First Look: Girlish Number

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Alternate title(s): Gi(a)rlish Number
Anime Original by Diomedea
Streaming on Crunchyroll

Premise

Chitose is a rookie anime voice actress who is already growing cynical toward the industry. Tired of getting bit parts, she signs a questionable deal for a lead role that also requires joining an idol group.

Jel’s verdict: A Worthy Performance

I spent a good amount of this episode yelling “OH NO SHE DIDN’T!” at my screen as all kinds of shots are fired at different aspects of the anime industry. I have to admit it was rather refreshing. Most of these types of shows are super optimistic, as the plucky heroine fights her way to achieving her dreams with a little hard work and the power of friendship. That’s not the case here. While I still feel there was room to punch a little harder, for the most part it savagely beats down the notion that anime is made entirely for the creative joy of it.

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If that’s all it was then it would probably be an annoyingly self aware downer, but what I found most interesting is our main character is complicit in it all. She has no love for the craft and has no problem letting her ego be stroked. It makes me wonder what kind of message they are going for. Not surprisingly the story is written by Wataru Watari, author of My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU, and the cynical deconstruction is very similar here to his previous work. As a light novel author himself, it makes me wonder how much of this is based on his experience in the industry and if the harsh (and accurate) criticism of light novels and their authors was meant to be funny self deprecation.

That all said, should you watch Girlish Number? As someone who generally doesn’t like to know how the sausage is made (I got too bored to finish Shirobako), I actually found the honesty here pretty compelling. While a show like Shirobako was willing to show some of the warts on the industry, it’s still ultimately an uplifting experience. With this show it seems we are setting up our heroine for some kind of spectacular failure. I’m willing to grab my popcorn at watch, at least for another episode.

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Aqua’s verdict: No Bite Tastier Than The Hand That Feeds

Ugh, pardon me if you’ve hear this one before. A bunch of cutesy girls try to make it in the voice acting business, their infectious optimism and dream to inspire others by shining in the recording studio making the world a better pla– Wait, did our heroine just scowl at the girl who regurgitated the same generic PR line she’d prepared? Did she just groan at the prospect of starring in a light novel adaptation? Did this show just get away with flat out admitting everything we’ve been saying about the anime industry for years? Heaven help us all, anime is becoming self-aware.

You know how, if you leave out food for too long, it starts to rot and decompose but eventually enables new life to emerge? Shows like last year’s series of the year, Shirobako, and Girlish Number are the first sprouts from the festering manure the anime industry has become; yet where Shirobako was the classy, nuanced documentary, Girlish Number is the scathing, cynical diatribe spitting its bile on the entire industry and everything it stands for. Often surprising and always on the nose, it inspires the kind of embarrassed snickering you haven’t uttered since watching a sex comedy at age thirteen, though Girlish Number will need a few more episodes to fully convince of its nefarious intent.

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Delightful and essential as its mouthy misanthropy may be, it’s always wise to remain wary of criticism coming from within. While writer Wataru Watari seems more than willing to cast some of his less savory colleagues in a negative light, it remains to be seen if he’ll address the more structural issues plaguing his line of work. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time an anime satire became the very thing it is supposed to be tearing into. I got my hopes up once before, and I won’t be fooled again.

Yet, then again… if Girlish Number‘s cynicism had only ever been intended as but a tiny veneer of sophistication, it probably wouldn’t have made its protagonist as rotten as the industry that employs her. Chitose is Aoi Miyamori after the inevitable nervous breakdown: a lazy, bitter, greedy opportunist, yet an absolute delight to watch, systematically dumping one expectation after another for how an anime character – let alone a voice actress – should act, without ever convincing viewers that her cutthroat attitude is anything other than entirely justified. And that, ironically, makes her me want to root for her more than for any other of the wide-eyed dilettantes anime likes to throw at us. You know what to do.

Also, make sure to read this hilarious fake interview with Chitose after you’re done.

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3 thoughts on “First Look: Girlish Number

  1. Nice write up. While I liked this first episode I’m not sure I’m really wanting to pick this one up at the moment. I’ve put it on my hold list in case I drop something else but I while it is an amusing look at the industry I wasn’t sold that it was going to be anything else and how many times in a series can you point out that the industry is full of flaws.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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