Shirobako Movie Interview: Sakura Ayane reminisces about the movie’s recording

As it is, I intended to highlight Miyai Kaede’s character gap, so, I deliberately acted cool and played your typical mature character.

With the movie’s release on the 29th of February 2020, Ayaneru talks about her experiences and best moments during the recording stages of the Shirobako movie. Here we get some insight on how Ayaneru feels about Shirobako: an anime about making anime, (because as we know Ayaneru wanted to be an actress/seiyuu because she was more into the behind the scenes and technical stuff of this industry). We also get some insight about how Ayaneru views the characters in this show (especially her own character), how the director of Shirobako mapped out the movie and such. Even things like who the female cast were fangirling about and Ayaneru’s favourite character in the show. Anyway, I can’t really remember anything about Shirobako since the last time I watched was when it was airing (back then when I actually watched anime). The only thing I remember from Shirobako was don don donuts and Ema’s dance but you know, who doesn’t?

As always, I have to cap it off with something more serious, but, it’s always nice to see what’s going through Ayaneru’s mind with these interviews. Well actually, if this movie ever gets showed here in the middle of nowhere or when I eventually watch it, like when I watched the Shinkalion movie, I had a better understanding of the emotions and impressions Ayaneru was trying to convey during her interview. So, maybe, when I watch Shirobako, I’ll be like “oh so that’s what she meant”. Also, I hope the stage greeting for Shirobako gets rescheduled and everyone enjoys it when things clear up a bit more.

Miyai Kaede: Sakura Ayane’s character in the movie

―What were your impressions of Shirobako before being casted in it?

Ayaneru: “An anime about the anime industry” or so to speak. When the anime was airing, the ins and outs of the anime industry became such a huge topic. Wherever you went, it seemed like cast and staff members were having fun discussing Shirobako. Although I was a bit curious, I wasn’t directly involved in these discussions and just remained on the side as a spectator. 

―When you got involved in the movie, did everything turn out to be the way it seemed?

Ayaneru: Before recording started, I rewatched all the episodes again. Looking back at it now, everything really was well made. It really is an interesting show. Seeing it done in real time, I regret not being able to discuss it with everyone else. 

―Do you have any memorable scenes from the anime that you want to talk about?

Ayaneru: You know Takanashi. As in Tarou. I’m pointing the finger at him. That recurring theme where people keep covering for him and taking the hit is really funny to me. He just keeps creating problems one after the other and even though he’s a troublemaker, the fact that everyone still gives him some love is so nice to see. 

As for myself, I don’t have what it takes to keep my calm and composure when I can’t solve each and every one of my problems, yet; I admire and want to live my life the way Tarou does. Things like being pampered by everyone around you. ‘Being babied’ by the people around you. A feeling of innocence and being easy going… I get really jealous just by thinking about it. 

―Miyai Kaede… What kind of character is she like?

Ayaneru: Playing as the part of an assistant producer… Hmm, I have to say, it’s a role that revolves around supporting the rest of the cast. I’m entrusted with important situations and more. Actually, there’s a scene in the movie where Kaede tests out her own competence.

―What about her personality? What are her characteristics like?

Ayaneru: If we were judging by looks: cool, calm and a perfectionist in her work are words I would use. In saying that, that’s like most of Shirobako’s lineup right? What I should say is that she’s a person that’s nothing like the rest.

―About Miyai Kaede’s name (宮井楓), it’s been bothering me a bit. But you know, both her and Miyamori Aoi (宮森あおい) have the same 宮 kanji in their surnames. 

Ayaneru: You know I was just thinking about that too! Bearing ‘Miya’ (laughs). This is purely a guess but I think both Miyai Kaede and Miyamori Aoi are born on the same day. Even both of them happen to have careers in the anime industry. While both have existing similarities, being different – as in choosing a path that others don’t usually take is what Miyamori strongly believes in. No other person could fill that role as partners like Miyai. Because both of them complement each other, they both bear ‘Miya’ in their names. I wonder what changes will occur when Miyai suddenly appears in Miyamori’s life – things like how she handles her workload and deals with problems during production. Keep an eye out for this development. 

―How did you prepare for this role? Was there anything that you needed to take note of?

Ayaneru: Kaede’s character design really gives off mature vibes. The things I took note of were like, given her appearance, she’s roughly a similar age to Miyamori and the others, so the sense of trying to have a younger impression in spite of her character design were a bit troubling to express for me. But throughout the show, it seems like the gap between how Kaede tries to present herself on the outside and how she really is on the inside became more apparent. So, for the sake of highlighting that charm gap, I thought it’d be better to deliberately make her cool and play her as your usual mature character.

―During the production and recordings, were there any scenes that you felt like were ‘off’ or didn’t feel right?

