The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games and life converge

Girlish Number: Whole-series Review and Reflection

“This guy needs an ego check.”
“We’ll see to that!”

–Jake “Hangman” Seresin and Brigham “Harvard” Lennox, Top Gun: Maverick

A year into her work as a voice actress, university student Chitose Karasuma has only performed in minor roles. Although she believes there is something inherently wrong with the industry for not recognising her talent, Chitose gets recruited into a lead role with an upcoming light novel adaptation of Millennium Princess × Kowloon Overlord. Although initially thrilled to take this role on, Chitose learns firsthand that she may have overestimated her own abilities, but with support from her fellow cast members, Yae Kugayama, Koto Katakura, and veterans Momoka Sonō and Kazuha Shibasaki, as well as advice and management from her older brother, Gojō, Chitose is spurred on to improve and continue putting her best effort even after the adaptation’s first season fails. Chitose’s devotion to her profession is challenged when an up-and-coming voice actress, Nanami Sakuragaoka joins and draws the attention of the higher-up staff. However, despite these setbacks, Chitose decides that she’ll put in her best effort anyways and improve as a voice actress so that she can be proud of whatever work she is cast in. This is Girlish Number (occasionally rendered as Gi(a)rlish Number), an anime from the autumn 2016 season that portrays the grit surrounding the voice acting industry in Japan while at the same time, combining it with the classic moé aesthetic that came together to produce an end-result that proved unexpectedly enjoyable: harsh reality is dampened by the characters’ adorable mannerisms, but at the same time, Girlish Number also pulls no punches in showing the nature of the industry. Studios cut corners, management and leadership favour profit over production quality, and people are constantly replaced, resulting in anime that cast members sometimes are displeased to have worked on. As Chitose eventually discovers, this is just part of the occupation, and even if the project one has contributed to does not turn out well, the voice actors and actresses themselves can still put in their best effort so they have no regrets. This is most visible with Kazuha, an actress who is quite displeased with the anime roles she’s been assigned to, but as she spends more time with the others, she becomes more willing to take more pride in the work she does.

Beyond its core themes, Girlish Number is a fantastic show of what can result when capability and ego do not line up. The anime presents both Chitose and Kuzu as grossly overestimating their own abilities. Chitose begins her journey a novice voice actress with an excessively high opinion of her talent and sees little incentive to accept advice from others or improve, counting on her novelty as a rookie to carry the day, while producer Kuzu possesses a very nonchalant attitude and tends to be okay with cutting corners so long as a product comes out. Although the pair manage to lurch their way through Girlish Number and deliver Millennium Princess × Kowloon Overlord to generally poor sales, things go downhill as the two both lose their confidence in the face of adversity. In this regard, Girlish Number ventures into a topic anime do not typically cover – the idea that when people with an ego suffer a fall, there is still a chance to get back up. Having seen both Chitose and Kuzu talking the talk, and then failing to walk the walk in Girlish Number, their stumbles were inevitable. However, because viewers are also shown their situations, it’s difficult to actively wish ill towards the characters, and instead, Girlish Number compels viewers to see how Chitose and Kuzu recover from their slump. In Chitose’s case, she learns to accept that, even though she’s not exceptional, she can still put in her best effort and output work she’s proud of. Similarly, Kuzu is made to realise that if he’d merely tried and played a more active role in contributing to a project, things would turn out better. In short, Girlish Number shows how even the more arrogant or lazy individuals often just need a little nudge: if one is willing to spot that one is in the wrong, there is opportunity to recover. Of course, reality is harsher – folks who cannot accept this will be perpetually stuck in their ways, but in the case of an anime like Girlish Number, where character growth is what drives the story, it was inevitable that Chitose and Kuzu could extricate themselves and find new value in what they do, resulting in a satisfying outcome to a series whose characters were quite lovable.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Girlish Number aired during the same season as Brave Witches did, and back then, since I was doing episodic reviews for the latter back then, I put Girlish Number on the back-burner, looking to return to it at some point. In my usual manner for procrastination, however, I never did return; it’s now been a shade more than six years since Girlish Number finished its run, and I’ve finally had a chance to sit down and watch this series. Owing to the amount of time that has passed, any spoilers I may have inadvertently read, I’ve forgotten, and therefore, I was able to enter Girlish Number with no expectations.

