Shelf Life
Super Gals!

by Paul Jensen, Gabriella Ekens,

It never fails. Whenever I have all the time in the world to work on the new release section, four or five things come out that week at most. But when I move to a new apartment and spend most of the week away from my work computer? Well, take a look at this cornucopia of anime on disc and you'll understand why I'm griping. Welcome to Shelf Life.

Jump to this week's review:
Super Gals

On Shelves This Week

Chaika: The Coffin Princess Avenging Battle - Complete Collection BD, DVD
Sentai - 275 min - Hyb - MSRP $69.98|$59.98
Currently cheapest at: $42.34 Barnes and Noble|$38.99 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Chaika and her companions continue to search for the remains of Emperor Gaz as they face off against old rivals and new enemies.

Extra: I did the episode reviews for this season, and we've also got a full review here. The full series is available on Crunchyroll, and you'll also find the first season on Hulu and The Anime Network.




Gokudo - Complete Series DVD
Eastern Star - 600 min - Hyb - MSRP $44.95
Currently cheapest at: $29.22 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Gokudo may only be after money and women, but that won't stop him and his adventuring buddies from saving the world when the situation calls for it.

Extra: I'm linking this entry to the encyclopedia page for the show because we don't seem to have a separate release page for it as I write this. However, we do have a review of a previous release.




Koi Koi Seven - Complete Series DVD
Eastern Star - 300 min - Sub - MSRP $39.95
Currently cheapest at: $25.97 Right Stuf

Synopsis: High school student Tetsuro should be living it up as the only guy at a school full of beautiful girls, but his life gets complicated when people start attacking him with tanks and helicopters for no apparent reason.

Extra: This appears to be this show's first appearance on disc in the US market. We don't have any formal reviews, but our user rankings for it average out at around 5 out of 10.




Labyrinth of Grisaia / Eden of Grisaia - Complete Collection BD, DVD
Sentai - 300 min - Sub - MSRP $59.98|$49.98
Currently cheapest at: $36.29 Barnes and Noble|$32.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: As Yuji's dark past begins to catch up with him, the girls of Mihama Academy must band together to save him.

Extra: This set contains the prequel and sequel to The Fruit of Grisaia, and we've got episode reviews of that first season here. You can stream the series on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and The Anime Network.




Maria the Virgin Witch - Complete Collection BD+DVD
Funimation - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $64.98
Currently cheapest at: $45.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: As the Hundred Years' War rages between England and France, a powerful young witch named Maria finds herself facing off against the archangel Michael in order to put an end to the conflict.

Extra: We've got episode reviews and a full review for this series, and you can stream it on Funimation and Hulu.




Mikagura School Suite - Complete Collection BD+DVD
Funimation - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $64.98
Currently cheapest at: $45.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Eruna Ichinomiya applies to Mikagura Academy in order to meet the beautiful girl from the school's brochure, but romance may have to wait until she can figure out the school's system of holding battles between its cultural clubs.

Extra: Hey, this is the second show this week that I did the episode reviews for! It's available streaming on Funimation and Hulu.




Plastic Memories - Volume 2 BD
Aniplex - 144 min - Sub - MSRP $74.98
Currently cheapest at: $59.98 Right Stuf

Synopsis: As Tsukasa continues to learn about the Giftia androids and their limited lifespans, he must come to terms with the possibility of losing his android partner Isla.

Extra: We've got a review of volume 1 here, along with a review of the full series. Your streaming options for this one include Crunchyroll and Hulu.




Puella Magi Madoka Magica - TV Box Set BD
Aniplex - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $149.98
Currently cheapest at: $119.98 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Eighth-grader Madoka Kaname makes a contract with a supernatural creature in order to become a magical girl, but the reality of her new life is a far cry from what she imagined.

Extra: We've got several reviews of this series, and it's also appeared on Shelf Life. You can stream it on Crunchyroll and Hulu.




