Super Gals Vol. #4 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, January 16, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, January 20, 2004



What They Say
Ran Kotobuki, the World's Greatest GAL, may lose that title forever. Her archenemy Mami Honda is mounting her most serious challenge yet: a slalom down an indoor ice mountain. If Ran loses, Mami becomes queen of Shibuya. Will Ran successfully dodge a giant snowman to save her title?

At the same time, Aya's heart is lost to the handsome, but distant, Rei. It's up to Ran to encourage Aya to tell him how she feels. How will Rei react? If rejected, will Aya fall to pieces?

Miyu has seen tougher days, though. Her dark past resurfaces, revealing how she fell in love with Yamato, and the measures taken by Ran and her big brother to save her from a dead-end life of crime.

The past was rough. But what can be done if present proves to be just as hard? The World's Greatest GAL knows! Never give up. Never surrender. That's an ironclad rule for GALS!



The Review!
Apparently another iron clad rule for gals is to not hide your true feelings for someone else, as Aya comes to find out.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. With it being so “street” heavy and influenced by the culture, we wanted to take it all in properly. The audio here is a pretty good stereo mix that features some good directionality as well as depth at times. Dialogue is nice and clear throughout and the music fills both channels nicely. We had no issues with dropouts or distortions on either track during regular playback, though we only heard the English 5.1 track in a downmix from to 2.0.

Video:
Originally airing in 2001 to the tune of fifty-two episodes, this series is very recent and makes out extremely well here with a very crisp and clean transfer. With it being as vibrant as it is, colors stand out a lot, such as the reds of Ran’s jacket. One color that stood out quite well that’s usually problematic is the bright blue skies, which managed to avoid any significantly noticeable graininess or blockiness, showing at most some slight color banding. Cross coloration is pretty much non-existent and I barely noticed any serious aliasing during regular playback.

Packaging:
Shifting the background to a reddish tint, the layout continues as before and has Ran in the center spot this time with Miyu and Aya flanking her, all three of them in traditional outfits of one form or another. The back cover provides a couple of shots from the show as well as several paragraphs of episode summary information. The discs features are nice and clearly listed as well as the episode titles that are on the disc. Episode numbers continue to be absent, but the volume numbering is still on the spine and front cover so that helps it balance out a bit. The insert is a four-panel foldout that has a full color poster of Aya looking really good in summer outfit mode while the reverse side is a black and white piece that has various Japanese terms and numerous cultural notes.

Menu:
The main menu has a really cute image of Aya shifting between ultra cute expression and liquid glare of death. Episodes are selectable right from the top menu and features are quite and easy to access. With no transitional animations when moving to submenus, things load quickly as well.

Extras:
The extras are fairly similar to the previous volume, notably with the hyper opening sequence in textless form as well as the more relaxed ending sequence, also in textless form. The “Super Gals Explain It All” makes another appearance as well. A new extra for this release includes the Japanese DVD cover art for the first seven volumes.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Super Gals continues to work through having fun with its characters and exposing unsuspecting viewers to more Gal-speak as well as the beauty of Shibuya. You’d almost swear a local business bureau of some sort was funding some of this series.

The relationships become the major focus of these episodes as well as some more character background that helps flesh out the history these girls have together. The volume opens with Yuya continuing in his pining for all things Ran and hating Tatsukichi even more. When Ran wins the first prize in a local drawing that gives her a brand now snowboard, she sets things into motion of a trip to the local indoor snow hill. Yuya finds out during this that Tatsukichi has never been snowboarding before and sees this as a perfect opportunity to show him up at last. Yuya and Tatsukichi end up in competition over this once Yuya shows off a bit, only to discover that Tatsukichi really picks up things quickly. Though things work out for the best in the end, it’s hard to not really feel bad for Yuya, regardless of whether you like Tatsukichi or not.

Though I still find it interesting that since Ran made Tatsukichi her boyfriend, the two haven’t gone on a single date together without everyone else coming along.

With Miyu, we’ve gotten to see some of her gang past and how that affected her life, but we get another look at it here from when she first transferred into the same school as Ran. The two basically ended up causing trouble for each other right from the start, so much that Ran ends up becoming responsible for Miyu early on so as to not completely tank in her classes. With Miyu being as much of a gang girl as can be, she gets into plenty of trouble while Ran is basically a somewhat younger version of her current self. There’s plenty of really cute bits though, such as when Ran first decides that she’s going to be the queen of Shibuya or how they passed by Yuya and Otohata just as they were about to be asked to be models for the first time. One of the important thrusts of this episode though is in how it shows Yamato and Miyu getting together as he takes on his first assignment in Shibuya’s police box. The way the relationship helped her reform is one of her more interesting aspects, though I think it gets a bit overplayed in some areas during other episodes.

What really works well on this volume is the last two episodes, which focuses on the tentative relationship that may form between Aya and Otohata. Since we’ve seen Aya express interest in him since practically the first time they met, things finally start to move forward with it here. A big push comes after some horoscope related fun where Aya learns that her personality is the type that will lose men since she’s often too negative and self absorbed in things. With this weighing even more heavily on her now, Ran simply lets it all out on Aya and tells her to just get it said and move on with it.

Of course, Ran also eventually meddles in things and says something to Otohata that causes him to be unsure about letting any sort of relationship happen. Since he’s obviously known about Aya’s interest in him, he’s left things in her court since he’s got so many other things on his plate to deal with. But when Aya starts tentatively and actively seeking him out and trying to find a way to tell him, he decides to give her the chance to. But with Ran causing trouble in all of it, it sets things down an unexpected path as everyone (including those god damn cute datchu detective kids) heads to Odaiba for a day of fun and games.

In Summary:
The energy and fun of this show has not diminished one bit since the first volume and manages to only become more fun as we get to know these characters even more. With a solid primary cast and then the fun of all the secondary characters, especially those datchu detectives and their wily ways, Super Gals is just plain fun at a fast pace. These episodes go by so fast that it’s almost criminal. As soon as that opening music starts and the beat kicks in, we slide right into the groove of the show and simply enjoy it. Great material and a heck of a lot of fun.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,"The Super GALS Explain It All",Original Japanese cover art,Clean opening and closing animation

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Super Gals