Lucky Star Vol. #1 (also w/limited edition) (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, May 06, 2008
What They Say
Meet Konata, an athletic and intelligent girl too dedicated to her favorite primetime animes to excel in anything but otaku culture; Miyuki, the cute, bespectacled living example of moé with an encyclopedic knowledge of all subjects; Kagami, the bitter-sweet, tough but shy straight-man to Konata's constant teasing and pranks; and her younger fraternal twin sister, Tsukasa, a kind but air-headed klutz. Witness this study in the human condition as our heroines explore the unexplored in questioning the ordinary!
The lives and observations of four high school girls and their quirks is the subject of this very strange yet amusing series.
The bilingual production for this release gets a pretty good stereo mix for both languages as each track is encoded at 224kbps. The series is really pretty tame when it comes to the audio side once it gets beyond the opening and closing sequences 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 both language tracks, we didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of the show.
Originally airing throughout 2007, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The series 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.
Released in both a disc only and limited edition set, we caved in and went with the limited edition set after the great way the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya limited edition was done. This one mirrors that one in its box design in general which is a definite positive. The heavy chipboard box has six panels of vibrant and colorful artwork of the main characters going on about their lives either at school or just being social out in the world. The diminutive designs and the bright colors certainly makes this an eye catching set and having the artwork on every square inch of it doesn't hurt either. The magnetic side clasp is used once again with this set as a way to keep everything safe inside and that opens up to reveal more cute pictures of the girls in different outfits or various headshots of them. Inside the box are several quite interesting items. The first is a chocolate coronet screen wipe which is very cute and has already been used to clean this screen. More interesting to some folks I'm sure will be the two CDs included, one with the opening song in various forms and the second being the first character CD, this time for Konata. What really surprised me was the inclusion of a t-shirt in size XL that has the spring uniform printed on it that the girls wear. It's like they're saying they know exactly what kind of fan will be interested in this show...
The keepcase artwork for the limited edition release in the box is different from the regular edition and it's quite amusing. The front cover is a piece of white lined paper on which Konata has drawn her view of what Kagami is like as she's in a Shinto priestess outfit waving a broom around. It's a great crayon drawing that really pushes a certain kind of feeling that the show has. The back cover uses the paper design again to good effect as it features four headshots of the girls and a summary through the center of what the basic premise is all about. Arrayed around the corners are the sections that list different aspects such as the basic features, disc extras, the episode numbers and titles as well as the special edition extras. The bottom of the cover is standard Bandai Entertainment design as it lists the production credits and some meager technical information. The release feels very unusual in that it actually contains a useful insert, a two panel foldout piece that has liner notes for all the oddities across the first four episodes.
The menu design for the show is quite cute as it capitalizes on the character designs and the bouncy music that epitomizes the opening sequence. With all four girls lined along the bottom with just headshots, there are "thought balloons" that have clips from the show playing about as they switch between the characters. The navigation strip is down the middle which is pretty standard in its selections and they all load nice and quick. There is a brief delay though as they do include a small transitional piece of animation every time you go to something from the main menu. The disc unfortunately follows a pretty standard trend with Bandai Entertainment releases in that it doesn't read our players' language presets.
The extras are a bit weak in general but there are some cute things to be found in here. The first things that are listed is a pair of key scenes galleries in which stills from the show float by with Japanese text on them (soft subtitled in English) that explain certain elements of the show while at times playing up the cuteness of the characters. They both run just under two minutes each. The opening sequence is included with a lyrics included, though this isn't too clear at first as what they have are the Japanese text lyrics on the screen in a wild karaoke form. They do thankfully include the English soft subtitled lyrics as well. A positively amusing brief promo clip is included which was used to, well, push the show I guess before it aired. It certainly set the mood for what the show is all about. The last extra is a really interesting piece that runs about twelve minutes called Minoru Shiraishi's Adventures in which we see the actor and several of the production crew out doing a live action shoot for the show. You sort of lose the point of it after awhile but it does start off amusing. It doesn't maintain that feel throughout as it really does drag at times but there are some cute moments to be had in watching the actor and the crew.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Kagami Yoshimizu, Lucky Star is a twenty four episode series that saw a fair bit of controversy during its original airing at first. The series director was changed after the fourth episode with chatter being about him not being ready for prime time yet coupled with a segment of fans that just didn't think the show worked like it should have. Having not read the original manga strips or having all that much knowledge about it, I can't say much in that regard but I can certainly talk about what I've seen here for the first time.
