Before I even start this series, Girl Gun Lady much like SK8 (review coming I promise) is a series that when I explained the premise to my friends and mom; they all agreed that this is a series I would un-ironically love with my whole heart. And I do. I unapologetically love Girl Gun Lady with my whole-ass heart and off the bat would highly recommend you go out and watch it. I don’t care if dramas aren’t your thing. I don’t care if the plot isn’t your thing. Go watch this series, it’s 10, twenty three minute episodes, and come back once you’re done.
Now that you have respected my wishes and watched Girl Gun Lady (GGL) in full, let’s dive into this review.
We are introduced to a typical, all girl’s high school, not unlike many we see in popular media. One such student attending this school is the average school-girl, Koharu (Shirashi Sei) whose a bit of a loner in a her class. Her loneliness is abetted through her hobby of building plastic models. In pursuit of her hobby, she stops by an antique shop, that happens to carry plastic models. The ones she ends up buying being part of the Attack Girl Gun collection which contains a gun, and the Gun Lady Alice. She spends the entire night assembling the gun and Alice, falling asleep shortly after completing both. Koharu then ends up at school, in a uniform being told she must fight. Alice (Ohara Yuno), turns out to be her real commander and welcomes her to the survival battle called “Girl Gun Fight”, where it’s four teams competing for their commander and the weapons are all too real.
Those familiar with the term “Tokusatsu” i.e. the type of drama that makes use of tons of special effects, have heard similar premises before. I think a lot of people based on the title, description and now the key word are somewhere in the range of ‘Ah yes, an odd variety of Power Rangers’ or Super Sentai as they’re referred to. And yes, GGL falls very much into the realm of Super Sentai shows with an over-the-top evil force, a colorful cast of co-conspirators known as the Gun Lady’s, with teams that reflect their commander’s personality, but also all the stereotypes that come with the color-association. Those are the elements that make this series fun, but once they are turned on their head just a bit, give the series a whole new flavor.
The best part about this is that everyone involved with Girl Gun Lady‘s production are 100% aware of these troupes and associations. The series which could have easily just fallen into the realm of an extended toy ad attempting to get more consumers (mostly teenage girls) into buying stupidly expensive plastic models and writing everything off. That would have been the easy route, dare I say even the safe route, where everyone gets their cut of the check and moves along. But they didn’t. They, the entire cast and crew, took the time, effort, and made use of Bandai Spirits pretty generous budget and made a short but compelling tokatsu series. All the hallmarks of the series, the things that make it bright and colorful, once they’re turned on their head, give the series a whole new flavor. I’m not saying they’re inviting a new realm of tokatsu, but they’re certainly giving it a new to my knowledge spin to it.
Girl Gun Lady really does lead you in with all the troupes and standard school survival series, with the added bonus of model building thrown in. I know that this is difficult to believe, but the drama does really leave you with a fair amount of suspense and dare I say thought provoking material on a episode basis. Nothing that’s a life changing sort of thing, other then perhaps not writing tokusatsu dramas off so quickly, but interesting.
The series has a rather nebulous, but intrigued set of ideas that in a mere 23 minutes after episode two, truly have you invested in finding things out. Who exactly is the big baddie of the series? What’s the goal of having high school girls compete in a gun battle with non-human commanders? Those are just the obvious parts. There’s so much more to the series then that though once you get into the latter episodes with major plot reveals.
The whole reason this drama works so well, is mostly due to the high quality girl power we have in the series. The cast is absolutely flooded in the best possible way, with young and fresh talent on each and every team. I would first like to talk in terms of our commanders, and teams of course. The first being, Delta Tango lead by Commander Daisy (Ando Sakura ), team color red. Delta Tango are known for their obvious choice as ‘villians’ given Daisy’s design and the team’s streamlined gun style. The true stand out being Kitamoto Rei, played by Mikami Ai. Mikami Ai is the girl to watch in this series, because man is her character convincingly cunning in terms of actual battles, and overall acting. I was incredibly impressed by her delivery and it was one of the top performances of the series really lending it a lot of weight and credibility to the events unfolding within.
We then have Charlie Tango, lead by Commander Charlotte (Ishida Momoka), team color yellow. Charlie Tango at first glance seems to be the most frivolous group. They play hard into super sentai troupes with their constant announcement of new formations, attacks, yelling, excessive moment before attempting any sort of action. This is all aided and abetted by their seemingly always upbeat leader, but when shit hits the fan Charlie Tango know when it’s go time.
