Review/discussion about: Gi(a)rlish Number
Parenthetical asides (or those statements that are enclosed by parentheses) are awesome. They invite extra information within a sentence without impeding on the purpose of said sentence.
It’s not recommended to us them all the time since they can clutter a paragraph or even distract the reader from its meat. But, when a side comment or a small explanation for something written is required, the use of a parenthetical makes for a wise decision (or at least that’s what I believe).
Gi(a)rlish Number contains a parenthetical right in the middle of its title. And it’s less a phrase and more a single letter. My guess (and it’s really just a guess) is that it’s a metaphor for the show itself. That is, like anime, there are certain things that, while not always said or deemed “important,” are around and related all the same.
Chitose Karasuma is a newbie voice actress in the ever-growing world of anime. She seems like any other woman in her field: bubbly, cute, and inviting. However, as Gi(a)rlish Number displays the behind-the-scenes action of the anime industry, not-so-glamorous truths begin to rear their ugly heads.
It’s uncommon for an anime to focus on the meta aspects of the medium itself. It’s even rarer (if not outright unheard of) for an anime to cast this focus in a cynical light. Japan is known for their overly courteous ways and strict business formality, so going against the grain by looking at the dirt instead gives a different edge that the anime audience is most likely not used to.
The unclean revelations target many different areas. The notion that authors of source material are weird if not downright disgusting. Unfair working conditions make the process seem like a slog. How those involved merely put up with the work because they must. That marketing and side venues arguably mean more than the anime itself.
Gi(a)rlish Number even goes so far as to out the community. Subpar promotional videos are met with cheering crowds. Fans are harshly vocal in their hatred and fleeting in their preferences. There’s even a jab at how quickly viewers make assumptions based off rumors read on public forums without any substantive evidence.
These “revelations” aren’t necessarily surprising. Many members of the community are fully aware of the stigma behind light-novel adaptations, the insane fandoms, and the odd financial structure. Regardless, it’s still interesting to see it put in a different perspective. A perspective that comes from people literally involved in the creation of anime.
It should be noted that not everything is cynical. The anime doesn’t take a completely contrarian viewpoint, painting the medium with such negativity that the community wonders why they watch the stuff in the first place. No, it has its hardworking lackeys, passionate voice actresses, and heartfelt moments. The plot simply has a lot more of the opposite end, forcing the audience to think about what really goes on within anime as it puts it on blast. (How much one accepts as truth, though, is up to him or her.)
This motif represents the foundation of Gi(a)rlish Number throughout the season, and it’s what nearly every event in the plot revolves around. Unfortunately, it cannot support the anime indefinitely, for the show finds itself split into two halves: a strong first half and a lackluster second half.
In the first half of the season (roughly episodes one through six), the anime takes advantage of the negativity. Chiding remarks from Chitose bring comedy. Kazuha and Momoka voice their eye-opening “taboo” thoughts in private. Fans forgive lies about first-episode screenings when the voice actresses belt out into song.
All the while, the anime highlights what a failing project looks like. In this case, Millenium Princess x Kowloon Overlord. An incompetent producer and mediocre source material lead everyone down a tough path filled with strict deadlines and financial woes. It’s compounded negativity, and it aligns very well with Gi(a)rlish Number’s goals.
Come the second half, though, the anime starts to lose steam due to a few different issues.
One, the anime doesn’t stay centered on Chitose. The story wants to wrap up Kazuha and Momoka’s subplots, so these two gain the spotlight, awkwardly and simultaneously reaching resolutions through visits back home and a phone call. Kuzu-P, the producer, likewise has a subplot, but his is handled even worse. He feels insignificant when compared to a former workmate, so he loses his drive – only to pick it back up again within the span of a couple episodes.
Two, the anime doesn’t establish its vital background plot point. A big reason for why Chitose’s later regression and depression scares some of her friends comes from the fact that they have seen it before. Namely, in Chitose’s older brother Gojou. He used to be an up-and-coming voice actor, too, but the anime only alludes to this fact through a music track, an advertisement, and a nostalgic photo. The show never shows what happened let alone takes the time to make it an important ordeal within the narrative. As such, her mirrored circumstance fails to reflect all that well.