Ayaneru: Wherever there were any doubts in how we acted during the scenes, we’d consult the sound directors and staff. They would set a guideline of ‘trends’ to look out for and when they notice a general trend of what felt off, they’d deal with it during editing. However, with Shirobako, I was impressed by how specific and clear the staff was in giving us feedback. It really stuck with me how clear they were in what they wanted out of us. For example, during one of the more intense scenes, they were thinking about how flustered the character should be during that scene. Upon asking that, a full on brainstorm on how to do the scene happened between everyone. Actually, up to now, all my personal experiences happened during recording, so, I was able to immediately share my sentiments towards all the members of the team there. In saying that, it was a very Shirobako-like scene in real life isn’t it?

Seems like all members were being utilized to their fullest potential. During recording sessions, did Director Mizushima Tsutomu have any special instructions in how you guys performed certain scenes?

Ayaneru: Hmm, Director Mizushima didn’t really have any specific problems or requests of that kind. It was more like “Let’s do that one more time. If there’s anything different, I’ll point it out.” You know, things like that. He pretty much let us decide for ourselves and we did the scenes as it pleased us.

―The director certainly had confidence in his cast members, you know, with entrusting them to do whatever they want. I mean reliance is good and all, but like when you don’t have a definitive plan for this and that, didn’t you have moments of doubt where you thought “Is this gonna be alright? Is it actually going to fit the scene?” Did you have any uncertainties like that?

Ayaneru: This is Director Mizushima’s work. The more times I say this, the better I understand his reasoning as to why he barely stopped us during the recordings. We didn’t have any doubts and in Shirobako’s case, being the exceptional work that it is, pondering on uncertainties and mistakes will only further validate how special it is.

―Were there any noteworthy moments during the recording sessions?

Ayaneru: There really are a whole heap of characters in Shirobako. The studio was always crowded by the cast members. Thing is, people just went out of the room when it wasn’t their turn during the recording. Everyone’s chattering was a mess but at the same time, looking back at it now, those passing moments were one of my fondest memories during recording. Seriously, I’m pretty sure there were like 30 of us outside at one point. 

―That’s like the size of one class!

Ayaneru: Pretty much like a big family! Among them were veteran senpais who would go around the room and talk to everyone. There were serious discussions, but also, in-jokes and banter happening all around. And if there were serious discussions it’d be things like talking about magazine articles, unexpected legendary stories and myths (about each other) or something like that, they’d come out one after the other. Even newcomers like me were easily assimilated in that environment. I was so happy being in an environment were I was able to connect with people so easily without any exclusion or discrimination or anything.

―It was as if a scene in Shirobako came to life!

Ayaneru: Yea you’re right (laughs)! Because we are deeply affected by the talks about the anime industry, I think there were many people who were projecting themselves while acting. Furthermore, there were bustling topics and talks among the girls and they were thinking who could be the no.1 male lead character in the show too. 

―Really? I’m curious as to who was the most popular? I mean, if we’re talking about the most good looking, it has to be NabeP (Watanabe Shun) right?

Ayaneru: Ah, my secrets have been revealed. We couldn’t really narrow it down to just one person. In terms of NabeP, he’s the type of guy who would do nothing but party and drink after work and never come home after. His wife wouldn’t be impressed at all. But anyway, everyone was getting too excited and they started making stuff up about him (laughs). On the other hand, some people were saying stuff like “I love drinking too. I’d be ecstatic if we could drink together”. There was no controlling that talk at all. It was a mess.

―That’s hilarious.

Ayaneru: I mean Tarou too. Sometime ago, earlier on I thought that him as a character was definitely no good. But as time passed by, when he had those drinking scenes with Hiraoka, he got popular. I wouldn’t like it if I had to work with Tarou, but it would be adorable if he was my kouhai.

―The Tarou scenes were good weren’t they? What about you Ayaneru, who’s your favourite?

Ayaneru: My favourite would be the cinematographer with the same surname as me, Sakura Yoshiki (佐倉良樹).

―Bit of a serious choice I see.

Ayaneru: Yea it’s a bit naive of me, but the thing I like about Sakura is that he stoically solves whatever he has on his plate. Saying things like “Please wait. Anticipation is part of cinematography” and taking advice is a good thing.

―Every character in the show has a certain charm to them that will surely lure the viewers don’t they? Lastly, please tell us about the highlights of this film?

Ayaneru: This time around, the movie tells the story about the blood, sweat and tears that Miyamori and the gang will face in making yet another anime. It’s so weird yet wonderful how numerous real life anime producers, staff members and cast members are used to tell the story & journey about an anime’s production. Including me.

―So, like elements of parody and breaking the fourth wall right?

Ayaneru: I am very thankful for the personal experiences I’ve made and the influence which this show has had on me. This time around, Miyai Kaede, the character I play, like us; had the same desire of being able to express and present anything and everything as a woman who has established herself in the anime industry. I wonder what this girl, Miyamori, and the others will be able to present this time? I’d be happy if the viewers can take something out of this.