Four friends in a high school hang out with each other and chat about things with their other girlfriends. Most notable among them is Konata Izumi, a video game / anime fanatic who's actually pretty smart and athletic, but doesn't like sports or putting effort into her schoolwork. Her other friends include twin sisters Kagami and Tsukasa and the pretty, smart, but also clumsy Miyuki.
Also, at the end of every episode there's a segment called "Lucky Channel", which stars a cutesy, easily annoyed ex-idol named Akira and her assistant Minoru.
The first time I saw Lucky Star, I didn't watch it all the way through. When it first aired, I have to admit that I did for a while keep up with all the episodes as they came by weekly. Despite that, I could never shake off this feeling that there was something about this show I wasn't getting that everyone else was. As a result, I dropped the show, skipping most of the last third except episodes 22 and 24 until this re-review.
We now fast-forward nearly four years later. Since 2007, Kyoto Animation has produced quite a few series, experiencing both ups (Clannad) and downs (K-On!). As they propelled themselves to uber-popularity, Lucky Star seems to have all but abandoned in the process, having only a single OAV. This is in sharp contrast to Kyoto's works since, which have had sequels, OAVs, and DVD/Blue-Ray exclusive content.
So was Lucky Star's abandonment justified, or a case of unfortunate cruelty? That's what we'll discuss in this review.
Not like unlike a lot of recent high school comedy anime since Azumanga Daioh, Lucky Star is based off a 4-panel manga series. (Think of it as a series of newspaper comics published monthly, usually about 20-50 4-panels comics a chapter, sometimes with an ongoing plot throughout the month.) Unlike with that series, though, where the transition from manga to anime was near seamless (thanks in part to dividing each episodes into 5 mini ones), Lucky Star is more obvious in this regard. Yes, they also tell a series of jokes/stories in a single episode, but there's no dividing line - sometimes they even have 10 second jokes appear before a commercial break. There is some sort of connectivity between the episodes, as certain events (Miyuki's fear of the dentist, Tsukasa and her cell phone, Konata and Kuroi's meetings online, etc.) are brought up repeatedly throughout the series, but for the most part the series can be watched out of order with little problem. This does not apply to the Lucky Channel segments at the end of each episode, which we get to later.
The core cast of Lucky Star is four friends - the short anime/manga fanatic Konata Izumi, twin sisters Kagami and Tsukasa Hiiragi, and the bi-speckled Miyuki Takara. Ironically, it's Konata who seems the most "real" of the four girls, as her fanatical devotion to anime, manga, and video games (ordering limited edition figures, her love of donjon, having anime posters/figurines/ring tones on her cell phone) mirror real-life all too well, but done so in a light, humorous tone. She also notes (sometimes humorously) certain cliches of the anime/manga, such as the "mow" fad, online gaming, and even the gawking of other girls. Despite her energy, Konata is often lazy at anything else, including homework, in which she constantly mooches off of Kagami, much to her chagrin. Overall, the first joke in the entire series will inform you of whether or not you like Konata:
Tsukasa: Amazing, Konata! If you're so good at sports, Why don't you join one of the clubs?
Did you find that funny? If so, then congrats! There's like 100 variations on that joke in the series.
Kagami is the '"straight man" of the quartet, also doubling as the older sister of Tsukasa as well. She finds Konata's obsessions weird and yet unsurprising at the same time, and her ignorance of the more hardcore aspects of her hobbies are used by Konata to mock her. The two are also known to verbally assault each other, though mainly in jest and never with malice. She also stinks out-loud at chores and cooking.
Tsukasa is the childish, klutzy girl of the group. Her character is the one who often brings up a lot of the normal conversations in the series, such as cell phones, air conditioners, festivals, chores, and sleeping habits. She tends to interact with her fairly large family (consisting of her, Kagami, two older sisters, and her parents) than Kagami herself does, which is nice. She's also a good cook, unlike her sister.
