Believe it or not, the very first anime I had watched (excluding shows watched as a child like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh) was in fact the infamously cutesy show Lucky Star. Whether or not you see this as a positive way to venture into the medium, it’s needless to say that I was definitely thrown into the deep end. Being aged around 14 at the time, there was nothing I had seen before that was even remotely similar in any aspect. From the adorably ‘smushy’ character designs to the complete awareness at its own lack of substance, Lucky Star certainly was an interesting doorway into my anime journey.
Lucky ☆ Star
FOLLOW THE EVENTFUL YET NOT TOO HECTIC LIVES OF FOUR ADORABLE CHARACTERS
SLICE OF LIFE, COMEDY | ANIMATED BY KYOTO ANIMATION | AIRED: SPRING 2007
How I encountered: Lucky Star
There really isn’t that much of a story behind my getting into Lucky Star compared to the other shows I had pursued as a result. It’s as simple as this. I have an older brother who at the time was watching some cool looking animation on his computer – later I would recognise this as Lucky Star. Although at the age of 14 my time consisted of playing whatever the latest First-Person Shooter with my friends in high school, it was known that I liked cute things. That’s basically it, he recommended the show to me on a whim pretty much saying “this is probably something you’d get a laugh out of”. Back then he was watching it with someone else aswell and by the time I was at the last episode they hadn’t even made it halfway through.
The whole thing was so fascinating to me, a completely different style of media to what I had experienced before. As a teenager there was never really any passion or set path to go down, sure I was academically proficient but there was no real career that struck me one way or the other. With no real hobbies to achieve and rarely doing homework, I ended up finishing this show incredibly quick and loved every minute of it. Something about the whole atmosphere of a Japanese high school (especially with female leads) was so alien to me. My group of friends would just talk nonsense all day about whatever new Halo game was coming out or bragging about our Pokemon teams.
In addition, episodes focused on cultural celebrations that were completely disconnected to the way we do things in England were so intriguing to me. Holidays like White Day that are familiar to what we do here but also shrine worships and the festivities of a Japanese New Year. The whole experience was the eye opening realisation that there is more on this Earth than England and America. Little did I know that this show was infamous for its simplistic structure and baseless narrative.
Taking pride in its lack of overall narrative or development
So as I mentioned before, there really isn’t much substance when it comes to Lucky Star. Sure you have a cast of characters, a consistent setting and events occur in each episode, there’s not much more than that. The source material itself was an incredibly simplistic “4-koma manga” (a comic strip format commonly used for gag comedies) and the anime pulled it off about as well as you could. Lucky Star never sets out to be more than its source material ever was, the anime is consistently based around the everyday happenings of four highschoolers: Konata, Kagami, Tsukasa and Miyuki. Although most shows would be seen as lazy for something like this, I feel that it’s much better this way than trying to be too ambitious.
Not to mention that this show actually has some incredibly well produced sequences in amongst the multitude of simple close up to close up scenes. Listen, I will be the first to admit that this show does not have a lot going on in terms of narrative progression or meaningful dialogue. However, you have to remember that this was animated by powerhouse studio: Kyoto Animation (and early 2000’s KyoAni at that!) With one of your main characters being a proud Otaku, the potential for parody is limitless and is usually the main source of this show’s extraordinary moments. Whereas a show like Nichijou is inherently insane and established to be so within its own world, Lucky Star relies on the imagination of their characters to enable the more visually intensive moments. Whether it be in the form of on-the-nose parody or an exaggerated sequence to an otherwise regular scenario, this show does have its moments and does completely take place in the same bland high school setting.
They’re talking about games! I know about games!
I can’t remember a time where Kagami wasn’t my favourite character in this show, but the one that little 14 year old me related to the most was, of course, Konata. In terms of hobbies, gaming has been the only thing that I can honestly say has been a part of me for as long as I can remember. Sure I could ride a bike at a young age and I learned how to play Texas Hold’Em before I knew how to play Go Fish but video games were the only major time sink I had at that age. Hell, at the time my only idea of a career plan was to make my own games because it was all I knew. So when this show, this completely new form of media, started talking about video games I didn’t know how to react. Every animated show before this had been grounded in its own universe – disconnected to the nuances of the real world. The idea that an animated TV Series would so obviously reference popular media changed my entire view.
You may call me foolish for this (considering my age at the time), but this may be the first time I realised that real people were behind the production of animated shows. Beforehand, cartoons were kind of this mindless time sink you’d put on the TV if you had nothing better to do. Something grand and spectacular like a feature length movie, I knew had to have a huge team working on it – but these silly little cartoons too? It was mind boggling to 14 year old me, I vividly remember spending hours on Wikipedia articles figuring out how animation worked because I had no idea there was a “Behind-the-scenes” as it were. That passion still lives on today and I thank a large majority of that stemming from this show. Although you wouldn’t expect it, a silly little joke about Mario Kart or World of Warcraft had the power to completely adapt my understanding of animation.
Lucky Channel? I am so confused…
So if you haven’t seen this series, the final four-five minutes of each episode is taken up by this side show called Lucky Channel. When I first watched this show, I remember just being completely confused at the whole thing. Why was there this odd panel format thing at the end of my cutesy slice of life show? However, upon re-watching this show (for the first time in four years by the way), I can honestly say I adore this section just as much as the main show. Watching this show with fresh eyes, it’s clear that this segment is working on the Japanese comedy duo acts that are increasingly popular. Shiraishi Minoru on the left does his best to play the straight man while Akira Kogami on the right is this eccentric and over the top character discussing whatever the topic is for that episode.
Something I never caught in my initial viewing was how these two characters develop over the 24 episode run time. Initially, the male Minoru is an incredibly shy and fearful co-host to the exaggerated and clear veteran actress Kogami. As time goes on, this level slowly begins to balance out as confidence builds in our once cowardly co-host. In addition, this Lucky Channel is completely in-universe meaning that both of these characters attend the same school and live in the same world as our four protagonists seen above. Making use of this element, there are often scripted promotional bits that work as comedy segments for the duo. The recurring punchline being that the newcomer Minoru always seems to win these giveaway/promo sections which result in him actually being in the show – which of course of Kogami’s dream. It’s incredibly satisfying to observe these two grow over time and the comedy aspect is pretty well done to boot.
So, what’s the final verdict?
All in all, I think that everyone needs to be reminded of their roots and have a certain level of respect for the origin of their passion. Generally speaking, my passion is in writing but my love for animation definitely surfaced as a result of watching this show back in 2014. Now 100+ shows registered in my “completed” list and a website dedicated to discussing, reviewing and critiquing the medium as a whole, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Lucky Star is the epitome of a “nothing show” but that’s exactly why it still stands as one of my favourite shows for easy viewing. Although this is the first time I re-watched the season in its entirety since my first viewing, I end up watching the Christmas episode every December and occasionally watch the odd episode here and there to cleanse my palette. Lucky Star gets a bad rep for being what it is and that’s completely understandable but perhaps know you’re a bit more clued up on why this show is important to me personally.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the first edition of this new Editorial series: My Anime Journey. This is a planned series of articles discussing the shows that got me into the medium in the first place. Not quite a review and not quite a casual article, hopefully this experimental format can bring some even more variety to the site.