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Light Novel / Girlish Number

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Front and center: Chitose. Behind her, clockwise from top left: Kazuha, Koto, Momoka, and Yae.

Girlish Number is a multimedia project about the Japanese voice acting scene, written by Wataru Watari. It debuted as a light novel series in March 2016, which ended in July 2017 with three volumes. A manga series also ran from April 2016 to July 2017, and an anime premiered in fall 2016.

The story focuses on Chitose Karasuma, a fledgling voice actor who has been in the business for a year. In that period, she's only had bit roles, and that's left her feeling bitter—until her brother/manager lands her a leading role in an upcoming Light Novel adaptation. However, some behind-the-scenes troubles threaten the project. Can Chitose endure and get the big break she's looking for?

Compare Shirobako, another series about anime production that's much more idealistic in tone, and Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, which is also about anime production but is more of a tonal middle ground (though with a Magical Realism angle to it).


Girlish Number provides examples of:

  • invokedAbility over Appearance: Inverted with Chitose. She gets cast as one of the leads solely based on her potential stage presence rather than her ability to actually voice act.
  • A-Cup Angst: After the Kuusure cast's beach shoot, Chitose takes a look at Kazuha's chest, and is jealous at her size.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Chitose's eye and hair color is dark brown in the light novels and manga adaptation. In the anime, they're lavender-colored instead.
  • All Just a Dream: Episode 4 opens with Chitose walking the red carpet and being adored by her fans and brother, which soon cuts to reality, where she's leaning on Yae and talking in her sleep.
  • Aloof Dark-Haired Girl: Kazuha has long dark hair and when sober she acts in a strictly professional manner to others.
  • Alternate Character Reading: This is a weird one. The in-universe light novel is titled 九龍覇王と千年皇女, with the official English translation (even in the in-universe Japanese merchandise) of "Millennium Princess x Kowloon Overlord". This translation is accurate, although the Japanese title has the princess and the overlord in the opposite order. The thing is, though, the reading for 皇女 isn't the normal reading of kōjo—it's the English word "slave" apparently there's something very slave-like about this princess, but it's not reflected in the English title, which is just confusing. This is likely a commentary on the light novel industry and its increasingly bizarre and wordy titles.
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  • Art Shift: In Episode 9 the outlines become more thick, giving a more hard-edged look, when Kuzu meets his former colleague.
  • Ascended Fan: Nanami is a devout fan of Kuusure who gets to become a voice actress for its second season.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Chitose delivers some spectacularly flat performances early on, though she improves a lot a few episodes into Kuusure. Nanami thinks it's a character choice.
  • Beach Episode: The first part of Episode 6 has the cast go to Okinawa for a swimsuit photoshoot at the beach.
  • Big Brother Mentor: Gojō is both manager and older brother of Chitose. Because of the latter's ego, he constantly reprimands her and sometimes deals with her physically but everything he does is for her sake and truly wants to see her succeed.
  • Big Brother Worship: There's hints throughout the first half that this is Chitose's feelings towards Gojo. In an Imagine Spot she has about becoming famous, Gojo is singing her praises. She also mentions off hand in a Q&A event that she wanted to become a voice actress since her brother was also in the anime business.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing:
    • Chitose acts all sweet around others, but she's quite cynical and selfish on the inside. In the end she acknowledges her faults and develops a better, more genuine attitude: she's still kind of dumb and insensitive, but she stops putting herself above everyone else and learns to appreciate her friends, while they have learned to like her, warts and all.
    • Momoka acts all nice, sweet, and cheery on the outside, especially when she's putting on her professional mask, but is actually a rude, somewhat snooty, and negative jerk on the inside.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: Chitose's and Momoka's negative reaction to the light novel authors is seen as this to the viewers, seeing that the man behind Girlish Number, Wataru Watari, is a light novel writer himself (with My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU being his best known work). Many watchers theorized that the novel is based on his own experiences with the adaptation of his other work, Qualidea Code.
  • Bland-Name Product: They get kind of weird with it—despite being clearly shown on-screen as "BINE" (a riff on LINE), it's introduced as "that chat app everyone is using now" and is only referred to using similar phrases instead of characters just using its fictional name.