Third, the anime doesn’t stay consistent. This second half is rather dramatic, departing from the derisive comedy that the first half thrived on. To be fair, the first half had bits of drama as well, but the whole point was still mainly to out the bad side of the anime world. The second half, in contrast, goes the other way. The heavy drama removes the comedy for the most part, and it only serves to detract from the anime’s original motif. Technically speaking, this drama is negative, but it’s of the emotional kind rather than the factual kind.
To Gi(a)rlish Number’s credit, the second half isn’t unwatchable or without strength. Introducing Nanami as a bright new hopeful is a natural move to push the drama (regardless of its necessity), and it still has the meta-anime-digging commentary like lame afterparties.
However, it’s still too bogged down by odd plot directions and distracting drama to be a proper wrapping up of the anime’s initial ideals.
For the most part, Gi(a)rlish Number’s art and animation provide a stronger-than-not visual experience. Arguably, its middle set of episodes cannot always keep up in terms of crisp movement and perfect proportions. However, when Chitose gets into a pillow fight with Momoka or the anime shows off Kazuha’s hometown with pretty backdrops and smart lighting, it demonstrates its artistic fidelity well enough.
If nothing else, the anime has one memorable aspect that almost everyone agrees on: Chitose’s reaction faces.
Chitose has more reactions than she has voice-acting roles. All right, that’s not saying a whole lot, but it’s still a large number regardless. While a smug look most often covers her face, she is no stranger to variety. Pouting. Anger. Scared. Jubilant. Disinterested. Unlike her skillset, she can react like it’s nobody’s business. Her reactions provide an extra layer of comedy, making the audience wonder how she will respond in her next banter with Gojou or after hearing some positive news.
After Chitose’s array of faces, the character designs argue for their positive impact, too. Dark color choices – maroon, purple, dark pink – both fit the mood of the anime and are no doubt attractive. Kazuha maintains a mature look with long hair and a business-esque outfit. Yae goes cute with a short skirt and big eyes. Koto’s lax clothes, stylish hair, and catlike mouth give her a fun look. Momoka’s classier dress highlights her professionalism. And Chitose’s egg shirt symbolizes her (selfish) sunny-side up personality almost too well.
The anime also makes slight alterations to the visuals of its opening track, changing the poses, props, and positions of the characters’ distinctive outlines as the season progresses. It honestly doesn’t add or mean much, but it’s a cute little attention to detail.
The ending track’s visuals also deserve a small shout-out if only for their quirky dance sequence. Chopped frames, shifting spots, and timed movements aim for and reach a nice level of silliness.
Gi(a)rlish Number unfortunately doesn’t do a whole lot to build bonds between all the women in the anime. They are friends, but they lack distinctive moments together. However, there’s only one true star in this story: Chitose.
On the outside, Chitose’s like any other woman in her field: smiling wide for the audience and thanking those in charge for their support. On the inside, she’s a narcissistic, arrogant jerk who cares only for the fame her profession brings.
Harsh, but true. The anime sets the tone for her character within the first thirty seconds where she inwardly laments how the voice actress beside her on stage “took” the line she was going to use in her own final comment. And she continues to reinforce her horrible personality at almost all times. She’s not grateful towards Gojou, her literal older brother, for the support he provides as her agent. She doesn’t mind speaking her mind, including off-the-cuff thoughts and oblivious words. She basks in her “fame” despite her inexperience, the lack of quality in her work, and her unwillingness to improve.
Surprisingly, her greatest weakness is also her greatest strength. For, while she’s hard to get along with, her bravado provides her with an uncanny level of confidence. Even as she can’t properly voice act. Even as the anime project is failing all around her. Even as their events fall apart minutes before they go onstage. She doesn’t let these issues faze her. Indeed, she’s quicker to blame everyone else first and then focus on the fact that the upcoming opportunity presents yet another chance for her to earn more Twitter followers.
As she sings her made-up songs, two of her friends stand beside her: Yae and Koto. For the most part, these two are inconsequential save for their grounded personalities. Yae’s nervous about pretty much everything, and Koto, while lacking in major roles, knows a great deal about the industry. Furthermore, Yae can sometimes say things nestled deep in her “black heart,” and Koto values this gig because she understands that, at her age, she may not have many chances left. Altogether, these two women balance out Chitose’s rough personality, contrasting in a strong manner.
Chitose remains unlikable for a good while. She does improve a bit as a voice actress, and she finally receives hate mail online that knocks her down a peg. But she continues to think overly highly of herself as their song CD sells several thousand units and their last-ditch-effort photoshoot goes over reasonably well (at least she thinks so).
