>DVD Review – Oh my "Lucky Star"!

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If “Neon Genesis Evangelion” showed all the problems of Japan, “Lucky Star” shows everything that is good about Japan. Most Americans may gloss over this cheeky series about otaku and Japanese culture, but people who love Japanese culture will undoubtably love “Lucky Star.”

“Lucky Star” is, like “Azumanga Daioh,” a series about high school girls in Japan. However, while “Azumanga” dealt with high school girls and their everyday life, “Lucky Star” deals with high school girls and their fascination with otaku culture. Otaku, if you haven’t heard of them, refers primarily to video game and anime addicts in Japan. The choice of characters and the topic is fascinating in itself, because the older generation of Japanese people refer to otaku as children who just won’t grow up.

On the contrary, “Lucky Star” promotes the message that anime is not bad at all. In fact, the main character, Konata Izumi, liberates herself from her humdrum everyday life with online games, shonen (boys) manga and dating simulation games. Every day, she likes to imagine her friends as anime characters, and reimagines scenes in everyday life as scenes from “Cromartie High School” and “Street Fighter II.” While her friends initially believe that Konata is slacking off and cramming at the last minute, she certainly succeeds well, based on her test grades and her gleeful expression when her friends ask how well she did on her entrance exams.

Konata’s friends are just as interesting. Kagami Hiragi, the genius of the group of friends, often tries to convince Konata to stop slacking off (good job). However, no matter how hard Konata tries, she can’t help slipping into her habits of reading manga and watching episodes of “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.” Kagami’s twin sister, Tsukasa, is a clumsy airhead who actually makes an effort to study, but gets so carried away with planning everything that she forgets about studying. Miyuki Tahara is from a wealthy family and always talks politely. And she can give encyclopedia definitions for everything that her friends talk about.

This is a series that is whimsical and fun for its simple, but unique characters. I could never imagine that an elementary school girl in Japan would love dating simulation games, which mostly focus on male characters who can choose from a variety of girls to date, kiss and even have sex with. However, Konata is just that type of person, because her mother died and her father loves playing those dating video games. This alone allows the kids to bring up interesting discussions about whether an addiction to dating games is a healthy habit.

The most interesting part of the series is the “Lucky Channel” segment at the end of every episode, hosted by the cute Akira Kogami and her male assistant, Minoru Shiraishi. The two look at letters to the director and discuss character profiles. However, in the middle of the segment, Akira usually sulks about how much she hates her job, her parents who withhold her allowance and her directors who force her to play cute characters. Akira’s character makes for hilarious conversations between Shiraishi and Kogami.

But the series is nowhere near as exciting as the wacky opening theme song, “Motteke Serafuku.” The characters sing about three-piece uniforms, getting cherry pies and their pride for wearing sailor shirts as schoolgirl uniforms. Don’t ask about the lyrics, because I’m clueless as to what some of them really mean. However, the subtitle writers did a good job translating them as best as they could. And a whole bunch of schoolgirls are in cheerleader uniforms, dancing to the bass-thumping dance music. It’s quite a spectacle, and it’s probably the best opening sequence I’ve seen in awhile.

Certainly “Lucky Star” has its flaws–anime fans who love subtitles will have a tough time catching up with the long dialogue of these kids, and they may miss out on references to the dating game “To Heart.” However, for people who love Japanese culture, this is a must-have series. I’m definitely picking up this series for its unique look at Japanese mannerisms.

Some of the extras are great as well. There is a karaoke video of the opening sequence of the series and a special segment called “The Adventures of Minoru Shiraishi.” This is the real-life Minoru Shiraishi, the music director for “Lucky Star.” In this episode, he heads to a rocky beach in Kyushu (I think) to sing anime songs, such as the “Miracle Minarun-run” from “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.” The segment a hilarious look at how far Japanese directors will go to entertain people.

Image courtesy of kurotiger.blogspot.com
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Filed under Japan, otaku, parody, video game

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