  • Break the Haughty: The in-universe backlash clearly did a number on Chitose's ego. Seeing her peers get more roles while she hasn't received anything of note after the first Kuusure anime, in addition to being quickly overshadowed by newcomer Nanami, also ends up delivering a very harsh reality check for her, and causes her to doubt herself.
  • Cat Smile: Koto has one that pops up frequently.
  • Christmas Cake: Discussed between Koto and Kazuha in Episode 6. Koto is 26, and she is aware that her window to become a star is quickly closing. Had she not landed her Kuusure role she would've just returned to her hometown and gotten married.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: From the get-go it is made clear that the president of Number 1 Productions went with Kuusure's adaptation as an attempt to cash in on a bandwagon. Kuzu, the producer, is more interested in using the budget to enjoy himself rather than ensure a good anime is produced.
  • Couch Gag: The anime's title sequence changes every few episodes. For example, starting in Episode 3 a pan falls on Chitose's head.
  • The Cynic: Chitose. Given that this is a work penned by Wataru Watari though, it's a given. She couldn't have said it better herself:
    Chitose: I hate idealism. There's no point. Too dark.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Kazuha and Momoka are the stars of Episodes 7 and 8, which focus on their personal issues and lives.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Both Karasuma siblings, who take jabs at the industry, the people around them, and each other. Like sister like brother huh?
  • Deconstruction:
    • In general, of idealistic works about professional media production such as Shirobako and New Game!. While those stories poke plenty of fun at the stressful and often dysfunctional workings of their industries, the problems are mostly Inherent in the System and there are few really antagonistic or villainous figures. The protagonists' studio and members of cooperating industries are mostly people who, despite their flaws, have real talent and are Doing It for the Art, which is why they eventually succeed in producing work they can be proud of. Girlish Number instead depicts a project to adapt a light novel into an anime which is basically doomed to suck because of pervasive greed, incompetence, and laziness. First, a couple of producers who know very little about making anime decide to hop on the light novel adaptation bandwagon, hoping to get rich by animating a mediocre work called Millennium Princess x Kowloon Overlord, and they make decisions about the cast, crew, and production that are geared toward marketing gimmicks instead of making the best possible work. In the process, they bully the writer who can't do anything about their Executive Meddling and quickly becomes disillusioned. The studio handling animation production is ridiculously overworked, and can't manage to produce anything but Off-Model dreck. The lead role goes to an inexperienced and untalented voice actress, Chitose, who isn't serious about her work and only cares about getting famous. Meanwhile, the few seiyuu who take their jobs seriously are depending on the show to succeed so they can get the big break they've spent their whole careers waiting for. Ultimately, some good comes out of it. The anime grows the beard somewhat as it goes on, since Chitose gets better at acting and the animation quality improves in the second season. Koto and Yae start getting more roles, Kazuha and Yae manage to work out their issues with voice acting and their families, and after experiencing Break the Haughty, Chitose learns not to take her job or her friends for granted and bounces back from her slump. Looking back on the anime they have to admit that it was shitty, but at least it wasn't a total flop, and Nanami shows there's at least one person who genuinely loved it. The ending takes a glass-half-full view of things: there are some messed up things about the job, but there are also things that make it worthwhile.
    • More specifically, of voice acting in Japan. Voice acting is not all roses, as Chitose has to find out the harsh realities of being a voice actor. Anime producers and directors also set high expectations for their voice actors, including appearance (which is why being an Idol Singer is preferred for being a voice actress in Japan). Kazuha and Momoka both have problems with their jobs, Kazuha because she feels like she can't explain it to her parents, and Momoka because she feels like she's in her mother's shadow.
    • The concept that any Light Novel will adapt well into an anime or that the animation studio will even adapt it well. From the PV alone, the story has serious problems in even making up its mind on what kind of setting it's going to be. This isn't even going into the problem that the character models used in the PV are not even going to be used in the main anime because they don't even have key visuals ready.
  • Disowned Adaptation: In-universe - Kuusure's anime adaptation is so shoddy that the author of the original work pretends it doesn't exist. He reacts to plans for its second season as if it's being adapted for the first time.
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: The anime's opening and ending themes are sung by the main cast's VAs. This also goes in-universe for Kusure's opening.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: The side plot of Episode 9 follows Kuzu as he goes to a hostess club, gets extremely drunk, and laments about how he used to be a big name.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father:
    • Inverted with Momoka's parents. While they don't like some things Momoka does, like swimsuit or gravure shoots, they ultimately don't stop her and say that she's free to do what she wants. This is a big source of distress for Momoka.
