Back when Newtype USA was being published, I remember seeing extremely colorful ads for an anime called Super Gals! It wasn’t until a few years later that I actually was able to watch the first season of the anime, and I really enjoyed it once I did. The series revolves around the kogal subculture, in which girls are easily identified as ‘gals’ by their often bleached and permed hair, short skirts, and loose socks. Ran Kotobuki is the number one gal in Shibuya, and the series follows her adventures along with her best friends Miyu Yamazaki (a sweet girl with a penchant for referring to herself in the third person) and Aya Hoshino (a shy girl who is extremely studious). On the surface, everything about Super Gals! screams ‘girly.’ From the anime’s bright color scheme to the shopping trips to the female characters’ awesome nails (they’re so long and pretty!), Super Gals! seems like a simple light comedy. Yet looks can be deceiving: right away this image is dispelled in the first episode when Ran finds out that in her spare time, Aya has been going out on subsidized dates (enjo kosai). Ran’s tough girl attitude gets her into many fights, and later on it is revealed that Miyu was once the leader of a gang. Even though Ran’s attire and attitude make her seem rebellious, she’s got a strong sense of justice that comes naturally to her because she comes from a family of police officers. The contrast of the series ‘fluffy’ appearance with some of it’s darker themes made me appreciate the series even more, because I really like when comedies have more to offer than just jokes.
Still, that’s not to say that the series isn’t fun. Some of the lines are laugh-out-loud funny, and the show’s slang has stuck with me (thanks to this show, I always use the term ‘narci’ instead of the word narcissist). I love the sequences of the chibi versions of the characters para-para dancing, and there’s a trio of tanned-girls who love to harass Ran (and always end up humiliated). One of my favorite episodes is when Ran holds a contest to find the perfect boyfriend and hundreds of guys show up to compete for the heart of Shibuya’s most desired gal. Ran makes the guys do everything from run a marathon to scaling a mountain, and it’s pretty great to watch. Even though Ran is perpetually broke, loves mooching off of guys and can be pretty bossy, people love Ran because she’s strong and always abides by the ‘ironclad rules for gals,’ which includes always helping others. But there are some people who have reviewed the show that find a message the show is (probably) unintentionally sending to be problematic: Ran never focuses on school and is constantly getting failing grades, and she’s always telling people to have fun while they can. At one point, Ran’s carefree attitude comes into collision with Aya, who tries to break off her friendship with Ran so she can focus on her studies and please her parents. But eventually, Aya begins to see that Ran is right and that she should live to please herself, even if that means she won’t get perfect grades anymore. While the message the show is sending may be problematic (and certainly shouldn’t be taken to Ran’s extent), because I personally wish I could have had more fun in high school, I can relate to Ran’s reasoning and thus I’m not bothered by these implications. Besides, the series is so strong in sending messages about seeing the good in yourself that it’s hard to say the series’ outlook is anything but positive.
While Aya is probably the most relatable character and many of us wish we could be as brazen as Ran is, I have to say that Miyu is my favorite character in the series. Miyu is dating Ran’s brother Yamato, who is older than her and more prudish in their relationship – much to Miyu’s chagrin (she wants her first kiss, dammit!). Even though Miyu is always lovey-dovey with Yamato, she is still struggling with guilt from her past crimes as a gang leader. I love the moments the series flashes back to Miyu when she was in the gang – she was much harder and cruder, and it’s a nice contrast to the present-day Miyu who loves to bake and speak in baby-talk. Miyu’s tough side shows up every once in awhile, such as when her boss tries to get her to sleep with him, and it frightens her because she fears that she hasn’t changed at all. Despite her past, Yamato accepts her and I found their relationship to be really sweet. In many ways, I found Miyu to be the most sympathetic character: later on in the series we find out that Miyu’s mother isn’t ever around, which is why she was driven into the gang in the first place.
Love is a central theme throughout the anime, but it’s never the sole focus of the series. Aya develops a crush on Rei Otahata, a stoic boy who was voted the number one GL (good-looking) guy in high school, and struggles with her feelings of unrequited love over the course of the first season. Although pretty much every guy in Shibuya wants her, there are two main guys who are after Ran’s attentions: Yuya Asou, a nice guy who was voted the number two GL guy in high school (earning him the nickname Nii – ‘second place’), and Tatsuki Kuroi, a goofy ‘monkey’ guy who loves to dance para-para and lives in Machida. I was pretty surprised that Ran decided to start dating Tatsuki so early on in the series, but I think his crazy behavior matches Ran really well, especially since Yuya lets Ran walk all over him. But more important is the friendship between the three girls, who always stand by each other and prove that gals truly do have a lot of heart. Overall, I really like Super Gals! and would definitely recommend it. The series is based off of the manga Gals! by Mihona Fujii, which was released by CMX. The anime’s first season was released by ADV, and the dub is great. Unfortunately, although the second season managed to get released by Nozomi Entertainment, the second season doesn’t have a dub, which is a major reason why I haven’t watched the second half of the show yet. But Ran and her friends are too charming to resist, so I’m sure that I’ll be watching the rest of the series eventually.