Netflix's newest acquisition, Back Street Girls: Gokudols, is controversial to say the least. This week, Andy and Steve find out if there's any decent comedy hiding under this show's initial shock factor.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead. Not Safe For Work warning for content and language.
Steve! I'm so happy we get to talk about Goku Dolls!
Oh you sweet summer child...
And just in time for the new Broly movie! I personally like this blue one.
Andy, I'm so sorry. But we're not talking those Goku Dolls today. I wish we were though. Oh god I wish we were.
Wait. You mean we have to talk about...
Let's [sigh] talk about Back Street Girls
I see Netflix has decided to up their Grinch game and ruin all holiday cheer this December.
I'm kind of flabbergasted about where to even begin digging into this garbage pile of an anime. It's equal parts offensive, baffling, and just plain bad, and yet Netflix
decided this would be a good show to pick up, dub
, and advertise. There are so many awful choices crammed into this one 10-episode series.
Want to just go piece by piece? We can start with the premise, which is supposed to be Yakuza Idols, except the writer was convinced that Yakuza Idols isn't a strong enough premise. So we get gender-swapped Yakuza idols, but that also can't just be accepted without further establishing that they became girls through forced surgeries in less than a year. Okay fine, if you're so convinced that you need that much justification for why your idols have a hardened Yakuza worldview, I guess go for it. But what we get are barely jokes. They're mostly lazy and repetitive, and even the ones that could land are soured by all the show's other choices.
You're right, it's largely the framing that's the issue. If I were being charitable, there are nuggets of a good idea here. You want to satirize the idol industry by comparing it to yakuza? Fine. You want to poke fun at performativity and expectations for femininity in the idol world? Hell yeah, go for it.
But wrapping all of that up in a transphobic package that constantly reinforces shitty misconceptions about transgender women and queer people in general is no good at all.
Like seriously, they could have just made the yakuza become male idols, and a lot of the same jokes would work. Or you could just start out with female yakuza members. Forcing these guys through sex reassignment surgery is a premise that belongs in a 1-star '90s comedy that makes no money and almost immediately dissipates from public memory.
But then how would you get to make such biting jokes as "send several more people to Thailand to force boobs on them"?
It legit makes me angry because the show obviously intends to offend first and foremost, and Back Street Girls doesn't have an iota of the nuance it would require to make any actually clever jokes about gender. This is like a bad gag in South Park was stretched into an entire series. Not only does it reinforce juvenile and harmful misconceptions, it's just not funny as a comedy.
Speaking of stretched, can we talk about the execution? These twenty minute episodes are killer, like they kill any sense of time and place and make you wish you were anywhere but in front of a screen. Maybe it would've played better as shorts, because the episode is constantly interrupted with a number labeling whatever segment it's on now, but it all melts away into a timeless void since every scene is nothing but static images. Inferno Cop
has more animation than this! Every other line jumps to one of three establishing shots of a building, sky, or a different building so that they don't have to animate lip flaps. And lip flaps is literally all we get for animation of any kind. This makes the whole experience feel like watching a bad manager make jokes over the slides in his Powerpoint presentation.
The show's main avenue of comedy is also just PEOPLE SHOUTING ALL THE TIME. It got old fast. Then I realized I had nine episodes left to watch. And then I wanted to die.
Oh right, adding speedlines and shaking the camera over a static image of someone shouting happens about every thirty seconds.
It's remarkably bad to look at, which is also why I'm so confused that Netflix
thought it would be good to own? Even if you're going for that ironic Adult Swim
crowd, there are tons of better-written and better-looking shows of that ilk. Either the people working on this didn't care, or they were ashamed of it, or probably both.
I will give the dub
cast some credit, because for the most part they really give their all. It's just all in the service of a trash fire.
You're a stronger man than I because even Richard Epcar
couldn't keep me listening to the dub
. It was a lot easier for me to ignore the things being said when my brain turned it into noise. That said, I did enjoy the horrible English pronunciation of the American characters from the Japanese VAs. It's a guilty pleasure of mine in better shows, and it still made those moments slightly more tolerable. All in all, this probably would've been best off left as a radio show. The actors are definitely trying and given how many of the scenes are literally just them sitting in a radio studio talking, it seems like that would've been a better choice and kept me from ever having to watch it!
This line feels like the philosophy of the whole anime.
This does too, come to think of it.
Yeah that's certainly the main thrust. It's a shame because there's probably some material in the premise. Even if you decide to completely forego social commentary, you could at least embrace the absurd.
The idol training involving stuff like singing under waterfalls or having to murder a bear together could be great if it wasn't attached to every other problem with this show.
I even felt something at the gag of the idols shutting down local businesses with their terrible reviews, because by the end of the show I totally shared their pain and anguish.
me after 10 episodes of this schlock
I did like the part where the two mob bosses just yelled "BROTHER" at each other with increasing profanity. No reason for it to be there, no reason for it to be funny, but at least it's not about [gestures broadly in the general direction of Back Street Girls
' other jokes].
It's the closest we'll ever get to a Metal Gear Solid anime.
The gags that rely on the girls' criminal background also tend to be better, like when they take this audition too far and turn it into a straight-up yakuza flick.
And the show's overbearingly misanthropic point of view works best when it's directed at chodes like this Professional Girl Whisperer.
Totally. The fact that he only gets dunked on through the Gokudols' dumb behavior doesn't really disprove his shitty claims. If anything, it reinforces how correct he is outside of this one situation.
It says a lot that the best relationship between anyone in the series is a single image we get of two dogs after they've been fucking for days. Yes that is a real thing that happens in the show.
God, I just remembered the fucking awful scene where they frame a guy for sexual assault. Like, that's the only joke. This shit isn't just offensive—it's harmful. It doesn't matter that they're just "joking" about it. Scenes like this reinforce a culture that continues to doubt the accounts of women at every turn.
Like, you can dismiss the show as dumb entertainment, but when it constantly perpetuates harmful lies about women or queer people or transgender experiences, there's absolutely nothing redeemable about it.
It is sadly one of many scenes that play sexual assault for laughs and sometimes not even laughs. There are legit scenes where it happens and then just washes away into the next scene or line.
I guess I should be thankful that it gave us several of these drinking shots, because that sure is what I'm feeling right now.
The ONE good thing about Back Street Girls
is that it provides plenty of images that encapsulate the experience of watching Back Street Girls
I'd still only give it half a good thing, because we can't even gif these static scenes. I can find much better drinking reaction shots from shows that bothered to give a single damn.
It's appropriate that the final sketch of the show is about pranks, because that's what Back Street Girls feels like: a bad prank where nobody seems in on the joke. I'm usually not so adamant with my recommendations, but nobody should watch this. Ever.
Even if you are curious, I'd suggest just finding the manga because I'm sure you'll get the gist pretty damn quick that way without having to sit through it one colored panel at a time.
Since I want at least a single constructive thing to come out of this column, pick up The Bride Was a Boy
instead! It's sweet, informative, funny, and you'll learn what living as a trans woman in Japan is like from an actual trans woman. Meanwhile, the saga of the Gokudols will fade into obscurity like the hundreds of other Netflix
Originals nobody has ever heard about.