Ahhhh, young love. It reminds Judge Sandra Dozier of why she is so very glad that high school is just a dim memory.
Want it? Go get it! That's an ironclad rule for GALs!
I want to be like Ran Kotobuki, the heroine of Super GALs, but just for one day. More than that, and I'd be exhausted. She's honest, spunky, and opinionated, and she knows how to have fun, even when she's broke. If you get in her face, she'll hit you back just as hard, but if you are her friend, you're as good as gold. Ran has a strong sense of loyalty and doesn't mince words—if you don't like hearing the truth, find another friend.
Ran is Shibuya's #1 GAL, a lifestyle for girls of a punk flavor who like to dress up, wear tons of accessories, and mix it up. You'll recognize a GAL by one or more of these trademarks: dyed hair, fake nails, short skirts, loose socks, platform shoes, and bright clothing. She'll also be feisty, loud, and confrontational—cross her, and you'd better be ready for trouble. Shibuya, famous for the shopping opportunities, is Ran's turf. She and her friends (and sometimes her little sis Sayo) protect the peace along with her policeman brother Yamato.
By volume 5, Ran's circle of friends has expanded into a close family. Best friend Miyu, who is in love with Yamato, is a reformed gang leader who is now committed to leading a good life so she can be a worthy partner for Yamato, who knew her when she was in a gang and loved her anyway. Shy friend Aya is at her most relaxed when she is with Ran and Miyu, after having been coaxed out of her repressed shell by Ran. Aya has a crush on aloof Rei, a teen idol and #1 in the polls for GL (good-looking) guys. Yuya, his best friend (and #2 in the polls, earning the unfortunate nickname of "Second Place"), has it bad for Ran, but she's completely oblivious to his affections and is together with energetic Tatsukichi, a Para-Para dance expert and visitor from another city who swept in and swept Ran off her feet right under Yuya's nose. Poor Yuya—shy and good-hearted, he can't muster the courage to tell Ran exactly how he feels…although it's hard to know who to feel more sorry for—him, or the eternally chaste Tatsukichi, who so far has only convinced Ran to hold hands with him.
Somehow, Super GALs manages to avoid being preachy or sneaky about working in a moral to every story. Ran is quite a slacker—if she can't convince someone to do her homework or let her copy theirs, she just makes up an inventive excuse for its not being done. She has more important things on her mind, like shopping, having fun, scoping cute guys, beating up invading skanks and troublemakers, and thinking up colorful (but PG) insults for people foolish enough to mess with her or any of her friends. Yet she has a strong sense of justice and doesn't create trouble just for the sake of making trouble—after all, it's against her ethics to bring trouble down on any head other than her own.
In the four episodes on volume five, we get to enjoy summer with Ran and the gang, but Yamato and Miyu, who thought they were going on a private getaway, don't feel the same when everyone else shows up. Miyu still tries for her first kiss with Yamato anyway. Now that Mami is on more friendly terms with Ran, we get to learn a little more about her when a childhood crush returns to Bukuro to see her. Next, Ran is in a bit of a pickle when she comes back from break with her homework unfinished and agrees to participate in a sports fest if Naka-teach forgets her homework requirement. Finally, Yuya arranges some time alone (or so he thinks) with Ran at his high school culture fest, an event so popular they actually have to sell tickets to keep out the riffraff.
The fact that Super GALs is on DVD for an English audience is amazing and exciting. Translating a series (to both words and dub performance) that has so many culture-specific references and quirks is a huge undertaking. ADV is up to the task and provides an excellent subtitle translation that captures nearly all of the references and slang used by the characters. The dub performance is a little looser, not translating all of the fast-talk faithfully (references that a Western audience probably won't get are left for the subtitle translation), but getting the spirit and the performances dead-on. Every actor involved in the dub is incredible, giving 110% to the performance and really selling the characters, especially the actress who voices Ran. It's worth watching each episode twice with both language tracks, since each is an interesting experience.
The visual transfer for Super GALs is excellent, with a clear, vibrant picture that is bursting with bright, bold colors. The glossy animation shows a lot of detail even in faraway shots. Sound quality is also excellent, with a 2.0 Japanese track and a 5.1 English track: Both make good use of stereo surround for ambient noise, and the 5.1 track makes good use of offscreen voice moving from speaker to speaker as the character comes into frame. As usual, the "Super GALs Explain It All!" extra is a must-see before viewing the episodes to fill in some of cultural reference information; of course, it isn't necessary to watch that extra or read the liner notes in order to understand, but these features do give some interesting information on Japanese culture for those who are curious.
It would be easy for Super GALs to be a shallow, pretty-girl fantasy series, but it is surprisingly well grounded and provides a wealth of romantic situations as well as ass-kicking fun times. No gratuitous fan service here—as Ran would tell you, she's not about to show off her body just for a little attention…if you don't like her as is, that's your loss! Gotta love a girl with attitude.
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