Girlish Number – 10

Girlish Number certainly knows how to expose the dark, lonely corners of the human soul.

girlish-number-10-1It’s ironic that a new season of Wake Up, Girls! was announced on the release day of a new Girlish Number.  Setting aside the fact that anime is so creatively bankrupt that it will even fund sequels to idol shows that failed rather than try something new, there’s this: G;N is everything WUG briefly pretended to be, but isn’t.  It’s what happens when you have the courage (or just don’t give a shit) to call a spade a spade, rather than be a transparent attempt to cash in on a trend under the thinnest veneer of satire.  I suspect the fact that Girlish Number is Watari’s “B” series is the reason why – he doesn’t really care if it makes money or not (unlike Oregairu, his meal ticket) while Yamakan still has designs on salvaging his career.

girlish-number-10-2G;N has done something very important over the past few episodes – it’s made me sympathetic towards Chitose.  I never disliked her – not the way I do Kuzu-P.  She was always annoying, but there was never really any malice in her.  What’s become clear over the past few episodes is twofold – first, that Chitose is aware of her own shortcomings (and yes, bothered by them).  And second, that she has an ambition to try and be something more – but like so many of us, she can’t find the reserves of fortitude to make it happen (even if her talent is sufficient, which is very much an open question).  That goes a long way towards making her a relatable main character (though I’m not convinced she is the main character)  She’s almost taken on a sort of Kuroki Tomoko dark moe vibe.

girlish-number-10-3Girlish Number is very good at bringing us incredibly annoying charas though – and it’s a miracle that it keeps throwing them at us and remains so watchable.  The reason of course is that these people are supposed to be annoying – they’re caricatures of people in the industry that Watari has crossed paths with.  Nanami is absolutely insufferable – and that’s coming from someone who believes she’s genuine and not faking it (at least mostly).  I don’t care if she’s really that hard-working and genki – I still want to pack her in a shipping crate and put her on the next unmanned rocket to the I.S.S..  Her role in forcing Chitose to confront her own shortcomings is a vital one, though – that, and the faultlines she’s exposed at the agency.

girlish-number-10-4Then we have Matsuoka (Matsuoka Yoshitsugu – ironically) the insufferable boor chosen to be Chitose’s “sub-manager”.  He’s a caricature if there ever was one – though maybe there are those in his position who dress like tennis instructors, I don’t know.  I’ve never been a fan of that sort of leadership style because it’s not leadership – it’s just bullying with a smile, an ego trip that’s not really about the person you’re purporting to help.  Matsuoka is also exactly the wrong sort of manager for Chitose, who doesn’t need to have her nose rubbed in her own failures like a puppy forced to sniff its own accidents on the carpet.  She knows, dammit – that’s the whole point.

girlish-number-10-5Ultimately, the grim tale of Girlish Number leads back to Goujou and Chitose and their dysfunctional co-dependence.  This is an area where G;N really excels, because Watari is an expert at laying bare the fears and insecurities of his characters (it shows through even in the deeply flawed Oregairu), and the anime does so beautifully using body language and sidelong glances.  The really sad thing here is that Chitose deeply admires Goujou and wants to understand why he made the choices he did, and Goujou wants to protect his sister and feels he can guide her career in ways no one else could.  And of course they love each other in that complicated way siblings do.  But they just can’t connect – there’s too much static on the line.

girlish-number-10-6We don’t yet know the full details of Goujou’s exit from acting, but I think the question his experience – and Chitose’s, too – is asking is this: is it worth it?  I mean, given what one has to do to succeed as a seiyuu these days, given the deplorable state of the industry, is this goal even worth pursuing?  It didn’t make Goujou happy, clearly, and it doesn’t seem to be making Chitose happy either.  And to be blunt, it seems to me that she’s simply not cut out for this.  She’s not that good at it, and she’s not naturally inclined to bust her ass or to kiss other people’s, both of which are pretty much necessities in the seiyuu industry these days (if you don’t have nepotism on your side, anyway – and even then, it doesn’t hurt).

girlish-number-10-7There would be no shame in Chitose admitting that this life just isn’t for her, and doing something else.  But I think she doesn’t want to, partly because she loves the idea of being a seiyuu/idol (if there’s a difference anymore) but mostly because she doesn’t want to disappoint Goujou and follow in his failed (as she sees it) path. Maybe that’s also the reason he doesn’t encourage her to do just that. But the even larger question G;N dances around the edges of is whether or not any of this is worth it – if this is what anime is in 2016, how hard should we really be fighting to keep it alive?  I don’t expect Watari will ever ask that question outright (certainly not in the anime), but it’s remarkable enough that he’s willing even to suggest at it.