  • The fact that Girlish Number was a reasonably well-received series, however, would explain why the Japanese Battlefield community would end up making Chitose emblems. During this time, Battlefield 1 had just released, and I saw a large number of players with Chitose’s face as their emblem. A few months later, after I upgraded to Premium and gained access to more shapes, I could import a greater range of emblems: I ended up with a small library of emblems that included the same Chitose design I’d seen earlier, and proceeded to enjoy several seasons of content with Battlefield 1. Of course, by then, Girlish Number fell to the back of my mind.

  • All of the core characters in Girlish Number are familiar. Chitose reminds me of a more rotten, cynical version of Machikado Mazoku‘s Yūko Yoshida, while Yae shares a similar appearance with Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s Mami and Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s Itsuki. In mannerisms, Yae brings to mind Itsuki and Yama no Susume‘s Kokona. On the other hand, Koto has the “cool older sister” aura that Fū had in Yūki Yūna is a Hero. She also shares some traits with Magia Record‘s Momoka and Glasslip‘s Yanagi. In Girlish Number, Chitose is voiced by Sayaka Senbongi: then a novice voice actress, Chitose was coincidentally Senbongi’s first main role, as well. Senbongi later would develop a strong resume of her own, and I know her best as Bocchi the Rock!‘s Kikuri.

  • I immediately took a liking to Yae’s character: she’s a novice voice actress who’s also quite shy and prone to tears. After their first event together, she breaks out crying, happy that their first event had been reasonably smooth. Yae is voiced by Kaede Hondo, who would later go on to play Bofuri‘s Maple and The World in Colours‘ Kohaku Tsukishiro. The easygoing Koto, on the other hand, is voiced by Yui Ishikawa, a veteran voice actress whose roles include Gundam Build Fighters‘ China Kōsaka, Enterprise of Azur Lane, Tomoe Takasago of Eromanga Sensei, Chiyu Haebara of The Aquatope on White Sand and Violet Evergarden‘s Violet Evergarden. In Girlish Number, Ishikawa delivers Koto’s lines with a kansai-ben inflection, giving her a very relaxing presence.

  • Rounding out the group are Momoka, a high school student whose parents were in the anime industry, and Kazuha, who’s been around the block nearly as long as Koto and desires to play in more serious anime. Eria Suzuki voices Momoka, and of Suzuki’s previous work, I am most familiar with her as Amanchu‘s Hikari Kohinata and Chinatsu Kuramoto of Flying Witch. Saori Ōnishi plays Kazuha: prior to Girlish Number, Ōnishi played in an impressive number of roles, ranging from GochiUsa‘s Yura Karede and Kiniro Mosaic‘s Akari Kuzehashi to Eriri Sawamura of Saekano and Mejiro McQueen of Uma Musume Pretty Derby. In short, I was in the company of familiar voices during Girlish Number.

  • With this being said, I don’t pick anime to watch based purely on the voice actresses present, similarly to how I don’t pick movies to watch based purely on the actors and actresses that are around. However, it is the case that when a given work has enough of a budget behind it, producers are able to sign contracts with the better-known actors and actresses in the industry, counting on these individuals’ experience and skill to really bring the characters to life. It is therefore clever how in Girlish Number, Senbongi is cast as a voice actress playing her first main role, when in reality, Chitose was also one of her earliest leads. I found it amusing that while Chitose was recording, Senbongi  delivers her lines in a flat manner, but then outside of the recording studio, Chitose is very expressive.

  • I noticed that in Girlish Number, the experience level amongst the cast chosen to play in Millennium Princess × Kowloon Overlord varies: Yae is a freshmen similar to Chitose, but Koto, Momoka and Kazuha have considerably longer resumes. Kazuha begins her journey quite cold and indifferent to Chitose, regarding everyone with distance owing to a desire to be voicing anyone but the characters in Millennium Princess × Kowloon Overlord. Conversely, Momoka sees things as work owing to her family’s involvement in entertainment, and she befriends Chitose early on, even offering her some tips that help Chitose up her game.

  • It was curious to see how Chitose operates: she loves compliments and being showered with praise, but always dismisses criticisms, and is quick to take credit for anything that goes well. In reality, this is a detrimental combination, and for my part, accepting things like invitations to dinner or events will occasionally make me feel uncomfortable if I’m not familiar with. Chitose, on the other hand, has no qualms with this. From an etiquette perspective, Chitose might be seen as being pushy, but there is one merit to her actions from a story standpoint: it does let her to get to know Yae and Koto better.