    • Subverted with Kazuha's father. Initially, it looks like he doesn't approve of his daughter's career path. However, it's later revealed that he just doesn't want her to devalue her work so much, and went out of his way to learn about aspects of her job.
  • First-Person Smartass: Chitose and Gojou in both the original light novel series and its subsequent manga adaptation. Snark must run in the Karasuma family tree.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Chitose is bratty and irresponsible but outgoing and friendly. Gojo is mature and responsible but strict and aloof.
  • Genki Girl: Chitose, despite her cynicism and jerkassery, is optimistic and energetic about her dream of becoming a professional voice actor. Ultimately this turns out to be her saving grace. Gojo tells her that even though she lacks talent and has a bad personality, there's something to be said for the fact that she doesn't give up on her dream of becoming a star.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Momoka has her hair in pigtails, and she's a high-schooler, where everyone else is college-age at least.
  • Hate Sink: Kuzu-P, Kuusure's producer. He values profit over quality and appearance over ability, is loud and brash, has no restraints or sense of personal space, and tries to shirk responsibility whenever he can. He's a very easy person to dislike, and in-universe there are very few people who respect him.
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • Chitose suffers one and becomes camera-shy after seeing a vitriolic online video. However, she returns to her old self after she's informed that their upcoming shoot is only for bonus material and won't be streamed.
    • Chitose experiences a massive B.S.O.D. late in the anime after one humiliation after another. After she's separated from her brother and seeing her peers enjoy success after success while she's still getting bit roles, she becomes much more despondent. It's to the point that the others worry that she'll quit voice acting entirely. She eventually makes a recovery.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • While Chitose's defining characteristic is her cockiness and arrogance in all mediums, the light novels and manga reveal that she's much more self-aware and self-deprecating than she lets on. A lot of her monologues about the anime industry, despite being masked in her usual brand of egotism and a bit of exaggeration on her end, are usually on-point. Her soft spot for Yae and Gojou is also made much more apparent in the light novels and manga since the anime lacks her monologues from both mediums.
    • We eventually learn that Kuzu used to be a hard worker, until he went through some kind of adverse experience that made him lose his integrity and work ethic.
  • Hidden Heart of Gold: It's revealed as early as the novel's first chapter and the earlier chapters of the manga adaptation that Chitose does honestly appreciate Yae's company and friendship with her and cares a whole lot for both her and her brother, even if she doesn't always outwardly show it thanks to her egotism. By the end of the anime she's developed a much better relationship with the rest of the cast too.
  • Hot-Blooded: Chitose's new manager Matsuoka is a fiery-spirited individual who always pushes others to do their best, even if it kills them.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: "[descriptor] Chitose and [phrase]".
  • It's All About Me:
    • Chitose very much puts herself before all others. The anime she stars in isn't as hot as everyone hoped? She doesn't care, she has more followers and her CD sold 10000 copies!
    • Kuzu only thinks about himself and his well-being. If someone even mentions his name in passing, he shows up, If a situation goes south, he'll gladly throw someone else under the bus.
  • Jerkass: Chitose is rude, childish, has an inflated sense of self, and doesn't care about anyone else's problems as long as she gets hers. However, most of the people around her are too polite to call her out or simply don't care. Eventually she evolves into more of a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
  • Joshikousei: Nanami's Limited Wardrobe consists of her school uniform. It's even acknowledged in-universe, with some others commenting on her showing up at work while wearing her uniform.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: In episode 9, one of Kuzu's callgirls mentions she recently watched some anime, and refers to thinly-veiled parallels of Monsters, Inc. and Frozen (2013) on her phone.
  • Lilliputians: The theme of the anime's credits sequence. The majority of the scenes depict the cast exploring various parts of the studio while shrunken.
  • Limited Wardrobe:
    • In the anime, everyone wears the same casual outfit each episode, with few exceptions. This is acknowledged in Episode 12, when Chitose opens one of her drawers to reveal a whole bunch of egg shirts, including three of the one she usually wears.
    • Averted in the light novels and manga where everyone's outfits change frequently.
