Gals! Book 1

Kotobuki Ran is a kogal, a fashion plate with designer clothes, trendy accessories, and dyed hair. She’s a legend in the neighborhood, ready to defend herself and her friends by fighting, which brings her into conflict with her family. They’re all made up of police officers, and they expect her to become one as well.

Her older brother, the local cop, helps keep her out of trouble. She’s not above letting men buy her clothes, but when they want more, she says no and stands her ground, physically if necessary. She’s childish, selfish and immature, but she’s also principled in her own way. She stops a classmate from prostituting herself in reaction to over-strict parents, protects a friend from a stalker, and figures out who’s using her name in a blackmail scheme.

Gals! Book 1 cover
Gals! Book 1
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The battle between a teen’s independence and the expectations of her family for her career is a typical subject for manga. In this case, it’s made unique by its emphasis on fashion-based culture clash. The presentation is stylish. Ran is drawn full of attitude and attractive, just as she should be, even if her face makes her look about twelve. The carefully chosen clothes and accessories contribute to the reader’s understanding of the characters; that’s a benefit of comics, that so much can be established so quickly visually.

The author’s motivation, based on her notes, was to counter the stereotype of all kogals as “deviants”. She wanted to show one who was “funny and passionate”, and she’s succeeded. Even in a book featuring fashion, the girls give the message that you don’t need money to have fun as long as you have friends to share with and boys to chase.

Given the risks and pressures these kids face — materialism, solicitation, temptation to thievery — it’s impressive that the book is as light and entertaining as it is. The key to its appeal is Ran’s exuberance, which jumps right off the page.

8 Comments

  1. I previously hadn’t given this series much thought, but this is actually making me think of giving it a try; It’s rare to find books that are not only entertaining and fun to read but also portray characters fighting real social issues as well.

  2. I love the fashion, although some of the plots are a bit preachy(You don’t have to have paid dates with older men!)

  3. Yay! I’m glad to see that you gave the book a second chance. It’s such a cute series. Great review, by the way, the line “Ran is drawn full of attitude and attractive, just as she should be, even if her face makes her look about twelve. ” gave me a real smile!

  4. The thing I like best about the plotting is that Ran, a girl who is doing her level best to avoid being a police officer like the rest of her family, has a huge sense of justice and fairness that throw her into these situations where she essentially acts as police (and judge, and jury, and executioner…).

    I anticipate that when she grows up, Ran will become a police officer after all. The only thing that really grates on her is that she can’t accessorize as a cop. :)

  5. Rivkah, I’d be curious what you thought — if I had to sum this up briefly, it’d be “girls’ action”, but there is a bit more to it than that.

    Shannon, yeah, but that’s needed sometimes, to be told flat-out what to do or not do.

    Jamie, thanks for your recommendation! I also tried book two, where the wacky younger cop-wannabe sister got a bit too annoying for me. I’m looking for three, to see how it continues.

    Sean, good observation. Sometimes parents do know best, hmmm?

  6. I haven’t read any of the manga, but I watched a couple of episodes of the anime and it was fun. I especially found funny when they’d put up definitions on-screen of new hip words being used. ;)

  7. [...] [From review of book 4:] I’ve previously reviewed the first book in the series. More information can be found at the publisher’s website. [...]

  8. petty kitty

    it was very very boring but i will still read the next one to see if i gets any better
    (i didn’t like that ran was so great and successed at almost everything she did its to perfect)

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