  • Once Chitose accepts a contract to voice a main character in the Millennium Princess × Kowloon OverlordGirlish Number kicks into high gear. Beyond the recording sessions and preparations leading up to recording, Chitose and her fellow cast members also attend promotional events. Right out of the gates, production issues plague the series: attendees of a pre-airing screening are disappointed when the first episode isn’t ready, and Kuzu’s dismissive attitude very nearly creates a public relations calamity. It is in moments like these where Chitose is given some shine time: although she’s regarded as an unremarkable voice actress, Girlish Number does show that Chitose has a modicum of aptitude for being in the industry.

  • Following the event, Yae cries in Chitose’s arms, relieved beyond words that things didn’t outright collapse. However, with the remainder of production being highly troubled, compromises are made in quality to virtually every aspect of the anime, and this results in extremely poor reception to Millennium Princess × Kowloon Overlord. The light novel’s original author is presented as being a withdrawn man of about thirty and lacks any confidence. I have noticed that over the years, many light novels adapted into anime share the “magical high school harem” or “high fantasy world with swords and knight” setting because they represent escapist fiction. The author in Girlish Number appears to be a caricature of the average light novel author, and Millennium Princess × Kowloon Overlord appears to speak more to the author’s beliefs and desires for what a meaningful or ideal life might look like.

  • In reality, many popular light novel series are similar to Millennium Princess × Kowloon Overlord, and while this creates the impression that all light novels lack substance, light novels are just another type of fiction: the best light novel stories have themes and messages comparable to those of full-length novels. Further to this, light novel authors may, as they develop their work further, come to begin exploring concepts in greater depth. Sword Art Online is such an example of this growth, and while the story begins with Kirito picking up a gaggle of admirers, the series eventually delves into the implications of virtual and augmented reality technologies and their applications.

  • Because of production issues, reception to Millennium Princess × Kowloon Overlord in Girlish Number is very poor, and during one streaming event, online commenters blast Chitose for having appeared to have done nothing. Girlish Number‘s portrayal of this is actually quite watered-down, and in real life, voice actresses and staff alike occasionally receive death threats if “fans” feel they’ve under-delivered. I appreciate that some people are very attached to certain works and have high expectations, but this mindset is one I’ve never understood.

  • In my case, if a work under-delivers, I usually will quietly drop it, or if I manage to finish, I’ll usually explore why it didn’t work in my case. For as long as I can remember, I’ve seen no need at all to unnecessarily dunk on a series or those who work on it, and from what I gather, some people enjoying tearing things apart because it gives them a feeling of power, which in turn speaks to their insecurities. My countermeasure against anything I’m dissatisfied with is to, depending on the situation, do better where I can, or otherwise, accept things and move on. For Chitose, she ends up becoming camera-shy after the botched streaming event, but the warm waters and blue skies of Okinawa changes her spirits quickly.

  • Girlish Number is an anime with a rapid pace, with one thing happening right after another. This is to convey the sort of hustle in a voice actor or actress’ career. However, despite the speed at which things happen, Girlish Number never comes across as being overwhelming to viewers, either. The Okinawa trip ends up being a pleasant chance to get away from the pressures of work in Tokyo, and out here, Chitose, Yae, Koto, Momoka and Kazuha have a chance to rest up a little. The trip also gives a chance for Kazuha and Koto to interact – being older than the others, Kazuha and Koto end up becoming friends over drinks.

  • In their normal attire, one would never notice how shapely Kazuha is. Kazuha represents the individual who has high expectations for themselves and is not fully committed to things that they deem beneath them. I have heard that this is a common problem in workplaces, and some people will refuse to perform some tasks because they believe they’re above them. This is a poor way of thinking – if one approached any job with the same effort and dedication, it shows that they have the right mindset to tackle larger responsibilities. This issue becomes something that Kazuha needs to work on, despite her own experience, and as her story became told, I warmed up to Kazuha as she begins smiling more.

  • The Okinawa trip winds up being a turning point of sorts; this impromptu trip allows everyone to open up to one another. Previously, Kazuha and Momoka were in their own camp, while Koto, Yae and Chitose were in another. Following the trip, it becomes easier for everyone to get along, and while everyone still trades barbs, the feeling of hostility I got from the more experienced players lessened. Having Kazuha drink also serves to loosen things up a little, although here, I reiterate that wherever alcohol is concerned, I’m a wet blanket because my aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 deficiency causes me to glow in the dark after drinking.

