My Review of Girls Bravo!

Yukinari Sasaki is a lonely young boy. He’s small for his age, called puny and teased by most people he knows, and t make matters worse, he lives alone in a large, empty house. He’s always been considered something of a joke to the opposite sex, as girls are the ones who’ve done most of the teasing, and the only woman who’s ever kind of liked him is the girl next door, the tall, busty brunette beauty who’s built their bond on busting his balls for bumbling in on her bathing in the buff, Kirie Kojima. If that wasn’t bad enough, his regrettable rapport with the fairer sex has resulted in him developing a previously unknown medical condition… Whenever he’s touched by a girl, whether it’s a violent punch or a tender embrace or anything inbetween, he breaks out in hives. He is, quite literally, allergic to girls, and there’s nothing he can do about it. Rather than transfer to an all boys school or hole himself up in his house and n ever come out, he’s instead elected to go through life without complaint, dragging his feet though his own little world of depression and dejection.

That is, until he’s quite literally beaten out of that world. One day, when he’s unfortunate enough to come home and catch Kirie naked in the process of preparing to take a shower, his naughty neighbor turns nasty, delivering a powerful blow that propels him through a magical portal in the bathtub, which connects him to a strange world that I guess is supposed to be the beyond portion of Bed Bath and Beyond. He winds up in the tub of a pink-haired air-head who, through some miracle, doesn’t trigger his allergies. It turns out they’re on a planet in another dimension called Seyren, where women outnumber men at a whopping 9-1 ratio. After escaping the threat of rape from the general community, Yukinari is helped back through the portal by this strange girl, who magically goes through with him! As it turns out, dimensional travel is going to be the least of his problems when his liaison with this looney love-interest is going to turn his world upside down, one unpredictable mishap at a time.

AIC Spirits is a production company I’ve somehow never mentioned before, even though they did some of the work on Petite Princess Yucie in collaboration with Studio Gainax. They’re extremely hit-or-miss, and while I have seen quite a few impressive projects from them, the overwhelming majority of it is cheap, badly managed, and with excuses of “It’s dated” dwindling through the years. They did almost the entire Tenchi line-up, if that gives you some idea of what we’re working with. If I had to put a pin in what kind of company they are, or some kind of defining thread throughout their work… And keep in mind, this is an extreme generalization based on what little of their work I’ve seen… They tend to put more money into a project if it’s not something that’s going to be a guaranteed success. Popular name-brand shows and shows with excessive fanservice and nudity often get the shaft, while more out-of-left-field titles like Bamboo Blade, Now and Then Here and There, and Humanity has Declined get much more attention paid to them. Which side of the scale does Girls Bravo fall on? Go ahead and guess.

I wouldn’t necessarily call Girls Bravo an ugly show, but if it had a good personality to speak of, I’d try distracting you towards that. It doesn’t always look bad, but it never really looks good, either. The characters seem to be drawn to type, with the same basic characteristics you’ve come to expect from the harem genre, only exaggerated and over-the-top, almost like parodied caricatures of the classic tropes. There’s an obvious lean towards moe, with almost all the female characters sporting giant boobs and even bigger eyes, which take up more than half of their round, cartoony faces. There’s something distinctly unattractive about the way everyone’s drawn, and while I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I haven’t come had this problem so badly since Ookami-san. There isn’t a hint of inspiration in anyone’s design, and the similarities that Miharu bears to certain other magical girlfriend characters is way too distracting. Even the loli character’s little mascot alien pet, which would normally serve as a mascot in other shows, looks generic as hell here.

