Girlish Number
Episode 10

by Nick Creamer,

How would you rate episode 10 of
Girlish Number ?

Let's just say I had to go out and hug my cat after this one.

The hammer fell slowly and steadily this week, in an episode that dropped Momoka and Kazuha entirely to focus solely on Chitose realizing that her career is falling apart. The one piece of good news came right at the beginning, with Chitose learning that Gojo wouldn't be totally stepping down as her manager just yet. That didn't mean things wouldn't change though, as her new manager Mattsu was also there to push her onto the right path.

Mattsu offered some of the few comic notes this episode, through his mixture of wild enthusiasm and no-nonsense philosophy. Mattsu was a positive guy, but he didn't humor Chitose - instead, he consistently emphasized that she needed to work harder than anyone else to succeed. Mattsu's attitude helped underline the fact that Gojo hasn't actually been doing his sister any favors. Though he'd act snarky and dismissive of her whining, he didn't take her actions seriously, and he didn't correct her in such a way that she might actually learn from her mistakes. That's fine for a sibling, but as Gojo's own boss said, “a manager is neither a parent nor a teacher.” Gojo can't protect Chitose for much longer, and his failure to shake her out of her ego has left her with nowhere to turn.

A Christmas event centered on Chitose's big production offered a perfect venue for her growing anxieties. With her original confidence gone, Chitose simply couldn't keep up the “perky voice actress doing her best” act anymore. Watching Nanami leap excitedly toward each new challenge, it was clear from Chitose's expressions that she was finally starting to understand the dangerous difference between the two of them. Nanami's enthusiasm didn't just come from being new and naive - it was a kind of star power that Chitose lacked, an upbeat conviction that actually propelled her upwards. Chitose couldn't fake that conviction, and with her confidence gone, it became even harder to keep the fundamental bitterness out of her voice. It's tough to shine when you're just sad and anxious all the time.

News of a surprise at the end of the event briefly gave Chitose some hope, as she figured the cast would be celebrating her birthday - but that surprise turned out to be the celebration of Nanami's own CD debut. When that scene was followed by her friends actually surprising her with a birthday cake in private, it just made things worse. Girlish Number's approach to its secondary characters consistently demonstrates the dramatic importance of making all your characters complex and sympathetic. If Chitose had a clear villain to rage against, things would be easier for her. But because all the people climbing past her are sincere, kind, and dedicated to what they do, she can't even lash out at them or blame them for her failure. The expression work in this series of scenes should also be commended; Chitose's movement from bitterness to exhaustion to the verge of tears was all clear in her face, as she struggled to maintain her usual snarky energy.

This episode's final two big sequences were each heartbreaking in their own way. In the first, Chitose struggled to appear enthusiastic to fans outside the studio, only to dismissed as an “ice queen” for her insufficient cheer. While I felt this scene perhaps oversold the contrast between her and Nanami, the fundamental nature of this conflict was painfully relatable. When you're a performer whose very identity is the product you're selling, you don't have the luxury of being depressed or curt or dismissive to your fans. No matter what you're feeling, you must perform the personality you're trying to sell them, or risk losing their support entirely. Fans come to you in order to forget their own worries, and while they might say they want to truly “know you,” the thing they want to know is the version of you that originally spoke to them. In Chitose's case, this only compounded her depression, as her inability to perform happiness for the crowd made that crowd lose faith in her, making her even more depressed.

The episode's post-credits scene was another spirit-breaker. Left alone in her apartment by Gojo, who likely felt she needed to handle this conflict herself, Chitose had no one to turn to but Gojo's old recordings from back in his voice acting days. I can't imagine a scene much more sad than Chitose seeking encouragement from the trite dialogue of her failed actor brother in an unlit apartment. Lashing out against this old version of Gojo, a person she likely relates to now more than her actual brother, she muttered “if I could become who I wanted to be, I wouldn't be who I am right now.” Girlish Number's reflections on the anime industry have been underwritten at times, but its understanding of people and the trials they face have been sharp from start to finish. This show is smart and sensitive enough to really hurt.

Overall: A

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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