My First Girlfriend is a Gal
Desperate to lose his virginity, Hashiba Junichi is pushed by his friends to approach seminal school "gal" Yame Yukana and confess to her. While she initially finds his behavior pathetic -- or, in her own words, "gross" -- she nevertheless accepts his offer and starts going out with him because she deems it interesting.
While it would certainly be unfair to compare this show to Please Tell Me! Galko-chan, I will definitely credit it to me wanting to give this show a chance in the first place despite its almost desperately formulaic setup and... another almost desperate aspect to it.
And let me tell you, the first episode did not help me get my hopes up. The show rolls straight out of the gate beating you over the head with how pathetic a loser the main lead is. And then it introduces us to his three "friends"; Shinpei Sakamoto, Keigo Ishida and Minoru Kobayakawa, a trio who laments their single status loudly while reading titty magazines in school. Of course, Minoru deserves a special mention here because of the many, many times the show jokes about how he likes little girls. He doesn't just get all shiver-y inside because of them; he's made himself a map of his local neighborhood where the houses where little girls live are marked, and he loves the men's side of the bathhouses because other men might bring their little daughters with them. And just as you think the show might let us off easy by portraying his interest in girls as non-sexual, he gets a job at a kindergarten where he laments his inability to show a little girl how he really feels, because that'd land him in jail.
Compared to him, the other two merely comes across as the kind of friends who would gladly throw the main lead to the wolves to see how THAT works out. While Junichi won't shut up about losing his virginity, it was his friends who unanonimously voted him -- sort of, they used the ladder game, but seemed quite happy about him being the one to "take the fall" -- to meet Yukana, our lead Gal, behind school and ask her out.
It's sort of the comedy bone My First Girlfriend is a Gal throws at us nearly constantly. I've already pointed out what terrible friends Junichi have, but Junichi is being a bit of a creeper himself. His attempt at getting Yukana to go out with him is mostly him trying to look at her panties while wondering what kind of girl she is as he's planning how to lose his virginity with her, and as she astoundingly agrees to go out with him, he immediately questions her motives. And to be perfectly honest, so did I.
So... that's it, huh? It's a terrible show, let's all move on, right? Actually.... no, not quite. If there is one thing the show compares favorably to, then that would be its gals. Yukana is harsh on the front, but honestly, given the behavior she's had to deal with when it comes to Junichi and his friends, not entirely unwarranted. When confronted with his porn-reading self in school, she merely asks him to do that at home, not to just not do it at all. But that still leaves me -- and probably most other viewers -- to wonder why she accepted his proposal to begin with, which sort of comes into its own in the anime's original material ending. (More on that later.)
Which is not to say I immediately thought Yukana was going to do something terrible to him, and again not because I didn't already know they were going to fall in love eventually. In fact, right off the bat, she's surprisingly on top of things. When Junichi went into a kneeling position in front of her, she correctly surmises that he is just trying to get her to take his virginity, and even though he does manage to convince her he's not, she still teases him in a merciless, but otherwise non-malicious way. In a weird way, she does actually give the guy a chance, and I'm not sure how to feel about that, given his general attitude towards her or girls in general, at least at that point. Well... gals, that is, not all girls in general. She's also surprisingly perceptive, able to find out when a sceme born from the deceitful minds of Junichi's friend goes wrong because Junichi himself sabotaged it... for a rather high personal price. And even beyond that, I have no problem understanding why anyone might fall in love with her general cheerful attitude and seemingly endless amounts of patience. Like with Please Tell Me! Galko-chan, My First Girlfriend is a Gal has a pretty neutral-to-positive outlook on gals.
I noted that the show is a harem, despite clearly setting up Junichi and Yukana, and that's because it clearly is. Aside from Yukana accepting his proposal, Junichi also has a childhood friend in Fujinoki Nene. She's the girl in the lower left of the box art on the top right of the review body; the short and absurdly busty girl with hair buns. She's so tiny that Minoru takes an interest in her, but she's got a bustline that even Ranko -- the girl standing right behind her -- finds impressive. She certainly plays the "little sister" fetish to its full extent at first, but once Yukana enters his life, she also tries out the gal lifestyle in her own misguided way, with... mixed results. She's definitely the more fetishy of the characters in this show, regardless of which style she applies, though she's also generally harmless.
Not quite as harmless is Ranko herself, who is the closest the show gets to a "bad" female character. At first, she remains mostly antagonistic towards Junichi -- and, let's face it; she DOES try to rape him at least twice -- which is something she does out of jealousy, trying to sabotage his relationship with Yukana for her own benefit. She loosens up later on, though, even going so far as to help Junichi with some of his problems, though she makes it clear that she doesn't really like him. That said, her presence doesn't really work as leverage from the fact that it presents every single male character who gets speaking lines in this show -- except Junichi, and even he's a questionable character at times -- as... despicable at best and downright evil at worst. It also doesn't help that the show portrays her as either a lesbian or bisexual with a clear interest in Yukana, which I'm sure gay or bisexual people are going to appreciate. She might also be one of the main girl troupe who isn't, and probably never will be, in love with Junichi.
