Super Gals Season 2 Box Set (Thinpak) (of 2) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Release Date: Wednesday, January 10, 2007
What They Say
Finally - the Super GALS are back! For the first time ever on DVD, you can now catch season 2 of Super GALS and see the rest of Ran's adventures in Shibuya! The gang's all here: Ran, Miyu, Aya, Rei, Nii (er, Yuya), even monkey-boy Tatsuki. Get ready for more characters, more romance, more Shibuya slang, and more Ironclad Rules than ever before!
From Studio Pierrot (NARUTO / SAIYUKI / FUSHIGI YUGI / GTO) comes the ultimate Japanese pop culture experience! Super GALS is the story of Ran Kotobuki, the self-proclaimed queen of Shibuya, as she hangs out with her friends, flirts with the guys, and defends the streets of Shibuya from anyone who dares to cause trouble!
The life of a Gal is hard enough but when you mix in issues of love and the future it becomes even more complicated.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this release in its original language of Japanese. That of course is a given since Japanese is the only language on here. The stereo mix for the show is pretty good considering what it is, which is essentially a whole lot of dialogue and random bits of music throughout. It doesn't have a very wide or distinct feel to it but it is clean and clear throughout. We didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions or other anomalies during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2002, the transfer for this TV show is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Much like the ADV Films release, the transfer here is just spot on with lost of bright vibrant colors that never feel over saturated. The show has a lot of very fast action moments throughout it and there isn't any truly visible break-up during these sequences. Backgrounds also maintain a very solid feel for the most part, though there are a few areas of some video noise that's a bit more apparent than others. With the show being devoid of cross coloration and generally free of aliasing, these discs just look great and really make the show look as solid as it does. Right Stuf has also left the opening and closing sequences in their original format and has chosen to put the translated credits (which sadly is not full for the Japanese voice cast, but covers the primary characters) at the end of each volume.
With this being a full season release, everything is inside on very well packaged box set. The chipboard case is done in white around while pink and purple shaded backgrounds are on top of that. The two main panels feature our favorite three lead gals, one with them in fun outdoor outfits while the other has them in their school uniforms. The spine and top has the logo along with smaller images of some of them in different outfits as well. It's a very attractive and colorful box that lets you know exactly what's inside. Inside the box is five thinpak cases, each of them very minimal on the front cover area in terms of logos as there is only the show logo and volume number. This leaves a lot of clean space for the very detailed and beautiful artwork, each of them with different outfits and designs. Several of these are very poster worthy I'd think. The back cover uses the color design from the respective front covers and provides several shots from the show and very brief sentence or two about that particular volume. Each episode is listed with its number and full title with symbols. A booklet is also included where it uses the box artwork with the outdoor outfits and has several pages with all the liner notes. While the box won't match exactly to the thinpak set released by ADV Films, this one comes so close that it's really not much of an issue, especially compared to other cross-company licenses that have had box sets.
The menu layouts are nicely done with zoomed in images of the respective covers for each installment, which means we get some really great looking artwork with vibrant colors for each disc. The layout is the same across each of them with straightforward navigation (but no top level episode selection) that have good access times and no problems moving about between them. Due to the way the disc is laid out, it defaults to the Japanese language (obviously) and the dialogue subtitles only. You have to manually switch to dialogue+signs if you want the extra translations along the way.
The extras are obviously brief for this release but there are a couple of nuggets to be found. On the first volume, they include the preview for episode 26 which never made it onto the ADV release as well as a trailer that Right Stuf made to promote the second season. Also included, something I like to see on a couple of Right Stuf releases over the years, is the "special thanks" section to those who were in the first 600 to order, in other words the 600 orders they needed to make this a break-even project. It literally would not have happened without these folks.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The return of Super Gals to the market has been one of a number of very high points during the news of 2006 and something of an extra special Christmas present as it's released so close to the holidays. The show, unlike so many others released in the North American market, likely found the same kind of niche among anime fans that the Japanese did. With the first season not going well enough to merit the pick-up of the second season for dubbing, it just fell to the side until Right Stuf grabbed it and gave us this subtitled only release.
