Judge Sandra Dozier offers the following tortured metaphor: Watching this anime is like eating cotton candy—it's bright pink and fluffy, and the sugar makes you a little jumpy, but in the end, it satisfies.
They're out of school…and into trouble!
The key to enjoying Grrl Power is to get past the screaming. On my first viewing, I was so annoyed by the decibel level of the character voices that I couldn't enjoy the story or get to know the characters. There's really no way to get past this unless you either get used to it (as I did) or enjoy high-excitement anime where the characters are shouting passionately about things they think are important.
Underneath the overexcited voice performances (on both the Japanese language track and the English dub, lest you think this is just a dub problem) is a sweet little story about three industrious girls who will take on any job (well, almost any job) for a reasonable fee. They not only accomplish the task, but they usually do a bang-up job, one worthy of tips and great word of mouth. The fact that they are still of junior high school age doesn't stop them—they have big plans.
The three girls in question are Umi, the delicate cutie who tends to take on jobs that require grace, beauty, and charm; Sora, a spunky tomboy who seems to have limitless energy and can tackle any amount of heavy lifting; and Ao, their chief of staff, a whip-smart girl who can figure out almost any problem or situation, and who juggles their schedule and finances on top of everything else. Ao is also deaf and mute, so she communicates via sign language when she isn't preparing reports or other written material. Deaf anime characters aren't new, but Ao stands out for not being conspicuous because of her deafness; it isn't a pivotal plot point.
This initial DVD release for Grrl Power is somewhat unusual in that it only includes one 25-minute original animation video, which was self-produced by the creator, Akitaro Daichi. (This is unusual for a new series, which doesn't have a loyal fan base to support a one-off release.) Also included with the episode is a wealth of extras, including an interview with the creator-producer. The opening credits for Grrl Power seem to indicate that future adventures are in store, so perhaps he is waiting to see what the reaction to this release will be first.
Grrl Power makes a none-too-subtle comment about the school system and how different the reality of adulthood is from what children are prepared for. The three girls have been orphaned by their parents, and they know that you can't get anywhere in life without money and that people aren't equal after all, despite what they were told by their teachers. People lie and cheat and don't treat each other well, but if you are a hard worker and you love what you do, you can get far in this world. What they really want more than anything is to be able to live on their own island, where they can be self-sufficient and happy.
The girls and the kids they meet ask themselves hard questions. One of the odd jobs they are hired to do is to convince a peer that he should be attending school. It puts them in a tight spot, since they don't attend school themselves and see no merit in it. Somehow, though, they have to convince him, since they take pride in always being able to complete a job. In the end, of course, everything turns out well for everyone involved, and the fun is in watching them get to the "Thank you for your business!" cheer.
Strangely, Grrl Power is suggested for the 12-and-up crowd, but the subject matter (so far, at least) seems fine for even younger kids. There are a couple of mature themes involving Umi that might have earned the over-12 rating—one is where she is hired to pose as the girlfriend of a slightly older student so that his overbearing girlfriend will dump him. When Umi is slapped hard across the face by the soon-to-be-ex, she tells him that it'll cost extra for the slap. Also, at a baseball game she shows off her short skirt, long legs, and lacy undies for a brief flash, but this is not so much fan service as it is a calculated effort to get a big tip after her job is finished. She is fully aware of the effect her little bum-wiggle has on the players, and she sees it as a bit of harmless fun.
Character design for Grrl Power is very cute, with the simplified, big-head-small-body style that is a favorite in animation for children, and a bright, colorful palette for the characters and scenery. Video transfer for this OAV is very good, with an anamorphic image that is crisp and clear, and a lively soundtrack to go along with it. The real bounty of the disc, though, is the extras. Between interviews with both Japanese and English voice actresses, material from a convention screening, and an interview with the creator, there is almost 45 minutes of extra material, and that doesn't count the feature commentary. While some of this is promotional or just for fun, there is some discussion about voice characterization and some of the decisions that went into designing the manga and anime that are interesting and watchable. In addition, there are production sketches and a mini-poster introducing the girls on one side and showing the American sign language positions that spell "Grrl Power."
Although the price may be a little high for an untested series, this is a title that is worth checking out, especially if you like the sort of high-energy, ultra-cute animation style the story is presented in. I wouldn't mind seeing more adventures with these girls and finding out if they ever get to their island in the end.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
• Interview with Akitaro Daichi
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