Twitter is an interesting form of communication in many ways. Aside from the obvious implications of the 140 character limit for framing a thought, there’s also the instantaneous nature of it. Both of those elements can obviously be a boon or a curse (as this year has surely proven), but one thing I kind of like from a purely personal angle is that it pushes you to react instinctively. There are times when discussing a topic (such as anime) when I find myself saying something on twitter than I didn’t realize I knew (or at least believed) until after I’d typed it.
Earlier this week the subject of why Girlish Number works came up, and I answered “It’s very humanistic”. And while I hadn’t thought all that much about it, I realized that is indeed a huge part of why a show as focused on negativity as G;N can be a successful comedy (and drama). While it wouldn’t be nearly as effective focusing mostly on the easy targets the dysfunctional and declining anime industry provides, Girlish Number explores that decline largely through the impact it has on the people inside the industry. And like most people, most of them are just decent, largely ethical and not especially heroic souls who want to make a living and do their best. And the fact that some of them got into the business for love makes their personal stories that much more impactful.
One avenue this episode is setting up that does concern me is the potential redemption of Kuzu-P. I’ll be honest – I don’t want to see him redeemed. The anime business wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in if there weren’t people like him in positions of power, and redeeming him feels uncomfortably like giving the industry a pass. I don’t care that Kuzu got bullied at his old company or that he used to actually do his job – he made the choices that put him where he is now. Kuzu is what those who work with and for him call him behind his back – trash. Some people just are, in every business – not most, but some. And pretending otherwise doesn’t do anyone any favors, especially when trying to do a serious exploration of a decaying creative medium. I hope G;N treads carefully here.
Much more successful is the introduction of Sakuragaoka* Nanami (Sato Amina), a young seiyuu just breaking into the business after winning an audition contest. Sakuragaoka is apparently a huge fan of “KuuSure” (or else she’s a really good actress) and the agency (Gojou and Chitose’s) president brings her in to observe and mingle. Whether she’s as earnest as she seems or not, Nanami is everything she needs to be to represent a huge threat to Chitose – she’s younger, more bubbly, better at schmoozing, and the new apple of the agency’s eye.
Chitose is in many ways a microcosm of why Girlish Number succeeds as a series. She’s not as interesting or likeable as others in the cast (especially Momoka) but she’s very real. G;N doesn’t spare us from her shallowness and very real limitations, but it doesn’t judge her too harshly either – because the world of work is full of people like her. He aspirations aren’t especially noble, but she just wants to be happy. And she’s just not that talented or driven to excellence. She wants to succeed but not necessarily for the right reasons, and she’s willing to work at it but only so hard. She’s not a bad person, just a very fallible one, and anime has chewed up and spit out many like her over the decades – even before being a female seiyuu was one step below being an idol, and being an idol was one step below prostitution.
I like the fact that G;N makes me care about Chitose, and that the strain Sakuragaoka-kun’s arrival puts on her relationship with Gojou is genuinely painful to watch. The implications of sending Nanami on a big audition instead of Chitose are obvious. So is swapping Gojou out to manage Nanami instead of Chitose, but that’s so much more personal. Gojou is her brother, her protector – for all that they squabble and needle each other, they’re still family and Chitose always knows that Gojou-kun has her back. Until now.
The subject of Gojou’s decision to quite being a seiyuu has been danced around a lot in nine episodes, but mostly it’s been the elephant in the room. It’s clearly had a big impact on Chitose – she seems motivated to succeed in part to either vindicate her brother’s career or else make up for what she sees as his failure (or most likely both). When she lashes out at him after he’s assigned to Nanami with “Maybe I’ll be like you and quit after one big role”, the silence is deafening. It gives is another clue that something significant happened there, but it’s also obvious that Chitose knows she’s gone too far. In her heart she knows Gojou-kun would never drop her as a client by choice, and that this subject is painful for him. She wants to apologize but can’t, for the same reason she lashed out in the first place – she’s still a childish person. She’d like to do better, but she doesn’t know how. And if that’s not something most of us can relate to, what in the world is?
*It just struck me with the introduction of Sakuragaoka that every character in Girlish Number has the name of a train station somewhere in the Tokyo Metropolitan area. Sakuragaoka also happens to be the neighborhood in Shibuya where my language school is.