Afterwards, she takes a backseat for a little bit. In her stead, Kazuha and Momoka grab the limelight. The two are the professionals among the whole group. Super popular and with obvious experience, they take charge and often refuse to take part in most of the extra events.
In private, they express their concerns to each other for both their profession and their personal lives. They understand more than the others that their work isn’t as rewarding as it may seem. All the pandering, all the fakeness, all the inopportunity. Kazuha and Momoka put up with it all not because they like to but because they have to.
On that personal level, Kazuha fights against a feeling of unfulfillment. She’s always wanted to be an actress, but she doesn’t believe that her current line of work matches her aspirations, losing fun in the process. She also worries about her overprotective parents who meddle too much in her life.
As for Momoka, she lives in the shadow of her mother, a famous voice actress that everyone knows and compares her to. Even worse, she feels as if she doesn’t have a mother when the woman neither directs nor suggests anything to her daughter.
In a way, they are envious of Chitose. Kazuha wishes she could have as much fun as Chitose does, and Momoka would like to be seen for who she is just like Chitose rather than constantly compared to somebody else.
Their trip away to Kazuha’s hometown allows them to unwind for a bit and get closer as friends, each wanting what the other has in their families. Kazuha wants more freedom, and Momoka wants more guidance. However, they realize that they’ve had fortune of their own all along. Kazuha’s father supports her in his own way, and Momoka’s mother pushes her as a respected rival. Together, the two finally understand that maybe their parents aren’t as bad as they may have thought.
It’s a quick wrap-up to their characters, and both Kazuha and Momoka are mostly ignored come the final few episodes, but these are necessary directions as attention swings back to Chitose and her woes.
At the end of episode nine, Gojou is moved away from being Chitose’s manager. Worse still, she goes one step too far in voicing her opinion. She makes a comment to him about how she will end up like him, acting in one big role then quitting forever. It puts a rift between the two siblings, and it kicks off her downward spiral.
Her descent escalates when the even more rookie voice actress, Nanami, officially joins the club. The spry, happy, and ready teenager shows a drive. A spark. A willingness that Chitose has never had before. The more Nanami gets involved – getting a CD debut, getting buddy-buddy with the other women – the further Chitose falls. Despite how much Nanami looks up to and admires Chitose, Chitose feels inadequate. As if she no longer has a place.
Her feelings of self-doubt are exacerbated by numerous other factors going on simultaneously. Waning popularity in their series. Losing fans of her own. Missing out on new voice-acting roles while the others gain new ones.
Altogether, Chitose loses that biggest strength and that biggest weakness of hers: overconfidence. And it’s felt by everyone. Her depressing mood brings a heavy atmosphere in the recording booth, and she essentially closes everyone out. All the while, Gojou, still on bad terms with his younger sister, looks on from afar, seeing himself from years ago in her.
In comes both Yae and Koto. Yae speaks with Gojou, earnestly expressing to him how she believes in Chitose and knows just how hard she has been working. Koto speaks with Gojou, too. The two of them were once voice-acting partners, so she understands exactly what’s going on with Chitose and tells him as much.
Their words (as well as the uncharacteristic ones from Namba, the CEO of Number One Produce) give Goujou the insight he needs. He confronts Chitose in her room, but, before he can say anything, she breaks down. She knows she’s selfish, but she still doesn’t want to fade away from the minds of those around her. Gojou (with an extra few set of harsh words) explains to her that so many people support her. Himself included. That voice acting is the job for her, and that her positivity gives her the wherewithal to push forward, making her into a (nonspecific) amazing person.
Goujou’s words save Chitose. Her renewed vigor makes her mission more than just about earning due fame. Rather, like the other women around her, she wants to work hard at it. For her sake and for all the people that support her. When she gets back to the studio the next day (after some dramatic delays and falls), she apologizes to her friends, letting them know that she now understands her own weaknesses.
She’s welcomed back with kindness and returned understanding, allowing Chitose and the other voice actresses to deliver a strong finish to their anime series. This happy ending may arguably be unfitting for such a constantly cynical story, but it’s nice to see that success and positivity does, indeed, exist within this industry.
