Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Aug 21st 2007
It's life as usual for Eriko and her five gal pals—abusing their narcissistic homeroom teacher, goofing off, and dealing with their bulked-up perverted PE teacher "Macho" Matsuo—when their cozy little group suffers a chill upon getting mixed up in Yuma's family problems via their introduction to her little sister Momoka. Can Eriko keep her friends together? No sooner is that cleared up than everyone heads to the public pool, where Eriko and Yuma's plan to get hit on by guys goes horribly awry when they meet up with Odagiri and Macho Matsuo. One thing leads to another and everyone and their respective "guys" end up in an all-couples contest to win a plasma TV. Meanwhile Kouda attends an audition, Eriko and Yuma remember the rocky start of their friendship, and Himeji reveals that she wasn't always the woman she is now—at one time she was in love with...Odagiri?
For a show whose greatest strength is unabashedly raunchy humor, it was an undeniable mistake to attempt straight-up drama in the two episode story that kicks off this volume. The show has neither the character depth nor the directorial prowess to fully succeed in a dramatic endeavor. Provide humor they may, but the girls of Girls High aren't the kind of rounded characters that make for good dramatic leads, and the uneven musical score will get the tone just right with long stretches of uncomfortable silence and mournful music-box tunes only to botch the most important scenes with embarrassingly overwrought dramatic musical cues. To make matters worse, the drama hinges on everyone falling for some terribly transparent character machinations. It isn't a total loss though; just when you're about to hurt your hand trying to slap some sense into the TV, Eriko comes through in spades. It's a rare moment for Eriko to casually demonstrate why it is that she's not only the leader of the girls, but the lead character overall. There's also a little character development for Yuma, and flashes of the series usual humor—more of Ayano and Shimotakatani's bizarre treacly dialogue and an example of the strangest method of intervening in a fight ever.
The rest of the disc is business as usual, with a few variations here and there. Yuma and Eriko's flashback story explains a lot about their dynamic and demonstrates Eriko's preternatural ability for turning enemies into allies with nothing more than her sunny disposition and utter unflappability. Himeji's past is less revealing, but consistently amusing, and her attempts to lose weight (for Odagiri) are hilarious in their ineffectuality. Yuma and Eriko's juvenile game of one-upmanship during the flashback episode is also an absolute gas, especially some of the reversals later on. And as always, Kouda is on hand to provide flamboyant cosplay gags, and the way in which she fulfills her horoscope's prediction about assisting her friends is a gut-buster. Other highlights include some truly weird romantic-ish moments involving, of all people, Odagiri, plenty of very unladylike bodily function jokes, and still more cruel shoujo-ai parodies. Unfortunately a lot of the "Kouda acting like an idiot" shtick falls flat, and Macho Matsuo is a continuous one-punch-line joke that wears thin very quickly.
The show's technical merits continue to be sub-par. Animation is basic at best, and quite poor at its worst. Character movement is stiff, and when things get too active—as in one scene where Eriko runs and falls in a pool of water—it can be downright embarrassing, despite the use of shortcuts that are supposed to free up enough budget to prevent that kind of thing. The main aesthetic draw continues to be the girls, who look good despite their too-bright color schemes, while providing loads of swimsuits and panty shots in the process. Though it isn't such a problem with the girls, who apparently got more attention during animation than the rest of the cast, there are moments where characters are decidedly off-model. Odagiri's height, build and facial features definitely fluctuate in some scenes, and Macho Matsuo looks...odd; his proportions are all over the map and sometimes his body doesn't articulate in the right places. Backgrounds are simple and unremarkable through and through.
The score still afflicts the series like a bad case of musical pimples, sometimes unnoticeable and sometimes the sonic equivalent of a volcanic pustule. That the director can skillfully crown a parodic sequence with a composition of perfectly calibrated ham-handedness and then go use the score in exactly the same manner during a serious scene is frankly incomprehensible. And the logic behind the idea that a joke can be made funnier by adding circus clown music, complete with honking horns and raspberries, simply boggles the mind. The opening and closing songs remain unchanged, not that anyone will remember what they sounded like anyway.
This volume's extras are exact counterparts of the last volume's. There's an eight-minute continuation of the school-fieldtrip extra episode, and a clean version of Yasuomi Umetsu's superb closer. The round table discussion with the Japanese cast (there is no English cast, this series is sub-only) is pretty interesting this time around. The ladies of the cast all reminisce about their experiences with guys. If they're any kind of a representative sample, then Japanese women have a pretty low opinion of men. When asked if they ever had guys try to hit on them, Satsuki Yukino (Kouda) is reminded of an incident when her bike flung a fat slug on her leg, and Masumi Asano (Yuma) mentions having to deal with flashers as a teenager (multiple times!). Way to go fellow members of the male sex! I'm proud to be in your ranks.
Other than a hiccup (okay, at two episodes, it's more than just a hiccup) during which the show tries its hand at straight drama and generally fails, this volume is more of what made the first volume slightly guilty-making fun. There're plenty of laughs to be had, and the portrayal of teen life continues to be more honest than is the norm. If only they'd lose the ambitions of dramatic gravitas, and maybe drown the PE teacher while they're at it.
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B-
Animation : C-
Art : C+
Music : D+
+ Strong humor; good Eriko character development.
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