Super Gals Complete Collection
In Shibuya, the town may have a government and police in place. If you were to ask someone though they’d tell you that the streets are really protected by a high school girl named Ran Kotobuki. Ran is the #1 gal in the area with her only concerns being the latest fashions and having a good time. Of course that’s only in between having adventures in town and fights with her rivals, Mami and Kusumi, teachers and anyone else interested in causing problems in her town.
Good and the Bad
So I haven’t posted a DVD review in awhile and that would be because I have a certain rule that if I start a review DVD set I have to finish it before I can review it. Sometimes this rule can be a major pain in the ass when you have a series that’s not quite good but not so bad that it can be dropped. Such as with the case of Super Gals. At its heart, this isn’t actually a really terrible series. Once you start getting used to the characters, the jokes can be fun and worth an occasionally laugh. But that sentence right there should cause alarm; why on Earth should I have to get used to the characters? Once you realize that, it’s only a matter of time before you realize this is going to be a struggle.
This is the closest example to a Saturday morning American cartoon in anime form that I’ve seen since Heroman (though this series premiered years before). In every episode, there is a new story to get through with some elements continuing as running themes throughout. Over two seasons, the entire series is one of the most shallow to be released in the last few years. Sometimes this can be a strong point when you need mindless entertainment but it has to be willing to make certain sacrifices and still find a way to be good. In this case, the sacrifices comes in the form of flat writing to match its equally flat characters that have one set of personality traits and sticks with them the whole way… and then it forgets to be good.
In the first few episodes, the series establishes things very cleanly. If you had enough free time, you could literally count the number of times that a character acts in a way that is out of the norm. Which if you’re telling simple stories that rarely last for longer than a single episode makes them perfect for stories and situations that are never going to be particularly deep. The series is all about Ran avoiding all of the inconvenient things in life in order to have the most amount of fun and that’s a story that is presented very well.
However as much as much as I’d love to praise Ran for having such an amazing attitude towards life, the characters are the biggest hurdle to climb over while watching. As every character has their own template that is rarely broken, the series rarely allows anyone any real growth. There are exceptions to this but oddly its all regulated to the supporting cast. As with other elements though these moments are way too few and far between with many of them marred by poor writing. This just becomes another joining the list of tragic victims left in the Super Gals wake. To be entirely fair, there are times when the sadder of these moments could almost be touching in the right circumstance. It’s just that using these characters does not constitute the ‘right circumstances’.
It’s very rare for this to happen but there isn’t a single character in this series that I can’t name something about them that annoys me. Every character sits in their comfortable boxes over two entire seasons. Occasionally one (particularly Aya, Miyu and Mami) will peek their head out and make an attempt to break out of that box but that’s about as far as it ever goes. And after 52 episodes it just becomes so easy to pick them apart and find something to dislike about all of them. Yuya, just to pick a random example, is the number 2 male high school idol in Shibuya. He’s also so stereotypically whiny that he eventually ends up in an accidental relationship. All because he is too much of a wuss to simply clear up the wacky, romantic misunderstanding. It’s like a PSA against apathetic guys.
The one place that I have to praise Super Gals is in how wonderfully its aged over the last decade. Despite first premiering in 2001, the first season of this series looks clear and clean. There are few signs that the series is really that old until they drop a clue (‘Alright kids, now we’re going to learn about email’). As the series progressed into the second season though, it seems as though the staff at Studio Pierrot just stopped caring about how the series looked. Characters change hair color from episode to episode while single frame shots will suddenly lose their proportions eliminating any real charm that the series had earned in the first 26 episodes.
It’s hard to believe that the same man who composed the amazing CANAAN and Chrono Crusade scores, Hikaru Nanase, was behind this series as well. With the setting being a vibrate neighborhood like Shibuya, the music in this series really plays this up with many electronic para para themes (Ran’s an expert at it after all). Beyond these moments though, the music tends to stay in a much more typical cartoon department. There are even plenty of sound effects to accompany the cheesy themes to match the situation of the moment.
I will say this though… if I have to listen to that stupid Junior Detective theme song one more time I will scream.
Dub vs. Sub
With their release, Right Stuf is able to include the original ADV English dub with the first season while the second season remains subtitles only. Listening to the two casts really proved to be an interesting dynamic. As I switched back and forth between the two casts, I found that I much preferred the natural sound to the Japanese cast. There are a number of references and language jokes that rely on the Japanese that never allows the English cast to sound natural.
On every disc are liner notes for each episode to explain some of the harder references and jokes along the way. What I found frustrating about these notes though is that they were programmed as one long extra. This means that you either had to watch each episode and then go back to read the notes before continuing or read all the notes at the end of the volume and hope to remember what was happening in each episode. As a counter to this problem, the first season discs also contain the ‘Gals Explains It All’ segment. In these short segments (usually around 5 minutes), one of the English voice actresses gives the audience an abridged version of the liner notes with fewer details. I personally preferred the text notes which went into much better detail.
Had I seen this series when it was released as single volumes, I imagine I’d have enjoyed it much more than I did. As it is, I could only take this series in short bursts and even then it was becoming a chore to watch within 3 volumes. Lacking any sort of redeemable depth, the lazy writing, stories and characters gets this series off to a slow start that are never helped by the stale and sometimes reused humor. I’m not saying that I never laughed at this series but the moments of sheer boredom far outnumbered them. Perhaps I could see myself putting this on for my nieces but anyone who is looking for a genuinely fun anime viewing experience can just keep going.