Given Gi(a)rlish Number’s content, it perhaps comes as no surprise that the voice acting is top-notch. Specifically, relative newcomer Sayaka Senbongi as Chitose steals the show with her smug attitude, matching guffaws, fake cuteness, purposefully subpar in-anime work, and emotional moments.
Next up, the anime uses a few different techniques with its sound outside of the music. For example, Chitose and Momoka meet the light-novel author whose anime adaptation gave them roles. When he uses his phone to (almost) get their numbers, the audience hears a greasy, squishy noise. A noise that punctuates the author’s less-than-savory self and also pokes fun at the caliber of these writers. Not to mention, the next light-novel author is so quiet that the characters can barely understand him.
The music itself doesn’t include anything impressive, but these pieces do have their own charm.
For the original soundtrack, it consists of many slice-of-life tunes with techno-backed trumpets, light acoustic guitar playing, and slow, off-kilter piano keys. They get at both the laidback and cynical styles of the show rather easily.
For the opening track, it contains strong vocal work from the voice actresses, and it starts and finishes in grand fashion. The middle, though, doesn’t reach the same level of power as it goes instead for computerized sounds and daintier instruments. To its credit, it does act as a cute gap between both flourishing sides. It just doesn’t have a similar spark.
For the ending track, it follows a similar trend to the OP. Once again, the voice actresses perform well, and the start and finish are a weird, stepping lyrical composition that make for a fun little dance number. It’s just the middle section again that doesn’t have the same oomph. A loud whistle and a steady drum beat back the singing but don’t invite the same intrigue.
What I find most fascinating is that this anime calls me out. How I’m maybe part of the problem. I love the cutesy, moe approach. I get hyped up by the PVs and the key visuals. I’m a fan of the songs, the merchandise, and the extra material.
I can’t help it; I adore anime too much. While I won’t not like this stuff anytime soon, I do appreciate what this anime set out to do. How it gave me new insight and something more realistic to think about the next time I catch a new announcement for an anime adaptation.
Onto the anime itself. For me, Chitose was a ton of fun. Her silly reactions and her confident attitude were hysterical if only because she just didn’t care about anyone. It’s why her suffering was a-okay in my book. Yes, it was a harsh yet direct way of getting her to have some humility. But she totally deserved it after all the mean, arrogant, and selfish thoughts that she either kept in mind or let loose from her lips.
I also quite liked many of the other characters even if some of them didn’t have too much screen time. Koto’s optimism. Kazuha’s maturity and dichotomous drunken tirades. Nanami’s inability to process that she shouldn’t do her best.
My favorite, though, was Yae. She was cute and sincere and fun. She was always trying her best, and she let out the occasional Freudian slip. Overall, it was her kindness that won me over – especially when she had her small conversation with Gojou – and I was glad to see her do well as a voice actress.
I also quite liked the cringe moments. Chitose’s mediocre voice acting. Kazuha forcing herself to take part in the bonus footage. The low-quality PV. These cringe moments are tough to watch, but that’s what makes them work so well.
Unfortunately, the second half wasn’t as entertaining to me simply because it started to make the drama, rather than the comedy and the meta discussion, its focus. It was probably inevitable since letting Chitose be mean and uncaring for the entire season wouldn’t do a whole lot for her character. But it didn’t have the same intrigue that the first half presented in full.
Gi(a)rlish Number doesn’t shake the industry, but it at least provides its audience with a different way to view the anime medium. A cynical outlook as well as a more honest set of characters create both dark humor and a realistic situation. A waning plot, missing relationships, and standard musical offerings don’t help the show, but it’s still an interesting, reaction-filled experience nonetheless (parenthetical asides or otherwise).
Story: Fine, a more cynical behind-the-scenes look at the world of anime presents a fresh (although perhaps not new) perspective on the medium, leading to a strong first half but a weak second half
Animation: Good, pretty background art has nothing on Chitose’s wealth of reactions and the attractive designs of the characters
Characters: Good, while Momoka and Kazuha receive some attention, Chitose’s growth from self-centered to slightly humble, thanks mostly to Gojou and the other women who support her, demonstrates the anime industry is not without positivity
Sound: Fine, okay OP, okay ED, okay OST, good VA performances, and interesting extra effects
Enjoyment: Good, the harsh commentary fits, it was fun to both watch Chitose succeed and fail, Yae is too cute and too nice to dislike, but the second half wasn’t as entertaining as the first half
Final Score: 6/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3