Rainy Cocoa - Seasons 1 and 2 DVD
Funimation - 126 min - Sub - MSRP $19.98
Currently cheapest at: $13.99 Amazon

Synopsis: College freshman Aoi Tokura likes his job at the Rainy Color cafe, but his eccentric customers and goofy coworkers add an awful lot of chaos into his everyday life.

Extra: No formal reviews for this short series, but our user ratings are hovering between a 4 and 5 out of 10. It's available streaming on Funimation.




Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign - Complete Collection [Collector's Edition] BD+DVD
Funimation - 600 min - Hyb - MSRP $199.98
Currently cheapest at: $139.99 Right Stuf

Synopsis: In a world overrun by vampires, humanity's best hope for survival lies in demonic weapons called Cursed Gear. Seeking revenge for the deaths of his family, Yuichiro Hyakuya joins a military unit that specializes in hunting vampires.

Extra: Funimation put out a more humble limited edition of the first half of this series back in May, so I guess this is the higher end version that contains the whole show. Episode reviews are here, and it's streaming on Funimation and Hulu.




Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign - Season 1 Part 2 BD+DVD
Funimation - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $64.98
Currently cheapest at: $45.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Yuichiro searches for a way to turn an old friend back into a human as the members of the Black Demon Army are sent on a desperate mission to kill the vampire nobles.

Extra: And for those of you who bought the first half on its own, here's the remainder of the series. We've got a review of the part 1 set, and streaming sources are listed in the entry above this one.




Tekkaman Blade II - Complete OVA Collection BD
Eastern Star - 180 min - Hyb - MSRP $29.95
Currently cheapest at: $18.03 Barnes and Noble

Synopsis: Ten years after the events of the original Tekkaman series, a new team of warriors is assembled to take on a powerful enemy.

Extra: This OVA came out on DVD back in 2013, but this is its first appearance on Blu-Ray in the US market. No formal reviews for this one, but our user ratings place it at around 6.5 out of 10.




Shelf Life Reviews

Shelf Worthy
Nothing this week.
Rental
Super Gals
Perishable
Nothing this week.

This week, Gabriella dives into the recent past of Japanese pop culture with a review of Super Gals.

Remember the original Sailor Moon anime? Remember how in between all the fighting evil by moonlight, there'd be extended bits of the Senshi's daily life antics, which now come off as some of the most stereotypical depictions of 90s teen girl culture? Well, what if there were a show built exclusively around those bits? Enter Super Gals!, a shoujo comedy series about fashionable teenage girls living their fashionable teenage girl lives in Shibuya, Tokyo's famous hub for youth culture. The show's heroines are gyaru, members of a Japanese fashion subculture popular during the 90s and early 2000s. While you may not know the term, you've definitely encountered gyaru before if you've been watching anime for any amount of time. The default outfit is a school uniform worn with a cardigan, a shortened skirt, and those baggy white socks. They're known for having loud, aggressive personalities and making extensive use of slang, mostly taken from English. Alongside Pokemon and financial collapse, gyaru are a snapshot of Japan at the turn of the millennium.

The story centers around Ran Kotobuki, the self-declared top gyaru in Shibuya ward. She patrols the streets, maintaining order alongside her sovereignty. She comes from a family of police officers, and her elder brother gets to observe her antics from his post in Shibuya, to his frustration. Her best friends include Miyu, a reformed gang leader and the sweetest soul around, and Aya, a repressed, studious girl looking for a social outlet. Together, they navigate the choppy waters of girldom by defending their turf, snagging boyfriends, and almost getting stabbed every once in a while.

Super Gals! is a wacky episodic comedy. The humor is largely slapstick, and while it rarely made me laugh, the show is at least consistently entertaining. It works largely because the characters are endearing. Ran is a ditz with a heart of gold in the vein of Sailor Moon's Usagi, only assertive and cool instead of a cute crybaby. She skirts the line of being shallow thanks to her passion for justice and dedication to her friends. Miyu is the sweetheart who harbors a dark past as a gang leader, while Aya is an honors student learning to let go for the first time. Their boyfriends are all distinct characters, and together they act like a real friend group, with its occasional fights and romantic intermixing. It ends by transitioning into some drama, which also works because the characters and their struggles have been built up throughout the show.

