It’s not often that I write posts like this. But the fact of the matter is that last month I decided to revisit Kyoto Animation‘s famous slice-of-life show, Lucky Star. Up until last Christmas, I had not seen a single episode of it in years, but given the circumstances folks like me could all use a reminder of what our life used to be back in the day, and shows like this one serve well in that regard. Also, like with Nichijou, ironically enough another show from the same studio, I was missing a lot of elements that I felt could have been better expanded upon during my initial review; such as specifics behind the character, plot, and likes/dislikes elements. To be honest, if I were an English teacher I would give my review of this show a “C” at best because of how severely underwhelming it was. Needless to say, a revisit of this show is warranted as we enter the final weeks of Lent and with Holy Week just around the corner; so here we go.
LUCKY STAR: REVISITED
Original post date: 9 March 2019
Post link: Anime Review XI: Lucky Star
Most anime get their origins in the form of short comic strips, and this show is no exception, starting off as a yonkoma collection (four page panel; think Dilbert or Mutts from the Saturday morning papers) authored by Kagami Yoshimizu, whose other works include Shuffle, an anthology based on a video game released for the PC and PlayStation 2; Wolf Children, which would be reimagined as a film by Mamoru Hosoda in 2012, and a whole bunch of other works under the pen name of Tsukasa Suina. (HAHA GET IT? KAGAMI AND TSUKASA, AKA TWO OF THE MAIN CHARACTERS IN LUCKY STAR???)
Sometime in 2007, four years into the manga’s publication across various magazines such as Shonen Ace and Comptiq, the series was picked up by Kyoto Animation into a 24-episode series which would attempt to closely resemble the relaxed atmosphere the manga took. The show was a huge success – driven by both the successful sales of the aforementioned manga, and the success of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, of which that series’ lead actress, Aya Hirano, makes an appearance as local otaku Konata. It has also been suggested that the series’ light-hearted nature, and its massive appeal towards the otaku culture influenced its popularity, which still persist to this day through various methods:
- Fans making “anime pilgrimages” to places across the Saitama Prefecture, the home of the main characters
- The Washinomiya Shrine, where sisters Kagami and Tsukasa are depicted as the shrine’s maidens, became a huge hotspot for fans of the show, and quickly became a place for them to cosplay and pay tribute to the show in various weird ways
- Consequently, a Lucky Star event held there in December 2007, attracting 3500 fans and bringing mad profit to the town. The manga’s author, and several voice actors from the show made an appearance, and the aformentioned sisters were named as honorary citizens of the town
- A massively popular Twitter account named “Out Of Touch Thursdays Deluxe”, which has been operating since May of 2019, displays a short clip from the show’s intro every Thursday while the chorus of Hall & Oates’ Out Of Touch plays in the background
A fun fact about this show: when I first heard about this show in 2017, I mistook it for another similar series, Azumanga Daioh. What I didn’t realize was that Lucky Star was released on 8 April 2007 (Easter Sunday), while Azumanga Daioh came out on 8 April 2002 (Quasimodo Sunday). Imagine how horribly wrong I was when I, on one sick day in January of 2018, saw the first episode and thought to myself, “Am I watching the wrong show?” Please don’t blame me; I was a complete noob to anime at that time, and how can you not ignore the similarities between the plot/characters/shenanigans/setting of the two shows?
Now, I still stand by what I had previously written about the plot of Lucky Star: there isn’t any. I did mention that the show revolves around four high school girls: Konata Izumi, a self-professed otaku whose only purpose in life is to get doted on by her father, watch anime and play PC games; Kagami Hiiragi, Konata’s best friend, a staple tsundere whose head is grounded in reality; her younger sister Tsukasa, a clumsy girl who lacks in intelligence and street smarts; and finally, Miyuki Takara, arguably the only sane person of the group who doesn’t give a crap about the other three folks’ ways. Most of the episodes features them simply acting like everyday high school students: hanging out with each other during breaks, spending time at each others’ house, playing video games and doing homework, visiting anime conventions, summer festivals, and other places of interest. Often the conversations they would have with each other range from downright normal, (such as their plans for after high school or part-time jobs), to the extremely ridiculous (anytime Konata morphs reality and video games together, or which side of a cornet you eat from).
While this quartet is most prominently featured as the main piece of the story, theirs is not the only subplot that is being milked as much as can be. After episode 14, Yutaka, Konata’s cousin, makes an appearance in the story, which begins to chronicle her own friendship with Minami, a soft-spoken girl in her class; Patricia, an American exchange student and Konata’s co-worker; Misao, a hyper-energetic girl with a penchant for athletics; and Hiyori, a manga artist with some pretty suspect tastes. There’s also an occasional instance where the shopkeepers of the manga store that Konata frequently visits attempt to lure her to dump large amounts of cash onto their exclusive products, only to spectacularly fail due to her lack of interest or funds, and of course, the Lucky Channel segment featuring Minoru Shiraishi (playing an animated version of himself) and down-on-her-luck idol Akira Kogami addressing extra-show information about the characters and whatnot.
WHAT I LIKED
- Easily the best moment of the anime for me was episode 12, when Konata, Kagami and Tsukasa went to Tokyo’s Comiket, the premier comic convention in Japan. This whole bit remains an absolute masterpiece in my opinion, especially because of how accurate it was featuring Kagami’s reactions to the type of stories she reads, Konata’s high level of enthusiasm and seriousness, Tsukasa’s first-time cluelessness to the convention’s workings and the depiction of how otaku culture can be like at its worst, with fans literally fighting for limited edition souvenirs. Especially when it’s brought up in a later episode, and seeing Tsukasa and Kagami’s reactions of “Oh no, not again”, it makes the whole scene funnier in retrospect.
