ADV Films // 2001 // 125 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Sandra Dozier (Retired) // June 3rd, 2004
Only fools mess with Ran Kotobuki!
Super GAL Ran Kotobuki is back with her pals Miyu and Aya, and boy pals Rei and Second Place -- I mean Yuya (who got his unfortunate nickname for placing second in a contest against Rei in episode one).
What do all these hip teens have in common? Shibuya, of course! It is the place to be if you're cool and look good. The girls are decked out to the nines, with their dyed hair, fake nails, loose socks, platform shoes, and short skirts. They have the very best clothes, a cell phone or three, and the coolest bags. Don't forget their friends -- only the most GL (good-looking) guys need apply. And they do! Quiet, introspective Rei is tops at whatever he does, and lovestruck Yuya is kind and generous to others, especially to Ran, who doesn't seem to have a clue how he feels about her.
Then there are those other girls. You know who I mean. They think they can take over Shibuya, but they've got another think coming! Whether it's those super-tanned girls with light makeup and popsicle hair colors or those nasty skanks from Bukuro, Ran and gang put their skills to work and boot their asses out.
Last, but not least, don't forget the attitude -- sassy and over-the-top, combative and mischievous -- basically, your typical "Grrl" type. Super GALs captures this persona to a tee and has a lot of fun with the subject matter. If Ran isn't hurling creative insults at fools who dare to tread in her territory, she's finding something else to get excited about. She is definitely the center of the Super GALs universe, and that suits her just fine.
Surprisingly, Super GALs isn't all fluff. Underneath the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants zaniness is a strong message about the importance of friendship and family. Ran may be bored with the authority figures in her life, but she is a loyal friend who cares about the people she loves, and she won't even hesitate to come to their aid if they need help. Of course, she might turn around the next day and ask someone to do her homework for her, but that's Ran for you.
The episodes center mostly around having fun -- shopping, beating up invading skanks, dancing, shopping, collaring suspicious troublemakers, shopping, scoping out cute guys, shopping. A central arc to these stories is the relationships each GAL gets involved in, both romantic and otherwise. Miyu is firmly committed to Ran's brother, Yamato, but Aya and Ran don't have boyfriends yet. Aya has a crush and a light flirtation with Rei, and Ran hasn't decided, but Yuya wants desperately to be her boyfriend. What was a crush in volume one becomes a full-fledged infatuation as the episodes progress, and when a rival enters the scene, Yuya becomes frantic with worry that he'll never get a chance at Ran.
In general, this series is aimed squarely at high-school-age and younger teens, and the pacing and nonstop action reflect this. It's pretty exhausting to watch, unless you have that kind of on-the-go-all-the-time life.
I am impressed that this series made it to America at all. It's stuffed full of Japanese cultural references, slang, and streetwise situations. The teens all throw copious amounts of English into their speech, especially Yuya's rival, who appears in the last episode and is very reminiscent of Ran in the way he acts. However, ADV has done an excellent job of translating everything so that it isn't confusing and is actually fun and appealing. The English voice acting is superb -- I don't want to think about how wiped those actors must have been at the end of every day, because every performance reflects 110% effort, and really helps to sell the series. As good as these performances are, it's worth giving each episode a watch with both language soundtracks to see how the Japanese performances throw in English and mix up words to create new slang expressions.
There is a key extra on this DVD called "Super GALs Explain It All!" that fills in some additional gaps that mostly have to do with the whole "GAL" lifestyle. Volume one also had an extra by the same name, but this is a new one, featuring Miyu instead of Ran. It does contain a couple of minor spoilers about the new character in episode 10, but there are no major shockers that would prevent someone from being able to view it before watching the episodes.
If you can keep up with it, Super GALs can be a fun experience, especially since no real parent would ever let their kid skive off school duties as much as Ran gets to. Half the fun is living vicariously through her. If I looked that good in loose socks, I'd probably try it, too!
Review content copyright © 2004 Sandra Dozier; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Japanese)
* English (Signs Only)
Running Time: 125 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "Super GALs Explain It All!"
* Mini-poster insert
* Cultural/translation notes
* Japanese Site