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Girlish Number Complete Collection 2023 Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read

A more realistic and more problematic look at life in the voice acting industry.

What They Say:
Chitose Karasuma wants to make it big as a voice actor, but while she looks and sounds adorable, she’s also self-absorbed, inattentive, selfish, and lazy. However, since her manager is also her big brother, she’s still getting bit parts and dreaming of landing the big role that will make her famous.

Unfortunately, karma bites Chitose in the worst way possible when her big chance finally arrives, because the producers who’ve hired her are even more clueless than she is! Now, she’s trapped in a nightmare production where nothing goes right, the ratings are in the toilet, and swimsuit photos and live stage shows take priority over making quality programming! Can Chitose and her fellow trapped actresses turn things around and save their careers? Or will they all go down with the sinking ship?

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo which is encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is one that largely works a fairly standard dialogue-driven approach but gets to show off a little more sometimes with the musical aspects and a nod or two to some of the in-show series that they’re working on with its action or sound effects. The main thrust of the show is fairly straightforward with simple back and forth and lots of quiet moments that have some good placement as needed. There’s not much needed in the way of directionality but it moves well when it does, such as some of the acting sequences or stage pieces. It’s mostly fairly basic though and that works well for the show resulting in a clean and clear problem-free mix and encoding.

Originally airing in 2016, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second. Animated by Diomedea, the show has a really great real-world look to it with the color design and backgrounds while providing lots of good detail for the characters and some fluid movement in key scenes. The result is a show that definitely has a distinct and real look to it as the cast moves through the voice-acting side of the business and tackles a few other areas as well. It’s mostly an in-city kind of project so it’s not hugely vibrant but the colors look great, the cast changes outfits regularly, and the episodes where they travel feel distinctive in their own color design to stand out in the right way. The encoding brings all that to life in a clean and problem-free way with colors coming across as solid and layered and no breakup of finer details in the backgrounds. It’s a great-looking show from start to finish.

The packaging design for this release comes in a standard-sized Blu-ray case with the two discs held against the interior walls. The front cover uses a new piece of artwork compared to the 2018 release and it works well with our lead front and center in a colorful outfit while all the silly little things float around her. The logo is kept to the lower half in a simple way with some nice pops of color here and there but is otherwise pretty subdued. The back cover works with a soft white background and uses a lot of shots from the show spread across it which works nicely to show off a lot of different pieces from the show. Add in a nice bit of character artwork along the right as well and it all ties together nicely and colorfully. The disc’s features and extras are clearly listed, though a bit awkward in how they’re laid out, while the bottom runs through the usual production credits and the technical grid. No show-related extras are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The extras for this release have the basics with the always-welcome clean opening and closing sequences. But it also gives us the brief minute and a half or so promo video from the show within the show that I’m really glad we got a chance to see separately and cleanly like this.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Part of a multimedia project that rolled out throughout 2016, the fall anime series Girlish Number is a twelve-episode series that was animated by Diomedea. It was complemented by a serial novel that ran for two volumes (so far) and a manga that wrapped up with two volumes. The TV series was the big project though and it’s one that works well though I’m not sure if it intended to do what it did. We’ve had a number of series over the years that look at voice acting and working in the Japanese entertainment industry from wacky shows like Kodocha to far more serious projects like Perfect Blue. Girlish Number is a little more middle-of-the-road in a way but unlike most of the more cutesy shows that get produced about it these days this one feels a little sharper and less reverential than we tend to get. And that in itself is a good thing, though it’s not exactly an indictment of the industry.

The focus is on Chitose, a university student who is making her way into the voice acting world thanks to the help of her older brother Gojo, who himself was a voice actor and is now working as a manager at Number One Produce. His career is touched on from time to time, usually with Chitose mocking him for pieces of it, but he’s like most of the men in the show in that they’re working their jobs and focused on that to the exclusion of almost everything else. The anime adaptation side of the story deals with the problems that exist between animation studios and writers and those whose work they adapt, particularly when one scenario writer goes off on a novelist about how the story just makes no sense and is garbage. I don’t imagine that happens often or in that form but it’s the kind of thing that a number of fans wish would happen more and that some projects wouldn’t get the green light. But animation studios need money and content to produce…

With Chitose as our view into this world, it’s something that’s not the norm. In many ways, she comes across as very entitled, as though this is owed to her even though she’s not very good. The industry is designed for not very good being an entry point and learning about how to be an actor comes as on-the-job training more than anything else. The problem is that Chitose comes across as rather smug more often than not and, frankly, unlikeable in how she views others. Part of this is also because she is very competitive and doesn’t like to lose but she hates to put in the effort as well. This makes her a fairly unique personality in a lot of ways and the point of the series is that by the end of it, she learns more about how to fit into it and to change her perspective on things to be a better person. With most shows focusing on high school students who tend to be wise beyond their years, giving us a rough university-age student like this is definitely different.

I do wonder if it’ll be somewhat cultural whether people will find her unlikeable or not, or if it’s just me at this point. I can see the appeal in the character in terms of the story vehicle as presented but I often found myself like Kazuha, a woman in her late twenties that’s trying to move up in the overall scheme of things with serious programs in her sites. She’s not exactly dismissive of Chisato or visibly frustrated in a big way, but there’s a weariness from her about dealing with people like Chisato, whereas some of the others in the group that become friends through the Millennium Princess program they end up working together on trying to nudge or ease Chitose into being better about everything. They’re all right in their own way in how they deal with her but as a viewer I just wanted Gojo to shake some sense into her about how she should have grown up into some of this already – particularly with how she mocks him as she starts to gain more popularity and particularly with some CD sales, an area he failed hard in and she really lays into him about.

The series does a lot of fun stuff in showing stages and parts of the production chain for the in-show series and the forward progress of the main cast as a unit is formed for them, which includes a surprise stage performance when the episode that was being previewed is unavailable and all they have is the promo for it that the show won’t even look like anyway. The beach trip was fun as was the episode involving something a little more classic as these showcased something different with color and tone, almost like vacation episodes. There are a lot of interesting elements to the animation production side of it with the story and the cast of characters involved in shepherding it with the directors and writers, particularly since they’re visibly more frustrated with the creator side than other shows like Shirobako have done, but a lot of it left me feeling like it was a separate show rather than a fully committed side to this one.

In Summary:
While I enjoyed Girlish Number as a whole because it didn’t take a glossy look at the industry and showcased a lot of its faults, I was also very frustrated with it because of the lead character. The group dynamic works well since it diffuses Chitose and the rest of the show draws on other characters and elements to smooth things out, but when it delved into what she was feeling it left me frustrated with her for how she simply came across as though she’s due all of this and that it should be easier. Sentai gives us a really solid release here with a great-looking show and a clean and appealing tight little package. Fans of the show will be pleased to own it and I hope it finds its audience as time goes on more and more.

Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Inside Show Preview, Clean Opening Animation, and Clean Closing Animation

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: June 27th, 2023
MSRP: $49.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.