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Girlish Number – 12 (END)

「烏丸千歳と……」 (Karasuma Chitose to…..)
“Chitose Karasuma and…”

OK, sigh of relief officially breathed…

Of all the series I watched in 2016, there’s no question that Girlish Number was the biggest pleasant surprise – the show that most exceeded my expectations. Which is to say none, because this thing was completely off my radar until a bunch of folks urged me to check it out. Forget sleeper, it was more just asleep as far as I was concerned. But GN ended up being a show I really looked forward to every week, and one that continued to surprise me (not always for the better, but mostly) even after I figured out how good it was.

Let me stipulate for the record that I have and have never had expectations that Girlish Number is going to be popular (Stalker agrees), or that most of the people who do watch it are going to be receptive to what it has to say. Anime fans don’t, as a rule, like to be reminded of what’s wrong with the medium because such reminders are an implicit criticism of them. It’s because the audience is so easily led by the nose that the industry is able to get away with the stuff we see in this series, but people don’t want to hear that. And who can blame them? It’s just entertainment, when push comes to shove.

Oddly, though, the fact that Girlish Number is clearly the author writing mostly for his own entertainment is the source of much of its charm. This series is much like Majimoji Rurumo in that it’s the “B” series of an author with a massively popular “A” title, and that it got an anime only because of that other series’ commercial influence. Now it’s hard to imagine two writers more different in tone and substance (though not in name – eerily similar) than Watari Wataru and Watanabe Wataru. The latter is upbeat and innocent, and Majimoji Rurumo reflects that beautifully. But Gi(a)rlish just as beautifully reflects Watari’s cynicism and world-weary resignation. The difference is that in his case, it works much more effectively here than in the far more popular title for which he’s mostly known, because the change in setting allows him to at least partially escape from the LN cliches which are (ironically) his stumbling block.

My worry with this series, as you know if you’ve read my posts at LiA, was that Girlish Number was going to sell out in the end – to give us a feel-good conclusion or redeem Kuzu-P in such a fashion as to betray the spirit of the show. But as you also know I’ve become increasingly confident in recent weeks that wasn’t likely to happen, because Gi(a)rlish has demonstrated that it’s got the balance just right. A satire can’t be all bleakness and despair if it’s going to work narratively, and Watari understands this – and the focus on the human side of the equation has allowed him to give the audience something to feel good about without glossing over the industry issues the series has highlighted. And damn if Chitose – my “false main character” – hasn’t turned out to be a very winning protagonist.

I’ll allow that the drama in the finale was a bit forced – yes, Tokyo rarely gets snow and tends to seize up when it does, but the others managed to get to the studio more or less on-time. But thematically I think it works, because we see that even after her pep-talk from Goujou-kun, there’s no miraculous transformation – Chii-sama is still Chii-sama. This is who she is, just like the industry is what it is – she’s slovenly, lazy, a procrastinator and self-obsessed. But in the end she does want to do the right thing, and she does feel a sense of responsibility to the others on “her” team. But I like the fact that it was the “I’ll kill you” from Goujou that finally rousted her into action.

That carries over to the recording session itself (there’s a beautiful moment when the disheveled Chitose urges herself to “Act like Chitose!” before she descends the stairs). Chi’s “pep talk” is hilariously jaded – basically, “This show sucks and dammit, the whole industry sucks, and I don’t even understand the material but I like you guys, so let’s do a decent job”. And then Momoka (who may be my favorite female character this season) basically confirms that “KuuSure” is a joke but she, too, kind of likes the project, and everyone gets down to business. And all this is happening right in front of the LN author, mind you.

That pretty much sums up the (un)happy medium that Gi(a)rlish Number reaches in the end – today’s anime may suck, but it’s the only anime we have so by God, let’s make the best of it. There are good people here, people who want to do good work and represent the medium they love well, but irrespective of that when one takes a job they have to do their best no matter the circumstances. Let’s be blunt, GN still waters things down a bit – I mean, compared to what animators suffer through seiyuu are on a luxury cruise (if anyone decides to make a series about that situation, I’ll start lining up now to buy the Blu-rays) but even so, it lays the industry bare in a way no other TV anime has really dared to.

