Lucky Star

Lucky Star

LUCKY STAR

Watched via fansubs/DVD

WHITNEY

CRYSTAL

PLOT: Lucky Star is probably my favorite anime based off of a 4-panel comic. The themes, timing, and story have all been successfully drawn out to fill the longer time span of the episodes. While certain punch lines may have taken a hit with the new media, overall I think the show does a wonderful job or portraying the friendships and interactions of the four main protagonists.

Alright, so now onto the “plot”, if you could really call it such. Our story revolves around the interactions of four high school friends. I know, not very original, but at the time the series was coming out, Lucky Star was one of the first series in this genre to make it big. I think this is in large part due to the straight-forward atmosphere of the series. Lucky Star cuts straight to the point with its humor and exudes confidence, while other series of this genre passively flounder around.


Anyways, so the group consists of Konata Izumi (the confident otaku), Kagami Hiiragi (the booksmart older twin), Tsukasa Hiiragi (the moe younger twin), and Miyuki Takara (the tall classy friend. I hate to stereotype them as such, because they are incredibly well thought out and much deeper, but that’s kind of the premise to start with.

So the series mainly covers topical events, seasons, events in the news, and common high school conversations. What makes the show so interesting is how each girl brings her own outlook to the show and voices her own opinion. Granted, some of the conversations are really really ridiculous, but really who hasn’t had stupid conversations in high school?

As a girl, I agree that Lucky Star does a good job of recreating some of the silly conversations had during high school. The girls talk about all manner of inconsequential crap, but that’s how it is before you’re in the serious, adult part of life.

PLOT: Lucky Star is based on a 4-panel gag manga, and as such, it doesn’t have a plot so much as a premise. In this case, there are four girls attending high school who are all friends. For the most part, these girls are normal, but one of them is an otaku! Hilarity ensues, especially if the viewer is an otaku, as well.

This show follows a predictable pattern of the girls going to school and going home, with occasional visits to each other’s houses or mentions of part-time jobs. Two of the girls belong to a family that runs a shrine, so they act as shrine maidens when needed, while the otaku of the group works at a cosplay cafe. Beyond those further concessions to the fan audience, most of the show follows a standard 4-koma pattern, rotating between the seasons and predictable school events while also showing the girls throughout their everyday lives. Partway through the show, the girls go up a grade in school and meet new characters, who help bring new life into the show.

Lucky Star does a good job of balancing between nerdy jokes and cute-girls-doing-cute-things jokes, for the most part. The first four episodes of the show move at a slow pace and focus on jokes that are more hit than miss, though they still have their own charm. It wasn’t enough to make for a successful anime, though, so the series director was fired and replaced by someone who gave the show a faster clip and included a better balance of jokes. The difference is noticeable if you know about it beforehand, but otherwise you might just assume the show got its feet under it the standard way.

Ah, that explains why it was so much easier to get into once you get past the first part. I remember feeling like the first couple of episodes were a bit too heady. I’m glad they changed it up because the anime is a lot easier to get into than the manga since you can actually hear the girls getting into character vocally.

SETTING: I’m with Crystal on the setting, it really doesn’t matter that the story is based off of a real city. Then again, it doesn’t need to be. What’s great about the show is how universal it is. There is nothing that really stands out about the high school, so anyone can feel like they could actually run into the girls at their own school. The series makes it very easy for one to project themselves into the storyline, which makes it all the more easy to empathize with the characters.

Aside from the town, the settings are all just what you’d expect. The girls go to school, visit each others’ houses, the shrine where the twins work, Konata’s workplace (a cosplay cafe), and other typical event type places. Really the setting is rather non-essential, as the focus is mostly on the dialogue in the series, which makes sense considering its origins.

You’re right about dialogue being more important than setting. The original manga barely manages to cobble together backgrounds most of the time, so setting’s relative lack of importance makes sense.

SETTING: The setting of Lucky Star is based on the city of Kasukabe, where the original manga-ka went to high school. The opening animation includes shots of the girls dancing in front of real places in the town, including the Washinomiya Shrine. Though I applaud the series for having such a specific setting within Japan, it doesn’t feel all that special as a viewer. Perhaps I’d be more impressed by the series’ specific setting if I grew up in Japan and knew more about this area in particular, but as a viewer it just seems cool that they can base their background drawings on a real place. The cosplay cafe gives the show the most oomph, as it’s the least normal place within the show, but that doesn’t get visited very often. Instead, the show focuses on normal places where the girls go on a daily basis, which makes sense story-wise, but it’s not terribly interesting in terms of setting.

CHARACTERS: What makes Lucky Star such a success is how the characters are not only appealing to male audiences, but female fans as well. Not only that, but they actually feel “realistic” in the sense that I know a lot of women who share very similar personality traits to these characters. Real life isn’t quite as clear cut as these four, but I think it’s easy for female fans to really see themselves and their friends in these characters, especially once they begin to really develop and build layers.

My favorite part of this series has probably gotta be the twins. I love that they are fraternal and that they aren’t black/white or identical in personality. Not only that, but they both have their own believable strengths and weaknesses. I love watching them interact with each other and look out for one another. I can really identity with the two of them, though my personality is more 50/50 split between the two.

Coming in almost tied, is the friendship between the older twin (Kagami) and Konata. I love Konata and all her otaku mannerisms. Being an anime fan I can relate a lot more to her hobbies than any of the other character’s. Kagami is probably the second closest to being a “fangirl” as she reads a lot of light novels. Watching the two of them bicker back and forth shows how friendship can overcome differences and build new interests.

Miyuki and Tsukasa are less interesting as far as hobbies go, but they are an essential element to the series and their caring supportive personalities help balance out the more ecstatic qualities of the other two girls.

