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[Happy Lesson box art]
AKA: HAPPY☆LESSON
Genre: Harem show / slice-of-life comedy drama
Length: Television series, 14 episodes, 22 minutes each
Distributor: R1 DVD from ADV Films
Content Rating: 15+ (slaptick violence, fan service, adult themes)
Related Series: Happy Lesson, Happy Lesson Advance, Happy Lesson The Final
Also Recommended: Happy Lesson OAV, Happy Lesson Advance, Happy Lesson Final
Notes: The show is, in a sense, 13 episodes long, but features an episode I earlier saw on the Advance series, but have been added to the original TV series as "episode 11.5". Make of that what you will.
Rating: Four StarsFour StarsFour StarsFour Stars

Happy Lesson TV

Synopsis

Hitotose Chitose, a young man who has lost his parents and pretty much hates almost everyone, is now living with five of his teachers who have all decided to act as his replacement mothers. This does come with a few problems, the biggest one having to keep this secret from the school. Of course, with all the crazy stuff that happens around Chitose's life, it shouldn't be that hard, right?


Review

At first glance, Happy Lesson would appear to be your standard dating game based anime. It certainly IS based on a game (which I didn't know at the time when I first watched it), but nevertheless manages to keep out of the regular pitfalls anime of the dating game origin tend to fall into.

Now, I haven't really played the game, so I don't know what's it all about, but Happy Lesson isn't really about dating. Family life seems to be the focus of the show, though heaven knows Chitose's house... er, houses one of the most dysfunctional families I've seen for quite some time. At least if the rather insane comedy is any indication.

The anime's main fault would probably be that Chitose's five adoptive mothers (they pretty much adopted themselves into his family) seems to fit themselves into typical dating game archetypes a little too well. Mutsuki, the domestic and softspoken one. Yayoi, the shrine maiden/samurai girl. Satsuki, the hyperactive, sporty girl and Uzuki, the... er, young and genki one with the cosplay complex. Only Kisaragi stands out as somewhat original with her crazed inventor characteristic, completely monotone voice and all.

Against my initial assessment, however, Happy Lesson just... works. The show seems to have decided to just release the comedy hounds of war, and it shows. Happy Lesson is Tom & Jerry on acid, and more often than not, Chitose seems to be caught in the middle of each confrontation with a weary look of resignment on his face. And since his five mothers also double as teachers to the school he attends, there is no rest to be had there either. Expect things to be filled with gags. Visual gags, sound gags, punny gags, explosions and certainly an unhealthy amount of applied violence. At times, it might even be too much for some, as Chitose pretty much comes to realize how little in control of his own life he is. Although he's certainly not the only one in the receiving end of a "few jabs", as his classmates and resident targets for slapstick violence, B and C (as appointed by the letters on their foreheads) seem to have been created to fill the roles of the show's spazzy fanboy idiots. And an amusing pair they are.

Happy Lesson does have its share of drama too, and thankfully, it never really gets on your nerves or becomes too contrived. All the more amazing, considering the show's origin, and all the better since the show itself actually manages to balance its comedy with the drama, neither one really overlapping or distracting the audience from the main content. It's not deep stuff, but it's certainly heartfelt enough.

Be aware that Happy Lesson isn't a DATING show. If there are any competitions between the females of the show, then that would be about who is the best mother for Chitose (though most of the time they seem to get along just fine.) The only romance this show contains is Chitose's schoolmate and class president, Fumitsuki's rather one-sided thing for Chitose.

Now, before I sum up this review, I have a few more... negative aspects of the show to discuss. Firstly, while the animation is generally good, the art tends to be rather inconsistent. This is most easily seen in the closeup of Mutsuki from the second episode, but the show tends to vary some from episode to episode, so you will have to be a little bit forgiving regarding that. Also, the dub is.... well, equally inconsistent. At times, the dub is quite listenable and nice. At other times.... it just plain sucks. Especially in regard to Uzuki, who in the English dub becomes downright annoying to listen to.

My last complaint isn't towards the show itself, but more towards ADV's decision to make the DVDs themselves contain MAD MAMA PUNS as titles. And I'm not talking about the good kind here. "Mom-ageddon"? "Mama-palooza"? "Mama-lama-ding dong"? You're killing me here, ADV. And you're gonna turn away potential buyers with these.

Also, and this isn't as much a complaint as an observation; the 11.5th episode... what's the deal with that? Maybe it's just me, but I remember that as being one of the episodes in HL Advance, and now it's a part of the original series? What's more, it's quite easy to discern that the levels of fanservice have been upped considerably in said episode, especially since it's the token hot spring episode that seems to be the staple of many, many shows. It's most likely thanks to this that Happy Lesson ended up getting a 15+ rating.

Oh well, let's just put it this way; even DESPITE the titles in question, I got the DVDs when they were released. Happy Lesson is a show that succeeds beyond its first impression and takes its genre in a different direction than I expected. And while the ending, made to allow the sequels to fit into the whole thing, might be considered somewhat of a copout, the show itself STILL manages to feel complete. And even though my opinion of the sequels will remain lukewarm at best, my liking for this one has not dampened much from when I first watched it nearly two years ago.

Stig Høgset

Recommended Audience: Well, this show is all about the slapstick violence, so that's not too bad. Episode 2 does, actually, show a more realistic violent scene for the benefit of characterisation. Still, that isn't so bad either.

The reason this show is rated the way it is, however, is the 11.5th episode, where you will be subjected to lots of (covered up) nudity and some underwear shots. Technically, the two first DVD's should have rated lower, but you'd be wanting to catch the entire show anyway, so I guess it doesn't really matter.



Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, bilingual
Review Status: Full (14/14)
Happy Lesson TV © 2002 KSS / Media Works
 
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