This is not the “girl talk” you’re looking for.
Very rarely can an anime grab your attention and make you squeamish before the opening credits even roll. It seems like a challenge, yet Please tell me! Galko-chan, which ran during the winter 2016 season, pulls it off swiftly. On the surface, it’s a simple show: three high school girls become best friends as they navigate the murky waters of girlhood and the stereotypes imposed on today’s young women while learning that appearances can be very deceiving. Their talks seem to be set up much like a roundtable discussion: one person starts a talk, others comment and provide feedback, and then everyone moves on to the next topic. It helps that the three girls come from completely different worlds: Galko is a pretty and large-bodied gyaru (the Japanese word for girls who hear heavy makeup) with a friendly demeanor that many classmates tend to mistake for promiscuity, Otako is a small and nerdy with a penchant for odd hobbies, and Ojou is a proper girl hailing from a wealthy background who can have these incredible moments of insight despite her all-around cluelessness.
This alone would be interesting to watch, but what makes Galko-chan quite the needle in the haystack of short-form anime is what they talk about. This is an anime—an adaptation based on the manga of the same name, to be precise—that chooses to focus on the squeamish intricacies of female puberty.
For such squeamish material, Galko-chan has an educational bent regarding such things as nipple size, butt hair, constipation, floating breasts, tampons and pads, the correlation between colored panties and virginity. This is the kind of material that gets relegated to just a few one-liners in Western comedies specifically targeted toward women; yet Galko-chan makes it its entire premise. It’s naturally bound to gross some people out, but it feels very much a like a how-to guide for growing women. Someone might as well put up a sign that says “For Girls Only” (though that’s not to say that boys can’t take a peek).
In any other anime, conversations like these would have something like, “Uwaaaah!! Th-this is so embarrassing!!” attached to the end of the topic. The girls of Galko-chan, on the other hand, don’t seem to exclaim anything like that. After all, they’re the ones going through all of these changes, and they treat these incidents like they’re not weird at all. And it does all of this with its heart on its sleeve and a big smile on its face, and in doing so makes itself a welcome embrace for anyone worried about what their bodies might be going through and are simply too afraid to ask anyone else about them.
Speaking of bodies, another thing that Galko-chan is quite sophisticated about is the talk of how girls stereotype each other. For example, thanks to Galko looking like the splitting image of a gyaru, she has to deal with the assumptions that she’s sexually active, when really her late nights consist of nothing more than watching anime, and she’s in fact hardly experienced in the matters of intercourse. Sometimes a shirt’s just a shirt and says nothing about the person wearing the shirt. And let’s not forget that the diverse range of body types this show puts out, amazingly running the gauntlet from the short and the petite to the thick but athletic.
At the end of the day, Galko-chan is an anime unlike anything else out there, thanks mainly to the fact that it refuses to pull a single punch when it comes to its craft, all while keeping a big smile on its face. Whether or not it’s the second coming of The Magic School Bus or Bill Nye the Science Guy is a completely different debate. For now, it just wants to lend a helping hand. I cannot speak about the scientific accuracy behind any of these conversations, but what I can say for certain is that if the mission of Galko-chan is to let girls know that they’re not alone, well … by all means, mission accomplished.
rating: Not Rated