By Thankyou-Tatsuo / Special to The Yomiuri ShimbunWhat goes on behind the things you see? So-called behind-the-scenes stories have been made into dramas and anime for many years. The charm of such works is not about how interesting the hidden world is — rather, it’s about learning that a piece of work is presented to us in a certain way because of what happens behind the scenes.
TV anime “Girlish Number” is based on a novel by Wataru Watari. It is an intriguing work that delves into the world of voice acting and lets us learn what kind of process animation works go through before they’re shown to us.
The anime realistically depicts what happens in making anime. For example, one word by the producer can bring turmoil to the studio where the director and key animators work. It also shows the logic of casting and how anime works are monetized.
The lead character is Chitose Karasuma, whose nickname is Chiisama. She only entered the voice acting world because she didn’t want to live an ordinary life. She has a cheerful personality but lacks determination; she also has no passion for anime and is unfriendly to her fans. The anime comically portrays how easily she can be over the top and how sloppy she is. By watching the anime, viewers can learn in a fun way about what really happens in the anime industry.
Chitose’s older brother, a former voice actor, is her manager. They’ve been working in the anime industry in tandem, with Chitose mostly playing minor roles. One day, she’s picked to play a lead character. The promotion is part of a project to launch a singing unit of voice actresses. Chitose’s acting is mediocre, and her carelessness causes problems, one after another, in the recording sessions.
People around her try to motivate her, but Chitose does not reflect on her behavior. Soon, a talented younger voice actress emerges and Chitose falls behind, with her agency becoming less keen on promoting her.
“SHIROBAKO,” an anime that was aired from 2014 to 2015, depicted the industry through a production studio at its center. “Girlish Number” portrays the overall mechanism of power shifts in the industry from the perspective of voice actors. The anime is interesting in that it clearly shows that the quality of a particular anime is determined by whether each of the people involved in the production process and in various positions is passionate about it.
The story develops with a pleasantly fast tempo — each 30-minute episode comes to an end before you realize it.
Novels cannot fully portray voice actors’ performances. In the anime, Chitose’s performance improves little by little, from “very bad” to “bad,” “OK” and “moderately good,” which is expressed by the performances of Sayaka Senbongi, who plays Chitose. Senbongi’s voice acting is worth paying attention to.
I think this anime will go down in history as a precious record of what is happening in the anime industry right now, such as the relationships between the original author and the visual adaptation team, as well as between voice actors’ agencies and related merchandise makers. I’m sure that if you watch this anime, you will feel the urge to shout, “Thanks to all of you in the creative team!” when you see a good anime next time.
*This anime’s broadcast has ended, but the first volume is available on Blu-ray and DVD. The second volume will go on sale on Jan. 27.