The Humanity of Galko-chan

You know it’s a weird season where one of the most talked about shows in fan circles is a series of shorts that started with a gag about nipple size.

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Within the first twenty seconds.

As I finish up the Winter season while I write this, I feel very tired and a tense sense of disappointment. A lot of promising shows fell apart pretty quickly, and the shows I did genuinely like lacked impact or fell apart towards the end. There are exceptions, but I didn’t expect Galko-chan to be one of them. For those unaware, Please Tell Me, Galko-chan is a comedy series with eight minute episodes about a gyaru named Galko, whom talks with friends about such family friendly things as periods, pubic hair, and boob sensitivity.

My early impressions were that the show was just a good series of dirty jokes strung together, but as it went on, I started to realize just what was so charming about the series and kept me around. Galko-chan’s dirty jokes aren’t the usual dull potty humor, but are told via relaxed conversations with friends who don’t really know too much on the subject either. The series captures a very relatable feeling by making the various students in Galko’s class just a bunch of kids who are trying to make sense of a confusing time in their lives. All the pondering over sex and bodily functions feel like they were taken from real conversations. It’s like Lucky Star, except interesting and funny because the conversations are about things that can actually get any sort of reaction.

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No, not like that.

But the most interesting element here is that all the major characters are girls. This is a comedy series filled with dirty jokes in a relatable way, and it’s not about guys coming to terms with their emerging sexuality and changing bodies. Do you have any idea how rare that is? I can count dirty female lead comedies on a single hand. And for Galko to handle it so well is a strong reason for it to be remembered. The colorful design of the show and hilarious gags are definitely a major element of the series, but the core of it comes down to how it centers around girls just being girls in an open and frank way we never see in any sort of media outside the most fringe.

The series is littered with interesting side characters, and we get a few moments with nearly all of them down the line. They all inhabit some sort of archetype, but most don’t strictly adhere to it. Galko, despite being based around an archetype known mainly for rebellion and sexual activity, is pretty innocent and understanding (now her sister…). Otako is far more comfortable around people than the stereotypical otaku. Ojou trades the proper lady thing for reserved eccentricity that occasionally bursts out in moments of unexpected lunacy. The most notable example, by far, is the overweight girl who turns out to be a super-confident star athlete and one of the fastest runners at the school. This isn’t a joke either, it’s simply a part of who she is.

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Yes ma’am, I can see that.

The characters that don’t move away from their archetype still stick out in some way, avoiding feeling like empty stereotypes with small moments here and there where we get an idea of who they are and what they like to do. The guy characters get similar treatment, especially the main three we see that have personalities reflected of the main three girls. They aren’t total horndogs either, with one of the more memorable gags from them being the nerd of the group trying to get an idea of how heavy large boobs feel on someone via similar weighing bottles on a string. It’s funny, but it’s not a character objectifying someone, it’s a character trying to have a better understanding of another in the most awkward way possible.

With the limited run-time, the series gives a lot of personality and character to the cast, and those dirty jokes tend to add to that humanizing. There’s one joke in an episode where the girls try getting Ojou a new outfit, in which Galko has problems finding bras she likes in her size. That’s an actual concern for many women, and the show addresses the frustration of that situation quite well. The joke comes from Galko meeting a saleswoman who has the same problem and the two bonding over something so mundane and odd. That’s a clever spin on what could have been a very tired non-joke a lot of ecchi writers use as an excuse for a cheesecake scene.

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The best girls, side by side. Fight me.

The series also treats its characters as characters. There’s an episode early on that shifts direction about halfway through where Otako upsets Galko during one of her regular teasings because she gets too personal, insulting her dream of being a mother. She feels genuine guilt, especially when she thinks Galko decided to no longer be her friend (she was only sick from school). The two make up in a sweet way with Otako going to Galko’s house and letting out all her worries during her apology, an apology that feels real. It’s a mix of selfish and selfless, a mixture of personal desire and concern for another. It feels eerily similar to some real apologies I’ve made over the years. Out of every show this season, it was the one that opened with nipple size gags that somehow felt the most …real.

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Don’t bully

Galko-chan accomplishes something most slice-of-life anime never accomplish: It actually feels like a slice-of-life. Despite all the tropes it uses to define the cast, all of these characters feel a bit like someone you’ve met before, or represent a type of person we almost never get to see in media at all. Enough cannot be said on the series having so many characters with so many body types. It’s the type of show young girls never get. Seriously, the last series I can remember that was anywhere close to being like this was Super GALS!, and that came out in 2001 (less dirty jokes, more girl empowerment). I hope we get a second season, because we seriously need more shows like Galko-chan, and they need to succeed.

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