The show's aesthetic is still-frame-heavy, colorful, and ultraflat-to-the-point-of-abstractness. The production is clearly limited, but it's fast paced, bright, and poppy in a way that I can appreciate. The show's fashion marks a nice middle ground between the girlish Sailor Moon and the mature punk stylings of something like Nana. Age-wise, Super Gals! is aiming for an audience somewhere in-between these two properties, so it's interesting to see the visual bridge between them.

I was also happy to see that Super Gals! actually tries to impart some good relationship values onto its intended audience of young women. The girls are all independent and assertive, and while they pursue relationships with men, the show takes pains to illustrate their independence throughout. Their primary support network is other gals, who help them navigate problems ranging from familial dysfunction to boys to turf wars. For example, one episode is about Ran defending Aya from a wannabe suitor who won't take no for an answer. Another example of the show's surprisingly decent sexual politics comes from the long-running subplot about high schooler Miyu's relationship with her adult boyfriend. While they're committed to one another, Miyu's boyfriend refuses to get physical with her due to her age. While Miyu is often frustrated by this, the show ultimately frames his reticence as a good thing. Considering that intimate relationships between young women and much older men (which can be dodgy terrain due to the potential for abuse) is something that even the most lady-friendly shoujo properties tend to stumble over (looking at you, Sailor Moon), it's nice to see a show broach that subject without romanticizing it. For all its sugary hyperactivity, Super Gals!'s creators seem to have taken into account that their work could help define its young viewers' ideas about relationships, so they made an effort not to slip in anything nasty. As a woman who is often frustrated by the values that shoujo endorses for young women, Super Gals! is a refreshing work.

That's not to say that you should go to this for the next Revolutionary Girl Utena or anything. Super Gals! is still predominantly a screechy cartoon about teenagers yelling at each other. Your ability to enjoy this depends on your tolerance for stock anime sound effects and fluorescent reaction shots of girls pulling at each others' hair. Does 52 episodes of just the school parts of 90s Sailor Moon sound watchable to you? If yes, then you have a chance of being able to sit through this show. I grew up watching OG Sailor Moon on TV, so I have an affection for this combination of Saturday morning cartoon storytelling, heavily stylized minimal animation, and ear-bleeding vocal work. Even then, 52 episodes tested my limits. While my nostalgia helped me enjoy my time with Super Gals! for the most part, I have no doubt that it would constitute a special level of hell for many other viewers.

The dub only exacerbates this barrier of entry. It's by ADV at their screechiest, but considering the show's content, it turns out strangely appropriate. It brought out my nostalgia for the old Sailor Moon dub. Just like DiC's work on that show, I can't call this dub good, but it amused me with its cheesiness, although the show's dub only goes up to the first 26 episodes. (Also be aware that it uses the word “retard” a lot, which is regarded more as a slur now than it was in 2003.) Extras include Super Girls! Explain it All, a series of dubbed shorts that explain gyaru culture over clips of the show, extensive liner notes, character biographies, and the usual slate of clean openings/endings.

I would definitely call Super Gals! a hidden gem of late 90s/early 2000s shoujo. It's first and foremost a comedy, and while that aspect will repel most audiences, the people who can take it will discover an entertaining and even subtextually interesting work for young women.
-Gabriella[TOP]

That wraps up this week's review section. Thanks for reading!

This week's shelves are from Jen:

"Hi, my name is Jen. I submitted my shelves a few years ago, and I'd love to provide an update. Since I graduated college and obtained a job, my collection has grown exponentially. My tastes really haven't changed all that much, but I've started collecting figures in addition to anime and manga. I've started to run out of space, and have resorted to double stacking my books on several of my shelves. I also have a bin under my bed that holds more of my books. Hope you like my shelves!"

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I love the collection, and it's always great to hear from longtime readers. Thanks for sharing!

Whether you've been following Shelf Life for years or just showed up today, I want to feature your awesome anime collection in a future installment. Just send me your photos at [email protected]!


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