There are some moments that I guess were animated okay, as short bursts of inspiration are really the best thing about this title, but we’ll get to that later. I also really can’t say it’s poorly directed, as outside of certain fanservice scenes, it at least knows basic things like what to focus on and how to frame a shot. When it’s doing something weird, and dare I say at times even interesting, it’s not too bad looking. It’s almost like… No, I’ll save that for later. The fluidity of movement isn’t terrible, but it hits jarring low points whenever there’s something else happening in the episode to compensate for, like CG water or a fast paced action comedy scene or what-have-you. The nudity isn’t always forced, as it often happens when characters are bathing or changing, but it’s still very clearly designed to be sexually appealing to the viewer, which it fails at to a stunning degree. Not only does the sheer amount of it cause a dulling effect, creeping farther and farther into sensory overload, but it looks like crap, with the female characters’ breasts often looking sloppily drawn with poorly placed nipples. As far as ecchi titles go, it’s pretty pathetic in it’s delivery.

The music is, surprisingly enough, really really good. A lot of it is your standard upbeat background fare that loops while fading into the background, but even those tunes are inexplicably pleasant to listen to, upbeat and ear=wormy but with a touch of class that you won’t find anywhere else in this series. Some of the cringiest moments in the series have beautiful, inspired tracks to accompany them, such as the Tito Puente-esque romantic struggle ballad that plays when Miharu is fellating an entire shop’s worth of bananas. You wouldn’t believe how many of these tunes I wound up dancing to when I heard them out of context for the sake of this review. They range from funky South-American style orchestrations to more relaxing Japanese style tracks, to fucking classy shit with violins. It’s a shame to hear such great music being wasted on such a trite series, but if that bothers you, don’t worry, the opening actually kind of sucks. It’s generic as all hell, both in terms of visuals and sound, and it doesn’t even remotely compare to the rest of Noriyasu Agematsu’s work on the project, including the cute, bubbly head-bopper of an ending theme.

The english dub isn’t quite as good as the music, but it’s still better than it really needed to be. Michelle Ruff takes her role as Miharu to heart, and here’s another example of why I consider her to be the greatest female voice actor of all time… She actually succeeds in making Miharu likeable. This is not an easy thing to do, as Miharu is only a few steps above being classified as a child with big boobs, one of the most unfortunate tropes in anime history, but Ruff just makes her sound so damn charming with her air-headed but well meaning approach. Another stand-out is the legendary Liam O’Brien in the role of series antagonist and gropey blonde fop Fukuyama, quite possibly one of the ickiest and least likeable characters in anime history, but lordy, does he just go to town with it. He plays the character like he’s James from Pokemon, but with his libido cranked up to eleven and his sense of boundaries and moral decency cranked down to negative one, and it’s not hard to tell he’s having the time of his life with it.

It’s hard to make a sad sack like Yukinari likeable, but at the very least, Yuri Lowenthal keeps him from becoming annoying or whiny-sounding, which is the direction he could have very easily been taken. He plays him appropriately meek and depressive, but is still able to light a fragile little fire in the character’s heart when needed. Carrie Savage is cast to type in the role of Koyomi, Hunter Mackenzie Austin is okay but largely unremarkable in the role of Lisa, and then we have the two sour notes in the cast… The mysterious J Ray plays loli anklebiter Tomoka, and while I’m glad they didn’t give her a squeaky or highpitched voice, that doesn’t make the voice they DID give her any more listenable. I hate to sound mean, but I don’t really mind the fact that this reclusive actor only ever did three roles. Stephanie Sheh plays Kirie under the false name of Lulu Chiang, and good God is she awful in it. I almost don’t want to believe such a great actor could have turned in such a badly acted role. Well, I’ve said before that every great voice actor has at least one terrible role, and I guess this is hers. It’s still an okay dub over-all, though.

So… Here we are again. Here we are, talking about another harem anime. I’d really like to think that I’d be done with this genre eventually, because they’re starting to blur together in my mind at this point. And yeah, I know, I choose the anime I review, but this time not so much… I did a poll on Facebook, listing five romantic comedy anime I could review next, with Girls Bravo in there for shits and giggles, but lo an behold, it won by a landslide. I guess this is how the Republican Party must have felt with Trump, so like them, here I am committing whole-heartedly to the joke candidate. I should mention that my last poll-winner was spice and Wolf, so in a way, I trusted this group of idiots. They could have voted for Mysterious Girlfriend X, which I’ve been waiting for years to give a February slot to, and it was in fact the second place entry, but no, I had three freaking people writing in their own options instead. Stupid Facebook polling system. Well, I can’t very well jump to an alternate timeline, so we might as well get this over with.

