Solstice Review: Turning Girls

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Okay, so the next Solstice Review is here. I’m hoping to make this a regular thing to do. Even though they won’t be on a timeline, like my Otaku Theater column is (check that out here on The OASG, if you want), this is something to keep me going, as I do enjoy watching shows that are a little off the ‘mainstream’ spectrum…if you can even call it that. And so our second one is this short web show, by the female staff at Studio Trigger.

Turning Girls was in fact something brought up by the people at Anime Feminist, an anime blog I love a lot. I believe just as they were starting up, this web show was mentioned in discussion, and it got me interested. I didn’t even know that Trigger was involved in this show until I did my research for this very post. The short show came out in-between June and July of 2013, just as the main staff of Trigger were busy working on their breakthrough show Kill La Kill, which was due to start in the Fall 2013 cour.

It revolves around 4 girls in their late-20s, about to hit 30, a milestone they are all dreading for various reasons. Nana is the oldest, and a complete airhead. Chiwa is the most level-headed, and a devoted (and obsessive) fujoshi. Kai is a fashionista, and enjoys being the senpai at EGL and goth gatherings, and Kaeru is the rather crazy idol wannabe…and steals the show.

It’s a show that is, sadly, a little shadowed by their big hits (Kill La Kill, Little Witch Academia, SSSS Gridman). But this isn’t their only short show, as both Inferno Cop and Space Patrol Luluco are a part of their back catalog, and both have gained a bit of a cult status. Turning Girls wasn’t really meant to be a big part of their catalog though; instead it was meant to be a sort of ‘experiment’. As Hiromi Wakabayashi says in an interview with Ani-Gamers at AnimeNEXT 2015:

So what we basically did was, we gathered all the female staff at Trigger. They’re not animators. They might be the janitorial girl or something, normal non-animator staff. We just gave them an idea and we told them to make an anime. We wanted to find out if they could make an anime. It was an experiment.

The four girls in Turning Girls are a reflection of the actual staff that worked on it. So basically they did the directing and they actually drew it themselves, it’s a pretty accurate reflection of who they are, as well.

An interesting backstory for the show, and just one of many things why I love the studio so much; they aren’t afraid of anything and don’t really care so much about breaking any typical anime traits. What amuses me even more in that interview with Ani-Gamers is that Wakabayashi admits that there is genuinely someone at the studio who acts like Kaeru.

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So how does this show stand out? Because it’s a web series? Because it’s a short show? Because it’s made by people who aren’t animators by nature? Well, the anime industry is rather a male-dominated one, with females often pushed into their own roles. Times are changing, of course, and it’s good to see this male-dominated industry have more and more women be a part of it all. A show like Shirobako (by P.A. Works) is another show to watch, if you want to see how women play a bigger role in anime production. Back to Turning Girls, though, and I suppose one could call this a show by women, for women. But is it a Marmite show? Well the comedy is very good, and the writing is on point; something like this shows us all that an anime doesn’t need to have slick animation, an A-list cast, and a big budget to be hugely successful. Doesn’t mean that some anime fans might be put off purely because of the low-quality animation, though…I mean, I have friends who like the shows that look pretty and beautiful (even if they have poor scripts – I won’t mention those shows though, but they are mainstream ones).

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Episode 1 is the intro episode, where a mixer party is held, and Kaeru (the girl that the others find annoying because of her crazy idol attitude) becomes an unwelcome guest. It is also this episode that becomes the one that asks the viewer if they want to carry on watching or not. Not every episode is like episode 1, though. Each one of the seven episodes tell different stories and puts the focus on each of the girls. While we see Chiwa at work have weird visions of people lusting over each other in a lewd manner (often men), we also look at Kai’s persona as ‘Bloodstained Bloody Roses’, the band girl that the EGL community look up to and crush over.

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As I mentioned, there is a chance that some people won’t find that much to be entertained by in this short show, and I personally believe that, because it isn’t as pretty as other renowned shows, their attention could well be drawn to how Turning Girls looks instead of how the script is or how the comedy is. Saying that, this is a show that would be best to take at face value; deconstructing something like this would be a bit of a waste of time. Not just that – I really don’t think that the staff behind this really intended for its viewers to pick it to pieces. This is just 4 working girls who are all different people, who just seem to fit into some stereotypes of otaku culture. And as Wakabayashi says, this was intended to be an ‘experiment’, and not a real show of sorts – to see if their hand-picked group of female staff could make a show or not…regardless of how it would be received.

Well Inferno Cop turned out to be a huge success with the anime community in the West. The humor in this show, however, is directed more towards a ‘domestic’ audience, featuring jokes that Westerners would not understand as much as American humor or British humor, say.

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If you ask what my favorite episode of the 7 are, then episode 5 is a no-brainer. While we see Chiwa protecting her collection of fujoshi fan-fiction and Kai being worshiped by EGL concert girls, episode 5 gives us Kaeru in her own environment: her internet livestream. Here we see that Kaeru puts on this idol persona to detract herself from the real truth in life: she hates being 28-going-on-30, and her part-time work, and her Kansai accent. We’re not totally sure whether we should laugh or feel sorry here. But even with Nana, Chiwa and Kai being great characters, the idol Kaeru steals this show with little effort.

Is this episode meant to be a mirror for the countless kids I see on Twitch and Youtube, who have their own channels? A part of you laughs that they’re not as big, but at the same time, you feel sort of sorry inside. I have a Twitch channel myself, but I never use it…largely because I don’t think my internet connection could even handle a livestream. Internet speeds in the UK have always been terrible, compared to other countries in Europe and elsewhere.

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These women at Trigger aren’t animators by nature. They’re the girls who work behind the desk sorting the studio’s accounts, who take care of the reception desk, who make the tea or coffee, who answer the phones, who fetch ordered food for overnight animating sessions, who vacuum the offices, etc. They’re regular people, and not the big names we all worship on anime database websites. As you watch Turning Girls, and get past episode 1 (I’ll admit that that is the weakest one), you learn to not care about any of that. It’s a real shame that this short show hasn’t received as much exposure (either domestic or international) as some of their other short shows, like Inferno Cop or Space Patrol Luluco. It isn’t even shown on Trigger’s main website. Whether this is something decided by the female staff (or the main staff at Trigger, for that matter) remains to be seen.

But Turning Girls really is worth checking out, if you have an hour to spare. Can anyone make an anime? Well…sure…why not? These girls certainly did, and did a mighty fine job too.

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Turning Girls is an original net animation (ONA) made entirely by baramiri, a group consisting of the female staff at Trigger, in association with Comix Wave Films. It was uploaded on Youtube between June and July of 2013. Official English subtitles are included in the show.

You can catch Turning Girls in its entirety on the Anime Bancho Youtube channel.

Sources: Ani-Gamers / Trigger

Images in this post come from Anime Bancho/Youtube.



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