These are the words Karasuma Chitose hears when she half-heartedly thanks some fans for support, and obviously isn’t doing a good job hiding her listlessness. Of course, this is a terrible thing to say to anyone and speaks to an entitlement all too common. In both life as well as being in the public eye, you are never allowed to let your mask slip. People will judge for even the slightest hint of a bad mood, or at least that’s what you tell yourself. As someone who was always self-assured to a fault, Chitose now finds herself assured of little but her own perceived worthlessness. The mask has fallen off, and doesn’t seem to fit back on. Anyone who has felt such a sense of self-loathing could tell you it’s an awful place to be, but for someone who has never faced resentment like it before it must be an especially dispiriting feeling.
There are a number of things that led to this, and for Chitose it must feel like a collapsing house of cards. Her brother Gojo is no longer her manager, and her new manager is a handful, to say the least. Chitose would likely never admit it, but her brother had been an important emotional crutch for her. Not a crutch she was going to be able to lean on forever of course, but one that was pulled out suddenly enough to visibly affect her. Gojo had pointed out that she needed to change, but now she is faced with the reality that she just isn’t very capable on her own. Despite wearing the mask well, she was not exactly on her way to becoming a pro voice actor. Gojo is aware of this as well, and once Chitose also becomes aware of it, they share little but disappointed glances. Gojo is the one person whose disappointment gets to Chitose above all others’. With the crutch gone, there is nothing able to keep her afloat. Her now missing undue confidence is what saved her, and managed to even earn her a set of fans.
One such fan is a newbie already seemingly more promising than Chitose herself- Nanami Sakuragaoka. She’s a charming, hard working high school student who’s talented enough to be seen as the new big thing by management. She’s also a fan of Chitose, seemingly admiring her even if it’s only thanks to the mask. This isn’t the boost of confidence it might sound like to Chitose, though- from her point of view, Nanami is everything she isn’t, and she resents that. Nanami is young, a go-getter, and most importantly talented. Her sudden rise to prominence only increases the pace at which Chitose begins to doubt herself and her goals. She’s staring down what is basically her replacement. Even if that’s not the outright intention it will surely feel so in the near future. Her career feels over even though it just started. It doesn’t help that Gojo went down a very similar path- a brief time as a voice actor before never doing so again. His own exit from the job does not sound pleasant either. Chitose hates what she is and how inevitable going nowhere seems to be, and it must feel odd to know something just like this happened to Gojo before her.
So where does Chitose go from here? Well I can’t imagine Girlish Number will have its characters moping around for the entire final stretch of its run (not that I’d be entirely opposed to that specific show either). The mask has now come off, and it is arguably a necessary opportunity for Chitose. Going in to Girlish Number most would expect her to go through some growth and development of her own, but I’ve been struck by just how relatable or understandable her current struggles are. I suppose that’s plain to see. The world’s a tough place, and there’s always someone better than you. There’s always something to feel guilty or self-conscious about. But what really matters is how we respond to these things. Eventually the mask will slip and the emotional wall will come down. It’s not wrong to feel down when it does, but at some point the real test becomes pushing on without it. It’s okay to be the real you. I look forward to Chitose learning this herself.