There are certainly plenty of arguments to be made across all sides about how the release is done in regards to not dubbing it so I'm not going to make them here. To me, it's a non-issue since I was already in love with the Japanese cast. Getting into the second half of the show is certainly less of a problem because of it but this set doesn't make it any easier if you're new to the show. Since it's the second half of the series, and the show rather nicely eschews doing recap episodes, we simply pick up where we left off before with more fairly episodic hilarity as the Gals live their lives in Shibuya.
Where this half tends to be a bit better than an already very enjoyable show it has been is in how it deals with the relationships. The existing relationships have been fun to watch and there are some definite changes in store. What really drew me to the show is how it avoids going for the obvious. From the initial setup you figure that Ran would end up with Otohata while Yuya looks on wistfully. Miyu's relationship with Yamato is given more time than you'd expect as well while Aya would potentially find love among one of the other guys, probably someone like Yuya or Tatsukichi by going with something of an opposites attract angle. Going with what they did was definitely unusual and not the safe move which made it all the more appealing.
With the relationships fairly well set though, there are more characters brought in to play during the second half. Some of them work by expanding the overall set of relationships while others don't work quite as well but do a wonderful job when it all comes to a close at the end. One of the first ones introduced feels somewhat unneeded at first as Tatsukichi's younger brother Naokichi comes to Shibuya and decides that he wants Ran. He's even more of a little monkey boy than his brother but he manages to settle into a really good routine by working with the datchu twins in being a detective. Through him we're also able to get to know more about Tatsukichi and their family situation and background. He's a little more energy than we need at first but it works out well.
Another character that's introduced but has mostly a background feel to her is Towa, an attractive "older" woman who runs the Palm Tree café where the Gals and their guys start hanging out more. She's not ditzy but more just uninvolved in things but is able to be a sounding board for the kids and occasionally gives them some obvious advice. She's an interesting character as we get to know her more and see her past, but she also brings in some ties to the Odaiba cop which while minor just adds some very priceless moments to it. Those ties lets the show take some odd turns but filled with lots of comedy and lets Sayo have a really good episode herself about the Odaiba cop.
Where the show I think really took a bad turn, though admittedly it works at the end, is with the character of Kasumi. A year younger than our group of Gals, she's determined to take the title of queen of Shibuya from Ran by being the better Gal. Her youthful exuberance is great but her approach is horrible as she more often than not seems to be the antithesis to what ran is all about in Shibuya. Ran and the others spend more time having to deal with her antics and repercussions than I would have cared for. But again, her background and experiences tie well together to others such as Naokichi and Towa that I have to really admit it works well.
There are a lot of fun standalone tales that get spun into here, from the trip to the indoor water park to the Iron Chef style episode, that it amuses just as much as the first season does. One episode does a great job of showing Ran's background by giving us the time when she was primed to be a cop and her father and others were teaching her things. Seeing her a couple years younger and so into being a detective is hysterical as is seeing the way it all figures into the larger scheme of things. Where the show really excels though is in the relationships. I still can't figure out the reason behind the Ran and Tatsukichi pairing but it works for them once they actually talk just a little bit. I loved the Aya and Otohata one since it shows a really unusual pairing of two very different characters who handle relationships with other people in different ways. Miyu and Yamato unfortunately never seem to get the right amount of time on screen together but there are some beautiful moments for them as a couple and Miyu in general as the show progresses forward. Miyu has some of the best emotional moments of the show.
What proved to me to be the most enjoyable part of the show was watching the slow turn of Yuya from being devoted to a woman who will never return his feelings to someone who realizes he's got the best thing in the world already. His relationship, which evolves wonderfully over the course of this set, is the real treasure of the show and had me smiling from the first moment it was hinted at. The pairing works so well and allows each of the characters to become more than they have in the past really lets the show do some of its best work. We get to see these kids across all the relationships grow up and change, realizing the value of each other, just before it moves on to moving them up a grade.
The loss of Super Gals for so long has been hard on those who live by the Iron Clad rules but this set rectifies that in a big way. These characters truly are special to me and seeing them again in new situations and growing up really reminded me of how strongly I felt about the show originally. Having it all in one set, viewing it all in a marathon session across two days, may have been a bit much but I felt like I was living like these kids do, in the moment and to my fullest. Super Gals is a wonderful positive show and while I do lament that it isn't dubbed, it just means my kids will be a bit older when they see it and realize that they want to be Gals too. If you love these Gals like I do, you'll love this set.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Episode 26 Preview,Special Thanks Section
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
Running time: 650
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Super Gals