Yui Kashi does have an interest in Junichi, though, but hers is a bit more complicated than that. On the surface, she plays her role as the benevolent class president who's not really a class president, but underneath it all, she merely looks upon her classmate as her benevolent followers. Junichi, who occasionally helps her, thus becomes her number one obedient dog. So when he starts dating Yukana, she does not take it well. On top of that, she actually runs her own video channel dressed up as another gal, BoA, where she spends her time gathering more worshippers and venting when things doesn't go her way. She does loosen up as the show goes along, and she's invited into Junichi's increasing clique of girlfriends. She also plays a larger part in this show's two-episode original ender. (Again, more on that later.)
To say the show is sexual would be a pretty big underestimation. With Yukana and Ranko being gals of the fanservice-y variety, you'll get your share of cleavage and panty shots (most of which is creatively censored by Crunchyroll, but on the Blurays and DVDs....) although most of the sauciest stuff are things happening solely in Junichi's overactive imagination. That said, I have no problem with any of it, given that Junichi's imagination is at least not all rape-y and unsettling, just boring and cliche'd, as if it's the most self-aware thing ever. In fact, one of the show's running gags is him pointing out how ridiculous his own imagination is, and in all fairness, it's not that the show shames him for being horny, as the long conversations between his inner personalities show us all. This might sound like a lofty goal for a show that throws boobs around like it was Christmas in pervytown, but -- and this is the biggest reason why I ended up liking most of this show -- My First Girlfriend is a Gal treats (almost) everyone with respect. The girls in particular, but also its main lead, oddly enough. This only makes it more confusing every time our trio of idiot friends gets involved in the proceedings. It's also irritating, because they are pretty much the only prevalent male characters outside of the main lead, and... well, the only real upside to their antics is that they generally fail with their plans, and their hilarious overacting seals that deal. There are some clues to male characters with at least some sense of integrity, though, like the (presumably) male boss of a cosplay cafe that puts the foot down when the (also male) manager tries to use the girls there for his own purposes by having them read porn while serving the customers.
The acting in the show is also pretty hilarious. As despicable as some of the male characters can be at times, their voice actors lean into their insanity with such gusto that it's hard not to be entertained. The delivery is not entirely unlike how the boys in Daily Lives of High School Boys are played, especially Hidenori during his most desperate attempt at keeping a sense of normalcy in his life. It does make the boys' irritability easier to digest, if nothing else.
Just... look at this. The art, as you can see here, is all over the place. The character designs are actually pretty decent.... normally, but animation quality waves between passable to kind of terrible, and artwise, you can just forget about consistency. (As shown above.) It makes My First Girlfriend is a Gal look kind of cheap, which counters the impression the show wanted to have about everyone, particularly the girls. Although My First Girlfriend is a Gal does have that overall slow descent in quality, the more jarring examples still come from how the show can look quite decent in one scene, but downright awful in the next, right before going back to looking decent again, which makes one wonder how much of this show has been outsourced to cheaper studios, and which parts. The experience is not entirely unlike being slapped in the face by Ranko from time to time and for no reason, and then you look back and find the show looking nice, and you wondering what just happened. And... well, near the end of the show, we are introduced to a shot of Nene looking like this:
I believe this calls for a "ha ha oh wow". That's just ridiculous, even compared to her earlier-episode self. It goes far beyond Senran Kagura or Koihime Musou cartoonish voluptuousness and actually entering Eiken-level of ridiculousness. The show is certainly aware of how ridiculous it is that a girl as tiny as her has to lug around a chest like that, but the funny thing is that this shot happens when the game seems blissfully unaware of it. I wonder if this is the kind of shot that will end up on the big collection of QUALITY memes after everything is said and done, alongside the spherical cabbages of that other show I reviewed once a long time ago whose name escapes me at the moment. (Mostly because it was so ungodly boring.)
Finally, the show tries its hand at being somewhat serious for its last two episodes with material that can't be found in the manga, and.... well, let's just say that that might be a good thing.
....for the manga readers, that is. At this point, Junichi and Yukana's relationship seems to be hitting a nice groove, so the show throws in one of Yukana's middle school friends, who is of course a really good-looking guy. So, does this get Junichi's insecurities fired up? You bet'cha. Will this lead to the couple's first real fight? Absolutely? Will said childhood friend of Yukana turn out to be an asshole? DING DING DIIIIING, you have just won... the chance to watch an obnoxiously common romance trope as a season round-up. Seriously, the guy isn't just an asshole -- he literally sits in a diner loudly laying out his plans for her to his equally obnoxious friends; how he's totally going to bed her because she's obviously such a slut for being a gal, right? And then he's going to pass her around to his friends so they can have their way with her too, because I'm sure she'll just love that. Judging by the tone of him and his friends, it doesn't exactly look like he'll be taking her impending "no" very well either.