Lucky Star is the kind of series, at first at least, is very reminiscent of other four panel strips that have been adapted into anime form. It's very easy to draw parallels to another population adaptation from a few years ago with Azumanga Daioh. Both series work in the same kind of vein in that there are multiple "stories" in each episode, sometimes with connections to each other. The characters go through their lives and we get to listen in to their strange and mundane conversations, see the little clique aspects that pop up and the general weirdness of certain characters. Lucky Star revolves around a primary group of four high school students in the range of sixteen to seventeen at the start of the show who all go to school together and have bonded as good friends, though not without some mild tension at times.
The primary character of the show is Konata, a very laid back young woman whose love of anime surpasses almost all else. Her love of food tends to outweigh other things but for the most part she's very much the kind of geek girl that guys fall head over heels for. Add in her mastery of video games, particularly in the fighting game genre, and it's a surprise she doesn't have a massive following of young men behind her. In her class, she's friends with Tsukasa, the obligatory slightly dopey girl with a heart of gold who smiles a lot and is just generally quite pleasant to be around. Also in the class is Miyuki, a pink haired girl with glasses who is incredibly smart and beautiful but has the kind of shy mild reserve about her that keeps her from being the school stunner. The group is often joined by Tsukasa's fraternal twin sister Kagami, a very intelligent and attractive young woman who seems to butt heads with Konata regularly. The two of them do tend to get along but there's a bit of a rivalry there, more from Kagami's part, since Konata seems to be able to do anything.
As the core group, and really that's all there is in these first episodes outside of a few mild supporting characters in other students and a teacher, the four of them go about their lives with some rather amusing commentary. You really get a feel for the show out of the first encounter with them as they're sitting at their desks eating a snack and Konata wonders which is the best way to eat a chocolate coronet, which invariably leads to them wondering which is the head and which is the tail end. That shifts to all other kinds of foods, different ways of eating them and numerous taste ideas. It's incredibly mundane but the way they proceed through the conversation you can't help but laugh at it. Another short story in the first episode deals with the way of the relationships between the characters when the three of them go to visit Kagami who is home sick. There are a number of little things in there about how they all play off of each other and their personalities in general that it highlights a lot of basic things.
This early into the show, it's really about establishing the basic archetypes of the four primary characters. They all fit easily into their various categories and they're explored in a simple but effective manner. Studying for exams highlights Konata's nature as you see Kagami studying day and night while Tsukasa struggles with even staying awake. Konata for her part is positively amusing as she spends all her time gaming and reading and then just crams for the last few hours before the test and is able to ace it quite well. That has Kagami wondering how Konata even got into the school since you can't just cram for an entrance exam like that. A rather cute area explored, albeit briefly, involves the twins and how they're both similar and alike as Konata tries to picture Kagami as "cute" and fails utterly. Miyuki is the weak link in these early episodes as she doesn't get too much focus though there is a very silly series of scenes involving her trying to get some contacts to replace her glasses.
With the basic makeup of the show, Lucky Star is one that doesn't lend itself to deep insights or discussion. It's more in how it deals with the character quirks and the way they interact with each other. What makes this an amusing show is in how it's presented as the characters look and feel more like elementary school students as opposed to high school students. The diminutive character designs with a rather basic look that doesn't have too much detail really makes them feel far younger than they are and the topics of conversation often don't help that either. Unless they're talking about master/slave ero games... The characters tend to come across as very vibrant and colorful, full of life, while the backgrounds reminded me more of My Neighbors the Yamadas' with its softer watercolor feel. The pairing of the two isn't unique but it really works wonderfully here as it has a certain kind of warmth and charm to it as they move about their world and their conversations.
Lucky Star garnered itself quite a lot of attention during its original broadcast run and after the release of the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya by Bandai Entertainment as the next likely candidate for them to release with Kadokawa Pictures USA. Not unlike Suzumiya, comedies can be a hard sell and Lucky Star is certainly very targeted with what it's going after. Given the same kind of love and attention as Suzumiya, Lucky Star really has all the bells and whistles of a top tier release that will make it noteworthy just from that alone. These first four episodes are certainly curious ones as we get to the first layer of who these characters are, but it hasn't been a knockout show that has drawn us in entirely. There is a lot to like here, but it's got a lot to go and it'll be interesting to see if it can maintain what it's done or improve on it. The core cast of characters are a lot of fun to watch and their social interactions are quite amusing. Right now, Lucky Star is just good simple mostly clean fun.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Key Scenes Galleries,Clean Opening w/lyrics,Promo Clip,Adventures of Mirou Shirashi,Liner Notes,LE: Motteke Sailor Fuku Opening CD,LE: Konata Character CD,LE: Girl's School Uniform (Winter) T-shirt,LE: Chocolate Cornet Screen Wipe
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: A+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Kadokawa Pictures USA
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Lucky Star