Quality film news, reviews and features
16th June 2005 06:00:00
Posted by Kevin Gilvear

Girls Bravo: Volume 1

DVD Video Review
Many years ago, before Japan was put under a spell by a fetishist tengu who lived in the biggest sky mountain ever seen, fields were lush and the land was silently quaint. But then the mysterious spell took effect and things went all bizarre. People began to draw strange pictures - some of them showed girlies getting attacked by tentacles, others showed them flashing their panties or frolicking in bath houses, while dirty old men gazed onward at their unveiled bosoms. Many many years later, pictures came to life and people loved it; it was the best thing ever and Japan rejoiced over its own unique brand of animated depravity. The End.

Cut to present day and Japan is still doing what it can to push boundaries within animation. Girls Bravo is a series with tendencies that lean toward what is known as “Ecchi”, which is just another part of the whole anime aimed toward adults thing. Ecchi is something of a middle ground; it doesn’t go beyond a certain revealing point. Usually panty shots and exposed breasts, along with very suggestive moments and sexually weird characters make up this kind of series. Girls Bravo is exactly that - a series that knows what it is and will go to any length to ensure it deserves the Ecchi mantle. It’s morally corrupt, in your face, violently funny mayhem that packs quite an intriguing concept.

Yukinari Sasaki never seems to have any luck. Not a day in his life has passed where he hasn’t been bullied by a girl in one way or the other. As a result of all this constant abuse he has developed gynophobia - a fear of women. So intense is his fear that if he is even so much as touched by a girl he breaks out in hives. One day he accidentally walks in on his next door neighbour, Kirie who is taking a shower in his own bathroom! She gets a little violent with him and during the tussle he falls into the bathtub and doesn’t return. As he emerges from the water he no longer finds himself in his house, but in a strange new surrounding, where he is greeted by an inquisitive girl named Miharu. Yukinari doesn’t know how he got to this new place or why, but what he does know is that Miharu doesn’t affect him the same way that every other girl he has come into contact with has. Everything seems pleasant enough, in fact no sooner does he arrive that he already begins to consider making this place his new home. But when Miharu takes him outside he soon realises that this strange new world might just be a little scarier, despite its pleasant looks.


Like most things anime, Girls Bravo is adapted from an original Manga. Mario Kaneda’s story, published in Kadokawa Comics “Ace Series” was commissioned for two series. “First Season” comprises of eleven episodes, with “Second Season” comprising of thirteen. Thanks to Geneon Entertainment we can enjoy both over the course of a six-volume release.

Shows like Girls Bravo are a dime a dozen; the fish out of water scenario, the sexual innuendo, comedy violence, clichéd characters and situational set-ups. There’s nothing wrong with cliché if those elements can be taken and put to good use. In the case of this latest series they can and you wonder just how the Japanese keep managing to recycle used material and turn it into gold. Success depends on how it presents itself and on that front it does well enough by supplying a storyline worthy of our attention.

Girls Bravo is an action now, explanations later kinda show. For its first episode it sets up the entire premise with little fuss. Perhaps most interesting is the planet of Seiren, if only for it making a one episode appearance. A planet where 90% of the population is female can only bring plenty of fun to the series, for the viewer at least. In the meantime poor ol’ Yukinari has to face his worst fear. There is a clear indication as to just what this series is about and although it isn’t quite so conventional in having characters facing their fears it does make sure that we’re going to get a lot of fun from them. When Yukinari is introduced to the City of the Blue Forest he doesn’t quite realise that he’s the most important being on the planet. Peoples’ curiosity naturally grows, so rare is a man that you can only imagine the kind of frustration that these inhabitants have faced over time. So soon a series of events sees Yukinari on the run, with only his new friend, Miharu helping him. Every female wants a part of him, and I mean every; right down to young children who beg of him to marry them. Much of this is all very fleeting and it isn’t until Yukinari meets Miharu’s top heavy, big sister do things get a little racier for him. So forms the beginning of what will soon become a very sexually oriented show.


