Note: I intend to update this article as I discover new shows that fit the description. If you have recommendations for shows that should be on here, then please let me know and I’ll check them out.
Golden Boy offered an interesting final episode in which protagonist Kintaro Oe became a part of an animation studio as it was pressured into an impossible schedule for its upcoming movie. I always adore these kinds of anime that give us a peek behind the curtains; showing us what it’s like to make the shows we enjoy and permitting the staff to vent some of their frustrations. Still, Golden Boy only has this for one episode, so here is a list of other series you can check out if you want to see more of this:
Shirobako: an elaborate and all-encompassing anime about the many woes of a studio as it struggles to put together its anime. With a large cast of characters, Shirobako tackles basically every aspect of anime development in some way across its 24-episode runtime, though it mostly focuses on the perspective of production assistant Aoi Miyamori. It’s by far the most complete and comprehensive anime of its kind and frequently references real stories, people, and series.
Animation Runner Kuromi: A 2-episode OVA about the fictional Studio Petit, which is in such disarray that the newly-hired Mikiko Oguro has to be immediately promoted to Head of Production. While her job certainly includes animation running, it’s also more broadly about project management and trying to salvage a hopeless schedule. To achieve this, Mikiko has to deal with turbulent co-workers, unreasonable clients, and unhelpful superiors. Very enjoyable stuff, except for the unfortunate few of us for who that description sounds too much like real-life
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!: Three girls are barred by their school from starting up an anime club, so instead they create a film club that just happens to only make animation. The director/writer Midori Asakusa, the animator Tsubami Mizusaki, and the producer Sayaki Kanamori cooperate together to produce three short films over the course of this 12-episode series, each of which comes with unique challenges. Despite the high school setting, Eizouken goes into great detail about the challenges of creating even a short anime and supplements this with creative visual directing (courtesy of Masaaki Yuasa) and lots of comedy.
Rec: Though not strictly about making anime, Rec is a show about the struggles of making a career out of doing voice-acting. Aka Onda has just landed her first job voicing a mascot character for a candy company, and from there we watch her career unfold. The anime shows both the good and the bad sides of the story, allowing Onda some big victories and letting her passion for voice-acting pay off emotionally and professionally, without sugarcoating how rough and over-competitive the business is.
Working with Voice: 16-year-old Aoyagi Kanna is coerced by her older sister into lending her voice for a hentai game, even though Kanna has never done voice-acting before and is certainly no expert when it comes to porn. Working with Voice is very much an ecchi show, but it does show many tricks that voice-actors allegedly use to sound convincing in hentai.
Seiyu’s Life: A 13-episode TV series that follows the tumultuous careers of 3 young voice actresses and paints a less-than-ideal picture of the voice-acting business. The work is hard, the pay is low, and an overabundance of competition makes it difficult to land even the smallest of jobs. Though ostensibly a comedy, the characters face a lot of hardship, rejection, and even embarrassment as they struggle to secure a future for themselves in the business. It’s an interesting perspective on an oft-romanticized line of work, which makes the casts’ successes feel particularly hard-earned. Seiyu’s Life also shines thanks to its many celebrity cameos, which often end up playing important roles in the story as they help the rookies overcome hurdles or improve their performances.
Girlish Number: Many series about voice-acting will star passionate, fresh-faced youngsters who work hard in order to get their career off the ground; Girlish Number is very different. It stars Chitose Karasuma, a self-centered young woman who got a job in voice acting through her older brother despite being utterly horrible at it. The show chronicles her declining career as she is unwilling to put in the effort to improve, becomes envious of her competitors, and blames others for her inability to find work. Chitose can be a very unlikable protagonist, but her story is a fascinating one that I was ultimately happy to have seen.
Doujin Work: A 12-episode series (with half-lenght episodes) about Najimi Osana, a young woman looking to strike it rich selling doujins… even though she can’t actually draw. An amusing amateur’s perspective on breaking through as an artist, which frequently sees the cast attend conventions to try and sell their work to the masses.
Mangaka-san to Assistant-san: From the same author as Doujin Work comes Mangaka-san to Assistant-san, a bizarre comedy show about a perverted artist who loves to draw manga about panties. Yuuki Aito’s manga is dense in fan-service and ecchi romance, but it’s also facing cancellation amidst declining interest. Left with few other choices, Aito begins pestering his female friends for “reference material” and other help, not realizing (or caring) about how unreasonable his requests actually are. Though short, Mangaka-san to Assistant-san is a memorable and often-hilarious series, especially if you have a fondness for ecchi.
Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san: The hilarious retail stories of a skeleton man who works in the manga department of a large bookstore. It doesn’t feature any stories about creating the manga itself, but does put into perspective what it takes to run a specialized store and the kind of horror that its employees need to deal with.
Comic Party: When Kazuki Sendou is introduced to the world of doujinshi, his lifelong friend manages to persuade him into giving it a try for himself. However, Kazuki soon finds out that his artistic skills aren’t enough to carry him in this strange, new scene he’s stepped into. He has to learn how to appeal to the otaku audience the hard way, facing many struggles and making new friends along the way. Comic Party is a well-written series with an appealing, turn-of-the-millennium artstyle; a solid recommendation for fans of older meta anime.
An honorable mention goes out to Otaku no Video and Genshiken. Read about them here: Otaku no Video and Genshiken – the must-watch shows for anime geeks
As stated above, I intend to update this article whenever I find new shows that belong here. If you have suggestions, then please do leave a comment and I’ll get to it when I have the opportunity.