Girlish Number
Episode 5

by Nick Creamer,

How would you rate episode 5 of
Girlish Number ?

This was a strange and melancholy episode of Girlish Number. The hammer fell, but slowly - Chitose's big show was already a disaster by the moment this episode opened, so the rest was mostly just methodically coming to terms with the fallout. Chitose is still refusing to learn, but it feels like the show at large is no longer interested in indulging her fantasies. This was the kind of low point you often see in penultimate episodes, cutting the cast's positivity and momentum short the moment they started to smile.

The pacing, tone, and direction of this episode were what stuck out to me more than anything else. We covered a fair amount of temporal ground here, with the vocal cast entirely finishing their duties in the first half, and the second half already mentioning a split-cour sequel coming up. But the episode never felt fast - while the movement forward through in-universe time was choppy and relentless, individual scenes lingered on long shots of the various cast members lamenting their fortunes. In contrast with Girlish Number's generally fast-paced banter, each conversation here was marked with long awkward pauses, as the various characters all accepted the failure of their anime in very different ways.

There was a strong contrast drawn between Chitose and her costars, as usual. While Chitose reveled in selling ten thousand singles, the pros acknowledged that sales numbers like that are both not particularly meaningful and no indication of their own value. As the fortunes of their anime sank, Yae and Koto acknowledged what I'd assumed would be last week's message: in spite of all their efforts, single voice actresses can't save productions that are doomed from an organizational perspective. But Chitose reacted to these unsteady fortunes with her usual mix of obliviousness and entitlement, concerned only with what her next conquest might be.

The contrast between this episode's somber tone and often farcical material lead to some occasionally awkward moments. Without the speedy back-and-forth conversations that generally lend this show energy, many of the scenes came off as awkwardly stilted in a way I wasn't sure was intentional. And visual gags like Kuzu-P and his long-suffering assistant presenting their economic woes to a board room of identical financial executives felt somewhat out of place. Girlish Number has consistently tried to establish a balance between grounded critique and goofy industry parody, so having an episode lean so heavily into somber material made the sillier moments stick out in an awkward way.

Chitose's own behavior was as believably infuriating as ever. Chitose isn't just a frustrating person - like Kuzu-P, she's frustrating in a variety of very common ways. I could totally believe in her initial excitement at selling ten thousand copies, and how that victory set expectations that would leave her disappointed through the rest of the episode. Her words on “seeing the rewards for her hard work” rang true as well. As a very self-centered person, Chitose easily falls into the habit of assuming all successes are due to her own efforts, but all failures are due to the mistakes of others. Chitose's failings are failings we all tend to lean into at one point or another, so I was still able to sympathize when the fans inevitably turned on her.

That small reckoning, when the fans decided they'd had enough of Chitose the self-assigned star, embodied my hopes regarding this week's weird tonal cues. This episode's rambling structure and extended conversations resulted in a disjointed production, but it still had a distinctive personality, and tricks like cross-cutting disparate scenes with the framing device of a nature show going on in the background demonstrated some real dramatic ambition. In that final scene, this episode's tonal weirdness largely paid off, as the lengthier focus on Chitose's tears and Goto's fatigue lent them an individuality and pathos that energetic sitcom cuts might not have provided. This was a messy and unfocused episode, but it also demonstrated Girlish Number at its most unique and emotionally ambitious. If the show can get a tighter grip on its material going forward, an episode like this indicates that it might offer more than just endearing snark.

Overall: B-

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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