  • Meaningful Name: Kuzu is an irresponsible producer and is behind a lot of the problems that happen in the show. His name is also a homophone for "trash".
  • Mood Whiplash: The upbeat opening and ending credits sequences clash greatly with the more moody moments, especially in later episodes.
  • Nice Girl: In contrast to Chitose's Jerkass and selfish attitude, Yae is a good-hearted and kind girl. In fact, she's one of the few characters not to call out on Chitose in both her Jerkass attitude and terrible voice acting (despite being highly aware of Chitose's obnoxious behavior like many other characters) simply because Yae doesn't have the heart to do so, and treats Chitose as a close friend instead.
  • Number Two: Towada takes over production of Kuusure's second season when Kuzu spends several episodes getting drunk.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: After Gojo tries to cover for Chitose once more in Episode 10, the normally jovial company president becomes serious, tells Gojo that Chitose can't be protected forever, and says that if she underperforms she will be cut.
  • Once per Episode: Some of the other staff will meet at a particular bar to discuss business matters once each episode. In the last episode it's where a wrap-up party takes place.
  • Only Friend: Yae to Chitose. In the light novels, Chitose actually internally admits that she's pretty surprised (and frankly touched) that Yae would befriend a self-admitted huge jerk like her.
    Chitose: Sometimes, I don’t know how she manages to stay friends with someone as cocky, easily-depressed, and annoying as me. I mean, I wouldn’t even want to be friends with myself.
  • Portmanteau Series Nickname: invoked Millennium Princess x Kowloon Overlord is shortened to "Kusure". The "ku" is from "Kowloon" (Kurōn), while the "sure" is from "slave" (sureibu). No, not "princess". See Alternate Character Reading above for why.
  • Pose of Supplication: Towada bows on his knees to apologize to Kazuha's father over the phone, after Kuzu makes some inappropriate remarks about Kazuha.
  • The Scapegoat: Towada, Kuzu-P's assistant. Kuzu leaves him all of the hard, embarrassing work, like reporting Kuusure's tanking numbers or handing him a phone in the middle of an awkward conversation.
  • Self-Deprecation: The series is not kind to light novel authors. In the anime's first episode Chitose and Momoka don't treat the author well, and in the third episode everyone just smiles and claps even though they can't hear the author.
    "Those are people who can't draw, can't do music, can't put on any sort of performance, but just can't help but cling to this industry anyway..."
  • Show Within a Show: The adaptation of Kuusure. From the snippets seen it looks to be a Battle Harem series.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: While much of the show comes off as pretty cynical, it ends up more or less in the middle: there's a lot about the industry that sucks, and they're probably going to go through this all over again, but at least the main characters have grown together and found their reason to stay optimistic.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Chitose complains about getting nothing but minor roles for a year and thinks the industry is rotten. As it turns out, she's not a good voice actor, as the others come to realize as she provides her lines for the new anime.
  • Stepford Smiler: As Chitose slips further into depression, she tries to keep up a cheerful front. The others don't buy it.
  • Stylistic Suck: Everything from the Millennium Princess x Kowloon Overlord anime looks incredibly Off-Model. While its PV was initially well-received despite this, the anime's airing is even worse, no thanks to its minimal budget and poor management.
  • This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: The one area that Chitose actually excels at is having a great on-stage presence and sheer charisma. After a flub at an event that was supposed to preview the first episode ended up only replaying the terrible PV, Chitose manages to cheese an impromptu song to calm the crowd.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: A lot of Chitose's and Momoka's conversations with each other eventually devolve into Passive-Aggressive Kombat and Stealth Insults. Despite that, they seem to legitimately like each other well enough.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: It's hinted at early on that for all her talk about wanting fame, what Chitose really desired is for Gojo to acknowledge her acting ability. She actually reaches a Heroic BSoD after Gojo gets removed as her manager, and he later compares her progress as a voice actress negatively to Koto and Yae.
  • We Want Our Jerk Back!: The cast's reaction to Chitose's sudden somber mood in episode 11 is that, despite admitting how much of a jerk she can be, they find themselves missing her brash presence.
  • Wham Episode: In Episode 9, Gojo is taken off managerial duties for Chitose and becomes Nanami's manager. Additionally, Chitose's agency wants to have her start voicing in foreign films and narrations instead of anime roles. Chitose and Gojo are quite shaken up by this.