Of course there’s also Bravo Tango, lead by Commander Bianca (Teramoto Rio), team color pink. The group based on stereotypes, would appear to be the most feminine group, and least likely to put up a real fight. However, between the conflicted dynamic between Bianca and eventually Matsuko; Bravo Tango has a lot more going on then meets the eye. Of course, Ishii Anna being Matsuko is the biggest draw of the show for me. And with good reason because damn does Matsuko pull of some insane fight choreography within the drama. It’s so effortlessly cool, and I could totally see jr. high girls secretly attempting to recreate this on the playground when no one was watching. It’s invigorating, and again, really adds a sense of seriousness along with intrigue because Matsuko is the character to watch and know in this series.
Last but of course not least, is Alpha Tango, lead by Commander Alice (Oharu Yuno), team color blue. So blue is usually associated with the calm, cool, and collected stereotype. The super sentai that might be more competent then the red one, but doesn’t want the responsibility of leading the charge. Well, considering Girl Gun Lady tossed aside the well established traditions of color-coded sentai with Delta Tango; Alpha Tango’s leader Alice is cool and calm, but her team is anything but. As you can guess based off the PR materials, we spend most of our time in Delta Tango’s camp, fleshing out the three high schoolers, their relationships, and we get a lot of insight to Alice as well.
I have to say that Koharu and Alice, are the pair to watch. Not only because they’re the most obvious, but because they really do have a lot of chemistry as a commander and follower. It’s through the attack girl gun model, and therefore Girl Gun Fight that Koharu really grows. A lot of it being the obvious, team mates to real life friends, learning to socialize and not be afraid to share who you really are to make these relationships. As we come to find out later, Alice and her role in the world of GGL and how she truly becomes friends to her followers and what that ends up meaning towards the end of the story. It’s really wholesome, girls supporting girls story.
Of course, there’s a bit of cheese to the story. With my limited knowledge of Toksatsu with color-coded fighters, there usually is. You have to suspend a lot of disbelief that these plastic model guns made by teenage girls, have the abilities they have even in an alternative reality. The special effects on them when they fire, especially some of the bigger models, actually show the recoil to them. If you pay attention you can really see where the inspiration for each team’s designs, similar but not the same, mirror actual gun models and specialties. It’s all of these small but important touches that really give GGL the impact it’s had on me.
Additionally, while the blood effects are somewhat obvious, each time someone is actually shot, there is a sense of weight to the hit. This being coupled with GGL’s three lives, and then you’re ‘out’ forever does give the series real urgency. The difference between just being grazed, and actually being ‘killed’ is significant. All that being said, given these are average teen girls, they have the accuracy of stormtroopers in any Star Wars film, so there’s that sort of gun fighting going on. But what is also neat is that the girls, despite their lack of marksmanship, do face real repercussions if they run out of ammo, which adds another layer of situational drama and some really heavy choices to be made.
We should talk a little bit outside of the world of GGL, and about the real world events. I have to say that they’re solid, but not spectacular. The do their job of showing the girls dynamic outside of the fights, and are grounded in reality. The contrast between ‘battle personas’ and the personas a girl will dawn at school are distinct. It serves the point that these are just average high school girls at the end of the day, not trained killers, and that their conflicts aren’t just a grab their transformation device and go type of deal.
The only real left-feild stuff is the building and or customization sequences. Which are a combination of actual building and customization, paired with the player dancing and somewhat singing like an idol. It’s oddly charming, and pairs well with the over the top style of effects in tokusatsu. But at times feel a bit too cheesy, and a bit too much of an attempt at doing a ‘catch all’ affect on the audience. Like yeah, you might not care about the plastic models or story, but have a fun tik tok dance worthy bop to watch.
Another point of note, is that GGL if my enjoyment is any indication, hits the mark for appealing to a teen girl or at least female demographic. The outfit design is largely practical, with longer skirts, kneepads, athletic shoes, topped off with vests and holsters that make sense for the battles they partake in. With the exception of the Commander’s outfits, there’s not a single player’s outfit that I wouldn’t be able to find a teenage girl wearing at some point. The first threads of conflict these player’s might face intitially read like typical teenage girl drama (bullying, cliques, etc), they really do build into conflict that has true consequences. Being real, Bandai Spirits is going super hard for the weird/outkast/otaku teenage girl market, and I’m hear for it. I want more series like this! I personally have some suspicions especially if the last episode is anything to go off of that there might be something else in the works. But that’s probably largely tied to how well product sales go.
Honestly, I could keep going. I actually had every intention to, but I went and made myself some dinner and lost my train of thought. So considering how much I’ve already typed, it should be safe to end it here. I’m not saying that Girl Gun Lady is the be all, end all drama of the year. In fact someone with a bit keener eyes is sure to find faults and pick this series apart. I’ll let them do that in the comments or their own blog post. At least for me, Girl Gun Lady is a lot of fun and really brought me back to my weird teen girl years, but in a good and fun way. I highly recommend giving the series a shot even if you don’t think it’s going to be your thing.