I think that’s why Chitose works as a MC in the end. She’s not a great person, but she’s the right fit for the job. Who among us hasn’t said “Let’s make lots of money for easy work!” – at least when we thought no one was listening? Chitose is all about diminished expectations, an irritating and exasperating figure you somehow can’t help but like (which is anime in 2016 pretty much, at least for me). She may not be the protagonist we want, but she’s the on we need (and deserve, ROFL). And she’s very much true to herself, warts and all, which is something I respect. She has a strong desire to be something whether she deserves it or not, and in a perverse way that’s kind of admirable.

That, in the end, is what maintains the balance in Girlish Number and makes it enjoyable to watch rather than depressing. The cast is excellent, each of the main girls and even the guys having a clearly defined persona by the end. Momoka is one of the best and most trope-defying characters of the year, and the relationship between Chitose and Goujou ends up being one of the more believable and even moving sibling bonds we’ve seen in anime for a while. It never gives itself over to sloppy sentimentalism even in the end, but it’s clear how these two feel about each other (warts and all).

“Make the best of it” may not be the most inspirational message for a series, and “It’s anime’s fault!” may be the worst way to try and win over an audience. But they work a treat for Girlish Number, which walks a tightrope between cynicism and determined resolve as well as it can be walked. “Kata na. GA HA HA!” indeed – the conversation in the bar at the end summed up the “KuuSure” (and Girlish Number) experience about as well as it can be. Not everyone can change the world, but everyone has to live in it – and that applies to our little anime corner of it just as much as anywhere else.

Epilogue:

 

ED2 Sequence

End Card

December 26, 2016 at 12:14 pm
14 comments »
  • December 26, 2016 at 12:32 pmboingman

    That ever (fake) smiling Kuzu-P guy and his boss were so annoying that I had to drop the show after ep. 03.

  • December 26, 2016 at 2:34 pmJuan

    This show really was the dark horse of the season and turned out to be one of the best. I don’t know if it’s the kind of show that will be remembered a year from now but I think that those who took the time to watch it will remember it fondly :)

  • December 26, 2016 at 5:03 pmJeffers

    I really liked how the animations portrayed the emotions. When yae went to talk to chitose after noticing something wrong, man… Those facial expression by chitose really looked that she is in pain and you feel the pain too. When she somewhat smiles, You would know its a forced, a fake smile. The seiyuu of chitose did well conveying the emotion too.

    Anyway Girlish Number plot buildup is slow which is why most drops this anime but i am thankful i stayed and kept watching… Definitely the darkhorse.

    Didnt know that this was popular. What i know was that, fans watch only this to fill their daily anime watchlist.

    And yeah… The OP is very good. The mix of voices is great.

  • December 26, 2016 at 6:31 pmtheemathas

    Let’s be blunt, GN still waters things down a bit – I mean, compared to what animators suffer through seiyuu are on a luxury cruise (if anyone decides to make a series about that situation, I’ll start lining up now to buy the Blu-rays)

    Wake Up Girls comes pretty close to what you want. The only difference is that it’s about idols instead of seiyuu. It really shows how hard being an idol is (especially episode 2, which is outright uncomfortable to watch in a good way). If you don’t believe me, see this review of Wake Up Girls. This show has season 2 coming in 2017 too.

    Here are my favorite quotes from Wake Up Girls:

    Don’t rest! Don’t complain! Don’t think!

    You’re an idol first and a human being second. In other words, you’re a piece of subhuman trash

    After all, we’re not here to make friends. We’re here to become idols

  • December 26, 2016 at 6:44 pmSilver

    Have not watch this show at all yet so I’m going to be slightly off topic. The reason I’m here was I saw the name “Chitose Karasuma” and was confused to see it in an post about Girlish Number. Did not know the main character has the same name as a character in Galaxy Angel (she also happens to be one of my favorite character in the game) hahaha! I wonder if anyone still remembers Galaxy Angel considering it’s quite an old show.

