Happy new Year everyone – and apologies for the quiet last few weeks: Alex and I have been super ill and with the Xmas holidays it all clashed together. In any case, today I come to talk briefly about an anime Netflix has going on at the moment and that caught me 100% by surprise. I think a fair few of them would be right onto this. It is called GOKUDOLLS (or Back Street Girls as it is known in the English-speaking world), and it is one of the most bizarre things I’ve seen in a long time!!
For those of you who do not know what the hell I am talking about, this is a story about a Yakuza group in (presumably) modern-day Japan. Actually, to be precise is about 3 members of this clan and their boss. These 3 guys are introduced to us as a band that has failed their latest mission, therefore bringing dishonour to their boss and the clan. So, in a 100% totally hard-core mobster style their boss decides he is going to get rid off them…but not in the way you’d expect. Instead of slashing them up or killing them as is the usual business amongst the Yakuza, the Boss decides he is gonna send them off to Thailand…to get sex change operations and get transformed into…JAPANESE POP IDOLS! (Say wwwwoooooootttttt!!!!!????). Yeah guys, you heard me. Because, you see, the idol business is profitable and this is another way these three pathetic individuals can support their organisation so now they are girls, that sing the most hilarious songs – all written by their boss, and all with the true Yakuza spirit at their heart: songs about “love me or I’ll kill you”, “bombs”, general mobster business but all in a very Kawaiii manner.
Yeah, I can see your faces of, “what the hell is she talking about, and what the hell have the Netflix creator been smoking”. However, I can guarantee you that, if you give it a chance, you will not regret it. Warning though: this is not a lovely, peachy anime, and it deals with some stuff that perhaps isn’t to everyone’s taste. For example, the humour – it is a parody in case you didn’t get that yet! All the jokes are super dark, sometimes they are dry and quite shocking. There is a fair amount of violence, although perhaps not as impactful as in other animes of the same thematic. However, i would say the most hard-core part of this show is the portrayal of the live of these men/women as japanese idols. There is a fair amount of perverted sexual thought that is very explicit in the show. I am not saying this is like a hentai or anything like that, but the comments and situations that some of the characters find themselves in are quite graphic and not sugar-coated at all – this isn’t really an anime for kids, young impressionable teens or anyone with sensibilities towards this sort of stuff. But, if you can deal with that, it is absolutely hilarious.
I think it is wonderful how they have mixed two items that are fairly prominent in Japanese culture, both from the point of view of the legacy of Japanese society at home and abroad, which is the mafia and the idol world, and how they can overlap. It is kinda scary how efficient the Boss is at managing the girl group and how the show that simply and innocent looking things like idol pop bands can be covering up for much darker enterprises. Certainly this is not just a problem in Japan, but I somehow cannot see the American TV channels suggesting stuff like that about American Idol or the X-factor troupes…As with the vast majority of anime that move away from the norm and convention of their genre, this show presents forward social anxieties of certain areas of its culture, using humour in a way to make things lighthearted but still relevant. This is something that Japanese anime and manga have been doing for a long time and efficiently (I would say so, in any case), so, although it is not new of Gokudolls, I think it is one of the best examples I can think of late in addressing stuff like this, but also further issues such as transgender identities and sex changes in a society which is still highly conservative. There are many digs at the idol culture and its otakus, and it addresses the well-known and increasing problem that young Japanese men have been experiencing now for few generations and that is currently damaging Japan’s chance at having a growing population. These fans are so obsessed with their idols, they simply forget about the real women out there in the real world – they just take absolute control over their life. This is a further dig at anime fan cultures themselves as well, certainly, so there are many levels of social commentary in this Netflix series.
I would also like to point out that, the art style is slightly different from your usual mainstream animes – the colours are not so in your face, and the characteristics of the characters are a bit more old school. As a point of reference, this looks more like Case Closed than Naruto, which is quite refreshing, because, you know, Japanese anime art is so varied! We should not be stuck with the same styles over and over. It is refreshing within its simplistic and realistic undertones. The format of the episodes is more conventional: we have short episodes of no more than 25 minutes each. However, so far there is only one series and it is fairly short, counting with 10 episodes which, in my opinion, is great and shows you can have a decent plot, in a condense amount of time without lacking character development and grip.
So, if you fancy spending not a long time, but a fun time, watching something a little unusual, on the dark/funny side of things and that moves away from your stereotypical anime, I do sincerely encourage you to hook up to Netflix and have a crack at the GOKUDOLLS and their insane Boss.
Until the next one 😉