A recent summer anime that just finished, My First Girlfriend is a Gal, does not do gyaru girls justice at all. Gyaru, aka “Gals” are a popular archetype in animes. They normally aren’t front and center in many anime, since they can be considered trashy or distasteful in serious narratives, but gyaru girls in anime can be done so right and so wrong.
While I applaud My First Girlfriend is a Gal and Oshiete! Galko-chan recently bringing gyaru girls back into the forefront of seasonal anime, there is a right and wrong way to represent them. Personally, I am a huge fan of gyaru girls in anime. That is when they are done right. Luckily, there are animes do exist that do them justice. But first, what is a gyaru girl?
Gyaru girls, or gals, are a subculture in Japan that celebrate different types of girly street fashion. It includes girly clothes, short skirts, fake nails, lots of jewelry, colored hair, and lots of makeup. There are even different flavors of gal girls! Ganguro gyaru are girls who have very tan skin and bleached hair, being seen as one of the trashier subtypes. Some are defined by what the wear, like biker fashion (Ane gyaru), Western fashion (Amerigyaru), or school uniforms (JK gyaru). Others can be defined by age, like high school girls (Kogyaru) or gyaru that are now mothers (Gyaru mama). There can even be male gyaru called gyaruo!
Gyaru Girls Done Right in Anime: Peach Girl
There are gyaru girls in anime that are represented way better in other anime than what we see this season in My First Girlfriend is a Gal. Some are revolved around gyarus, while others just have a gyaru shown but not exploited.
To start, there is the 2005 anime called Peach Girl. Peach Girl stars a high school girl named Momo Adachi. At first glance, people think she is a slutty gyaru on account of her bleached-looking long hair, style, and tan skin. To be more specific, people mistake her as a ganguro gyaru. But she defies this stereotype. She’s innocent, upright, strong, and does her best not to get pushed around. But because of her appearance, people think that she is this bully when put against the most popular girl who looks more frail and sweet. In reality, though, the most popular girl is actually a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Momo is trying to not let those judgements get to her but does her best to try to stay out of the sun and wear plenty of sunblock. She is super tan because she was on the swim team in junior high, and just happens to care about her style. She may not be a caricature of an anime gyaru girl, but it’s done in such a low-key fashion, people forget that Momo is kind of a gyaru girl at heart.
Gyaru Girls Done Right in Anime: Super GALS!
Next, is an even older anime back from 2001 called Super GALS! Kotobuki Ran. Unlike the last suggestion, this show is all ABOUT celebrating what it means to be a gyaru girl. These girls are “a passion for fashion” type of gyaru girl. They care about looking good, having good morals, and being there for their friends and those in need.
Ran Kotobuki is a high school girl who lives in Japan’s fashion central, Shibuya. Her parents and older brother are cops, so Ran has grown up with always doing the right thing. Despite that, she still gets into mischief, has a red streak in her hair, and beats up wrong-doers with no hesitation. She’s just a typical girly-girl who loves fashion and boys but is also strong and independent.
The whole show is Ran telling the audience what it means to be a gal. It doesn’t just mean wearing the right clothes or friending the coolest people. It’s about being a strong, independent woman who can care about her appearance, and have self-respect for herself. They also define being a gal is being there for your friends and anyone in need. These may be just Ran’s code of ethics, but she is the role model for gals in anime. The even have the rival gals that are stereotypical ganguro girls that give Ran a hard time. The anime may be a bit cheesy with advertising the Gal culture, but I believe it’s one the most empowering anime for young females out there.
My First Girlfriend is a Gal: Gyaru Bare-Minimum
While I don’t believe as a whole that My First Girlfriend is a Gal is a morally upright show, it’s main gyaru girl is not all bad in representing gyaru girls. She is similar to Galko-chan with her esthetic and easy going attitude, but more crude than Galko-chan. While the lead in My First Girlfriend is a Gal may not have much development as a character as of this article being published, her gyaru personality isn’t offensive.
She has the style, the vocabulary, the decorations, and the popularity of typical gyaru. While she may like to toy with her boy-toy boyfriend into having him make moves onto her, she is still shy at heart. At the same time though, she is there for her fellow females. Gals are all about being there for other girls, and the lead is no exception to that. With that said though, there hasn’t been a lot of depth yet on the reasons why she keeps Junichi around.
The show also display other “gyaru,” using the term very loosely. You have the stereotypical promiscuously violent one, the posed one, and the wannabe gal. They are very one note, they aren’t worth analyzing. The show is so poorly written and drawn, it’s enough to fill it’s own article at a later date.
Gyaru Does Not Equal Female Consent
My First Girlfriend is a Gal doesn’t celebrate gals, but rather profits on them. Of course anime has to make a profit, but really it just uses gyaru girls as a way to have an excuse to make anime girls more sexually promiscuous. They figure, she’s a gal, of course she’s going to be more liberal with her body and look super sexy. Then they try to add a twist to it by making Yukana have innocent intentions, which make her even sexier to the audience. It’s very transparent, manipulative, and not at all subtle.
This is far beyond gyaru representation in anime, but rather female representation in anime overall. Just because a young girl is interested in exploring her sexuality and cares about her appearance, doesn’t make her a slut. It also doesn’t give outsiders consent to talk or treat her in an unfavorable way. Being a gyaru doesn’t mean she gives consent to people to treat her like a slut. They’re humans too.
Gyaru are empowered young ladies who want to be more than a traditional Japanese woman. They want to be unique, strong individuals who care about the people around them. Which is why they deserve better representation in such a popular Japanese media. Gyarus should be celebrated, not just an over-sexualized profit scheme.