Warning: This is an 18-rated title and the series contains frequent nudity.
Kandagawa Jet Girls begins with Rin Namiki, a girl whose mother was a champion in the fictional sport of “jet racing”. The races involve competing pairs of women, one of whom rides a jet-ski and is known as the “Jetter”, and a second who rides along who acts as the “Shooter”, using a water gun to fire at the rival racers and their jet-skis.
Now a teenager, her mother long passed away, Rin leaves home to study in Tokyo’s Asakusa region, which is on the river Kanda (“Kandagawa” in Japanese), where one of her desires is to race. Her new dormitory roommate, Misa Aoki, is a shy girl who Rin comes to discover practices as a Shooter. Eventually, Rin persuades Misa that they should team up, with the duo eventually forming their own Jet Racing Club in their school, racing against rivals.
There are five rival teams Rin and Misa primarily race against: Kaguya and Kuromaru, who comes from the nearby snobbish private girls school; Ziyu and Dina, a duo who make up an idol group called Hell’s Kitchen; Jennifer and Emily, two Californians who come across as dopey Japan-obsessed fools; Manatsu and Yuzu, a pair into gyaru fashion; and finally Fuka and Inori, who are local shrine maidens.
The anime sees Rin and Misa competing against and becoming friendly with their rivals, as they race along the Kanda, tackling various obstacles and challenges, and being careful not to get shot at while racing. Fortunately, their protective clothing comes with a “safety feature” which means that when it sustains too much damage, it automatically comes off – or to put it another way, when you get shot, you are forced to strip.
Indeed, stripping is something that happens a lot in Kandagawa Jet Girls. For those wondering about whether or not any male characters get topless too, they don’t, on the grounds that there are virtually no male characters in the entire series. The only recurring male character is Rin’s father, and you never even fully see his face.
Kandagawa Jet Girls is certainly one of those series where the titillation (with the emphasis on the first syllable) is trying to substitute for any actual plot. As far as the races go, while it is nice to see the use of a real-world location – one in which when races occur, all other boats on the river have to move off to make way for the racers – you think that the action of the race itself, with sections involving ramps, obstacle courses, underground tunnels, speed boosts and the ability to cut off your enemies’ power supply by hitting their jet skis, would be exciting enough. But no, it seems that in the heads of the people making this anime, unless someone loses their clothing, whether it be skin-tight wetsuits or something more fashionable but less practical for a race, comes off, then no-one is interested. It feels even more awkward when you remember what age these girls all are.
Therefore, if you are interested in the sport, then this is not the series for you. However, I feel that if you want to watch this for the ecchi content, this isn’t going to do it for you either. What we get is this really awkward mash-up where the series doesn’t know what it wants to be.
There are other problems too. The soundtrack is nothing spectacular, with both the opening tune, “Bullet Mermaid” performed by Rin and Misa’s voice actors Yu Sasahara and Riko Kohara; and the ending theme, “RIVALS” performed by Kaguya’s voice actor Azusa Tadokoro, both being rather forgettable. The CGI used in the races often feels clunky. Aside from the two lead characters, all the other racers just fit into predictable stereotypical tropes, the one exception being Fuka, who while in everyday life is perfectly nice, becomes incredibly aggressive when she races. When it comes to the sub and dub, the sub is the one to go for primarily because the dub loses some of the humour in translation. This is most evident when Jennifer and Emily talk, because in the Japanese dub they often switch between Japanese and English during conversation, but in the English dub they only speak English and this gag is lost.
At least this Blu-ray collection comes with a fair number of extras. These include the OVA episode, in which the various teams have to come up with a promo video to promote the sport, Episode 4.5, which is a clip show of the previous four episodes, and Japanese promos.
Kandagawa Jet Girls feels like a peculiar mix-up that doesn’t know what it wants to be (there’s also a video game version available in the UK). For me, personally, it’s not something I plan to return to.