Happy Lesson OVA (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Sunday, June 13, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, June 08, 2004

What They Say
The series you love is back for extra credit! After following Chitose through fourteen episodes of mayhem you may think there isn't any more insanity left. But you would be wrong. And these three expanded episodes of Happy Lesson are living proof!

Things get off to a hilarious start with an alternate version of the very first episode. Then join the whole extended family as they take a vacation... and take a quiet seaside resort by storm. Finally, the holiday season will never be the same once you've spent a crazy (and heartbreaking) Christmas with Chitose, Minazuki, Hazuki, and the Five Moms.

Maybe you thought you'd seen it all, but you haven't seen anything yet! So make sure you get to your seat in time to catch the ultimate Happy Lesson experience!

The Review!
Before the TV series came out there was a three part OVA release that first introduced us the world of Cheeto? er, Chitose and his situation.

Continuing our trend of nearly twenty years of preferring our anime in Japanese, we took this series in with its original language. The show has a pretty good stereo mix with a fair amount of directionality, which isn?t surprising considering the kinetic nature of the show and the all over the map feel of the character locations during it. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no issues with dropouts or high level distortions during regular playback.

Originally released in 2001, Happy Lesson is one of a number of OVA releases that manage to use the color palette beautifully to provide a rich looking show. The colors blend so beautifully and fully here that for the bulk of this transfer it?s a real pleasure to watch. The only areas we noticed anything looking bad in was a number of scenes where some cross coloration shows up in some of the background items. There?s some hint of it wanting to show through in some hairstyles here and there, but not enough to actually become visible. Aliasing is very minimal though it does show up in a few places, but overall this is a great looking transfer with a lot of great color and depth to them. It's also worth noting that the opening sequence is done with alternate angles due to the way the Japanese did the credits for this show. In a rare change of pace, the voice actors are given credit during the opening sequence. Instead of putting far too much text there, ADV opted for an alternate angle based on language. Watch it in Japanese (set from menu) and you get the Japanese vocal cast. Set it in English in the menu and get the English cast.

With a multiple reversible cover, this release uses all three covers used during the Japanese releases. The front cover uses the shot of Minazuki with everyone in smaller form along the bottom. Opening the keepcase up, you get the image of Mutsuki underneath the DVD itself. On the other panel, upside down so it can be reversed and used as the main cover, is the shot of Hazuki in her idol performance mode. The back cover mixes in a number of shots from the show and some menu shots as well as a plug for the manga. The premise is given a good amount of space, though the way it's written gives the impression that these episodes are like 'director's cut' episodes, and the discs features and production information is all quick and easy to find as well as being accurate. The insert is very nicely done with it opening into a tri-panel piece with each side having a length shot; one side is of the mama's at home and casual one the other is the fanservice shot everyone wants of them all in their swimsuits.

The menu layout is a simple piece with mostly just the text and a few small character pieces next to the episode selection with some music playback. It's definitely done on the minimal side without much effort. The menus are pretty simple with direct episode access and quick jumps to languages and extras.

The extras are pretty minimal here for the opening volume, with the clean opening and closing animation being the big pieces here while also having a character sketch.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
For those that missed it, Happy Lesson is another entry into the harem genre as done by Mutsuki Sasaki. For some reason ADV decided to go with the TV season first, then drop back to the OVA releases and then set things up for potentially getting the next TV season and going with that. With Happy Lesson though, no matter how they went with the release you'll experience some déjà vu with it.

When the OVA series was released in 2001, it must have done well enough during that release that it got picked up for a TV series version to launch in 2002. As animators are always looking for a way to save money and make use of materials, about eighty percent of the first episode was re-adapted for the TV season run. This provided the amusing situation of people who had seen the OVA release and then saw the TV run in the US and thought it was edited, since the first episode runs longer than TV length and they have a completely different ending. There's a number of differences that run across both series though which really does affect things.

Firstly, the general gist of the storyline can be found in our review of the TV season. The basic setup of the series is really the same. There are some noteworthy differences though and I think I've decided that I liked the TV versions resolution of them better. In the OVA series, Hazuki is introduced fairly early on but not as Chitose's older sister but rather a childhood friend from the orphanage he was at who has made it good. They end up meeting up with each other during the beach episode and she becomes a part of the group by moving into the area and re-establishing her friendship with Chitose. There's no overt interest between the two in terms of a relationship, so that aspect hasn't changed.

Another change is that when Minazuki is introduced, she comes as another childhood friend from the orphanage, again instead of being his sister, and someone who is betrothed to Chitose from a pledge they made years ago. So her arrival wrecks havoc for Chitose's life as he hasn't really even thought of the pledge in ages and doesn't have any seeming interest in her in this way. Minazuki's all over Chitose though, which at first gets the mama's going but really sets Fumitsuki against her at first since her desires for Chitose continue to be strong in this release. One of the things that I thought made the Happy Lesson TV series strong was that while there are a lot of women in his life, there's only one that's actively interested in him in a boyfriend/girlfriend sort of way. Happy Lesson OVA doesn't change it too much, but it does introduce some more variables into it and pushes it further back towards the cliché anime harem genre.

Watching the OVA release after having seen the TV series, the first episode didn't feel as rushed or poorly done as it did the first time since we already know the basic premise. The TV series, as seen first, was far too chaotic and over the top and really had us disliking the show from the start but the next set of episodes managed to save it. The OVA series maintains a lot of it but also shifts into some slower moments in the end of the first episode that helps put a bit more control on things. The subsequent episodes are all character introductions but are set against the typical backdrops. A vacation to the beach brings Hazuki into play and lets everyone wear both traditional outfits and swimsuits with a lot of skin showing. The last episode brings Minazuki into the equation and sets it against the tender moments of Christmas and those late lightly snowing nights set in the city.

What I think it is, in the end, is that the OVA release doesn't feel like it's got anything original to it where as the TV series made changes that were not the norm with the cast. Most everyone's personalities survive between the two with the exception of the sisters/not-sisters, so it's easy to take these in and treat them mostly as side stories that weren't told. The hardest part will be watching the first episode again unless you're really interested in seeing what kinds of changes were made. If you aren't, it'll feel like a repeat and only two new episodes to follow.

In Summary:
With the OVA market having fallen off so badly in the last ten years, it's rare for an OVA to be made, achieve a few episodes and then actually transition to a TV series. Happy Lesson provides an interesting look at what kinds of changes were made during that transition but also gives you a look at what may have been if they had continued with the OVAs. While Happy Lesson certainly isn't one of my favorite series, the TV season grew on me as it went along and these two fully new episodes feel like interesting what-if's and side stories.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Production sketches,Clean opening and closing animation

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Happy Lesson