Once you get past the terrible animation, which I have to admit is my main problem with this title, the product itself, from a writing perspective, is just kind of dull. That’s probably a weird thing to say about such a universally disliked title, but what else can I say? It’s biggest crime is that it’s generic. It borrows conventions and design aesthetics from other iconic anime, as well as from the legions of other anime like it. Right from the first episode, it’s hard to not recognize it as a half-hearted rip-off of Ah My Goddess, and that goes beyond the design of Miharu. The premise directly involves a down-trodden, spineless male character who can’t catch a break getting the perfectly loyal female companion from another world, where her sister as well as several other ladies soon also come tumbling out to visit. The difference is obviously that we actually get to see this other world, and that the relationship between them isn’t strong enough or ever seriously tested enough to be considered the main plot.

Other than that, this series is painfully generic. The magical girlfriend genre is ubiquitous enough to be called a genre in the first place, but very few titles follow in the footsteps of Chobits by actually doing anything new with it. Like I pointed out in my old Love Interests post, if the main character is male, the main girl is often the first girl, as long as the first girl isn’t a childhood friend, who has as much a chance of winning the protagonist as the Buffalo Bills do of winning the superbowl. See? Not even in contention. On top of that you have overused ideas like the precocious loli girl, the prim and proper shy girl, the sex obsessed other dude, the fists as forethought girl, and of course, the probably blonde and probably rich girl who somehow mistakenly believes through sheer coincidence that she and the main character are engaged to be married. Oh yeah, and of course, there’s a cuddly little animal/alien mascot. I guess I’m not being entirely fair here, because only three of these girls are actually interested in Yukinari, but hey, I’m only reviewing the first season. Who knows what happens after that.

There are two ways that this series manages to stand out. First of all, two of it’s characters actually manage to leave enough of an impression to defy convention and be more or less memorable. Unfortunately, you’ll remember them for all the wrong reasons. The first one is Kirie, the chick with the fists who we meet properly first. Actually, her first introduction tells you all you need to know about her character; Yukinari goes home, walks into his own damn bathroom, and catches her about to step into the shower, so she beats the shit out of him. Yeah, it’s totally his house, and it’s never explained why she has a key to it, but these things never cross her mind, because she’s too busy executing wrestling moves on people while telling them what they can do in hell. Even Naru in Love Hina had more personality than this. In terms of her character, she’s not so much a person, as she is warthog that suddenly gained the powers of human speech and limited complex thought. She is one of the two characters in this show that make me hate my life(Tomoka is a close third), and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but she’s actually the better of the two.

On the other side of the fence, we have Fukuyama, the terror of Yukinari’s school and the antithesis of his character, as he’s so perverted and girl crazy that he breaks out into hives when MEN touch him. If Kirie’s a warthog, then I guess you’d call Fukuyama the Japanese version of a squid… And yes, I mean the tentacle hentai version as well as the culinary version that tries to brainlessly wiggle down your throat. There are a lot of perverted playboys in anime, it’s kind of a thing nowadays, as every male main character must have at least one hopelessly girl-crazy friend to make them seem cool and approachable by comparison, but Fukuyama isn’t like most of these characters. The first thing we ever see him do is directly lift up Kirie’s shirt and grope her boobs right in the middle of school. He uses his wealth to create erotic opportunities for himself, constantly gets back up for more after being pummeled for his rapiness, and oh yeah, he’s a pedophile. I know he kind of redeems himself by helping Tomoka out at one point, but later when her animal companion is turned into a little girl, he abducts her and makes innuendo-laden remarks about having sex with her.

