Girlish Number – Review
Original Air Dates: October 12th, 2016 – December 28th, 2016
Synopsis: Chitose Karasuma, a University Student, dives into the voice acting industry, filled with hope, dreams, ambition– but is quickly hit with reality. As she struggles to make her way, garnering only a small role in a new anime series, Chitose stumbles into the other wildly varying personalities and backgrounds of cast and crew, both friends and competitors. However, her life changes when a producer, looking to capitalize on exploiting the anime fandom, decides to use Chitose as a new break out idol sensation to sell a brand new anime adaptation of a popular running Light Novel series.
Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: Girlish Number starts as an extremely cynical look into the anime industry to the point that it comes off as self loathing. It makes fun of and belittles light novel authors who get their works turned into anime, which stands out all the more once you discover that Girlish Number itself is an adaptation of a light novel series. Hence, if you prefer sweet and happy shows, this isn’t for you. It showcases the best and worst of the industry, in that a nobody can rise to stardom in the blink of an eye but they can also be unseated just as quickly. Girlish Number introduces us to some rather despicable people who will leave you wondering how and why they got the job they currently have as they seem to be extremely inefficient at it or disliked by everyone for being extremely irresponsible and caring more about having fun than getting work done.
Tom: Girlish Number is at its best when it’s extremely cynical, perhaps even honest, and damning of the industry we all know and love. It portrays the inner workings as so much more dysfunctional, perhaps closer to the truth of how anime production goes these days if articles discussing ballooning production issues are anything to go by. It’s maybe a tad heavy handed at times, perhaps hamming up or providing an overly jaded view of proceedings, but acts as a solid eye opener, and an entertaining one at that, for anyone still starry-eyed and bought into the showbiz/glamor angle that seems to have consumed perception of the industry.
Linny: For the most part, especially early on, Girlish Number focuses on our protagonist Chitose and her misguided daydreams about stardom. We discover that despite her vast amounts of ego and self confidence, Chitose has neither the talent nor is she willing to put in the effort to achieve the fame she thinks she deserves. The show does a good job of showcasing the struggles one has to face when working in the voice acting industry, introducing other voice actresses who are either more famous than Chitose or even newer to the industry than her to give the audience a taste of what it is like at different levels of success. Sadly, for all the cynicism and bitterness that the show pushes, it undoes it all in an extremely cliche manner with its final episodes. If you find yourself extremely engaged and amused by the more cynical take, be warned that it is all undone with a trope-ridden motivational speech and literally every single character in the show turns over a new leaf.
Tom: Indeed Girlish Number’s ending washes away much of its refreshing cynicism in favor of an overly sappy ending where everything turns out a-okay. It’s frustrating for anyone who’s been enjoying Girlish Number’s cynical look into the industry, and feels entirely at odds with everything the show has been building up over the season. It’s disappointing, so much so that Girlish Number has actually fallen off our list as a runner for Best Anime of the Fall. And it’s not to say the ending should’ve been a bad one for Chitose and the rest, but a wrap up where literally everything comes together perfectly?
Linny: Going back to what’s good, Chitose is the perfect example of a protagonist you love to hate. She is the worst with her inflated ego, stubborn laziness and delusions of grandeur about her own potential. You keep watching, silently waiting, for her harsh wake up call. She DOES get knocked down several pegs as the show continues much to the relief and hope of the viewer. Unfortunately, it feels like a hollow lesson as in the final episode she is shown to still oversleep and arrive late to work, blaming it on everything else but herself.
Tom: Chitose is without a doubt the show’s greatest highlight. This mysteriously overconfident girl, starry-eyed with the industry and entirely caught up with her own, delusional self perception is an absolute joy to watch and when she gets what’s coming to her you can’t help but feel a sense of smug satisfaction in seeing reality smack her square in the face. There’s a handful of other girls used to explore the industry from different perspectives, all jaded and disenchanted with an industry often watched through hype and blinding fanfare.
Linny: While the show does a decent job of juggling its main 5 girls, one of them, Yae Kugayama ultimately feels like she got shafted compared to the rest. Everyone else gets a bit of background and personal drama while Yae is mostly limited to being a sweet co-worker who spouts encouragement and support whenever Chitose or the plot needs her to do so.
Tom: Rounding out our look into the industry we’re treated to quite a few producers, agents, and the like all working behind the scenes to get the talent and product together. But unlike Shirobako, where everyone seems to be taking their job quite seriously, Girlish Number offers up a bit more dysfunction, with animators pressed too hard, producers more interested in hype and money than quality, and drama concerning additional work asked of the talent. It’s something Shirobako was lacking; the honest truth of people being either bad at their jobs, overworked, losing their drive or only in it for money and fame.
Linny: Speaking of producers and people working behind the scenes, Kuzu-P, the in anime producer ‘in charge’ of everything, is another character that is likely to drive audiences up the wall and left wondering how and why he still has his job. Though Kuzu does get some last minute character development, he’s clearly a comical presence meant to generate chuckles of disbelief as he does everything as badly as possible such as praising a voice actress’ breasts to her father (as shown in gif below). His character is so exaggerated and unbelievable that it feels like an attempt to be able to dismiss the show as obvious fiction should anyone take offense with the negative representation of the industry.
Tom: Girlish Number, as I mentioned above, was a contender for Best of the Fall season. But it’s ending falls so far from what the show offered before, presenting a perfect wrap up to a roller coaster of drama and cynicism that should’ve left our characters with a much more midling conclusion to their efforts. Everyone coming out on top really dampers Girlish Number’s tone and feels entirely at odds with everything we’ve come to expect and love from it. It’s still a good show, with plenty to enjoy, but sadly, with such a tonal shift for its ending, it’s no longer among the cream of the crop for Fall 2016.
Linny: Girlish Number was a refreshing look at the anime industry that really stood out, especially when compared to similar shows, which often paint a more glossy picture. Sadly, it manages to undo every single thing that was unique about it as it wraps up and that isn’t going to sit well with anyone who was impressed by the sheer negativity. What’s also irksome about the happily ever after ending we get is that it is achieved by the most lazy and trope ridden means ever, the motivational speech, and all the ensuing changes feel hollow and rushed. It doesn’t mean that Girlish Number is an unwatchable show, it just means that if you pick it up and enjoy the cynicism, it’s going to end on a sour note for you.