animefringe december 2003 / feature
Animefringe Coverage:
Super GALS - A Trip to the Gal Side

You learn something new every day. Today, we're going to dive into the world of the modern stylish teenage Japanese girl, also known as, the Gal. Our basis of study and the current animated standard for Gal behavior is, of course, Super Gals.

Starring first year high school student Ran Kotobuki and her friends, Super Gals will teach you everything about the life of a Gal from their own perspective. As the top Gal in Shibuya, she is the living textbook example of Gal culture.

First of all, you've got to choose the right friends. Ran's first fellow Gal-in-arms is the cheerful Miyu Yamazaki. Before meeting Ran, she was a fearsome gang leader involved with some pretty nasty business, but Ran changed all of that. Now, Miyu is always kind to other people, and she's even developing a bit of a crush on Ran's older brother, Yamato. She also has a penchant for speaking in third person, but it only makes her more endearing.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Aya Hoshino. Ran's other good friend (and a relatively new one at that) is bright, scholarly, and beautiful. Aya isn't nearly as outgoing as Ran or Miyu, but she has a good heart. She was saved by Ran from going on paid dates (or subsi-dates, as they're called in ADV's translation) and became fast friends with Miyu and Ran.

Paid dates, for the curious, are (as the name implies) dates that cost money for one of the two people involved. It's not prostitution, though it's not exactly admired. Stereotypically, paid dates consist of an older man paying a younger woman to accompany him on a date. I'm no expert on this or anything, but there is certainly a suggestion that the age of the girls participating in this activity are becoming younger and younger, as the age of attraction decreases in Japanese culture. It is not a good thing - from my perspective or the general Japanese populace - for a first-year high school student to be taking money for dates.

In Aya's case, she wasn't doing it for the money. Her family is quite wealthy. Yet, before she befriended Ran Kotobuki, her only goal in life was to make her parents happy. She did well in school to impress them. When the stress became too great, she began selling herself for paid dates to feel alive. Luckily, Ran caught her before her behavior got her into series trouble.

Since Ran is so wonderful, she also hangs out with two of the most popular guys in Shibuya. Rei Otohata and Yuya Asuo have been featured in the area's teen magazines regularly, and they end up becoming friends with Ran rather quickly. Yuya is particularly infatuated with the fiery Ran. There may be something developing between Rei and Aya, but you'll have to watch the series to see how that turns out. In any case, Rei feels that Ran is a bit dangerous.

Incidentally, Ran is a bit dangerous. But only if you're a bad person. A large part of being a proper Gal involves being of the proper moral caliber. Even though Ran frequently starts fights, treats Shibuya as if she owns the place, and is a horrible student, she comes from a long line of police officers. Her brother Yamato works the local police box, and even her little sister is an aspiring detective.

Though she can't stand the thought of living her life according to her parents' desires (and they would like nothing more than for her to become a cop), she nonetheless ends up upholding justice, keeping the peace in Shibuya. When bullies move in on her turf, she's always the first one to slap them down and run them out of town. As a high profile Gal, she also has plenty of enemies eager to take her out. As a Kotobuki, she's equally happy to keep any threats to her Shibuya under her boots.

Quite a bit of the Gal way of life comes from their speech mannerisms. I'm not sure how this is going to be pulled off in English, but in Japanese, expect to hear a lot of abbreviated words and the consistent adding of "cho-" (super) and "uber-" (ultimate super) to the front of words. For Gals, everything happens in the extreme, so when a guy is stupid (baka), you simply have to call him cho-baka (super-stupid). Expect to hear that a lot from Ran, for she's frequently surrounded by people that annoy her.

Don't let the look of this show scare you away. It might seem to appeal solely to young girls, but this is one of the funniest, freshest, and most sincere series I've watched in a while. It may be cho-kawaii (super-cute), but just as Ran Kotobuki isn't the airhead she appears to be, Super Gals isn't the mindless show it may give the impression of being.

Ran's family isn't especially well-off, but that never stops her from having fun. As Ran Kotobuki tells us in the first episode, "Never waste any money. That's an ironclad rule for Gals!" Getting into this series won't break that rule, however. Watching this can't be considered a waste by any stretch of my imagination.