Watari Wataru, of Oregairu fame, takes us on a ride through the seiyuu industry in his new work Girlish Number. In this first look, he shows us his amused, if somewhat skeptical, view of this world.
The heroine is named Chitose Karasuma. She’s young, she’s cute, and probably talented enough. But her agent-cum-brother Gojou is struggling terribly to find her jobs… because in spite of her inexperience, she thinks she can have the luxury of laziness. She turns down roles if they come with the terrible labor of reading light novels. But don’t go thinking she’s a cynical a la Hachiman… because she’s actually fairly naïve.
The show starts with an event in which she is, and we see the others making sure their manners are perfect. Behind their backs, however, they may bash their agents, criticize one another, or even speak with great boredom of this industry’s nature. Meanwhile, Chitose is an excitable young girl whose chief vice is sloth. Her brother, meanwhile, is disconnected with the cynicism of the producers. They come up with projects entirely because they see commercial possibilities, and show not even the slightest seriousness: “as a music producer, I can tell a girl’s singing ability even if she doesn’t sing”, one of them says. The serious, hardworking Gojou feels left out. Both are isolated by this industry, albeit for wildly different reasons.
It is striking that both siblings have the same phrase that comes back as a slogan: “this industry is messed up”. They can’t say anything more. That is because they don’t even understand how the industry really works, or how they should navigate it. All they know is that it’s far from their ideals, and that they’re struggling.
In spite of this, the episode remains fairly lighthearted. The use of a light word like おかしい (lit. weird) in the slogan mentioned above is telling. So far it’s never been about the sheer horror of the industry, and it’s easier to anticipate the drama centering around our heroine’s character.
The episode may be quick to bring out her flaws, and yet she also meets success. At a recording, she makes friends with top seiyuu Momoka Sonou. One may wonder if the latter has ulterior motives, or if her behavior will change in the face of Chitose’s success, but for now our newcomer can be glad she’d made such a comrade. And at the end, she is picked for the leading role in a new light novel adaptation which will see her take on idol activities. As the producers tell her, that’s essentially a gateway to success. When she finds out, and after being reassured that she doesn’t have to read the novels so long as she has talent, she shouts: “Let’s sell! Comfortably!”. A good summation of her character, but where will this philosophy lead her?
At least the producers seem fine with it, and it’s Gojou who finds himself alienated the most. And now the greatest mystery is: how will our leads evolve as they learn more about their industry’s core?
This is especially relevant knowing the episode poses some important bases. The whimsicality of the seiyuu; the cynicism of the producers; the emphasis on events and contact with the creepy otaku; the desire for “instant idols” (the only meal the average otaku likes more than instant noodles) … This light, yet definite presence of cynicism will surely lead to a more serious exploration later on, especially as Chitose and Gojou discover more.
As of episode one, it’s already possible to sense Watari is behind this. Whether thanks to the constant sarcasm or the overall tone and approach to major themes, one can feel his presence. The hope is that, as the issues grow more serious, the series will retain his style. As of now, we must acknowledge the series’ potential.
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