  • After a Q & A session, Kazuha is shocked when her mother unexpectedly shows up at the studio with the aim of checking up on her. Her mother’s presence causes Kazuha to become a little more personal in her responses to one of the questions, and it becomes clear that Kazuha’s relationship with her family isn’t the best. In the aftermath, Kuzu’s butchered response causes a misunderstanding that compels Kazuha’s manager and the assistant producer to head on over to Yamagata and set things right. Girlish Number touches on a large number of topics, such as familial acceptance and involvement in one’s career.

  • Seeing Kazuha and Koto become better friends in Girlish Number was one of the elements that stood out to me: over time, people naturally open up to one another, and while Chitose’s personality grated on Kazuha, the more mature Koto is able to connect to Kazuha better, in turn helping Kazuha to understand her own aims. At age twenty-six, Koto is a ways older than the others, and therefore, has a maturity about her that makes her indispensable towards helping the others grow. In Girlish Number, Chitose has both people looking up to her, and people she can call upon for help, but allowing the characters to help one another out also helps them to grow and succeed. For most of Girlish Number, Chitose’s manner and beliefs remain unchallenged while the other characters’ stories are resolved first.

  • Momoka, on the other hand, struggles to decide whether or not to accept a role in a very popular production: with her mother being a well-known voice actress, Momoka was exposed to the industry from a young age and has since made a name for herself, but she feels that it would cheapen things if she was to accept the role on the sole virtue that it’d allow mother and daughter to play parts in the same anime. The question weighs on her mind throughout a segment of Girlish Number, but it is by choosing to accompany Kazuha to Yamagata that eventually leads Momoka to find her answer.

  • Both Kazuha and Momoka are envious of the other’s situation: Momoka wishes her parents would be more ordinary so she can pursue roles and earn work based on her merits, whereas Kazuha wishes her parents were more understanding of the industry and its realities, versus jumping to conclusions about things. Chitose had originally been slated to accompany Kazuha, but winds up oversleeping, and this turns out in both Kazuha and Momoka’s favour, as it allows the pair to work out their individual problems. Again, sending Kazuha and Momoka to Yamagata, away from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, helps the pair to gain perspective.

  • In the end, after a tense conversation with her parents, Kazuha comes to realise that her father had genuinely supported her after all, but like Kazuha, struggled to be forthcoming about how he felt. Once things are cleared up, Kazuha is able to return to Tokyo with a renewed determination to do her best no matter what shows land on her plate. Seeing this also helps Momoka to make a call about her role; she ends up declining and says to her mother that one day, the pair of them will perform together once Momoka’s reached a level where she can work alongside her mother as a voice actress.

  • Yae and Koto act as static characters, whose presence serves to drive growth amongst Chitose, Momoka and Kazuha. With Momoka and Kazuha’s stories resolved, things shift over to Chitose. After Nanami, a novice voice actress, is selected to join Chitose and the others on Millennium Princess × Kowloon Overlord‘s second season, Chitose begins to wonder if her worth was tied directly to the fact she was inexperienced. Moreover, Nanami is a go-getter whose presence gave every impression that she’s a hard worker, willing to put in the necessary effort in order to make it in the industry.

  • After one event where Chitose is taken aback when the surprised planned was unveiling Nanami’s first successful album, her ego takes a considerable beating. At around the same time, Kuzu also experiences similar after his subordinates give the impression that the production of Millennium Princess × Kowloon Overlord can move ahead without him. Both Chitose and Kuzu had spent much of Girlish Number operating under the belief they were more competent than they were, and so, when the series sends some adversity in their direction, both reel from these events.

  • Humility is a critical part of life, and watching Chitose and Kuzu getting knocked down a few pegs acts as the final bit of conflict in Girlish Number. I was reminded of a similar episode in Futurama where Calculon came back to life briefly and attempted to become a better actor under Leela’s instruction. In the end, he is killed in a stage accident, but his legacy is restored. Leela believed the humbled, down-trodden Calculon made for a superior actor, but here in Girlish Number, Chitose’s melancholy ends up being a mood killer.

  • One subtle detail was that, while Chitose’s down in the dumps, the studio is shown with a subtle distortion. The visual effects accentuate the fact that Chitose isn’t her best self, and while she may not be a fantastic voice actress, for better or worse, she has become a bit of a mood-setter for the group: with her seemingly unshakable spirits, the others have come to believe that they could succeed, too. This aspect becomes important because as viewers, we’re aware of what positives Chitose brings to the table despite her otherwise average voice acting.

