ADV Films // 2001 // 125 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Sandra Dozier (Retired) // May 20th, 2004
Whether she's battling crime, fending off stalkers, or sticking up for her friends, Ran never quits!
Young girls in the streets of Shibuya are hip and hot -- they control every aspect of their look, from their dyed hair, fake nails, and makeup to their loose socks, platform shoes, and short skirts. They have the very best clothes, a cell phone or three, and the coolest bags. Although this look has been most noticeable among the ganguro girls with their super-tanned skin and light makeup (an effort to capture the gangster look from African American street culture), any GAL will tell you that look is soooooo three years ago! Light skin is in, and the heroine of our story, Ran Kotobuki, is looking goooooood! Oh, and don't forget the attitude -- sassy and over-the-top, combative and mischievous -- basically, your typical "Grrrl" type. Super GALs captures this persona to a tee.
Ran and her friends Miyu and Aya come on the screen to a catchy theme song in a Charlie's Angels pose -- very appropriate for these hard-knocking girl fighters -- and tear up the scenery as they deal with real-life issues that teenagers face on a day to day basis.
Episode 1: "The World's Greatest GAL -- Go! Go! Ran Kotobuki."
Ran takes an interest in Aya Hoshino, when she finds out Aya is involved in subsidized dating, a practice where older men arrange dates with high-school age girls, giving them money and buying them food or gifts in exchange for their time (or more). Ran's ironclad rule (she has many of these) is that you must have self-respect.
Episode 2: "Phone Tag Gets Chilling! The Great Dragnet."
Ran makes a deal with her policeman father that she will do some crime fighting in exchange for a raise in her allowance. She runs down a purse-snatcher that she later recognizes at school. When the purse snatcher uses Ran's name in a series of subsidized dating setups and then mugs the men who come to the arranged date ("phone hunting"), Ran has to take the rap, and she ain't sittin' for it.
Episode 3: "A Girl's Feelings! Red Streak or Not, Miyu's
Miyu is concerned over some rash words she said to Yamato (Ran's brother, whom she loves), but is distracted by a stalker from her school who won't take no for an answer.
Episode 4: "Have Got? Have Not? Luck With Guys?"
Ran doesn't have the best luck with men, but she is sure that has all changed when she meets gorgeous and sweet-natured Mitch. Mitch seems to be keeping a dark secret, though, and her pal Rei doesn't think much of him, either.
Episode 5: "Fresh Start? Broken Heart? Is it Over with Aya?!"
Aya's grades take a dive, and her parents want her to stop hanging around Ran and her friends. Aya says goodbye and starts studying hard, but was it really her friends after all?
This series is packed with cultural references and slang that will challenge all but the most devoted Japan/anime enthusiast. Fortunately, packaged with the DVD is an extensive, yet easy-to-read guide with cultural notes, and the episodes themselves feature "Mini-GALs" (miniaturized super-cute versions of a GAL character) who explain specific lingo. In the Extras section is also an informative featurette called "The Super GALs Explain It All!" which I recommend watching before viewing any episodes.
The pace is fast and furious. If Ran isn't spitting out dialogue (or colorful insults) at the speed of light, the girls (and their guys) are always on the move. There are plenty of fisticuffs, too -- Ran likes to fight. A few "What's that bitch?!" and "You skank!" utterances, and she's grabbing someone's collar and letting her fist do the talking.
Beneath this in-your-face fun and games is a show that manages to walk the thin line between social responsibility and preachiness. These girls have self-respect, determination, and a strong sense of justice, despite their proclivity for breaking the rules and ignoring authority. In the first episode, Ran challenges Aya, who is participating in subsidized dating, a legal but lecherous practice where older men arrange dates with young women, who are usually in high school. The legal age of consent in Japan is 13, but subsidized dating is considered by many to go too far. Even though the only "expectation" is that the girls talk and spend time with the men, no one is fooling themselves. Ran's way of waking Aya up? A good slap in the face! When Aya is shocked, Ran says, "That hurt, didn't it? Are you surprised, Aya? It looks like your MORE than just an object after all!" Of course the two become fast friends.
Ran helps Aya to realize that sacrificing her own happiness to please her parents isn't good to do when it makes you miserable. Her particular brand of justice may not sit well with parents who want their kids to be good little automatons and get straight A's instead of wasting time on leisure activity or friends, but them's the breaks, as they say.
ADV is pulling out all the stops for this title. The English voice dub is excellent -- even minor roles are done to perfection, and Ran herself sounds great. All the sassiness, bitchiness, and petulance is right there in her voice, but it can also be proud and confident when the situation demands. This key role being done so well really sells the show, in my opinion. Video transfer and sound quality are top-notch. The 5.1 Dolby Digital English track does a good job of filtering ambient noise to all channels, and offstage voices come from the appropriate speakers, then blend in with center-stage performers when they walk into frame. The Japanese 2.0 soundtrack (as the base track) is similarly lively, with excellent surround on the music and ambient noise. Otaku and Japan culture fans will want to listen to the Japanese track in particular for the combined and made up word phrases and mixed-in English phrases that have made their way into the GAL street slang.
Volume One has a key extra -- the "SuperGALs Explain It All!" featurette -- that helps to explain the GAL world and should be viewed before watching the episodes for maximum benefit (there are no spoilers). There are also some production sketches, which give you a brief glimpse at a character who hasn't yet appeared in the series yet. Other than that, clean opening and closing credits, previews, and a mini-poster insert round out the extras.
As a non-GAL myself, I felt exhausted by the go-go-go nature of Ran and her friends. So far, at least, there isn't much for adults who have gone past non-stop shopping and clubbing to relate to. This series is firmly aimed at teenagers still in high school and doesn't pretend to be anything else. I am not pointing out a flaw, merely a reservation from someone who likes to wear comfortable shoes.
C'mon, check it out. You know you want to. That is, if you like non-stop frantic action and girls who like to scream, pull hair, fight, and generally give the finger to anyone who wants to rain on their parade. Feeling restless? You won't be after watching this marathon spaz-out. At least it has catchy music!
It's an ironclad rule that Super GALs rocks the house!
Review content copyright © 2004 Sandra Dozier; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 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
* Clean opening and closing animation
* The Super GALS explain it all!
* Production art gallery
* Cultural notes