And the reason it's so obnoxious is because it plays it so much by the book, yet it feels like such a theatrical play. For a show that has up to this point presented the girls as surprisingly on top of things (but not in a literal fashion except in Junichi's fantasies), they all now suddenly put their drama blinders on. After meeting Yukana's hottie friend, Junichi goes into full insecurity mode, which upsets Yukana. This sets the stage for her to be put in a position where she ignores Junichi for a while, just long enough for Yukana to be seen with said hottie middle school friend by Junichi, which escalates the misunderstanding to the point that when Yukana is finally willing to speak to him, he lashes out, driving a bigger wedge between them. And the whole thing is rounded off with Junichi discovering that her childhood friend is an asshole and having to fight for her honor (with some help from his friends.)
The whole thing hurts, because up to that point, the show has managed to be strangely sensible among all the insanity. Yukana in particular had a pretty good grasp on what was going on around her, in particular when she almost immediately noticed that Junichi had sabotaged the King's game so his "friends" wouldn't take advantage of the situation to score with the other girls. Even when the show would play out tropes where most shows would have the female lead either beat up or get angry at the male lead for situations outside of his control, but Yukana would immediately defuse the situation because she actually understood what was going on. But since that sensibility of hers would immediately defuse the situation the show was trying to set up, she -- along with everyone else -- puts on idiot blinders, grabs the idiot ball, eats the idiot pills and then gets up on the idiot horse to ride into the idiot sunset. For being a show that defies common tropes, it hurts even more that it now plays everything so painfully straight.
And of course, Junichi is the one that's burdened with all the responsibility for fixing everything. In fairness, he does deserve most of the blame, but the show seems to forget that, out of all the bizarre behavior going on around him, his insecurities are not only understandable, but really the sort thing you should expect from someone who is almost constantly called a virgin by the people around him. Yukana even knows their first meeting with Mr. Hottie made him deeply uncomfortable about himself, yet she gets angry and then proceeds to ignore him, because, like I pointed out, if she had acted like she normally would, we wouldn't have all this stupid drama. Even worse, said two episodes shows an irritating lack of awareness when the thing he ends up apologizing for in his big apologizing scene is something Yukana already knew from the get-go, but realized that they'd gotten past anyway. For this to be even remotely realistic, it'd basically have to happen after their first or second meeting, but that would probably mean that Junichi would just let her go, since his feelings for her wasn't that strong at the time anyway. Trying to get this shoehorned into the show at this point is like hammering a square piece into the round hole. It's technically possible, but something is sure to break, and you'll look like an idiot for trying anyway.
Granted, I went through watching those last two episodes, but it's equally possible to just ignore them and then pretend that Yukana met with her middle-school friends, they had a great time, and that was the end of that. Her middle school friend was never this almost cartoonishly rapey asshole. Junichi might have been insecure for a while, but said hottie friend could've turned out to be a nice guy, which would either turn him into an honest love rival or even just someone who could add some insight in what it's like to be a handsome guy and what kind of interactions he'd have with girls, which would have served as a nice mirror to the main reason why Junichi approached Yukana to begin with. (Well, he was forced to, but he still went through with it because she's a beautiful girl.) I mean... why should My Love Story have all the fun? Have we really not moved on from the 80's tendency to portray all sad main losers' rivals as secretly raging assholes that get their comeuppance in the end? The funny thing is; the anime has seen fit to set a precedence for our main couple that's now out of the mangaka's hands, so said mangaka will now have to either shoehorn that into the main story somehow, or ignore it and maybe make something that'll directly or indirectly oppose the story as laid out in the anime. That, and the anime basically stole their first kiss too. It'll be interesting to see how the manga deals with that... if it ever gets released in English, that is.
In short, the last two episodes were an exercise in facepalming, because they mostly went against all the characterisation set out by the show up to that point, and in addition used an old tired character trope to justify an even more tired romance trope. But the only reason those two episodes stings so much is because the show -- unsettling angles regarding Minoru aside -- is actually a whole lot of fun, and like its sister show, Please Tell Me! Galko-chan wears its shameless nature on its sleeve and don't use any of that to look down on people. Sure, it gets a little preachy about it at times, but there's nothing really wrong with that. How much you're going to enjoy the show is going to depend on how lenient you are with blatant titillation towards men and how much you'd enjoy the last two episodes as I laid them out here. Of course, the latter can be solved by basically skipping said episodes, though that would leave you with a show of a mere eight episodes, but sometimes, you just gotta pay the price to keep your enjoyment levels up.
Strong three for the first eight episodes, weak two for the last two. Wins through with three at the end for having a generally fun cast. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: The show has a ton of fanservice, creatively censored by Crunchyroll. Needless to say, buying it on Bluray or DVD will most likely let you enjoy everything the show has to offer. Outside of that, there is some fighting going on; again, particularly near the end when it's time to humiliate Mr. Jerkface after the main lead receives his prerequisite beating in his attempt at standing up for Yukana. It's sort of a 50/50 slapstick/realistic fight.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (10/10)
My First Girlfriend is a Gal © 2017 NAZ.
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