12 Days of Anime – #2 Girlish Number and the Ugly Underside of the Anime Industry

I didn’t actually enjoy watching Girlish Number this past fall, but I just had to include the show among my twelve moments of 2016 due to the impact it had on me as a viewer and anime fan. Many people have described it as a sort of antithesis to Shirobako, a P.A. Works series that for the most part positively portrays the anime industry. There are some trials that the characters go through, as well as some less than ideal coworkers, but the tone for the majority of the show was one of optimism. Diomedia’s Girlish Number enters with the point of a view of a fledgling voice actress and proceeds to reveal an uglier side of the industry where voices are chosen not for their skill and dedication, but for the girls’ names and looks as they would pertain to public appearances aimed at one thing: the customer’s wallet. It’s an interesting dilemma for the anime viewer; while on one hand I would prefer they maintain the integrity of the writer’s story by choosing quality over quantity, I also admittedly enjoy public events featuring bubbly and attractive staff. But the bottom line is that I honestly do not care what someone looks like as much as I care that they are the best in what they do.

This is where the main issue with Girlish Number lies–the leaders at the helm see everything in dollar signs, including the source material, voice actors, and fans. Then there’s the cynical views from the staff and cast. With only one year of experience, Chitose still considers herself an undiscovered diamond. Unfortunately for her, she lacks the necessary skills and determination to back up that attitude. She ignores the advice of her manager brother, who is himself a failed voice actor, belittles the misgivings of her peers, obsesses over social media, and gobbles up the false praise of her higher-ups. Others, including her own brother and coworkers, refer to her repeatedly as trash, even to her face. Yet she continues to shrug off almost all criticism with the delusional belief that she deserves all the rewards with none of the work. I applaud the writing of a character whom I can so thoroughly despise and pity at the same time.

As painful as I find it to watch this train wreck, I still highly recommend this show. Girlish Number is an extremely well crafted piece of satire exposing the underbelly of the anime industry in easily understandable, even relatable, ways. In the end, we, the viewers and lovers of anime, are the ultimate losers.


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4 thoughts on “12 Days of Anime – #2 Girlish Number and the Ugly Underside of the Anime Industry

  1. I tried, but just couldn’t stick with the show. As you said, it was just painful to watch, and tho I can accept the message of the show, I don’t particularly like to see it. A lot of kinda awful people treating each other in an awful manner. And it’s something that repeats in just about every industry where there are a glut of people who probably aren’t particularly good at the work or meet the minimum required, ready to be used, chewed up, and spit out.

    I prefer my message to be tempered a little bit, like it was in Sore ga Seiyuu: more characters you can root for, a bit more hope, a lot less people being awful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I haven’t seen Sore ga Seiyuu–I’ll have to look it up!
      I really only can handle these types of satire every once in a while. I probably couldn’t watch one a season, and definitely not more than one.

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  2. In many ways this is one of those series I am extremely glad was able to be made and to air. I really do think it says some important things that need to be said and heard. (Also Shirobako was only an “okay” series for me.) But yes – absolutely: this is a series that many fans who enjoy the medium watch and squirm uncomfortably in their seats while doing so. And I for one am glad for it! For me personally this sort of narrative angle in general is one that does not often work for me … but it has for me here … something in and of itself has been an ongoing curiosity as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, as heavy handed as I found the messages to be at times, I still thought them and the feelings they evoked essential. It’s much too easy for people to just avoid the issues even if they’re aware of their existence, or to think that they can’t really do anything so there’s no point in thinking about it. It’s important to start with acknowledgement and discussion.

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