Miyuki is the least seen of the quartert, and is the smartest, tallest, and most well-endowed of the main cast. (Nearly all the jokes about fan service come directly from her by Konata.) Despite this, she is far from perfect. She has quite a few hardships, such as eye droplet problems, worries about the dentist, and being perhaps too nice in certain situations.
About halfway through the series a half-dozen new girls suddenly appear. First we get Yui, Konata's older cousin who is a police officer. A few episodes after we meet her little sister, the tiny high school freshman Yutaka, who manages to out-tiny Konata. Soon enough we meet Yutaka's classmates Minami Iwasaki (a "tall", stoic girl with a complex about her flat chest), squeaky-voiced American Patricia "Patty" Martin (who ironically knows more about Japan than some of the native-born girls in the series do), and the perverted Hiyori Tamura, who often pairs Yutaka and Minami in her head together as a couple in an obnoxious, unfunny manner.
In Kagami's class, in her final year we meet two more girls - Ayano, who never really gets much time to develop, and the playful, tanned slacker Misao Kusakabe. We then finish off with the two other adults in the series- Nanako Kuroi, Konata's high school teacher who often bumps into her student when people MMORPGs online, and Soujirou Izumi, Konata's creepy-looking, and at times creepy-acting, father.
And then there's Lucky Channel. Shown at the end of every episode before the ending theme, it's a mini-segment that stars washed-up idol Akira Kogami and her assistant, Minoru Shirashi, voiced and modeled after his actor. Their main goal is to talk about the series, including its cast, at first, but eventually it turns into a look into Akira's unhappy career and her wanting to be in the main series, as well as focusing on her less-than-stellar relationship with Minoru. Unlike the rest of the series, the Lucky Channel segment does have a (loose) plot of sorts, so if you plan to skim around the series, make sure you avoid these segments lest you get confused.
So we talked about the characters in the series for quite a while. How are the actual jokes in this series, you might wonder? Well, due to the series' long length, there are just as many hits as misses, if not more so the latter. Many of Lucky Star's jokes fall into two realms: everyday Japanese life, and media references. The latter is especially done in the earlier episodes, with a lot of gratuitous plugs to Kyoto Animation series (Haruhi especially) and manga publisher Kadokawa Shoten alike - I counted at least three jokes that had to do with Aya Hirano herself.These jokes wouldn't be too bad in small doses, or if they were consistent, but often you have a typical, reference-free episode and then are suddenly hit with a bunch of them. You can still enjoy the series well enough without getting them all, but you'll lose a part of the reason to watch the series if you do. I'm not familiar with the manga, so I'm not sure if they name-drop references as often as the anime, but if they do I doubt it's as hard.
In 2011 terms, Lucky Star's art and animation hasn't aged much, but that doesn't mean it aged gracefully. Except for the opening theme, the series is very much a talking heads anime. The art style, compromised of giant-eyed girls with tiny stick figures and various colors, are not particularly eye-grabbing, but work well enough against the colorful backdrops. Sometimes the animation can be quite nice (such as in the opening theme), as can the backgrounds, but Lucky Star is predominately a talking head anime, and the series never really lets you forget it.
Sio that's it for my re-write of the entire Lucky Star series. I'll admit that I found some scenes and episodes to be rather dull, but sometimes you can find quite cute, sweet moments in the series (such as the last third or so of episode 22). It's a hit-and-miss type of comedy series, and one that requires quite a bit of devotion to watch it all. The jokes aren't always the best, and the characters - with the possible exception of Konata - are a little too familiar and archetypical, but overall the series is, at worst, decent. This is much more than I can say about fellow Kyoto Animation comedy K-On!. If you can get past the first half of episode 1, as well as the awkward character designs, I think you just might enjoy Lucky Star. For those curious, you can watch the entire series subbed here.
Hit-or-miss comedy that's, for the most part, at least vaguely amusing. Subtract a star or two if you don't like the concept/character designs. — Tim Jones
Recommended Audience: For teenagers and up, mainly due to some off-color jokes and suggestive themes.
Version(s) Viewed: crunchyroll.com stream, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (24/24)
Lucky Star © 2007 Kagami Yoshimizu / Lucky Paradise
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