  1. H

    I really like your take on the series. You are one of the few people I’ve seen criticising the show for what it is, instead of what they want it to be and what this show clearly isn’t.

    Having said that, I just can’t buy the whole narrative of Watari ostensibly pointing out that anime is in decline and deep trouble. Ironically this show proves that anime as a medium is alive and well. Girlish Number couldn’t have possibly existed if things were as bad as you are saying. It is just that people like Watari (and you too, seemingly) are prone to being overly dramatic when it comes to the failings of the things they truly love.

    Girlish Number is still funded by a production committee. As hard as it tries, it can’t escape being male gazy at times probably because the people producing it are just too used to framing things this way. While Watari’s comedic writing improved considerably since Oregairu, it still can’t help but make a stupid boob size joke while making a point about tropey light novel jokes several episodes prior. Lately animation have been lacking not unlike in the in-universe Kuusure. Its direction have been often inspired, but sometimes a little too on-the-nose. Finally, its BluRays/DVDs are sold with exclusive fanservicey art as one of the main bonus item. The main selling point of this show as a product is a cast of cute anime archetypes. And you know what? It is still incredible that it exists and it is as good as it is all things considered. As long as talented people like Water conceive projects like this and continue to improve their clearly non-perfect skill set, anime is fine.

    One side note at the end:
    >>I suspect the fact that Girlish Number is Watari’s “B” series
    Is it really? It was originially conceived even before Oregairu became a huge hit and it is his only solo project published for the last 1,5 years. He also seems to be more heavily involved in producing this anime than LN authors usually are as the nature of the project itself is mixed media.

  2. Sales are sales – this is his B series and it’s not even close. Oregairu dramatically outsells it in printed form and G;N isn’t going to sell a fifth of what Oregairu did on disc, if Stalker is right. And I don’t think that’s unexpected to anyone involved in the project.

    Here’s the thing. There’s no way Girlish Number would have gotten an anime at all if Oregairu weren’t a hit – hell, it probably wouldn’t even have been serialized. I’m sure Watari knows this – clearly, he’s neither naive or a fool. I don’t think the fact the this show was produced is in any way reflective of some thriving creative spark in the industry – it’s just keeping the golden goose author happy and hoping his name being attached is enough to at least prevent the series from becoming a massive money-loser.

    Thanks for the comment. This show gets criminally little discussion, including here.

  3. H

    Thank you for clearing it up, I was thinking that you meant it is his “B” project in terms of effort while it clearly isn’t. It is a shame Girlish Number can’t be at least a quarter as popular as Oregairu, which, by the way, I think had a terrific S2 with light novel drivel considerably toned down, though your criticism of the series remains perfectly valid.

    Watari is clearly a smart guy who plays by the industry playbook to keep his publisher happy, but attempts to diverge from it here and there. I just wonder how long he can keep up having projects like this one funded without being completely discouraged. Luckily, even considering Girlish Number is projected to do poorly sales-wise, I can see it getting a new cour if the modest expectations of the production committee are satisfied. It just seems that the whole cour is structured with the assumption that the next one is coming, especially bearing in mind that the whole story so far is anime original (the light novel is a prequel).

  4. I’d love to think you’re right and a S2 could happen, but I’m pretty skeptical. We’ll see.

  5. I try to comment on this show every week ! I watch like 37 shows and gave a hard time commenting on a few ( BTW ) Show discussions / comments are down elsewhere too so dont feel bad I think the use of Smartphone APPS / Game / Roku make a disconnect to human thought -discussion.

    Oh yes I ?? / bang my head against the wall a lot when some animes get more cours ( which they dont deserve ) while some we really want to never do.That being said we did get one victory with Rinne 3 .

    And sales dont always matter either ! Go figure

    But my take on this . I agree with you I respect Nanami but she is a bit overboard I think.

    Now to Chitose I am probally one of the few ( besides your view )that never disliked her / yes she is misguided but has somewhat of a keen take on things . Her problem she gets led astray easily and only see can turn her career around

    Gojo even though Chitose doent help her cause tells the president how about support for Chitose . Apparently the prez is right seiiyuu are replacable but didnt he con Chitose into doing things too.He kinda 2-faced and makes deal while drinking I have little or no respect for him.

    If anybody doesnt deserve a brak it’s Kuzu why would Towada want him back at all !

    I think Chitose needs to know why Gojo quit being a VA is she wanrs to fix things

    I cant wait to see your take on the next Ajin EP

  6. a

    You should really watch the second season of Oregairu (if you haven’t already) because his sharp-pointed writing was really noticeable there as well and plus the fact that the show got infinitely better ( though I did like the first season already ). Not surprised Girlish Number turned out to have this much pointedness the issues that it wants to tackle regarding the idol and anime industry!

