Thanasis is a writer, professional geek, and assistant editor at MANGA.TOKYO. He started watching anime with the mecha shows of the 70s and hasn't stopped since. He loves JRPGs.
I like ‘industry’ anime. With almost 60 anime titles coming out each season, not counting the OVAs and movies and special editions, and most of them simulcasting to the rest of the world, there is a growing demand for the art. At some point, anime were bound to go Meta and explore the industry from the inside.
I am not sure if the trend started with Shirobako or not, but I’m pretty sure Girlish Number is not the first anime about voice actors, seiyuu in Japanese. Sore ga Seiyuu! (in my list but haven’t seen yet) was about three seiyuus and their rise to fame.
Girlish Number looks like a more realistic, more cynical take on the seiyuu industry.
Japanese Title: やさぐれ千歳と腐った業界
Girlish Number (also written as Gi(a)rlish Number) is a multimedia project. It launched in the March 2016 issue of ASCII Media Works’ Dengeki G’s Magazine as a serial novel written by Wataru Watari, with illustrations by QP:flapper and Yamcha. It also has a manga drawn by Yuki Domoto, serializing in Dengeki G’s Comic.
It’s another series in the new genre I call ‘industry’ anime. Similar series are Shirobako, New Game! and Stella no Mahou. In Girlish Number, Chitose Karasuma is a voice actress who has been in the industry for almost a year. She is convinced that the industry favors certain people because up until now she had the chance to voice only minor characters, until the opportunity to play a main role in an upcoming anime comes knocking on her door.
Since it’s a multimedia project, the theme songs are sung by either new-made or fictional groups. The opening theme, Bloom, and the ending theme, Ima wa Mijikashi Yumemiyo Otome, are sung by Girlish Number, a group made up of Sayaka Senbongi, Kaede Hondo, Yui Ishikawa, Eri Suzuki, and Saori Ōnishi. The opening theme of the first episode is Ketsui no Dia, sung by Kohaluna, a fictional unit made up of Momoka Sonō (Suzuki) and Kazuha Shibasaki (Ōnishi).
The first episode introduces us to the main characters of the show and the dynamics between them. Karasuma Hitose is a rookie voice actor in the anime industry who is career-hungry. She finds the industry very hard to understand and she is amazed at the way certain people are able to navigate through it with success. Her manager is her older brother, Gojou. He is trying his best to get her a better job, but he, like his sister, believes that the industry is quite messed up. Voice actresses are now expected to be part of the various events and talk shows, learn how to sing and dance, and act like ‘consumer-attracting pandas’. They then have to take part in gossip, lie to everyone to keep their contacts intact, and be part of an industry culture that expects certain things from its members. Hitose is so perplexed by what she sees that she wonders, ‘What does it really means to be a voice actor?’
The rest of the episode resonates at the same frequency: it is sarcastic to the point where you can’t tell if its realism is tragic or funny. Girlish Number is exactly that: sarcasm directed to an industry that prefers to make anime that won’t sell to keep the cogs running. It’s no wonder that 8/10 words the executives utter are either sell or win.
Chitose: Thank the Anime God, this protagonist is flawed. She is not our perfect little princess who will do her best to be the best. Chitose is just your average girl. Not really good, not perfectly honest, maybe a little naïve. She thinks her mind but speaks what favors her.
Seiyuu: Seiyuu is just the Japanese word for ‘voice actor.’ There is literally no difference at all and passionate fans of Japanese media use the original Japanese word for no good reason at all. Being a seiyuu does not make you specifically a Japanese voice actor in Japan. A seiyuu is the same thing as a voice actor. Just like English voice actors, Japanese seiyuu can work in a variety of productions, like movies, anime, cartoons, television series, radio, and video games.
Meta: I really like meta works that are referring to themselves or to the conventions of their genre (or industry). Self-references are always interesting because you don’t really know the layers of censorship it’s gone through or the real level of authenticity. Here we have a work about voice actors who are played by real voice actors who probably know if the material compares to the reality of their lives. This is so meta.
The difference between this ‘industry’ anime and the rest is that Girlish Number seems more interested in the players than the game. While Shirobako was all about the production process and New Game about the drawing techniques, Girlish Number starts strong and quite realistically by portraying the personalities of the characters and their insecurities. This industry, just like the rest of the anime scene, is highly competitive. You can never be sure who your friend is and who is messing with you just to stab you in the back and take your role. I am taking this a little too far, but you can get the gist. Fake smiles, predetermined answers, and evasive correspondence are the norm in an industry that its prime concern is to sell.
This is how the episode ends: Chitose and two industry heads who gave her a main rule without even thinking about it are laughing their hearts out in a chorus of boisterous presumption. For an anime going so Meta, Chitose is being used in such an obvious ways that it made me join her brother Gojou in saying, ‘This industry is seriously messed up.’
NEXT TIME: The Bragging Chitose and the Voiceless Scream (天狗な千歳と声なき悲鳴)