These two characters are painful enough to watch alone, but they’re even worse when they’re together. You might imagine it would be cathartic to see the punchy girl get constantly groped, or the gropey dude get constantly punched, but all together all their interactions just feel icky and uncomfortable. It feels kind of like they deserve each other, but at the same time, it also feels like the series itself deserves to not have either of them in it. The only thing I kind of liked about Fukuyama was his relationship with his sister Lisa, who’s probably the only character I liked in the whole cast. She got cast as the rich blonde girl with the marriage complex, but she actually has an interesting gimmick and backstory, and she almost makes Fukuyama likeable in the way their dynamic works. They actually feel like a pair of siblings, with neither one pining or obsessing over the other (THANK FUCKING CHRIST) and generally ignoring each other’s quirks and proclivities unless they find they have a reason to work together towards a common goal. If I didn’t hate Fukuyama himself so much, I’d probably have put them on my favorite siblings list.

And speaking of Lisa, she actually brings me to the second thing about this series that stands out, and it actually helps it to do so in a good way… This show is really freaking weird. And I’m not saying it’s weird like most shows are weird, with a bizarre premise and string of gags and ante-upping reveals that eventually get dull, like in Hare + Guu. No, this weirdness is weird even by weirdness standards, and it actually kind of feels like genuine, non-manufactured randomness on the part of the writers. There are moments throughout the series where it feels like they just got bored with what they were writing or animating and just did random things to keep themselves entertained. None of it has any purpose, most of it is largely self contained and inconsequential, and it almost has me convinced that someone involved with this project… Or, hell, maybe everybody… were aware of the fact that the series they were making was going to be shit, so they channeled that dude who put a dick on the Little Mermaid VHS cover and just went the extra mile to make their creative child as weird as fuck.

I’ve gotta be honest, these were the moments that kept me going. These made the series interesting. I’ve seen a ton of anime hot springs episodes, but for no reason at all, the first hot spring this cast visits was dried up and full of alligators and bananas. The pathway to Fukuyama’s house is a hedge maze full of booby traps and military drones. An entire episode revolves around Miharu drinking an unlabelled liquid during science class(because she is a well endowed toddler, after all) and getting drunk off of it, which makes her spawn thousands of shadow clones that go on a hunger fueled rampage throughout the town, in a genuinely good episode that I like to call “The Nomming Dead.” It’s episodes like these that makes Girls Bravo feel like some care actually went into it on some level. It’s ironic to think, but it’s like it’s mastered the art of giving a fuck by not giving a fuck, and keep in mind, this is the kind of impression you’ll get when one of the main characters is fellating a bunch of bananas. And yeah, it actually manages to be funny from time to time, which is a welcome distraction from generic it all is.

Girls Bravo was originally available stateside from Geneon entertainment, but copies of it from that company are completely out of print, although you can find them fairly cheap on Ebay. Thankfully, it was rescued by Funimation, and is available in a much more affordable slim pack. All releases also contain the second season, which I barely remember, but I’m pretty sure it’s more of the same fare. The original manga is available stateside from Tokyopop, which of course means it’s also out of print. A visual novel for the PS2 entitled Romance 15’s is, surprise, not available stateside.

I remember watching this series when it came out ten years ago, and thinking it was one of the worst things ever. Now that I watch it again after all these years, however, it’s honestly not that bad. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s really bad, but it’s not unwatchable. I’d even go as far as to say that it’s better than a lot of later entries in the genre, like Haganai and Maken Ki. It’s not an overall enjoyable show, but as long as the two characters we discussed earlier aren’t making my life miserable, it’s just a generic, badly animated harem anime, and I’ve become kind of numb to those. Yukinari and Miharu are almost even a likeable couple, at least once in a while. There really isn’t much here to justify a recommendation, especially since it’s more like a bunch of random things that happen than anything even remotely resembling a plot… I mean, come on, even Lucky Star had more of a story than this… But it kind of is worth checking out just for the random, bizarre spots that feel almost, dare I say, inspired. At the very least I can recommend you seek out the soundtrack, even if you wind up understandably giving the series a pass. I give Girls Bravo a 3/10.

  1. I bought the manga as it was coming out. Why? I have no idea. I just remember Miharu being so boring.

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