    Anyway, really time to actually start watching this show now that it’s completed.

    • December 26, 2016 at 7:11 pmguardian enzo

      I confess I don’t remember Galaxy Angel well enough to have noticed that. I don’t see an obvious connection, but I do know that all of the major characters in GN are named after Tokyo area railway stations.

    • December 27, 2016 at 7:18 amJeffers

      i have watched galaxy angel and followed each series of it… and was actually hoping that they animate the eternal lovers and moonlit lovers. my fave is milfeulle sakuraba that damn lucky girl. now is there someone who remembers the GA? now you know :D

      their songs are also catchy. like this anime’s OP

    • December 28, 2016 at 9:45 amtheirs

      Funny how GA’s Chitose and GN’s Chitose are almost the exact opposite personality wise. Especially when it comes to work ethic. I played both games a decade ago. Can’t say how anime only viewers remember Chitose though. IIRC she didn’t get much development, err.. I meant screen time in the anime series.

  • December 26, 2016 at 8:58 pmChromeNova

    Where are you guys watching episode 12? I cannot find a link to it, isn’t it supposed to air on Wednesday? Am I in a different timezone o_o

  • December 26, 2016 at 10:18 pmWindows

    The thing about GN is that you could literally change the setting of this into any form of entertainment-based medium and it wouldn’t change at all. It’s not like its recent contemporaries like Sore ga Seiyuu and Shirobako where the main setting really meshed together with the story and themes of the respective shows. Here the satire is snide yet horrifically shallow only plucking at the lowest hanging fruit in the form of LNs and money-driven producers while the plot lines regarding the production of the show as well as supposed seiyuu life is predominantly lacking in any actual insight.

    Though I’m not saying it’s bad because of that no far from it. The show is a relatively decent character drama with albeit a particularly hammy second half but that’s just the classic Watari touch — alongside the meta-ironic self-deprecating mumbo jumbo he always does. Even if you’re just looking for a show about cute girls acting cynical and bitchy then boy does this fill that in spades. However, if you’re the type that likes to find vindication that anime today is by and large is dying and complete garbo then I guess this serves as some sort of cheap echo chamber for that too.

    All in all, compared to what I originally thought, I’m glad it didn’t try to be some sort of harsh “critical” inside look into the industry because God knows they’d fail horribly at that nor did it try to be an incredibly satirical work that’d be too far up its own ass to realize it was laughing at itself. It was a simple and endearing work place drama with the added bonus that it’s set in the anime industry, no matter how superficial that setting might be, and that’s perfectly fine. In fact, that was probably the only route it could have taken without bogging itself down.

    GN is pretty decent especially compared to Yahari. Watari works best writing amusing character dynamics and damn has he got it to down. Okay show; Chitose made the best faces.

  • December 26, 2016 at 10:20 pmArche

    I loved Girlish Number as it started. Best first episode of the season. Then things got more serious in the second half and it felt like a different series, which in my eyes wasn’t to its advantage. Otherwise it was a heck of show and I’d be more than happy to see it get a second season.

  • December 28, 2016 at 9:37 amtheirs

    One of the few anime that I actually anticipate watching each week. There’s a strange charm to this show. That coming from someone who hardly knows anything about seiyu. That fact does make me question a few things though. I really don’t know if this show is actually taking jabs at real life events. Let’s take Chitose’s fear of not getting any more jobs after landing a main role, I really don’t know if that has actually ever happened. Makes you really wonder how the industry works.

    Gotta agree this was a pleasant surprise. Wasn’t really interested when reading the synopsis, but that first episode review got me to check it out. Glad I did really, though it ended up making me watch way too many shows this season.

    Like they say: Kata ne. Gahaha!

    • December 28, 2016 at 9:58 amGuardian Enzo

      The jabs here are absolutely based on real-life industry events. The only thing in doubt for me is how much of a self-insert the LN author character is.

  • January 5, 2017 at 6:24 pmjoestar

    Man, I really hope there’s an OVA for this.

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