Lucky Star (LS) is a very successful moneytrap. It has simplistic animation, tells us straight in the face that it’s shallow entertainment and a monument to product placement, and yet sells a billion bucks. It takes great talent to convince the audience you are exploiting their weaknesses and this is a fine example.
Animated by Kyoto Animation, the anime studio which always knows how to pamper its audience with good production values and endless amounts of moeblobs. The directors are also behind many successful moe comedies and having gathered enough experience now splatter moeness all over the screen with a 95% chance of critical fondness. So yeah, it’s a good moe show and sells its own self in proccess. Is it anything more? Not by a longshot.
If I am to give a score to the production values, I say they are practical; meaning simple but effective. It has a lot to do with the viewer being content with simplistically drawn backgrounds, moe characters, silly squeaky voices, and energetic pop songs, and it’s not like the anime needed anything more than that. Would the Smurfs be a better cartoon if they were 3D and their mushroom houses were fluorescent? No it wouldn’t because it would distract the average eye to pay attention to the surrounds and not to what the heck is going on with the characters. That is a major mistake most modern animated shows do; all fluff and little attention to the actual plot. There are many references being made to other anime but they are part of the gag of the episode and thus they are not irrelevant. For example, when you see an image of Haruhi (something you will see a lot), they will be talking about it; it will not be a random feature in the background to bait the fans of that show unprovoked. So everything is as I said practical. I still do not consider the production values to be perfect, because no matter how practical something is, it does not automatically deem itself beautiful. There is very little fluent animation and everybody is just flapping his or her mouth randomly. I also don’t consider the soundtrack to be amazing and squeaky voices tend to annoy me fast. I understand that they sound very lively and cute but it’s too stupid and easily digestable for me. I am a Miyazaki fan of animation, an Escaflowne fan of chorus music, and in both cases LS looks terribly simplistic.
If I am to give a score to the story, I will obviously give it the lowest one for the simple reason… it is simple and aimless. I don’t really care about the explanation of “moe and slice of life don’t need a story” and spat a 10 like most do because that would be hypocrisy. A good story is more than a premise and even moe shows can have a story that moves forward. Examples of which is Cardcaptor Sakura or Azumanga. As simple as they were, they still had a feeling of progress in them. In case of LS, it is just fun and games that don’t matter in the long run. Sure, it’s a relaxing otaku-centric show and having a plot, means having a conflict, means not being relaxing. But that is practically part of the enjoyment factor and not of the story. One would of course say that the point of the story is to tell good jokes and poke at normality. Overall, it does that successfully; everything in this show aims to make the anime fans feel like their hobby is the best thing in the universe and everyone else is a boring idiot. If seen from this POV, then indeed enjoyment and story are fused together and share the same score. I on the other hand don’t see it as such; I never consider a show to be nothing but an irrelevant group of anecdotes. Episodic structure that never leads somewhere is a no-no in my book, no matter how great each individual story or joke may be. That is why I don’t consider other shows like Mushishi or Mononoke to be awesome in story as well; I don’t confuse the plot with how much I enjoyed it.
If I am to give a score to the cast, it depends on if you like moe or not. I personally like it but I also expect character development to really deem the cast worthy of getting more than the base score. And the problem with moe characters is that they are mostly external stimulation and internal hollowness. It is not like we can’t possibly have something going on about them, an example of which is Potemayo. Just like the production values, the girls of the show are practical. Simple in personality but very bold to become distinctive and memorable. And just like the story, they don’t need to develop because they would produce a conflict that would contradict the relaxing nature of the show. Although this can work just fine to create appealing characters, at the same time it leaves no room for experimentation, as there is nothing to work with in further improving the formula. Furthermore, they are clearly the idealized image of what otakus want and not ACTUAL people you can possibly believe they can be otakus. I mean they look half their age, are pretty, and talk casually about anime and videogames. And what do we know about female gamers and videogames players? Definitely not all that. Sounds fun to have ideal characters but makes it impossible for me to sympathise with something so unreal. But then again this is an escapism show, so if you like to feel nice by escaping to the unreal then all this is going to feel quite positive instead of negative.
