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[R1 DVD art.]
AKA: らき☆すた
Genre: High school gag comedy
Length: Television series, 24 episodes, 24 minutes each
Distributor: Currently licensed by FUNimation.
Content Rating: 13+ (suggestive themes)
Related Series: Lucky Star OAV
Also Recommended: Azumanga Daioh, Tentai Senshi Sunred
Notes: Directed by Yutaka Yamamoto (Episodes 1-4) and Yasuhiro Takemoto (Episodes 5-24). Featuring the vocal talents of Aya Hirano/Wendee Lee, Emiri Katou/Kari Wahlgren, and Kaori Fukuhara/Michelle Ruff. Produced by Kyoto Animation, and based on the original yonkoma manga by K Yoshimizu as serialized in Kadokawa Shoten.
Rating: Four StarsFour StarsFour StarsFour Stars

Lucky Star

Synopsis

See original review.


Review

If anyone told you that Lucky Star is another otaku metacomedy, they only gave you half the story. It's an easy mistake to make, since anime about anime and its fans have become a common part of new comedies. We seem to get a new one every season. From Penguin Heart Musume to Hayate the Combat Butler, these metacomedies stuff enough references in their show to boggle all but the most hardcore fans, while poking fun at the excessiveness of otakudom and its denizens. But Lucky Star is different. While it does have gags on everything from old Gainax shorts to the Haruhi Suzumiya craze, they're not what set this series apart. If you want a good idea of what makes this series endearing, take a look at another anime series that nearly every fan compares it to when recommending it: Azumanga Daioh.

It's easy to write the comparison off as a knee jerk reaction; it seems fans compare every slice-of-life or character-based comedy to AzuDai nowadays, whether or not it's actually relevant. The two seem to have little in common: one is a comedy with its finger on the pulse of Akihabra, the other is an endearing comedy of the every day lives of six high school girls. But there are two crucial things that both series possess that made fans love it: a strong cast of likable characters and a good eye for the funny details in daily life. It's not the clever Anime Tenchou or Giant Robo gags that made this series take the Internet fandom in a firestorm- I expect most of these fans haven't been around long enough to know what they're parodying! It's because most of the humor is rooted in things that fans and non-fans would recognize, making its best moments the times when it goes beyond its narrow cultural bounds.

The best way to describe what makes Lucky Star appealing is to talk about its characters. Viewers will get to know and love three of them in particular, though there is a revolving door of family members, friends-of-friends and teachers who come and go. Konata Izumi is a high school otaku hardcore enough to know trivia about seventies giant robot and tokusatsu shows, but not hardcore enough to own a bodypillow of her waifu. Or at least, not yet. She's a very short blue haired sophomore who digs manga, anime, and eroge games, and seems to interpret her life in a way that only a high school girl who played all the Tokimeki Memorial games, and liked them, could. She's the character that most of the audience- and probably the creators- will relate with. But despite her weird habit of throwing out obscure gaming references, she's not socially dysfunctional. Meet Tsukasa and Kagami Hiiragi, her two best friends. They're paternal twins with very different personalities. Tsukasa is the littlest sister not only in age but how she acts: sweet, airheaded, and a little lazy. Kagami tries to be the adult of the group; she's smart, diligent, and sometimes gets bossy when Konata and Tsukasa forget themselves.

This is a very talkative anime. The gang spends a lot of time shooting the breeze between classes, and asking the big questions like, why are people afraid to go to the dentist? Who actually celebrates a traditional Japanese New Years? How do you eat some of the strange junk food Japan cooks up? They're charming conversations, not only because they're funny and well written- the dialogue is more animated than the characters- but because these are the kind of things you can see yourself talking about with your friends. They certainly reminded me of some banter I've shared the local KC anime club members and old roommates. Most characters in anime seem to be friends "just because," but you can feel the camaraderie in Lucky Star.

You can also feel the otakuness. Konata will try to drag her friends to Comicon (twice), will often throw out references that go over her friends heads, and will single-handedly stimulate the Japanese economy by feeding her otaku habit. If only every OCD person could be this charming. When she buys fanzines and doujinshii, she always buys three copies: one to read, and two to keep in the wrapper as collectibles. She gets a job at a cosplay cafe just to make sure can collect a full set of some new trading cards. Her friends are usually mystified by her behavior, but go along for the ride anyway. In this sense, it's more like Genshiken- a silly, loving portrayal of Japanese otaku that might be slightly exaggerated, but is a lot of fun to watch.

Frankly, the talent at Kyoto Animation deserves a lot of credit. These folks have relatively few projects attached to their name, but they've quickly gained recognition by fans as a good studio. They've consistently turned out good projects, often working with premises that should be complete disasters. Their animation in Lucky Star is consistently good, though I should add that because of its easy-going subject matter, Lucky Star is a very still anime. But when movement is needed, well... if you haven't seen the Anime Tenchou shorts on YouTube yet, google 'em. And even when the staff don't show off for short sequences, the animation is still very detailed in how the characters move and express themselves.

Now while the characters and writing may be endearing, it's hard to deny that Lucky Star isn't a product of today's otaku fads. Even Konata's otaku habits are more like a thirty-something male anime fan than a high school girl, and while that may contribute to what makes her funny, it's also blatantly pandering. I wrote earlier that Lucky Star is a celebration of the excesses of modern otakudom, and unfortunately, that includes the unsavory bits. People who hate the new wave of moe comedies are going to loath this show, because it revels in that culture.

But I'm not sure they'd be better off for it. Anime doesn't get a lot of comedies like this: something that can consistently bring the laughs for twenty-four episodes without using ecchi humor as a crutch. And it doesn't usually get so many memorable characters from a single show. Even if you think you're one of those people, This is worth at least a rental. Shows like this one don't come around often.

Bradley Meek

Recommended Audience: For teenagers and up, mainly due to some off-color jokes and suggestive themes.



Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (24/24)
Lucky Star © 2007 Kagami Yoshimizu / Lucky Paradise
 
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