Do you remember all those taboo rumours you heard in school about the opposite sex that nobody ever really knew if they were true or not — not even members of the opposite sex? Please Tell Me! Galko-chan is an anime about three girls, their unlikely friendship and their comical attempts to get to the truth of these school-days rumours.
Many episodes of Please Tell Me! Galko-chan cover a few of these rumours in the show's short, eight-minute runtime. The topics range from "Is it true that large breasts float?" and "Is it true that nipples tan?" to "Is it true there's a physiological test that tell what kind of lover you will be?" and "Is it true that a high sex drive causes hair loss?" For each topic, the taboo rumour is stated and then followed by the scientific truth — though often in a comical way.
Of course the anime is far more than a simple question-and-answer session. The series revolves around its three main characters: Galko, Otako and Ojou. From the outside, the girls look like three common stereotypes: The fashionista, the otaku and the spoiled rich girl. In the "typical" high school social order, there is no way the three of them would be friends. However, despite this, the three prefer to hang out with each other over anyone else.
Galko dresses in the Gyaru style of fashion and uses all the slang common for young popular girls. Moreover, she has the body of a super model — accented by her extremely large bust. Her body type, fashion choice and way of speech cause those around her (both men and women) to assume she is both vapid and promiscuous and treat her as such.
Of course, this is far from the truth. Galko is actually quite innocent when it comes to matters of sex (something Otako loves to exploit) and is by far the most thoughtful member of the class when it comes to paying attention to the needs of others. Her fashion choices come not from identifying with the Gyaru social group (though she gets along great with them) but from her relationship with her sister.
While never explicitly stated, it is implied that Galko has no mother in her life. Thus, her only maternal figure is her older sister: A Gyaru fashion model. And as her sister is of a similar build, Galko often wore her sister's hand-me-downs when she was younger. It make sense that she'd be into Gyaru fashion, though that's not what defines who she is. What defines her is her curiosity and her drive to help out others in little ways.
Otako, sometimes more a book nerd than an anime one, gets great joy out of teasing the surprisingly innocent Galko — tricking Galko into revealing titillating bits of information about her body in front of the class.
This is the plot device used to explore the taboo high school rumours that serve as the anime's core. In a clever way of showing that the rest of Galko's world is aware of the show's narrative pattern, Otako develops the rep in school for being super knowledgeable about the human body from all the times she uses said knowledge to tease Galko.
And like Galko, Otako is more than just an otaku. But like more than a few quiet girls, she is largely new to the whole friendship thing. Thus she is unaware when her jokes go too far — and what she should do when that happens. So while the two girls are clearly the best of friends, Otako is struggling to discover what exactly that means. She has yet to grasp that being a best friend means your words and actions carry more than enough weight to truly hurt a person, even accidentally.
Ojou is the odd girl out. Much of the time, she just stands there in the background enjoying the antics of the other two or serving as the voice of reason when the two are in conflict. While as rich as her name implies ("ojou" means "young lady"), she is not an overbearing presence throwing her weight around. Instead, she is somewhat of an airhead, relatively unaware that everyone's home life isn't the same as her own. However, she does know that something is different and longs to be accepted into the banter of the other two.
This is the cause of her comic role in the story. She sometimes teases the other two without knowing how she did it. Other times, her sheltered upbringing causes word play-related misunderstandings: Like how in Japanese, the word for a hair tie and the slang for a condom are the same.
Perhaps my favourite trick in the whole series is that it doesn't tell you how the three became friends despite their obvious differences — that is, until the final episode where the overall message of the anime is laid bare. Don't judge a book by its cover. We are all much deeper than a stereotype or label. And more than that, generalities — be they about taboo topics or sub-cultures — are almost always incorrect. Child or adult, this is a fact we all forget much of the time and would do well to remember.
Please Tell Me! Galko-chan is an anime that is as funny as it is full of heart. One part tall tales about the fairer sex, one part the story of three unlikely friends, this anime is an entertaining commentary on the foolishness of believing in stereotypes and a reminder that every person is more than just a label.
Please Tell Me! Galko-chan aired on Tokyo MX in Japan. It can be viewed for free and with English subtitles on Crunchyroll.