Girls High Vol. #1 (of 3) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, July 03, 2007



What They Say
Eriko and her friends Yuma and Ayano are excited about entering high school! Their excitement leads to their breaking of the rules and they tour the school before the opening ceremony. They find out their pre-conceptions about the all-female school may not be as true as they had first thought. Despite that, Eriko and her friends are joined by new friends. They aim to get through high school life together.

The Review!
Just when they think they've entered the paradise of an all girls school, Eriko and her friends discover that it's even more brutal than a public co-ed school.

Audio:
Particularly frustrating with what could be a solid comedy series like this, Media Blasters has opted to release Girls High with only the original Japanese language track, a stereo mix encoded at 192 kbps. The mix for the series is decent enough though there isn't a lot to expect from it since it's mostly a basic piece for dialogue and situational comedy. The forward soundstage is full sounding for the most part and comes across clean and clear. We had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. With plenty of bright and colorful animation that has a very smooth and fluid feeling to it, Girls High is a good looking title but one whose flaws are fairly evident at times. The opening sequence in particular isn't the best as there is a fair bit of noise in the background and blocking going on in several areas. The second episode which has the girls dressing up in pirate outfits in the prologue has some very strong blocking with the reds in one of the costumes. Within the show itself things tend to settle down a bit better than the opening sequences though there is still some visible noise in the backgrounds that causes visual shifting. Cross coloration is thankfully absent though and the line noise is mostly restricted to the opening sequence during some of the busier pans. It does crop up in a few places during the four episodes but is typically in the more jarring pans and zooms.

Packaging:
The cover design for the show certainly plays up the cute girls fanservice by having the six lead characters in their uniforms showing plenty of leg and smiles. With a bright blue sky background and a good sense of placement, the artwork is colorful and attractive without being "omgpink!" The logo is cutely done as it takes the plaid of their skirts and brings that into it while adding a few sparkles and hearts as well. The back cover kicks up the pink factor a fair bit though as it has a cute shot of Eriko in her middle school uniform and a few small shots from the show itself. The laid uses the plaid to good effect while also bringing in the school theme with some lined paper and a pencil. The summary covers the basics while also clearly listing the discs extras and episode count. The technical grid is solid as it lists all the basics in a clean and easy to read format with enough space to not feel cramped. No insert is included no is the cover reversible.

Menu:
The menu design for the series is simple with a cute shot of Eriko in her middle school uniform giving the victory sign as some of the upbeat vocals playing alongside it. The background is done in an all too obvious pink with the usual style applied to it but it works well and is bright and cheery. The navigation strip is along the right but for some reason the Features section is off higher to the point where you may actually miss it at first. Access times are nice and fast with no transitional animations included. With the release containing only one language track, no subtitle options are though you can change them on the fly.

Extras:
A couple of good extras are included in this release, such as the clean version of the opening sequence. The bitrate for this is higher than within the show itself and the difference definitely shows, particularly since the in-show opening has translated credits. An interview/roundtable session is included with the Japanese voice actresses which runs about seventeen minutes long. It has plenty of the usual fluff but the women all have fun talking with each other about the show and their characters plus it's always fun to see what kind of fashion statement some of them want to make in these kinds of pieces.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the original manga by Towa Oshima, Girls High is a twelve episode series that takes us into the heart of an all girls high school. Initially focused on a trio of friends who are moving from a public school to this private one for their freshman year, it doesn't take long to bring in another group of three friends that will help build the show up into a very well done ensemble cast. Girls High feels like Super Gals for the older set with a slightly more serious manner at times.

Though this is very much an ensemble cast, the lead characters do make themselves known easily right from the start. The show has something of a focus around Eriko, a fairly plucky young woman who is slightly off in comparison to other people. We're introduced to her as she's meeting up with her friends outside the high school they're about to enter the next day. The intent is to check it out and do some exploration but Eriko has the idea to do it a bit more detailed than other folks. Meeting up with the cute pigtailed Yuma and the obligatory girls with glasses Ayano, Eriko convinces them to climb the fence and sneak into the school. Even more amusing is that once inside she convinces the others to don the uniforms and check it out that way. After a few alterations of course.

It doesn't take long for Eriko to cause trouble with other students which leads to her making her first enemy in the school. Akari's another of the new students going into this high school but she's coming up through this particular schools escalator system and mistakes Eriko for really being her senior. This sets up things for some fun as Eriko's daffy nature has her telling Akari all sorts of stories that she believes, much to the surprise of her two friends. All of this is prelude to an odd sort of friendship that the six form together as they embark on their new lives as high school students. Eriko and her friends are like a number of others in being outsiders in a sense who bring something new to the school while Akari and her friends are familiar with the ins and outs of how this school is run. Naturally, each of the groups has a similar member in the other as they're all drawn to each other.

Girls High is a basic situational comedy in a lot of ways though it brings in some outlandish elements to areas that enhance it. Some of the prologue pieces are just done for comedic effect without any real impact on the show. Within the show itself is keeps to a fairly realistic tone in that you don't have aliens or robots mixing it up with the girls. It does get outlandish in how it deals with some of the situations though, such as when they have their physicals and have to spend all day going through fourteen different tests in various rooms all while wearing just their panties and paper capes. The fanservice is where things tend to get more out there though and we see it right from the start. When the girls try on their uniforms, they're too long so they cut them so short that it's above where you can see the crotch of their panties. Never mind the various positions they put them in during all of this.

What makes Girls High work in its comedy is the interactions of the lead girls in the school. Their relationships grow slowly overall but a lot of focus is kept around the outgoing personalities of Eriko and Akari as they compete against each other in everything. There are little cliques within the two groups that form naturally but overall they become a really fun group of six to watch as their roles expand. The school aspect is kept mostly to it being a location thing as more time is spent doing other things than being in the classroom. A speed dating party is setup when Himeji finds herself a boyfriend and you have a sports festival event as well. But it's the comedy with its seemingly honest and forthright approach that scores the most points. While it's mired in fanservice, things like urine tests, losing their virginity and periods are all covered in a highly amusing manner for both genders. As one of them says early on, if there aren't guys around to be on their best behavior for, girls just let it all hang out.

In Summary:
Girls High is a surprisingly enjoyable and very humorous series that kicks off wonderfully here once it gets past the introductions. Filled with lots of fanservice, great looking character designs and a real sense of cutting humor at times, it has all the right elements to be a slice of life comedy that stands apart from the pack. There's lots of pop culture references done in obscure ways throughout but none of it impacts the show in a negative manner if you don't get them. Girls High has a very smooth flow for its pacing and the kind of stories it wants to tell here at first that keeps it moving briskly and with plenty of smiles and laughter. Even with some basic story patterns in here, Girls High doesn't feel like another cookie cutter school comedy. With some strong similarities to Super Gals, it's easy to see why it didn't get dubbed but it's a real shame that it didn't happen. With just three volumes and a low price it's easy to recommend this to try out if the genre overall appeals to you or you're looking for some strong fanservice.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Bonus Episode,Clean Opening,Voice Actor Interview

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 480p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
MSRP: 19.95
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Girls High