ADV Films // 2001 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Sandra Dozier (Retired) // June 24th, 2004
Never surrender! That's an ironclad rule!
I'm starting to talk like a Super GAL. I caught myself the other day saying, "For real?! That is über-sick!" I admit this to you only to warn you about the possible addictive properties of the otherwise innocuous Super GALs! series. It may seem like just another crazy teenage anime, but look beneath the surface and there's a lot of madcap humor. It's escapist entertainment that reminds us exactly why we long for our youth, but would never actually want to repeat it.
To live the GAL lifestyle like Super GAL Ran Kotobuki, a girl might dye her hair, wear fake nails, and dress up in a signature look of loose socks, short skirts, and platform shoes. Having the right attitude helps: feisty, loud, and opinionated, with no intention whatsoever to take crap from anybody. Points are docked for the tan-face look: tanning until your skin is very dark, then wearing light make-up. That look is sooooo last year, and the "tan addicts" that show up from time to time in Shibuya are promptly reminded of this.
There is a great deal of potential for the characters in Super GALs to be annoying, but Ran and her friends all have some sort of endearing quality that prevents the whole lot of them from falling into the "spastic teen fluff" category. Leader Ran is a hopeless slacker -- she dozes off in class, has a problem with authority, and usually gets someone else to do her homework -- but she is fiercely loyal to her friends, and she will do almost anything to come through for them. Her ethics are clear: Mooching is okay, stealing is not. (Ran would tell you that the pleasure of her company is enough compensation for picking up the tab.)
Best friend Miyu is in love with Ran's older brother, Yousuke, and has reformed her gang-leader ways. She doesn't have much of a family life, so her friends and Yousuke have become her family, and with this strong core she stays on the straight and narrow. Aya, their new best friend, is quiet and reserved but has a strong spirit and gains her confidence and strength from her friends. Then there's the guys: Tatsukichi, Ran's boyfriend (even though they only hold hands) and Para-Para king is in direct competition with shy Yuya, who wants to be Ran's beau. Aloof Rei completes the trio -- a natural overachiever, he's bored with life and girls, until he meets Aya and sees things from a different perspective.
Ran has many "ironclad rules" for living the GAL lifestyle, and while the series is not at all preachy, confident Ran lives her life according to a keen sense of justice (despite her defiance of adopting the family police career choice) and puts herself and the people she loves first. Don't mess with a friend, or you'll get it in the face from Ran, in other words.
Of course, there are plenty of people who wish to do just that, including Mami Honda from Bukuro. She and Ran are constantly crossing paths. Guess who always wins? But Mami is not totally without her charms, and she and Ran find common ground in this volume. When everyone isn't having fun -- shopping, beating up invading skanks, thinking up colorful (yet PG) insults to hurl at troublemakers, shopping some more, or scoping cute guys -- they are languishing in class, making things difficult for poor Naka-teach (Ran's unfortunate nickname for their teacher, Mr. Nakanishi).
Volume four has four episodes. The gang goes to an indoor ski slope (a popular attraction during summer) when Ran wins a snowboard in a raffle. Unfortunately, Mami is there with her gang, and things heat up! Then we get a peek into Miyu's past as a gang leader, learn more about her family life, and find out how she met and fell for Yamato -- it's a great episode that rounds out her character nicely. The relationship between Aya and Rei takes on a new dimension, and Ran's little sis Sayo (who has the über-cute habit of saying "you bet" -- datchu in Japanese -- at the end of her sentences) finally gets an up-close look at her hero, "Odaiba Cop" Detective Kudoh.
I'm amazed and pleased that ADV undertook this difficult project -- the kids in Super GALs talk fast and move fast, and the episodes are stuffed with cultural references. In addition to a thoughtful translation that preserves much of the original dialogue in the subtitles but translates or omits some of the more untranslatable fast-talk in the dub, ADV provides two tools for Western viewers who don't speak Japanese: an extra called "Super GALs Explain It All!" and a mini-poster insert that has extensive cultural notes and translations on the back. The viewer can choose to view these or not; skipping them won't diminish understanding of the episodes, and watching them fills in cultural references for those who are interested. The "Explain It All" extra can (and should) be watched before the episodes -- it's a bit of a preview, and an explanation of major references, with no major spoilers. Volume four also features a new extra: a slide show with the original Japanese DVD cover art.
With a clear, crisp visual transfer and a kick-ass stereo soundtrack (5.1 for the English dub), this is a fun series that is definitely a pick-me-up on a rainy day. Bright, bold colors and frantic action are de rigueur for the episodes, and the surprising charm of a show that, on the surface, appears to be a shallow glam-fest with "the popular gang" should convince just about anyone to give it a try.
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: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "Super GALs Explain It All!"
* Mini-Poster Insert
* Cultural/Translation Notes
* Clean Opening and Closing Animation
* DVD Cover Art Slideshow
* Japanese Site