Girlish Number Episode 6
by Nick Creamer, Nov 16th 2016
How would you rate episode 6 of
Girlish Number ?
It's time for a beach episode! With recordings all wrapped up, the crew of Kusure ship off to Okinawa to enjoy some time in the sun. Of course, this is Girlish Number we're talking about, so Kuzu-P's motives in planning this trip aren't exactly pure. With the ostensible goal of “shooting bonus features,” he sends the cast southward largely to avoid the terror of his own superiors, as Kusure's budget tightens and production continues to fall directly off a cliff.
The first third of this episode plays that concept fairly straight, resulting in a series of scenes that could easily take place in any standard anime. There's a sheen of self-awareness glossing over the montage of Chitose and the other girls bouncing around in swimsuits, but that doesn't really change the base nature of the material - heck, there's even a stale-as-moldy-bread boob comparison gag. Girlish Number gets in its requisite beach fanservice, Kuzu-P's depressing motives aside.
Fortunately, that material is quickly discarded after one beach day afternoon, leading into a sequence of drinking and partying that directly engaged with my core complaint about the series. Girlish Number's portrayal of the industry is too silly to make for biting satire, but its character writing is generally strong, and the more it leans into that, the better a show it becomes. In this sequence, a drunken conversation between Koto and Kazuha adds some complexity to both their characters, as well as offering some genuine critique of the industry. When Kazuha reveals that she often drinks to temper her anxiety, Koto responds that she was actually on the verge of giving up the industry altogether.
At twenty-six, Koto considers herself “almost thirty,” nearly outside the range for a breakthrough hit. Koto's fears are warranted - voice acting is an industry with too many talents seeking too few roles, and in the media mix landscape, it's expected that a successful voice actor will also be young and pretty and talented in other ways. Framing anime productions as tie-ins associated with half a dozen other properties makes safer business sense, but when the stars involved are considered part of that tie-in universe themselves, the end result is a ruthless competition where potential talents can easily be discarded for reasons totally divorced from their voice acting ability.
After returning from Okinawa, it was Momoka's turn to receive more character work. It had already been made clear in small asides that Momoka resented being trapped in her mother's shadow, and the visit from a high-level producer to her home offered a direct example of their awkward dynamic. Momoka's parents are reasonably supportive of her career and give her the chance to choose what roles she wants to take, which actually makes for a more compelling ambiguity than if they were simply controlling taskmasters. The questions Momoka must ask herself are difficult ones. How will her personal and professional image be affected by continuing to collaborate with her mother? And what does she herself want out of her career?
Everything ended in a drunken mess at the Kusure after-party, where we learned that at least one of the troubles Kazuha drinks away is her relationship with her mother. Between Kazuha's anxiety, Momoka's career conflicts, Koto's age, Yae's insecurity, and Chitose's own lack of upcoming roles, it seems nobody is leaving this production without regrets. That's bad for them, but great for Girlish Number - the more this show adds nuance to its stars' feelings and conflicts, the stronger it will be.
Girlish Number is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.
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