My gosh, you’re right about the twins! I’ll have to remember this show as an example of fiction breaking out of the twin stereotypes of identical, opposites, or one being dead.

CHARACTERS: Like most 4-koma shows, the characters are the strength of Lucky Star and keep you coming back even if some of the gags go over your head. In this case, the girls are a solid mix that panders to fanboys while also being interesting to other viewers, which I think is part of what made this such a success.

The main group of girls has an otaku (Konata), twins (Kagami and Tsukasa), and the smart airhead (Miyuki). Konata acts more like a perverted old man than anything, while Kagami’s a textbook pigtailed tsundere. Tsukasa and Miyuki are both very positive, easygoing, and klutzy, but Tsukasa’s not as smart, while Miyuki…has bigger boobs? And glasses. Glasses are a key part of Miyuki’s appeal.

Despite all the time Konata spends envying Miyuki’s moe appeal, I think Konata and Kagami win as far as being the most interesting characters. Kagami’s entertaining in that tsundere way, especially when she bickers with Konata about the merits of light novel series. Kagami, though, is the best part of the show, because she makes so many crazy references that it feels like hanging out with my otaku friends in real life. Of course, the characters don’t undergo much development, and the new characters feel like retreads of similar character types, but it’s still a fun time with the laid-back schoolgirl concerns and otaku jokes.

I do feel that Miyuki isn’t explored enough to really give her justice. She kind of is just a pair of glasses walking around with a nice rack. Tsukasa kind of is a let down as well in that she isn’t too strong of a character without the support of her twin to bounce dialogue off of. I wish these two had had more time in the limelight.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: The character designs for Lucky Star work for the show, but aren’t necessarily the best in general. Honestly, the girls were so child like in appearance that I literally kept forgetting which grade they were in. This made it quite confusing for me when I watched the show as it came out, and again when I read the manga as it came out volume by volume. During those long spaces in-between I kept thinking the girls where in middle school, or even elementary school, which made certain topics and episodes flow less smoothly and just seem creepy (e.g. talking about breast size, working at a cosplay cafe, and playing eroge). Watching the series definitely took some getting used to, and that’s with me being fully aware of moe trends. Aside from the age thing, I really don’t mind the choices that went into each character. They’re highly derivative of other works, but that’s part of the charm as each character lives up to, or breaks their character type. Granted, I can see where this may not be as funny for less otaku fans.

The rest of the series is well animated, without being over-the-top in moe effects. By that I mean the blush pimples and shininess weren’t too distracting to focus on other aspects of the series. While the characters are rather blocky and devoid of physiological accuracy, they still moved fluidly and their abstraction actually helped amp up the comedy. This was especially well played out through the use of stylization to highlight otaku gags.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: Lucky Star stands out from other anime by taking the art style of infantilizing teenage girls and exaggerating it to an almost ridiculous extent. The main characters’ faces all look as squashy as super-deformed characters, but they’ve been stuck on bodies that look like elongated Nendoroid bodies—they’re still blocky and lack definition, but they have the height of normal people. This puts Lucky Star in the weird place of having characters that look kind of SD while interacting with the world and each other like normal people, including lamenting their breast sizes and heights. Outside of this distinctive art style, the characters all look very standard, with hair styles and eye styles taken straight from every other anime ever. Naturally, this is the source of some jokes, but it’s still somewhat underwhelming.

The animation, however, makes up for that by going the extra mile whenever a gag allows for it. The art style changes to highlight the ridiculousness of shounen series or Initial D, while flowers appear at one point à la Maria Watches Over Us. The basic animation in the show doesn’t have to do much to convey the story, but the adoption of other styles to make gags better may be the best part of this show. It certainly helps with some of the stranger sequences, like the competitive employee at an Animate store. Because of the impassioned art style, these sequences are a highlight of the show instead of ruining the laid-back pacing.

OVERALL: Lucky Star is a wonderful everyday slice-of-life and comedy series. Beware, this show is for otaku, and as such will go over your head if you are unfamiliar with the culture of anime, games, and Japan. Even though I’ve been watching anime for years, there were still many times that I felt I was not getting the full brunt of a joke, just because I’m not a huge Gundam fan or gamer. That said, don’t feel bad if you are new to anime, or typically watch other genres, there are plenty of jokes that are aimed at everyday happenings or general fangirlness that are easier to relate to. Ultimately Lucky Star is about friendship, so for the most part it’s rather approachable for anyone. I still wouldn’t recommend this for certain people…like my husband, but if you like anime and the culture behind it, I think it’s totally worth giving a shot!

OVERALL: Of the 4-panel-based anime series, Lucky Star’s one of the stronger ones I’ve seen. It benefits from using referential humor to win over a core audience, and cute-girls-doing-cute-things gags support the show the rest of the time. The animation strongly supports the show, and the cutesy art style should appeal to seasoned otaku viewers. Of course, this indicates the show’s greatest weakness: to enjoy it, you need to know A LOT about anime. My boyfriend watched it when he was starting out with anime, and most of it went over his head, even the more everyday gags that require knowledge of Japanese culture. If you’ve been watching anime for several years, you should be able to handle this show, but not before then. It really does take a huge breadth of knowledge to appreciate the jokes in this show, but if you have that knowledge, Lucky Star does an excellent job of poking fun at the ridiculous bits of this medium.

FINAL SCORE: (8/10) FINAL SCORE: (8/10)

Writing this review made me super nostalgic and fangirly, so I drew Stereo Otaku as if it were a 4 panel comic featuring four high school girls. Aka some of my best friends from high school. -W

StereoOtaku4Comic

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