By the time we get to episode 2 the set up is well established and we’ve met just about all of the principal characters. There are some moments back on the planet of Seiren that suggest several characters will enter the fray at a later point, notably big sister and some of the girls that appear in the opening credits, such as the purple-hair’d, Koyomi. Characterisation here is standard fare; with Yukinari being the centrepiece. He’s easy to sympathise with as he goes through life being tormented, repeatedly having his nose smashed in as a result of unwillingly fighting amongst girls. He lives alone, with his parents having moved away; despite being young he shows a nice level of responsibility and gets by on his own relatively well. Next up we have Kirie - his next door neighbour. Kirie is the classic female character; she cares for the lead but that doesn’t stop her knocking him about and hurting his feelings. There isn’t anything that should make her any more unique than a dozen other female anime characters, and here she’s part of a much bigger set up. At this point in the series it’s difficult to say where the relationship is going, but in the meantime she is just as much exploited for her large breasts as Yukinari is over his fear of women. In fact it becomes interesting later on when Kirie runs into the perverted, Kazuharu Fukuyama: here she gets a taste of her own medicine, which isn’t to say it’s fair as she’s on the receiving end of a sexual advance, but it does place her in a situation whereby she should form an understanding of what Yukinari goes through. Unfortunately she doesn’t though and she soon goes back to providing the occasional dig, despite some form of truce being made.

Miharu is the mysterious character who is brought back to Earth, where the rest of this series predominantly takes place. She has several strange devices that make her stand out, though that doesn’t necessarily make her that unique either. She’s young, cute, has magical powers and an insatiable appetite for food. She ends up staying at Yukinari’s house, which is his first kind gesture toward her, but not even he is prepared for her curious nature. We’re not quite sure why she eats so much, but at least it isn’t as scary as Guu’s eating habits from the classic Jungle wa Itsumo Hare Nochi Guu. Miharu is simply a curious being with an added wanting of furthering her knowledge for all things foreign to her; as a result she begins to attend school. It then becomes a little strange to see her character being uprooted suddenly from her home to living with Yukinari and attending his school. In future episodes to come this may be explained, or it may just be a quick and easy device to get the writers feverishly coming up with new and inventive scenarios to exploit the fish out of water premise. Nothing is more bizarre for Miharu when she meets the next key character of the series. Fukuyama is the school prize, or so he thinks of himself. He’s the young, bold and attractive guy who every girl wants; only he’s highly perverted and goes out of his way to make sure he’s bedded just about every girl in the school. His task is all the more difficult when Miharu seems to reject every move he makes on her. And this is where the bulk of the comedy plays out, for reasons we’ll approach shortly. Rounding up characters for this volume at least is Fukuyama’s sister, Lisa - an attractive blonde girl who specialises in the art of black magic and carries with her two bodyguards by the names of Hayate and Kosame. Lisa becomes drawn to Yukinari due to her dabbling in the black arts; she is destined to be his woman and won’t stop until he whole heartedly accepts her.


So things don’t seem too odd at this point, that is until the series allows itself to go completely bonkers. You can be sure that Girls Bravo will do anything to generate a laugh. Early on it uses the method of introducing large breasted, dominant female characters to take charge of a given situation; women who pose a threat to male characters because of their outwardly attitudes. Miharu’s elder sister immediately takes a liking to the young Yukinari, smothering him with her larger than life breasts, while Miharu tries to snatch him away. Still even that is tame by any anime standards. Firstly the show uses nudity as a simple but effective gag, most often having a character walk in on someone taking a shower or getting dressed. In the case of Miharu it takes what she considers to be normal and has it play out in Earthly situations, for example she undresses and dresses in front of Yukinari, exit’s the shower nude, hugs him while she’s wearing nothing; all amusing moments that enhance scenes involving a third party. But it’s during the progression that the series takes more liberties, with each episode upping the ante. By nature Girls Bravo is a very suggestive series and if anything stands out as being a classic example then it is during episode 2 when Miharu goes off to search for Yukinari’s school, only to run into a grocers on the way. Here she learns what a banana is from the store owner, and as he begins to tell a brilliant, overly dramatic story about the day he had his first banana, Miharu is going fellatio on the entire stock. It’s one of those gags that has to be witnessed, that only pays off when the entire scene has played out. It demonstrates both innocent and adult qualities that make the series a little more wavering than many, showing us that it wants to be daring but keeping restrictive all the same. Further examples come later when Kirie runs into Kosame in episode 4, and thus we get another character insight when we learn that Kosame is a lesbian and fancies Kirie. Their scene plays out up to a certain point, it’s definitely racy but an event occurs that prevents anything from happening.

