I have spent time trying to convince others that they should get into anime and that it is a rich and varied medium, which is true. But then when someone walks in on me watching Back Street Girls: Gokudols, there is nothing I can say that will remove the wince from their face, nor mine.
The central premise is that three members of a Yakuza clan (the Japanese organised crime syndicates) have screwed up. Their choices are either ceremonial suicide, to have limbs sliced off, or…go to Thailand and undergo gender reassignment surgery. They opt for the latter. Returning as fresh-faced women, their maniacal superior forces them to perform as a J-Pop Idol group, the Gokudols.
This is an out and out comedy. Three men, now woman, having to perform as super cute singers and dancers whilst getting thrashed brutally by the Yakuza group if they slip up. Both the animation and voice acting switches between male and female for comedic effect. And most of the scenarios they find themselves in centre on gender awkwardness, or trying to keep their yakuza spirit alive.
Airi (formally Kentaro) is the ‘leader’ of our group. Her determination to retain her past gangster mentality comes out when blurting completely inappropriate declarations of violence to counter pop music problems. Mari (formally Ryo) has been designed ‘the busty and cool one’, but can’t stop herself complaining about her hemorrhoid problems. Chika (formally Kazuhiko) struggles to retain her past identity and lets slip ‘cute’ idol dialogue, much to the group’s horror.
There is some fun to be had with this concept and the contrived set up dragged some chuckles out of me. But there is no hiding from the fact that Back Street Girls: Gokudols has been made on the cheap. The animation cycles through a bare minimum stock of backgrounds. When characters shout (which is all the time) the show only bothers to give life to their jaws: the eyes remain dead.
Scenes will cut away to a sky shot mid-conversation so as save on the cost of actually drawing what’s happening: something done regularly in each and every episode. And the same musical cues signal anger/fear/shock. The occasional foray into something inventive only serves to remind you how banal everything else is.
Plot wise…there is no plot. Each ‘segment’ is given a number and sub-heading and, beyond keeping continuity, most of the segments do not relate to each other. There is no character development arcs or culmination of events. When the show ends after 10 episodes it may as well have ended on 6, or 8, or 20 for all the difference it makes.
Notwithstanding the peculiarly Japanese lack of PC approach (when was the last time you heard the term ‘tranny’ used casually in a show?) this is a comedy purely for people who already like Japanese anime comedy. I would normally count myself in that category, but as there is no variation to any of the parts throughout the show’s run. Then, once you’ve seen a couple of episodes, there really is nothing else to keep you coming back.
Words by Michael Record