Content Warning: Fanservice
What’s it about? When high scholar Shiki Tsubasa moves from the big city to small town Kitami, Hokkaido, he hardly expects to find himself befriending a kogal standing alone in the winter landscape, waiting for a bus.
I’ll admit it up front: I’m a big fan of Hokkaido Gals Are Super Adorable (hereafter Hokkaido Gals). I come to it from chapter by chapter English localization through one of Shueisha’s many apps: in this case, the Manga Plus app. It’s a genuinely charming series… but it’s definitely not without its flaws.
But I’ll save that for the review. Let’s get into it!
Episode 1 starts off in the thick of a Hokkaido winter which means heaps of snow and nearly white landscapes. For city boy Tsubasa, who hails from Tokyo, it also means lots of new sites as he enters Kitami City, the setting of this slice of life anime. And what a setting it is: Hokkaido is immediately the source of many comedic moments with Tsubasa as he gets a crash course in just how different his hometown is from the very, very rustic countryside.
And by rustic, I’m talking about that classic inaka: the deep countryside. This ain’t no Sapporo story, Anifam.
However, not everything is frigid here, despite Tsubasa finding himself in the middle of winter so fierce. There’s plenty of warmth to be found in the locals—namely the immediately charming and titular gal, Fuyuki Minami, a gal so dedicated she doesn’t even wear tights in the middle of a snowstorm.
What ensues is the story of your everyday boy and a cute, sweet, and genuinely warm-hearted gal exploring the admittedly mid Kitami together as new friends forged by life’s changes.
Hokkaido Gals is kind of immediately charming: it’s simple slice-of-life following in, but it forgoes a bullying–often labeled “teasing”–girl as a central element in exchange for just having very everyday teenage fun. And it works! It really, really does. In fact, it provides some of my favorite moments in this very peaceful premiere. This extends to Fuyuki Minami who, of course, ends up sitting next to Tsubasa in his homeroom class.
One thing I really like is that despite her more sexualized appearance, clear love interest Minami is quite the down to earth, normal girl. It’s just a fashion statement that she follows. The show, so far, never leers at her and admittedly, it could: Minami is a busty teenager, and it’s not beyond anime to upsettingly make that into a punchline. However, in my watch of Hokkaido Gals, there was really only a handful of moments where the show got a bit pervy with Minami’s body: they were definitely regrettable and did kind of ding the last few minutes of my watch.
Still, that doesn’t deny the fact that Minami has a lot of agency and largely was just a girl during this premiere. It’s nice to see female sexuality present so frankly. That’s not to say that Tsubasa doesn’t have his own hang-ups: he’s a somewhat predictable teenage boy in his reactions to Minami, which is something I hope wears off as he matures and becomes more comfortable around her.
Together, Tsubasa and Minami have instant chemistry not as love interests, but as friends, and I think that’s actually really important. It’s nice to see varying levels of cohesion before we get to any romance. Here, in Hokkaido Gals’ premiere, it all feels genuine: it’s city boy meets country girl and the dynamic is great, inclusive of when Minami does flirt a little and tease Tsubasa in a way that feels like actual “like” and not borderline harassment.
Hokkaido Gals truly are cute, and honestly, this premiere proves that they’re a cut above the rest; honestly, it’s a testament to the timeless style of the kogal style, which is a personal favorite sub-culture of mine. It’s a refreshing story too: the meet-cute feels natural and the show doesn’t leer at Minami outside of those handful of jarring moments. If anything, this is a pleasantly mundane show about two high school kids, and I really hope it stays that way. So far, it seems like the show will remain pleasantly restrained, illustrating the same sweet story that I fell for when I read it in 2022.
Safe to say you can count me in for weekly trips to Kitami, Hokkaido: Hokkaido Gals Are Super Adorable has its hooks in me all over again!