Anime Spotlight: Lucky Star

Lucky Star, which was based off a four-panel manga by Kagami Yoshimizu, was directed by Yutaka Yamamoto and Yasuhiro Takemoto and produced by Kyoto Animation. The 24 episodes of the series aired on Japanese television from April 8-September 16, 2007. There was also an OVA released on September 26, 2008. As of this writing, FUNimation Entertainment holds the North American distribution license for the Lucky Star anime.

The focus of Lucky Star in on four high school girls, each with a different personality. Konata Izumi is a lazy girl who spends most of her time watching anime, playing video games, and reading manga instead of doing her homework. Kagami Hiiragi is the studious one who has good grades but can also act more boyish and be a bit egotistical. Tsukasa Hiiragi is Kagami’s younger fraternal twin sister. She can be a bit of an airhead at times, but she’s good at cooking. Miyuki Takara is beautiful, smart, and comes from a wealthy family.

In the opening credits, there’s a big group of girls shown, but most of the other characters aren’t introduced until halfway through the series. These additional characters include Konata’s younger cousin, Yutaka Kobayakawa, and some of Yutaka’s classmates. Yutaka’s older sister (a traffic cop) and one of the teachers at the school also serve as recurring characters.

When I started to watch the first episode, I really wasn’t sure what to think of the opening song. However, as the series progressed, it became an earworm that stayed stuck in my head. It’s catchy and bouncy, even if the lyrics are rather strange.

Lucky Star is a series that focuses a lot on “cute girls doing cute things,” but it intersperses various anime, manga, video game, and other otaku references in as part of its humor. Overall, this series is lighthearted, but it can have its serious moments. The most “serious” this series got was in Episode 22, when we see the ghost of Konata’s mother popping in and checking up on her husband and daughter. The flashbacks were touching, and the humor was scaled back for this portion of the episode.

Episode 21 ended up hitting me because of one particular scene in it. In this episode, the girls go on a class trip to Kyoto, and Konata takes her friends around to some of the “otaku” locations. One of those happens to be the Kyoto Animation building that burned down in a fire that killed 35 people in July 2019. At the time this episode was produced, it was just a funny in-joke reference for the studio. But now, it’s going to be a reminder of what used to be.

When it comes to the various references, I’m sure there’s some things I didn’t pick up on. However, I know I saw visual references to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Sgt. Frog, and Mobile Suit Gundam. There were also dialogue references to Pokemon and Code Geass that I picked up on.

For character design, the majority of the characters don’t look like high school students to me. Most of them look like they should be in middle school, with a couple of the younger ones (such as Yutaka) looking like they should be in elementary school. That was probably deliberate on the original mangaka’s part, as a kind of joke, but it made it hard for me to use my willing suspension of disbelief at times when I was watching the series.

Since Lucky Star is based off a four-panel manga, it’s going to have the storytelling that accompanies that format. The first few episodes were a little rough, though, because it felt like there was no real overarching narrative for the episode. It just felt like we were jumping around from bit to bit with little to nothing to tie the vignettes together. After Yasuhiro Takemoto took over as director and found his footing, it felt more like there was an overarching narrative to the episodes that helped to tie the various vignettes together.

Near the end of each episode, there was a bit called “Lucky Channel” about an idol girl named Akira and her assistant, Minoru. Akira tries to give off the vibe of being an energetic idol, but if she gets irritated, her cranky and sarcastic side comes out. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure if “Lucky Channel” really added anything to Lucky Star or not.

For about the first half of the series, the ending credits were done with the main characters behind a door performing songs at karaoke. I picked up on them singing “CHA-LA HEAD-CHA-LA” from Dragon Ball Z, as well as a theme song for Doraemon, but the other songs they sang meant nothing to me. For the second half, the ending credits were live action, showing the voice actor for Minoru singing songs instead. There was one exception, when a music video except for “Misoji Misaki” by Hiromi Konno was used instead. To be honest, I really didn’t like the live action ending credits all that much.

When I watched the OVA, I felt it was a step backward. The storytelling style returned to the more disjointed format of the early episodes, with nothing to tie anything together. For the ending credits, there was an extended live action piece that featured the voice actors for Akira and Minoru doing a “Lucky Channel” segment in character. Honestly, I felt it ran on for too long and lost its amusement value rather quickly.

In the end, though, Lucky Star isn’t bad for what it’s trying to do. However, it’s not the style of anime I tend to go out of my way to watch. While I’m glad to have seen it, since it’s an important part of Kyoto Animation’s legacy, it’s not a series that I’m in a rush to add to my anime home video library.

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