Ecchi or not, many anime series have their key stock players and it’s rare these days that any go without the “perverted” character. Even children’s shows have their fare share. Girls Bravo doesn’t break any new ground with its inclusion of Fukuyama but it adds enough flavour to ensure that what we’ll witness will be ultimately hilarious. This guy is the worst you could imagine; he’s a self loving, conniving, manipulative, pompous buffoon, with an allergy toward men, and who gets what he wants. It’s his very allergy that places him in perfect juxtaposition with Yukinari. While Yukinari breaks out in hives when a girl touches him, so does Fukuyama when it’s a guy. Because of this he wears white gloves, which ends up being such a brilliant and quirky addition to his character. I can’t help but imagine what the writers have in store for him; going by what we see here I’m sure we can’t rule out the possibility of a homosexual themed storyline, and if not then that would be a missed opportunity indeed. His habits are quite unbelievable most of the time, the way he treats females is appalling and if it wasn’t for Kirie being able to look after herself by using martial arts then his advances would be all the more disturbing. These instances may put off some viewers as he takes no shame in sexually harassing girls and grabbing their breasts to have a good play. Many of the girls, i.e. students are played out as weak and stereotypical but for the most part these are merely background players. It’s only when our main cast get to do something that his deplorable actions get their just desserts. With Kirie providing a strong female presence you can be sure that Fukuyama’s plans won’t be so easily carried out. And then there are his living habits. As if things were strange enough he lives in a huge mansion, surrounded by a garden maze that has patrolling, gun-toting maids. This reinforces any idea that women in Girls Bravo are depicted as mere sex objects; the series is unashamed in that respect, but the very fact that several of them are strong characters, who stand up to their tormentors makes it less of a deterrent. It’ll be interesting to see if the series ever goes back to planet Seiren so that we can see just how different the female population is in comparison.

Due to the very quick nature of this volume there is little else to explore, aside from several other little touches. The overall design is pleasant, with each character being easily identifiable and having their own quirks nicely showcased throughout; from exceedingly bouncy breasts (which is a given), to some of the male leads, with their different coloured uniforms and hair, along with certain mannerisms. The animation is pleasing, along with some nice use of direction, which in turn enhances the comical situations. Bordering on parody we then have some nice little moments, particularly the brilliant “I will Always Love You” steal for some of the series’ ridiculously and deliberately hammy romantic leanings. The soundtrack itself is very lively and matches the quirky nature of the show, with an incredibly catchy panic theme, for when things get slightly out of hand.


Episodes

First Season!
Yukinari is a young sophomore student who has one major problem: He’s afraid of women. One day, after inadvertently upsetting his next door neighbour, Kirie he is pushed into his bathtub and disappears. He soon emerges but finds that he is in a different place; his bathtub is a portal to another world, named Seiren. Here he meets Miharu Sena Kanaka, who befriends him and takes him on a tour of the City of the Blue Forest. Initially that’s all very well but he soon learns that the entire planet is populated by women, with a less than 10% male population. Running scared he ends up getting back home, but with Miharu tagging along.

Bravo at School!
Now that Miharu is staying on Earth for a while, Yukinari lets her stay at his house and discovers that she eats like a trooper. His first mistake is telling her all about the wonderful curry bread that is served at school. When he leaves her alone she becomes impatient and sets out to find his school and try this amazing curry bread for herself. When she arrives, after clearing out a high street of food stands she catches up with Yukinari and meets the creepy Fukuyama. Can she resist his amazingly seedy charm?