If I am to give a score to value, it gets a high one. Not only it is famous to all, it also created its own fandom and from it sprung a hundred other similar shows trying to get a piece of the pie. It sold a billion bucks, everybody in the field knows it, and everybody is using it as a point of reference to moe in the same fashion Sailor Moon is the point of reference to mahou shojo. It is common sense that it’s a historically highly significant anime for the industry.
If I am to give a score to enjoyment, it all depends on how much I liked the comedy and the cute girls with the total absence of an overall story or plot. In this case, it is a show that makes fun of normality. It is also plotless to make sure you will not expect some sort of conclusion. It has some bold archetypical characters, making fun of every simple daily aspect of life in a cute way. As the tag goes, anything can be awesome if you can make a joke out of it. I must say I do fancy the ability to create something out of a premise that sounds plain and boring and a normal life is amongst the hardest topics. Reality is the most boring game ever and this show is as I said making the game funny. Ok at that part, I liked it a lot.
What I didn’t like were the constant Haruhi references. It’s as if this show can’t stand up without poking at the viewer’s interest in different works and it can be seen as a cheap trick to attract attention. It’s as if you are watching a boring low budgeted movie, just because there is are many cameo appearances of your favourite actor. Real brilliance does rely on others to get a boost but does not constantly tell you who these others are and does not try to profit by ass-kissing them. Of course this is an otaku-centric show and making references to other anime is a secured way to increase sales amongst the fanbase. Look what wonders it did for Gintama. I am not saying it is wrong. I am saying it is an effortless way to sell and as much as it may work, technically lowers the credibility. And to make my point more clear, read the following.
SEX! PORN! LOLIS! TSUNDERE! CAT EARS! MAID CAFÉ! SUIMSUITS!
There, see? This review has nothing to do with all those words but mentioning them is enough to increase your interest in reading further. It is cheap but it works, yet lowers the credibility of the text.
Another thing that is hit or miss is how you view a show full of little girls making otaku jokes. One could find it hilariously funny, another could see it as a pedo-bait for NEETs. It all depends on a personal POV and for someone like me who has such a user name, I was leaning towards the later.
THIS WOULD NEVER WORK WITHOUT THE CUTE GIRLS AND THE HARUHI REFERENCES.
Is that bad? No; it’s just schlock. To me really great shows work on their own, stand on their own two feet, don’t need to have their traits formed in a way for millions of viewers to worship them. Real gems are for me not fan catering; they are projections of the creators’ wishes and desires and in this case, LS’s creators were thinking of nothing else other than how to make money out of the otaku community. It worked alright, but at the same time it feels like you are being manipulated. So ok, many don’t mind being manipulated as I do, many love having their feelings and lustful thoughts being exploited like some clay in the hands of the animators. Most people actually love being manipulated like that (we wouldn’t have religions if they didn’t) and thus all my negative thoughts on the subject is actually a great positive trait of the show. So in case you belong to that group of people, I say
WATCH IT; YOUR EMOTIONS WILL BE MANIPULATED AND YOU WILL LOVE THEM FOR THAT!
Beyond that, I don’t fancy this sort of anime much. I prefer when they have a story like Abenobashi or when they work as cathartic, as in the case of Welcome to the NHK. It is a successfully relaxing and fan catering show but eventually it is doing nothing but milking your fondness of clichés and aesthetics. Well excuse me but if I wanted that I would go to some church.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 7/10
General Artwork 2/2 (well-made)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 2/2 (basic)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 1/2 (basic)
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (silly but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 2/10
Premise 1/2 (simple)
Pacing 0/2 (episodic)
Complexity 1/2 (not much, unless you find the references to other titles smart)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 0/2 (doesn’t have one)
CHARACTER SECTION: 5/10
Presence 2/2 (cute/funny)
Personality 2/2 (stereotypes but well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 0/2 (none)
Catharsis 0/2 (none)
VALUE SECTION: 8/10
Historical Value 3/3 (all-known)
Rewatchability 2/3 (high if you like its style)
Memorability 3/4 (typical for the genre but a well made one)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 4/10
I got some chuckles out of it but that’s it. Very effortless.