Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Jul 10th 2007
Sub.DVD 1 - Teen Spirit
Eriko, Yuma, and Ayano have just gotten into a prestigious single-sex academy. There they meet a mirror of their own group, Kouda, Himeji, and Ogawa who escalatored into the same high school from its associated middle school. Though originally antagonistic—Erika fed Kouda and company an outrageous load of manure about high-school life—the six soon become fast friends. Together they experience the joys of high school life: satisfying their curiosity about boys, cheating on their physical exams, defeating Kouda's rich-girl nemesis, dealing with strange teachers, and dodging predatory males. It's a dirty, crude, and funny world out there, even when it's run by girls.
Don't let the innocuous title or the hearts on the cover fool you; based on Towa Oshima's notoriously raunchy manga High School Girls, Girl's High is a gutter's eye view of life in an all-girl high school. This is no romance or drama, but a raucous comedy that serves equally well as a smorgasbord of fan-service humor or a pointedly potty-minded overturning of preconceptions about all-girl schools.
From the moment the main characters discover a pile of shaved pubic hair in a filthy club room at their new high school, it's obvious that this series is mounting a concerted attack on the image of cleanliness, propriety and restraint associated with private girls' schools, epitomized by series like Maria-sama ga Miteru (which gets cruelly parodied more than once). These are no proper young ladies, and restraint is the furthest thing from their, or the creators', minds. Discussions cover subjects like menstruation, personal differences in vaginas, and getting rid of pesky things like, say, one's virginity. Not only are the girls curious about what a naked guy looks like, but they're fully willing to forcefully strip one to find out. They participate in well-known (Japanese) high-school staples like sports day, physical exams and dating parties, but also have to deal with camera-toting perverts, urinalysis tests and date rape. There's an edge of realism to the simple frankness with which the girls, and the show as whole, deal with subjects and events that would normally be taboo or treated as momentous dramatic happenings that is very appealing.
The show does regularly skirt the outer fringes of reality. The physical exam episode has the entire student body rushing around dressed in revealing hospital gowns, there's Kouda's outrageous cosplay habit, and what kind of school has a lascivious banana-eating contest at its sports meet? Even so, it never leaves the realm of possibility—it doesn't even begin to approach the preposterousness of Best Student Council—and its all for the sake of a good laugh. The preponderance of panty-shots, jiggling, and bare flesh recalls male fan-service comedies more than other comedies about girl friends; there are too-short skirt modifications, accidental simulations of oral sex, the classic fall-down-the-stairs crotch-to-the-face gag, and plenty of vulgar word-play made infinitely more hilarious by its issuance from the mouths of innocent-looking girls. Jokes about more innocuous subjects—getting lost in the Japanese train system, narcissistic teachers, and the horrors of running a three-legged race tied to someone with hairy legs—break things up a bit. Watching a group of young men getting an education in a side of the female sex that they had no idea existed provides a great running joke during the dating-party episode, even as the series proves capable of surprising intensity with its date-rape sub-plot.
The series focuses on short bursts of detail and action (most often during the racier bits—panty shots in particular show an inordinate amount of care). The decision to spread the rest of the budget over a plenitude of cheap movements, crammed into often short periods of time, serves the purpose of keeping the energy level high. Luckily humor doesn't really require much in the way of fluidity of animation, so as frequently stiff and shortcut-laden as the animation is, it does minimal damage to the series. The art wisely favors the characters—cute when needed and sexy where appropriate—and their clothing, with the school uniforms taking second prize as the series' most meticulously rendered element (after panties). Their bright, anime-standard coloring does undermine the naturalistic tone of the earthier scenes, as does the high-contrast palette and low detail of the background art. There's no real sense of space or geography in the school, and long shots of the campus are off-puttingly simplistic. Though not a visually impressive series, the ending sequence—an inventive montage directed by Yasuomi Umetsu of each character doing their own silly dance—is very much so.
If one were required to choose just one issue, this series' Achilles' heel would be its soundtrack. It's fine when used to parodic ends, but the rest of the time sounds like something a band would play for a clown act at the circus. It's used seemingly at random throughout, and more often than not is a distraction from rather than a complement to the on-screen action.
Included on the disc are an extra half-episode—in which the girls have a mix-up while taking the train to a field trip—and a round-table discussion with the cast, covering such things as the original manga and whether girls really are that crude and vulgar when left to their own devices.
Women will probably appreciate the discussions of the finer points of urinating in a cup, and the series' world of competition, camaraderie and asshole boyfriends; men will get an eyeful of fan-service; and both can enjoy the often bawdy humor. It isn't going to win any technical awards, and its composer(s) should be lynched, but for an honest—if somewhat scandalous—look at teen life, you could do worse (and a lot less funny) than Girl's High.
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : C+
Art : B-
Music : D+
+ Funny, naughty and honest look at life in an all-girl high school.
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