- The scenes where Konata outright trolls the comic store employees by leading them on is one that will never get out of my head just because of how outlandish and over-the-top it made itself to be, with the employees trying to manipulate her way around the store just to buy something expensive, and make mad cash – only for divine intervention to hop into the game and (literally) blow them away.
- The animation in this show is simple and typical of Kyoto Animation‘s other works, but my goodness can it be funny at times. Especially Konata’s face where her eyes literally turn into horizontal lines. It’s the epitome gaze of someone who just doesn’t care about life, and is content with what they have. Apart from the numerous ones from Akko (Little Witch Academia), Kazuma (Konosuba) and Marika Tachibana (Nisekoi), it’s one of the best anime visages I have seen to this date.
- As a fan of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, I was quite happy when a scene popped up in episode 14 where Kagami’s family was watching an episode of such, complete with the words “Final answer” and the long-drawn out suspense by the host. By the way, yes – the actual Japanese version is notorious for pulling off such stunts.
- Anytime Kagami gets triggered by Konata doing something stupid, implicitly calling her a monster, or diverging each conversation to an unrelated anime/gaming topic is an automatic throwback to me and my best friend. Just ask him about the many times I “Nico-Nico-Nii’d” him randomly, like at that one New Year’s Eve party, or about how apparently terrible my anime-watching preferences are.
- Overall, the show was very calming to watch. Unlike many anime, they didn’t need to rely on character fan-service, romance or bombastic action scenes to build up its popularity. I know I did complain about the lack of plot in my original review, but that’s the beauty of shows like these – you don’t need to invest too much brain power in figuring out the holes or fan theories behind it. Just pull up your phone, relax, and watch this anime like nothing else mattered.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
- The Lucky Channel segment as a whole was pretty boring both on my initial and re-watch segment. All it involved was the main characters getting into a spat with each other, facts about characters that could easily be looked up on the Internet, and Akira venting about how washed up she is. I’ll admit though it was pretty funny how the show’s director, Minoru Shiraishi, self-inserted himself and his personality into the segment.
- Why a character like Hiyori, whose sole purpose is to draw borderline-perverted manga involving Yutaka and Minami for comedy purposes, exists is beyond me. Anytime her character went on a freak-out over her works or attempts to hide her true profession just ended up with Daffy Duck’s “Hah! Very funny.” playing out in my head.
- Admittedly, it would have been nice if the show attempted to build some plot around the characters and their families; the closest we get to such is Konata and her father, reminiscing about their deceased mother in episode 22 (I kid you not, who is an exact clone of the former) and the latter getting called out for his romantic preferences. Tsukasa and Kagami’s family life isn’t explored that well, and Miyuki’s was practically nonexistent, save for the fact that her mother is a klutz.
- Admittedly, the comedy does get stale after a while. Unlike Nichijou where there’s always new attempts at comedy such as Mai’s innovative pranking systems or the completely random skits, Lucky Star pretty much attempts to run the same gag over and over again without realizing how dead the horse already is. Case in point: Hiyori’s fetishization of Yutaka and Minami, Tsukasa’s incompetence at life, or how often Konata brings up anime/games in conversations. It might have been funny the first time this gag was introduced, but some variety would have been good as well.
I still stand by the fact that the characters have flat personalities. They’re predictable and after a while their reactions are easy to squeeze out. But while this does weaken their objective characterization, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they weren’t enjoyable at times. One of these examples is Kagami, who we learn is a lot closer to the main cast than she thinks she is. Sure, she tries to make herself the voice of reason in her doings, does well in school, and seems to be the most mature of the bunch apart from Miyuki, but the writers don’t take away what she is in essence: a high school student. She can still be seen talking about manga, playing video games with Konata, and is quite well-caught up with the news. Her character is balanced, realistic, and doesn’t shy away from the trope too much. It’s this reason that I grew fond of this character initially, and she still remains my favorite of the four.
What I failed to make mention of was the other characters aside from Konata and company; namely the other schoolgirls like Yutaka, Minami, Hiyori, and the others. Again, characterization isn’t their best element, but granted they did offer a refreshing take on “the other side” of the school. It would have been nice if they weren’t introduced so late to the story, unfortunately, because having them early on would have allowed us to scope the possibility of their group. The adults were also another facet that was entertaining in their own way – particularly Nanako, a teacher who – get this – is friends with Konata from an online game. She’s the epitome of what it means to adult, by how she prioritizes health, work, and self-maturity instead of doing the things she did as a college student; in other words, a kid at heart. As someone who has recently gone through that, her character struck a bit of a chord with me, if not for her vampire-looking teeth. She’s definitely better than Yui or Sojiro, Konata’s cousin and father respectively.
Suffice to say, I found that my opinion on Lucky Star hasn’t changed much ever since the last time I watched it. The characters, while they can be charming at certain points, were relatively hit or miss for the most part; the comedy was a tad more bland than I expected, but at the very least I looked forward to each episode and what it would offer up next. I’m honestly glad that I was able to re-watch this series; I could finally see for myself the pros/cons of the show and be able to produce a more refined review of this show as opposed to before. It’s no masterpiece, but it’s still passable in my regard, and an experience to watch.