  • In the end, it takes a pep talk from her brother to get Chitose back on her feet: Gojō believes that Chitose’s crappy attitude and unwavering belief in herself is actually what got her this far, and all Chitose needed was to put in more effort where it was due in order to take her career further. After this, Chitose’s old energy begins returning, and even after a snowfall knocks out Tokyo’s mass transit system, Chitose does her utmost to make it to the recording studio. It takes her the whole day, and while running to the studio, Chitose trips and wrecks her phone, but she ends up making it.

  • With her arrival, recording can finally begin, and Chitose’s old confidence returns in force. However, with the knowledge that all she needs to do is her best, she’s able to deliver a stronger showing. Quite separately, Kuzu’s been through some tough times of his own, and although it seems like self-pity might overtake him, the assistant producer ends up pulling him back from the precipice of despair. Girlish Number makes it clear that, so long as one is willing to turn things around, they can make it happen even when it seems impossible, and moreover, it is by embracing humility and listening to others that one can walk this path.

  • In this way, there is a happy ending in Girlish Number: by its ending, all of the core story elements are resolved in a satisfactory fashion, and while some of the elements may feel a little more rushed, all of the outcomes in Girlish Number are still well-earned. Overall, I was quite pleased with Girlish Number, and while it’s still a more optimistic portrayal of the voice acting industry, there’s enough conflict and adversity to give the characters something to work towards. I will note that owing to how episodes were structured, Girlish Number did manage to keep me on my toes: episodes end in cliffhangers that leave one curious to know what happens next.

  • Seeing Millennium Princess × Kowloon Overlord‘s second season succeed to a greater extent than the first leaves viewers with optimism that, from here on out, Chitose could continue in this industry with her fellow co-stars and now, friends. With this being said, in this post, I’ve only focused on a handful of topics for discussion, but it is the case that there’s a lot more detail and directions that other viewers could take with Girlish Number. Everything comes together in Girlish Number to make for a surprisingly good experience, and for this reason, I’m glad to have finally taken the time to give this anime a go.

  • I’ll wrap up this discussion with a screenshot of Chitose and her signature smile. With this, my first post of March is in the books, and looking ahead at this month’s schedule, it looks like things for this blog will get considerably busier as we near the end of the month: Itsuka Ano Umi de and Mō Ippon! are both series I’ll be looking to write about, and late March also marks the ten-year anniversary to Girls und Panzer‘s thrilling conclusion. On the flipside, this does mean that the next two weeks will be a little quieter around these parts as I gear up for the posts coming in March’s second half. In the meantime, all of my focus now goes towards checking out Battlefield 2042‘s “Eleventh Hour” season and preparing for the aforementioned content surrounding Girls und Panzer.

Because adorable characters lie at the heart of Girlish Number, it is very easy to get behind them. The sharp contrast between their appearances and manner creates humour, and while the characters all have their faults (e.g. Chitose is very cynical, Kazuha is extremely cold, and Yae can say hurtful things without realising it), these aren’t presented in a mean-spirited manner. Instead, these weaknesses serve to make the characters more lifelike, and seeing everyone play off one another in the understanding that everyone has their strengths and shortcomings creates more plausible, convincing interactions. Coupled with above-average art and animation, it is clear that Girlish Number is above average in all regards. Similarly, there is little doubt that Chitose’s experiences are still quite insulated compared to the realities of being a voice actor or actress in reality, but even in a more protected environment, the challenges are still present and offer the characters opportunity for growth. What makes Girlish Number worth watching, then, is the fact that Chitose does rise to the occasion; altogether, the different facets of Girlish Number come together to create a story that is quite satisfactory. Through its outcomes, Girlish Number makes a very audacious suggestion: in a field as demanding and cut-throat as voice acting, it may occasionally pay to have Chitose’s level of bluster, since it helps to psyche one up for whatever surprises lie ahead. The key here is striking that balance – one needs to be confident in their ability, but at the same time, also possess the skill to back this up. Although Chitose begins her journey unaccustomed to things, experiences from what was seemingly a poorly-managed project still helps her to regain her footing and decide that, even in an industry as challenging (or, in Chitose’s words, “rotten”) as voice acting, there is worth in continuing and pursuing with one’s whole heart.

Were we helpful? Did you see something we can improve on? Please provide your feedback today!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: