Chocolate Cones and Lasagna
Even after my unlucky dabbling in other hyped up anime series I decided to give another heavily lauded series a chance. As one might guess, my expectations for Lucky Star lacked the core, boy-like excitement I found myself overtaken by when starting other shows that received vast praise: Code Geass, Gurren Lagann, Ouran High School Host Club, Kino's Journey, The Meloncholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. My final verdict on all these shows--and others not listed--proved much lower than the general consensus. This fact continued to nag me as I hesitantly partook of the first episode.
Though I usually prefer to write reviews like a response to an Anime-Planet recipe, I absolutely had to attack the aspect of sound in Lucky Star first. Why you may ask? Because, in a way, it attacked me first. The ultra chirpy J-Pop song and near-sickenly cutesy visuals that accompanied it flawlessly almost had me hitting the stop button and downing a raw beef steak right there. Against my initial judgment I decided to try and choke down the rest of the episode. I've eaten sushi and squid tentacles simmered in their own ink, even though I hate fish: I could finish at least one episode, I figured. To help ease the process I found the dub harmonious to the characters on screen. Each voice actor reflected exactly what I read into his/her character. Upon finishing the show I found this reflexive quality beneficial even if I was unsure on how to read into the first few minutes of viewing.
Is there an overall plot to the series? In the beginning I remained perplexed about this question. I know the first five minutes entailed talk about chocolate cones. Wait, what? The next five minutes revealed another trivial topic. The next five, another. I started feeling annoyed. Where was the series going? In my final desperation near the end of the first episode I had to resort to the basest question a writer can ask of any mode of fiction. What was it about? At this point I compared it to Kino's Journey, thinking that at some point it would try to preach some lofty, prophetic answer over a sea of mysticism before finally sending out a dingy of character development that attempts to rescue the viewer from obscurity. I watched on, waiting for this to happen. No such similarity cooked up. Over the next few episodes the same everyday prattling occurred...no way...I finally realized I wasn't observing Kino go to school, I was seeing Garfield eat chocolate cones. Everything up to that point, and throughout the rest of the show, served out like a comic strip. So does the show have an overall plot? No. But that's not what it's about. It's about the everyday aspects that plot out four girl's daily lives. This is played out in a completely episodic fashion that's at times funny, intriguing and often referential to reality. At times I thought the show's subtlety bordered on a sort of domestic philosophy, much like how Sunday comic strips use satirical and/or comical means to graft societal deviations into entertainment. Who hasn't compared a friend to a favorite comic strip character? The one downside to the comic strip style is the understanding of the viewer. Much of the humor can fall short if the viewer doesn't understand or appreciate this highly invested angle (especially considering this medium that relies almost exclusively on “Epicness”). There were segments that felt flat to me that could have made another's viewer's day while having another flicking the television off.
As I mentioned before the animation is EXTREMELY cutesy, even for anime standards; the heads look huge, hair colors are overly eye-catching, and eyes devour most of the character's faces. It's also fairly minimalistic, in the fact that most backgrounds are plain wash backdrops or how unimportant characters only show up as silhouettes. This aspect could have lost more points had I not already decided how to watch the show. As a comic strip these awkward and cute exaggerations seem almost natural and even complementary to my perceived intent of the show. Could you imagine Garfield if he looked like a normal cat? I wouldn't be laughing at a real cat scarfing down a whole lasagna. I think the animators had a similar mentality when drawing up the series that reflects life from truly comical view.
The characters are Moe. I feel this is true and I can't even clearly define the term. They fit a sort of typical taste that many anime viewers have come to know and support. I felt the characters suffered at times from the frolics into typical stereotypes rather than deep character development; however, for the most part the characters felt interesting and funny in their comic-style roles and always had me smiling one way or another. Many times the show even used these stereotypes to its advantage. Konota's obsession with the similarity between Miyuki and her mother had a humorous hint of otaku reality mixed in that could have otherwise been absent with this observance to familiarity.
Lucky Star is a show someone can either love or loathe. This preference can depend on personal taste, but I strongly believe it also comes from the perspective a viewer watches it from. Once I realized the show worked much like Garfield in a schoolgirl uniform, I couldn't help asking for more.
I even found the visual comparison amusing: