Lucky Star OVA (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, August 28, 2009
Release Date: Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Little more than a few additional stories, Lucky Star brings out a bit more fun but nothing really captivating.

What They Say
Lucky Star is back as an OVA! Usually OVA stands for original video animation but we just wanted to make a point that this special episode of Lucky Star is such an original and visual work of animation. Kagami and Tsukasa join Konata and Ms. Kuroi in the virtual world of an online role playing game and we get to witness firsthand the newbie experience in an MMORPG. Am I dreaming or

is that really Kagami cosplaying as Miku Hatsune?! If that and the surreal frog scene are just too weird for you, the girls also do some common everyday stuff like play volleyball and go camping.

Stick around for the ending credits as you'll be treated to a special episode of Lucky Channel where you'll see me, Minoru Shiraishi, and Akira Kagami live in person!

The Review!
Audio:
The monolingual production for this release gets a pretty good stereo mix for both languages as the Japanese track is encoded at 224kbps. The series is really pretty tame when it comes to the audio side as the big opening/closing sequence dance and song numbers aren’t here so it’s hard to tell the impact of it at times. It’s basically a full on dialogue piece with lots of moments of punctuated silence so the mix doesn’t really stress itself in the slightest once it gets past the hyperactive opening. In listening to this release, we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of the show.

Video:
Originally released in 2008, the transfer for this OVA is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The franchise has a very strong visual design to it which looks really great here. With its relatively meager origins in a four panel strip, the anime incarnation runs with a similar feel in how the backgrounds have a bit more of a “comic strip” feel to them with the detail and coloring. The character designs are much more vibrant and the combination of the two elements really works well here as it’s a show that stands out strongly. The backgrounds aren’t soft but they don’t have the kind of sharpness you get in other shows but it looks very solid and generally free of heavy noise. The character designs with their large spaces of bold colors works in much the same way as there isn’t any noticeable breakup or heavy noise either. Cross coloration is absent and other than a bit of line noise during some of the panning sequences, this is just another winner in how it looks in portraying Kyoto Animation’s work.

Packaging:
Presented in a white keepcase which keeps it consistent with the TV series release, the Lucky Star OVA is a bright, colorful and busy piece with the four main girls on the front cover. Each of them is done up in a different way with various costumes, be it anime costumes or sports one, with smiles, blushes and dents against innocence in Kagami’s case. The background is filled with stars and more facial artwork that keeps it all quite busy and a bit too colorful I think. The back cover is a bit less busy though it’s just spread out more. The centerpiece is a big star in which the show summary is presented while around it there are numerous star shaped character shots from the show and a cute picture of Konata in her witch outfit. The rest of the cover has the good listing of the discs features and extras as well as the basic production information and a good clean technical grid that lets you know exactly what’s on the disc itself. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menus for this release break from the TV series as it has a blue evening sky background shot with some comic-strip style buildings along the bottom. The logo is along the top and the center strip has various pieces of character artwork in small blocks with the navigation selection above them. It’s a simple and cute piece, but I would have thought that they’d cut costs even more and keep it consistent with the TV series by using what they had already created. Submenus load quickly and the disc read our players’ language presets correctly, though it’s a non-issue since there’s only one language here. They do include the language submenu though so you can turn them off if you want to.

Extras:
The only extra included in here is the clean version of the ending  sequence, which is the entire seven minute live action sequence even though the credits only ran for like the last ninety seconds. Still, it’s welcome to get it in a clean form.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the completion of the TV series release, which was somewhat awkwardly done due to the lack of a limited edition that was previously planned, there was some hesitancy as to whether Bandai and Kadokawa would even release the OVA. Well, the OVA has come out and as we knew from the solicitation, it has been done without an English language adaptation. Taken with the end of the series, Lucky Star has suffered quite badly from a few directions. Whether the blame goes to Bandai or Kadokawa for the final decision to not dub it, I don’t know, but fandom shares some of the blame as well since sales of the series weren’t anywhere near what they needed to be to justify it. And with so many people clamoring loudly for this show when it first started coming out, fandom has to take a bit of a hit with it as well. It’s instances like this that make me appreciate the 13 episode half season set releases more and more since you know up front that likely it’ll all be dubbed or not.

The OVA, with a runtime of just over forty minutes, is essentially the same as having two full episodes together without an opening sequence. The stories included in this release don’t really add much of anything to what we saw before, but that’s pretty much to be expected considering what this show is all about. The series played the slice of life angle pretty well with an interesting and quirky group of friends as they went through their high school career. Most are normal all told, with Konata adding the geeky gamer anime fan factor to it through which the others tried to decipher. It was very fun to watch, but difficult to talk about because each episode was really about nothing in a way. Just the experiences the girls went through, which often amounted to little more than conversations.

Over the course of this episode, they definitely go for the weird a bit. A good chunk of the show involves the gang in a MMORPG together where they all look like themselves done in CG with various classes assigned to them. They’re not as powerful as they were in the previous game they played, but it’s cute watching them go through the motions of a battle and some of the little nods to how games work (such as when people are AFK). It’s a difficult segment overall though because there are two conversations going on. You have the girls all talking, which gets the primary subtitles, but they’re also talking within the game text chat box which gets a smaller white set of subtitles. You have to back up a few times if you want to get all the nuances and references.

The majority of this show is fairly cute but unmemorable in the end. A camping sequence that’s eerily familiar delves into the girls getting lost and feeling like they’re going to die of starvation after only a few hours. Another segment dips briefly into a very cute Sgt. Frog homage where everyone starts thinking they look like him and others from the show. The opening of the show is strange in that they push a story idea of the dog Cherry being potentially ill because she’s not eating, but it doesn’t really go anywhere before it moves on to other things. The only segment that really made me chuckle overall is the last when they do Lucky Channel. The seven minute sequence is done entirely in live action form which is amusing to see since Minoru is pretty much the same in both. Akari doesn’t quite come across all that well here since doing what she does in the anime as a real person just isn’t funny. It’s almost painful and it reminds you exactly why some things work well in animation even in this realm but not in live action.

In Summary:
While I had some mild issues with the TV series, I found it to be cute and enjoyable overall once you got a sense of what it really wanted to do. Lucky Channel was the difficult segment more often than not, but it had its moments as well. This OVA doesn’t really do anything to add from what we saw at the end of the TV series and comes across as one mild last hurrah for the property. It’s a decent time, but it lacks some of the energy I thought the TV show had at times, but more importantly I think it lacks clear direction of where it wanted to go and what it wanted to be. There’s a few chuckles to be had, but that’s about the extent of it. Combine that with the way the ball was dropped over its language options and it’s a hard sell to anyone but the die-hards of the series. And they’re the ones that will be the most iffy about it because of the treatment they feel the series has gotten, or they’re the ones waiting for the full on collection to begin with as they avoided the singles.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Closing

Review Equipment

Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 14.98
Running time: 43
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Lucky Star