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Super Gals Complete Collection Anime Elements Edition Anime DVD Review

9 min read

Super Gals Anime Elements CoverSerious teen drama hidden in a zany cartoon package

What They Say:
The Super Gals! Anime Elements DVD Collection features every episode, every ironclad rule, and all the Shibuya slang packed into a single, complete set!

Sporting designer clothes, make-up, and nails, Ran Kotobuki is the very picture of a trendy, young Shibuya girl, but don’t let that fool you. This girl comes from a family of cops, and she’s ready to lay you out flat if you even think about causing trouble in her town! At least, she will… when she’s not distracted with karaoke, shopping, and dodging her homework. Join Ran and her friends as they defend the streets of Shibuya and attempt to shop their way into the history books as the most famous Gals ever!

Contains all 52 episodes of the Super Gals! TV series!

Super Gals! features animation by Pierrot (Naruto Shippuden, Yu Yu Hakusho The Movie), music by Hikaru Nanase (Infinite Stratos, Kimikiss Pure Rogue), and direction by Tsuneo Kobayashi (The Twelve Kingdoms, The Last: Naruto the Movie).

The Review:
Audio:
Japanese audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0. The series has a very active soundstage, but the power of the show is really in the dialog. Mixing has been done very well, and this allows Megumi Toyoguchi’s performance of Ran to come across demonstrating her range that changes the tone of a scene. Music, special effects, and vocal performances come across in ways that enhance the show.

English audio is present in episodes 1-26. English audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The English soundtrack utilizes more directionality and creates a larger soundstage than the Japanese track.

Video:
As originally broadcast in 2001, Encoded in variable bitrate MPEG 2, most of the series looks fine from a normal viewing distance. Some compression artifacts could be noticed in areas like the skin of the characters or on detailed textures. Overall, the series looks good for a property from the early 2000s.

Packaging:
The series comes in an Anime Elements branded double thick keepcase size box. With hubs on the front and back of the box and on the front and back of four hinged leaves, the 10 discs are packaged safely and securely without requiring a lot of shelf space. Both the cover and discs have simple decorations. The cover offers original art of the three main characters and the title on the front. Another image of the three is on the spine, and the back has three scenes from the show and the three main characters again. The set summary is printed in black font on a blue field with a white dot design. Each of the discs has been printed in different colors of the same title logo and background with simple flowers. The only difference between the first and second seasons is the Season 2 title is below the series logo.

Menu:
Menus are simple and direct. Main menus include original art of characters, play all, scenes, bonus, and setup. The scene menu offers opening, parts one and two of an episode, closing, and next time. The scene menu offers two screen shots from the episode, and this can be helpful when looking for a specific episode in such long series.

Extras:
Liner Notes: These act like translation notes in manga. They give lots of information to help make sense of some of the references and jokes. Since the nature of this series is to focus on a subculture, the notes enhance the release.

The set also includes Clean Opening, Clean Closing, GALS Slang, The Super GALS! Explain It All 1-6, US Trailer, and Character Bios.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When looking at the cover to Super Gals!, I always thought the show must be geared for young girls who like manic comedy anime. It is a 52-episode TV series that originally aired in 2001 and 2002, and the cover made it look dated. I didn’t expect anything deep or realistic in a series with the stereotypical big, shiny eye characters in fashionable clothes of that time. Watching the opening did nothing but make me feel that this would be a dated cartoon. Still, I decided to try it based on the catchy music and the promise of something lighter than the series I had been recently watching. Then I watched episode 1, and everything about the marketing of the show seemed so wrong as the show redefined my expectations.
SuperGals1
What occurs is Ran, the leading “Gal” in Shibuya, overhears a rumor that the top student in her class has been working as a paid date. Yep, the zany characters not only have real world concerns, but in the first episode, one of the main characters is considering prostituting herself. As self-centered and manic as Ran acts, she focuses on the girl and tries to save her before she goes where her conscience will never return. What is salvation in the Gal world? Why use drug store samples of makeup? What happens when your mother lives with her boyfriend, leaving a teenage girl to an empty apartment and lonely life?

Even though the characters remain the same, Super Gals! is really two series, more than two seasons. The first season acts as a teen drama with zany, cartoon elements added to help keep the tension in check, but season two is mainly cartoon elements where zany is the purpose and the laws of physics don’t apply.

SuperGals3Season one has the characters dealing with heavy issues, but through their friendship and mutual support, they never let those things keep them down for long. Ran, the main character, is a star in the fashion conscious Gal world. Gal’s have their own magazines and national subculture, so even though the series is focused in Shibuya, Ran and her friends have a celebrity kind of recognition in other parts of Japan. Coming from a family of police officers, Ran seems outraged by everything from purse snatching to her friends feeling down. Not only is she fashionable, but she is a vigilante.

