Series Review: Lucky Star

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"Which end of a choco coronet do you start from?"

The one thing I can really say about Lucky Star is that it's not Azumanga Daioh.

Not a good thing.
Not a bad thing.
Just a fact.

Maybe an overstated fact, but one that needs to be said. Both series are arguably very successful slice-of-school-life anime adapted from 4-panel comic strips, yet both take very different approaches to the same formula, and so both work in very different ways.

Even though they have in common a core group of female characters and a large amount of humor, the styles are much different. While Azumanga is a very blunt, straight-forward, physical kind of comedy, Lucky Star relies a lot more on the verbal and sometimes quite subtle kind of jokes that not everyone might understand.

And so that "getting it" factor is one of the decisive factors of Lucky Star, which certainly is more laid-back than it's insane counterpart. If Azumanga is a bunch of crazy girls in a normal situation, Lucky Star is a bunch of relatively normal girls in a crazy situation.

Lucky Star, amusingly, is like talking with a bunch of friends at school. A lot of it involves sharing a common opinion, whether it be a hobby you like, a teacher you hate, or just some aspect of life that stands out. And if you can manage to sympathize with a bunch of moe characters and their mostly ordinary lifestyles, Lucky Star won't be too bad.

But if you don't like wasting time, if you don't like very thin presentation, if you don't like a bit of repetition, if you don't like open endings (as opposed to even Azumanga's sense of conclusion)... you might want to keep moving. Lucky Star will definitely satiate the hungry anime fan, but for casual viewers or even some of the regulars, it might be better to give this a pass.

Lucky Star, like most slice-of-life shows, is a slow show where nothing really happens. However, what kind of hurts it compared to other ones of its ilk is that there is no true sense of progress. As opposed to Azumanga, where characters did sort of develop over the three years, or even just compared to other "life" shows like Code-E or Aria, there is no gut feeling that these characters are really changing all that much.

Amusingly, to that regard the Lucky Channel 2-odd-minute segment at the end of every show has more continuity than the rest of the series. Lucky Star feels like more of an American sitcom, where characters may be added, minor tweaks may be made, but all in all the show remains fairly stagnant throughout the however long run; and the introduction of a lot of characters late in the game only makes me wish they had been around earlier.

Which is a shame because this show has solid characters, that I only wish would get fleshed out a bit. Tsukasa's mind-meltingly adorable with her naivety and randomness, but she never really brightens up or gets some common sense. Miyuki's bright and clumsy-moe as all hell, but she never really overcomes that fear of the dentist or anything. Minami's concerned about her flat chest and...well, that's all there is to her. I think the running gag that sums it up most is that one comment about a full cast of standout characters and not one hint of many male suitors. We barely even get any fake-romance gags and half of it is yuri.

I suppose that it would be kind of unnatural to see half the things mentioned above, like a smart Tsukasa, Kagami with a Actual Boyfriend (or, alternatively, in a yuri coupling with Konata), or Non-Flat Minami, but I'm a sucker for minor development, or at least, little jabs at the development that's not happening; that is, acknowledging that some things don't change. Y'know, that whole sitcom thing where the situation changes drastically for half an episode and then all the characters realize that This Isn't What They Wanted?

But, that might be asking Lucky Star to be what it's not.

On the plus side of things Lucky Star does run the gamut of characters; while they might not be the most realistic group they are still very entertaining and connectable especially for die-hard otaku, of which there are four in LS: Konata, Soujiro, Patty, and Hiyori, each with a different taste. There's also more down-to-earth relatability found in the densely cute Tsukasa and the clumsy yet smart Miyuki (Trust me, walking into things isn't half as moe in real life, yet usually always as funny.). Kagami represents a mix of the two, and plays the normal person to the rest of the mildly insane cast. There's the adults, Yui and Nanako, who are naturally still children at heart.

All the different personalities mesh with each other in entertaining ways, and the interactions between the characters are a great part of Lucky Star. It's not just one character that's strong and runs away with the show. Everyone pretty much has an amusing part at one point, in one way or another. Whether it's the geek squad twisting a normal person conversation, Konata messing with Kagami, or the adults acting far unlike what one expects from someone their age, there's a wide variety of content per se, even with a bunch of fairly constant characters.

And then there's the extras, at which Lucky Star excels at. The minor yet ridiculously over the top characters like the Anime Tenchou group and their firey, epic retail battles with Konata or the wayyyyyyy bipolar Akira and her L*C partner Shiraishi, or a bunch of random characters voiced by the Haruhi cast.

Speaking of, one of the more controversial aspects of Lucky Star is a sense of product placement; being a hardcore otaku, Konata has collected lots of memorabilia from random series, and often discusses/references them in public as well. Haruhi gets the most love from her, naturally with Konata being Haruhi's VA and Haruhi being Kyoto Animation's darling; however sometimes the raw advertising-ness of it all can grate on many a fan's nerves.

Most of the time though the references do what they should, though, and add another layer of inside references to the show, so that fans can point and feel smart.

The details really do make Lucky Star, not just the references but the amusing (ly sung) live-action EDs, the rapid shifts in animation (random CG, random kicks up and down in animation change, random Initial D parodies, oh yes!), and even the non-details, like the same guy voicing every non-important female character.

All these little things make one feel, for lack of a better word, part of the Lucky Star family. Being a show that a lot of people can relate to in some way and that a lot of anime viewers can especially relate to, Lucky Star is one of those series that one can really get attached to. It's not an epic show. Not one for the ages. But it's one where you learn to enjoy its style, its quirks, its weekly dose of "I know what you mean."

And so while Lucky Star won't keep you glued to the screen or leave you in stitches, it's still one to leave you with a nice grin on your face and no doubt that it was a show worth watching.

After all, if you can handle the choco-coronet fiasco in the first episode, I'm sure you can find a lot of to like in the rest of the show as well.

In the end the Lucky Star review feels a bit short, especially in comparison to other epic word-fests that the Series Review posts tend to be. Lucky Star is really not one of those shows that inspires conversation or raw emotion like more dramatic shows do.

Lucky Star is a 'fun' kind of show that, like its sibling (only in animation studio, I must add) Haruhi, sort of defies explanation. More relaxed shows tend to be this way, as on the surface there isn't really a lot to say about a show that's very relatable to real life, except a little exaggerated and wildly-colored. But that's exactly the strength in Lucky Star; more so than a lot of slice-of-life shows, it forges a strong connection with the audience it knows it has, mixing a bit of otaku life with a bit of ordinary life and showing it understands both.



"The one thing I can really say about Lucky Star is that it's not Azumanga Daioh."

More people need to say this, even if people know it. :P

Nice review on Lucky Star. And it's interesting how the show seems to end just as it's hitting it's stride. :3