The difference is, these teens aren’t out saving the world. They’re just out having fun in Shibuya.
Super Gals! Complete DVD set
Studio: Studio Pierrot
Licensed by: Right Stuf International
Release Date: October 5th, 2010
For a lack of a better word, Ran Kotobuki is the show’s protagonist. (A friend suggested that she’s more like the villian.) Vain, gutsy, selfish, brave and strong, Ran is the “Queen” of Shibuya, a fact confirmed by the other characters who obey her -- and by the fact that she’ll kick the ass of anyone who disagrees. What drives Ran? An infinite hunger for octopus balls, a desire to ditch homework and have fun with her friends while dressed in late nineties kogal style, and an often misplaced sense of justice.
In other words, she’s not about to let anyone push her around. Not an unfair teacher (she punches one in the face during an arc about teacher-student bullying), gang members, or cell-phone fortune games (even if they are eerily accurate). On the softer side, she is a defender of other teen girls. She’s quick to come to the aid of any girl in distress. She met her two best friends by saving them from unfortunate situations. Pixie-like Miyu was an angry gang leader who just wanted to feel safe, something she got when Ran lead her to her older brother the policeman, Yamato, whom she fell madly in love with. Aya, the “smart one,” was an unhappy model student who just wanted to have fun, until Ran taught her that having a good time is more important than studying hard. Ran saves them both, regardless of her questionable methods.
Other main characters in the show include two high school aged male models -- the cool Otohata and the slapstick “nice guy” Second Place (dubbed perfectly and accurately by Chris Ayres), who Ran is always tricking into buying her food; Ran’s sneaky detective little sister; Ran’s arch-enemy the snooty Queen of Bakuro, Mami Honda; and most confusingly, a token black character alternately named Tatsuki Kuroi/Machida Black whom the others call “Monkey Boy.”
Once saved, the three main girls, bedecked in the colorful fake nails, baggy kneesocks and bleached and dyed hair, rule Shibuya. Their antics fill fluff piece after fluff piece, as they go to the beach, eat at their favorite diner, dance Para Para by the station, snowboard, visit the water park, and do anything but study. And in the 25 episode run, many shows repeat themselves. In two shows, Ran has her brain mystically altered by a mysterious photo machine or magic pillow into becoming a model student and shocking her family and friends. In two more, Miyu and Yamato the policeman, almost kiss. In a few others, Second Place and Tatsuki compete for Ran’s heart in outrageous contests.
Alone, I loved watching Gals! The predictable storylines, repetitive dialogue, and incoherent (and probably unused) “official Gal slang” had a soothing effect. Every episode has a happy ending. The visuals are as bright and ever changing as Shibuya’s scenery. And the show’s values of kindness and friendship always trumped every obstacle. For example, even though Ran is usually a lazy slacker destined to fail high school, she’ll do anything for her friends, including hold a series of odd jobs to buy that perfect gift. It was like watching a primetime soap opera, where the characters’ trendy outfits are just as fascinating as the interchangable plots. You can imagine gyaru disciples watching this show ten years ago as a guide for their fashion lifestyle. After all, Ran explains almost each of her thoughts and actions as “an ironclad rule for gals!”
But with eight of my closest friends in the same room, Gals! becomes a laughingstock. Ran’s hypocritical actions, such as stealing Otohata’s bag because she wants one just like it and then turning around and accosting some thieves for wrongdoing, or decrying the horrors of “subsidates” (where women go on dates in exchange for money) and then cajoling Second Place into taking her to dinner, drove my friends crazy. The way the shows’ episodes switch from fun and hijinks to after school special with no warning was jarring. And of course, the overt racism that is Tatsuki’s character made everyone uncomfortable. Before I shared the show with my friends, I wanted to recommend it. But there’s just too much here to write off.
Super Gals! is a love letter to late-nineties gal culture, boldly displaying the tenants of the gal lifestyle -- look great, have fun, and don’t take crap from anybody. It may look fluffy, but beneath the surface, it holds a message about friendship and self identity that’s wholly unique. While I doubt it’s your usual type of anime (and I mean that, whoever you are, because Gals! really doesn’t fit into any of today’s anime types), you might want to give it a try just to see. As Ran would say, “that’s an ironclad rule for gals!”