Her best friend Miyu lives mostly alone. She had been the leader of a street gang, but she found a self she liked as a Gal who is friends with Ran. Her mother stays away with boyfriends, and she never looks Miyu in the eyes. Miyu suffers from the abandonment issues, and they may be part of the reason she childishly refers to herself in the third person. The final main character is Aya. In the first episode Ran saves Aya from going on paid dates and a turn to prostitution. Instead of selling herself to men to relieve her stress and poverty, Aya lets her grades fall and becomes a Gal and “super friend” with Ran and Miyu.

Side characters include Rei Otohata and Yuya, the top ranked popular boys according to a magazine. Otohata was ranked number one, but his persona is standoffish and he seems uninterested in girls. Yuya falls for Ran immediately, but she seems not to notice and calls him “Number 2” through the entire series. Eventually another guy shows up, Tatsuki, from Machida. He becomes Ran’s boyfriend, but she rarely treats any of the male characters as anything other than a way to get a free meal.

Other side characters that appear in multiple episodes include her main rival Mari Honda, a Gal from Ikebukuro. Ran’s little sister and her boyfriend appear in many episodes, especially prominent in the second season. Ran’s older brother appears in many scenes with the teens. He is a policeman Shibuya, and he appears as Miyu’s slightly-embarrassed-to-be-dating-a-16-year-old boyfriend. Episodes don’t focus on developing his character, but he is important to Miyu’s development. There are three ganguro girls who usually appear as comedic breaks. Ran’s parents and teacher appear in many scenes, but most of the time, the focus remains on the teen characters.

Older viewers may be irritated by the shift of focus to younger characters in many episodes. Tatsukichi’s younger brother joins Ran’s younger sister and her boyfriend in storylines that seem unimportant to the main characters. In the second season, a new bratty kid shows up to challenge Ran, and the stories around her irritated me because they were formulaic and repetitive. Plot devices like a magical pillow and a personality swapping soccer ball act as catalysts to strip the show of any pretense of drama or realism.

First season episodes often have significant plots based on cultural issues. A bully starts posting slanderous and threatening things about Miyu using cell and email technology, an early example of cyberbullying. A stalker targets Miyu. A teacher uses his position to harass his student. Through most of the first 25 episodes, teen drama is punctuated by cartoon elements that are both self aware and necessary to keep the series from going fully into soap opera mode.

SuperGals4Second season episodes have a different tone, and in many episodes, a different look. Even when dramatic elements appear in the stories, most stay fully cartoon. A character swims after a boat speeding down a canal, and not only does he catch up, he runs and jumps on the surface of the water. In a story that should wrap up Yuya’s role in the series, a floating grandstand and mecha fight platform appear. Even though a main storyline from season one gets resolved, it does so outside of the world of the first season. Only the conclusion of the storyline with Miyu and her mother seems really like the same show. The second season targeted younger viewers or those less interested in social issues confronting teens.

One character has left me with a bad taste. Rei Otohata originally comes across as an aloof character who is a GL (good looking guy in the Gal lingo). He sticks around with his friend Yuya, but he doesn’t seem to want to hang out with the girls on his own. Nevertheless, he seems trustworthy and helpful when he can be. At some point, Aya starts to like him, but he tells her, he may hurt her without meaning to and makes her tell him it will be alright. At first, I wasn’t sure if the character might be gay or if he had limited ability to express himself. I thought this would be revealed in the second season, but instead, he becomes more aloof and happy to avoid directly answering other characters when they asked him something. He seems to become less like the original character and possibly misogynistic or even emotionally abusive. When Aya doubles down on her commitment to Otohata, other characters act proud of her. I felt like she had not really learned self esteem and was placing herself in a relationship that would never be what she wanted.

Supergals2Even with one questionable relationship, the series promotes friendship, the importance of family, and the need to be civic minded for everyone’s benefit. While that may sound preachy, it has been done in humor and defiance. Like the character Ran, doing the right thing means doing what is best for each character. It just so happens, what is best for the characters is enjoying the present while building for the future.

In Summary:
Super Gals! offers a really cool look at Japanese pop culture of the early 2000s, and more importantly, it offers a viewer a way to see characters handle some horrible life circumstances through their friendship. While the second season is little more than a silly cartoon, much of the series has a serious heart that realizes the world has people who live like monsters in the shadows, but instead of becoming melodramatic, the characters handle the situations with composure, maturity, and platform shoes. With problems behind them, they continue to seek happiness with each other.

Don’t judge the series by the art. While the fashion and style may be dated, the show offers timeless stories and characters who transcend their stereotypes. With 52 episodes and a bargain price this series should be on the radar of slice-of-life fans, classic shojo comedies, and folks who want to temper their nostalgia with reality.

Features:
Japanese DD 2.0 and English DD 5.1language with English subtitles episodes 1-26, Japanese DD 2.0 with English subtitles episodes 27-52, Clean Openings and Closings, and Nozomi trailers

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A-

Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
Release Date: July 5th, 2016
MSRP: $49.99
Running Time: 1,300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
Samsung KU6300 50” 4K UHD TV, Sony BDP-S3500 Blu-ray player connected via HDMI, Onkyo TX-SR444 Receiver with NHT SuperOne front channels and NHT SuperZero 2.1 rear channel speakers.

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