  7. I’ve heard that from enough people at this point that it’s definitely on my list. But it involves finishing the first season first (I bailed with 3-4 eps to go), and then watching another cour. So you know, time. But if next season is as desolate as it looks, maybe I’ll have a chance to give it a shot…

  8. r

    Wanted to express my gratitude that you are blogging this series as well. I would never have given this series a shot if it were not for your reviews, what with that title and that kind of premise. Like you, I’m not really into Cute Girls Doing Cute Things (Did you coin this phrase, btw?) in the absence of thoughtful characterization and meaningful character development.

    I was kind of taken aback by the hate directed towards Chitose … I thought what with the proliferation of “dark,” “difficult,” and yes, “unlikeable” protagonists all across the American TV landscape that people would have grown accustomed to this sort of thing by now. But I guess Chitose falls under the Sansa paradigm of being a portrayal of a shallow, bratty teenage girl with all the attendant self-absorption that has a way of really drawing out the ire from fans who are otherwise cool with sociopaths. My own feelings towards Chitose are probably similar to the way Momoka sees her. She’s amusing. Yes, she is full of herself, airheaded, and shallow. But like you said, compared to Kuzu, she’s fairly harmless. And against the backdrop of this soul destroying industry, maybe some self-delusion is needed to protect one’s sanity?

    Re: industry decline … wonder if anime’s problems are that different in nature from the ones Hollywood is currently experiencing? Lots of risk-averse business decisions that lead to a glut of remakes, adaptations, ripoffs, and continuations of tried-and-true franchises (superhero films … all the superhero films). Maybe from an investment perspective the industry is working as intended? Like a friend said, he’d invest in the Marvel films too, given the stability of the returns.

  9. I never hated Chitose, but it’s only in the last couple eps that… well, I don’t know if “like” is the right word. But I definitely feel her. She’s very real – a flawed person who hurts other people but doesn’t really mean to. For me, she’s taken on something of the “dark moe” quality of Tomoko from Watamote.

  10. F

    Although a bit late because of real-life events, but I also wanted to comment on this episode, since it was so remarkably effective in portraying Chitose as a feeling human being. I think it’s a really big praise for this series if you say that you feel a character, and my emotions are almost the same towards her, like I could understand her situation as if she was one of my close friends. I wouldn’t even say that Chitose is shallow or bratty, she just acts and behaves in a shallow manner since she perceives this way of communicating as normal, but it’s not like that she doesn’t have deeper thoughts or that she doesn’t feel anxious or lost sometimes. While I agree that in some ways her character is similar to Tomoko’s – or for that matter she reminded me how Asuka behaved in the early episodes of NGE, since both of them have the same aura of self-awareness, like they are conscious of their failings, but at the same time unable to initiate change due to their personality and of course because changing oneself is not that easy of a task in and of itself (and because of this I see a lot of misguided criticism towards the show like there’s no character development, but as I see it would lessen the value of the story significantly if the main character realised her flaws and corrected her errors during the first five episodes – people just don’t work that way) – but in Tomoko’s case I often felt that she should seek the help of a psychologist since her behaviour indicated a grave mental disorder and that somehow undermined my empathy for her, since she was so out-of-reach for my understanding due to my lack of experience of dealing with mentally ill people. In that manner Chitose feels very real, like she’s the embodiment of some of the most humanistic characteristics.

  11. Oh. I’m not equating Chitose and Tomoko in the sense that their issues are the same – Tomoko has serious depression and phobia issues that really could and should be helped by seeing a professional therapist. But I feel the same kind of empathy/protectiveness towards them (which is what “moe” actually means, before otaku morphed the perceived definition), because their pain feels so real. When you see Chitose in this episode, being brutalized by her new “manager” or unable to connect with Goujou-kun, you just want to take her aside and say “You know, it’s going to be OK. Hang in there.”

    I agree with you about the criticism of this show, and I see it a lot with anime these days. I blame it on the rise of LNs to be honest, because it’s had a corrosive effect on the ability of fans to stay with a realistic character arc. They want characters to come fully cooked in the first episode, not develop over the course of a series.

  12. Thanks- I’d never heard of him.

  13. D

    “I still want to pack her in a shipping crate and put her on the next unmanned rocket to the I.S.S.”

    What have the people on the I.S.S. ever done to you?

    Nanami is very annoying, though.

  14. F

    Yeah, that kind of people could irritate me to no end, I don’t even know whether it’s worse if they are only faking the enthusiasm, or not.

    And imagine those poor astronauts having to deal with the overflowing ‘genkiness’ of Nanami, like “We should do this experiment again, just to be sure!” or “John should check the solar panels in every two hours, because astronauts can never be fully prepared” and so on.

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