Cooking is Bravo!
Miharu is now officially a student at Mizuno High. After some ropey introductions Kirie begins to respond a little better to Yukinari’s new friend and they set out together to attend class. Things see, to be going alright for Yukinari but soon he runs into a girl names Lisa, who believes that she is destined to be his one and only. To make matters a little worse he discovers that she is Fukuyama’s sister and even more annoying than he is.

Bravo in the Mansion!
Miharu decides that she should get a job to help out Yukinari, after all she does keep clearing out the cupboards. Her choices are a little less than desirable when she decides to work for Fukuyama as one of his maids. Eventually Kirie winds up at the mansion, where she’s tricked into nursing Fukuyama, while Yukinari tries to escape from Fukuyama’s maid guards, who patrol the maze. Madcap hilarity ensues.


The DVD

Geneon Entertainment releases the first of six volumes on a single disc DVD, coming in a standard white amaray case. The sleeve has no reversible artwork, but the main design is attractive and colourful.

A/V

Girls Bravo was created in 2004, so it’s a real shame to see something of a messy transfer on display here. Presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, this volume is persistently plagued by dot crawl, which doesn’t seem too bad at first glance and isn’t overly distracting but its enough to downgrade it all the same. As for the colour palette, this is somewhat muted compared to many recent anime; it’s difficult to tell if it is intentional or part of the transferring process. What is intentional is the use of hazing throughout, this can be distracting depending on how used to it you are; sometimes there is a little too much and it seems that the animators don’t quite know when to quit. Otherwise things are solid enough and it escapes any further injury.

For sound we have original Japanese 2.0 and a newly created English 2.0 track. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve decided to refrain from mentioning the quality of either dubs as viewers just pick their preferred ones anyway. Onto the actual performance of the speakers then, things are generally good. This isn’t a series that gets carried away with spatial noise; a lot of it is dependent on dialogue and this is channelled forward very well. Many times voices will elevate and things get a little crazy, and when they do there is a solid amount of coverage to accommodate various effects and musical cues.

Extras

Non-Credit Opening
Exactly as it says on the tin - a.k.a. menu. This is a nice little intro for the series, with high production values so a worthwhile but standard addition to any series.

Original Japanese Opening
This is the same as above but with the addition of Japanese credits.

Line Art Gallery
This comprises of 25 pages and features artwork for all of the principal characters and some secondary figures. Some contain nudity, others are costume sketches and facial expressions. These pieces of art are related specifically to the content of the episodes presented on this volume.

Geneon Previews
Three enticing trailers are available to view. These are for Tenjho Tenge, Ultra Maniac and DearS.


Overall

As an adult show, but one which stays within a certain, tamer confine it’s not for me to recommend it to everyone. Those uncomfortable with this kind of comedy that entails nudity and suggestive situations should likely avoid. For those who are fans of this kind of material and humour there is plenty to like and the series is more than entertaining for it to deserve high praise.
Details and Specifications
DVD Video Review

Region: 1

Certificate: 17 UP

Distributor:
Geneon Entertainment

Running Time:
100 mins approx
Soundtracks:
Japanese 2.0
English 2.0

Subtitles:
English

Director:
Ei Aoki

Main cast:
Japanese Voice Cast:
Mamiko Noto
Ayako Kawasumi
Chiwa Saito
Ryotaro Okiayu
Yuki Matsuoka
Takanori Hoshino
Nozomi Masu
Natsuko Kuwatani
English Voice Cast:
Yuri Lowenthal
Michelle Ruff
Lulu Chiang
Liam O'Brian
Hunter Mackenzie Austin
Patrick Seitz
Robin Rhodpa
Wendy Tomson
-- more --
Ratings
Film
7
Video
7
Audio
8
Extras
2
7
About Kevin Gilvear
Kev joined The Digital Fix team in 2004, specializing in Asian cinema and cult film and television. During that time he’s also worked on various features, including bringing exclusive interviews to the site. Today he divides his time between covering movies for The Movie Fix (where he watches far too many Japanese pink films) and writing about music, with a spot of photography, for The Music Fix.


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