up on stage.
One thing that I was surprised about is that they opted for tape auditions to keep voice actors’ appearances from affecting their casting decisions. There may have also been a slight jab at the director, suggesting that he might base his decisions on boobs.
And on the topic of voice-acting, something I had suspected was confirmed – Suzuki Kyoko, who ends up voicing Aria in Third Aerial Girls Squad, was based on Kimura Juri (Aoi’s actual voice actress). Both were very new to voice-acting, but cast for lead roles – Kimura as Aoi, and Suzuki as her parallel within the world of Shirobako, cast as Aria. And then on top of that, Aria’s dilemma within Aerial Girls, which came up during Musani’s production of the show, parallels Aoi’s own character development through the duration of Shirobako. So it’s kind of cool how intertwined that all is in a meta way.
Asked about which in-universe anime from Shirobako they would most like to create, both Horikawa and Noriyuki stated that Aerial Girls was their choice. And they also said that it is the one they would least like to create as well. Shirobako went over budget, and it seems to have stemmed from the Aerial Girls OVA, so the staff have mixed opinions on that. At some point, they were joined by another guy whose name I didn’t catch – I believe he was from Warner Bros. though, who were also involved in the show. I know they were the BD/DVD distributors at least. Anyways, he chimed in about this a bit as well.
After another little break, the voice actresses all came out, now dressed in yukata which matched their respective characters’ outfits in the event’s key visual.
The subjects of their discussion were a bit different – rather than the production, they talked about the characters and story. One question that came up was which male characters they liked most. I don’t remember who said it, but one of them picked Tarou, and another picked Hiraoka. Andou’s VA, Ikumi, also made it known that she ships Shimoyanagi and Endou. Quite fitting for her character. They were asked about their favorite female characters, but the only response that I remember was someone responding Segawa. The reason I remember? The word oppai was used in her explanation.
When asked for their favorite scenes from the show, they gave many answers I didn’t quite expect. For me, it would easily be the scene where Shizuka walks into the studio to voice Catherine’s sister in episode 23, but their answers were less pivotal moments – the scene with Aoi and the president looking over the Andes Chucky cels, the scene where Roro “punches” Aoi, etc. Everyone also attempted to voice Roro, which was quite humorous.
Lastly, before a break and being rejoined by the producers, they brought out a cake for Takano, whose birthday was actually the day of the event. I expected that we would be singing happy birthday, but alas, it didn’t happen.
Once the full crowd was on the stage, they fielded some questions from the crowd, and I really wish that I had recorded the entirety of this, because I’m probably going to restate this incorrectly. The question that stood out was something along the lines of “Is it easier to make a television series or a movie, and which do you prefer?” Horikawa said that he preferred full television series, because it offers more time to flesh out a story. Noriyuki said he would like a full movie (90 minutes or more), but that he would much rather do a series than a short (~40 minute) movie or OVA.
There was much more discussed, but I’ve since forgotten the majority. Mainly because what came next was the dance. Everyone gathered around the stage, the VAs put on an extra layer to combat the cold, and then we were set to show off our skillz.
As for that… I had fully intended to back off and just take pictures or video during the duration, but… I actually did the dance. After the practice round, I just stood there for a while, said “Screw it,” and went along with everyone else. And then we did it six more times or something like that, and it was actually super fun. And it was just about freezing with the wind chill, so it helped me to warm up too. I would love to hear what random passersby thought of the dance.
This isn’t the full song, but the dance just loops for the full thing:
Once that had ended, Kimura and co. performed the ending themes to the show, which didn’t seem like something anyone had actually prepared for. But that was fun too, and fortunately they weren’t lip-syncing or anything. And Kimura started crying shortly before they were finished.
Finally, everyone gave their goodbyes and words of gratitude. After a group picture which somehow included both those on stage and the entire crowd jammed into a small area on the field, everyone gave their all to a final doughnut chant, and all was good in the world.
But being completely serious, this was tons of fun. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but it was absolutely worth going. If they do another event, I’ll definitely go provided I have the time and I’m not completely broke. Did I mention that the event was completely free? I hope if they do another one, it’s indoors though. I’m going to prepare and get some type of HD stealth camera. The staff took a lot of photos and videotaped the dance, but very few of their pictures have actually surfaced, so I hope they post them at some point in the near future. Mainly the group photo at the very end, because if they just hoard it, I will be sad.
It probably would have been a 10 out of 10 experience if I was able to fully understand everything. And/or buy what I wanted. And/or get free doughnuts. Or steal the Aoi cutout and/or Kimura herself and run off. I don’t think I would have been able to get away with those.
All the pictures: http://imgur.com/a/iq54o
Update on 11/13: They’ve finally posted the little video thing. The only picture that I’m in is the group photo at the end, but “kyoycz” is listed in the credits since I did the sponsorship thing.