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.