Girlish Number Collection (Cert 12)
2 Discs DVD / Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 291 minutes approx.
So, you want to work in the anime industry do you? Think it might be fun to write a cool story that grips fans across the globe, or bring someone’s drawings to life? Or maybe you could be a voice actor and get to be silly, brave, evil, or romantic as per the demands of the role, then enjoy the trappings of fame that follow? If it is the last option that grabs your attention there are a few things you should know.
Chitose Karasuma believes she has the all the tools for being a top anime voice actress, or seiyuu. Signed to the Number One Produce agency, Chitose has worked a number of small roles, sometimes just one line, but feels should be voicing the lead character therefore she concludes the anime industry is rotten for not recognising her immense talent.
Finally Chitose’s long suffering manager and older brother Gojo, himself a former seiyuu, informs his egotistical sister that she is to be the main voice in an anime adaptation of a light novel series Millennium Princess x Kowloon Overlord. Chitose feels vindicated by this long overdue endorsement, until she realises it is a harem show and she’s starring alongside four other girls.
Girlish Number (or Gi(a)rlish Number as it is known in Japan) began as a serial novel by Wataru Watari which quickly became a manga before this anime adaptation. It follows in the footsteps of Shirobako and Sore ga Seiyuu! in taking us behind the scenes to reveal the inner workings of an anime production.
Shirobako is a highly regarded series that covers every aspect of the anime business from the decision making right down to the office gopher fetching the tea, whilst Sore ga Seiyuu! is a moe comedy about three young female seiyuu working together. Girlish Number falls somewhere between the two in that it covers more than just the voice acting aspect whilst also being a comedy with cutesy character designs.
Thankfully none of the characters in these other shows are as obnoxious and possessing an over-inflated ego of themselves like Chitose does, making this a more cynical take on this meta topic. Whilst she may look cute and complaint on the outside, we are privy to Chitose’s inner thoughts and they are rarely complimentary of others, revealing a young woman whose feet are barely touching the ground.
Gojo on the other hand has no compunction in calling his sister a “newbie piece of crap” to her face to bring her into line but in Chitose’s mind it is everyone else’s fault for not recognising her talent. Getting the lead role in Millennium Princess sees her ego swell to bigger proportions until Chitose realises she is sharing the spotlight with four other seiyuu, two of whom are popular with lead roles to their credit and two girls still breaking into the business.
Otaku Koto Katakura is actually older than Chitose, starting out alongside Gojo but never got that big break, whilst Yae Kugayama is the cute youngster who looks up to Chitose. Momoka Sono is a popular idol and anime progeny with a seiyuu mother and director father, and Kazuha Shibasaki is slightly similar to Chitose in that she believes herself to be a serious actress and behaves like a diva, except her weak manager lets her.
Kazuha’s behaviour is given an explanation later in the run, previewed by how her stoic persona changes after a few bottles of sake, in a rare moment of someone else other than Chitose’s character given some depth. Whilst Kazuha has a reason, Chitose thinks this is how a star seiyuu should act and copies Kazuha’s actions almost verbatim, mostly to her disadvantage.
This exposes a problem for the audience as Chitose is supposed to be our guide through the world behind the curtain of anime, but her lofty attitude and lack of self-awareness are not endearing traits. It is not that she is a bad person – she is human, feeling the pain of criticism and failure, whilst her enthusiasm and confidence is infectious – but it is as if this is supposed to be a an exercise in schadenfreude rather than entertainment.
By the end of these twelve episodes, after a few knockbacks, near disasters, and rude awakenings, Chitose does seem to have sorted her game out but her unwavering self-belief still borders on the egotistical which may never change. I remain convinced fans will warm to Yae, Koto or even chipper late addition Nanami Sakuragaoka over Chitose, which undermines her draw as the main character.
In terms of the educational value of how an anime shows is made, there is a lot shared that should prove to be the real lure of this title. For instance, we learn that the seiyuu don’t always work to a finished animated clip, instead they record their dialogue to an animatic instead, often making it hard for them to gauge their character’s mood.
A Seiyuu’s work doesn’t end with the voice recording either – they are expected to go on the road and hold live preview events for eager fans to promote the show, and maybe even sing a song or two. This adds a different dimension to the stresses they are under as performers as well as explaining why some, like Chitose, think being a seiyuu equates to being a beloved superstar to the otaku faithful.
Studio Diomedéa, whose most noted work to date is probably Squid Girl, handles the production, balancing the hubris of the comedy with the tension and strains of this fast moving yet apparently thankless industry. Character designs aren’t particularly ground breaking or distinctive, compensating with the artwork of the settings in and out of the studio.
If Girlish Number doesn’t deter you from becoming a voice artist it has at least achieved something. It’s an enjoyable slice of meta anime that would have benefited from either a more relatable and likeable protagonist or a stronger satirical script.
Japanese Language 2.0 w/ English Subtitles
Disc 2 Only:
Inside Show Preview
Rating – ***
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