Changing up the harem romantic comedy a bit, Chitose finds himself surrounded by five lovely ladies who are playing the role of mama.
What They Say
What teenage boy wouldn't want to spend his days surrounded by a pack of beautiful women? Chitose, that's who! He just moved out of the orphanage and back into his deceased parents' house. But instead of lounging around the ultimate bachelor pad, he's dodging discipline from his five new mothers! His high school teachers have adopted him, and the only thing that overshadows their good looks is their near-psychotic maternal zeal.
Just look at what they've got in store for him. When Chitose starts failing his classes, Mutsuki dons a sexy tutor outfit and beats the knowledge into him. Then Yayoi detects a spirit of misfortune inside Chitose's body, and decides to remove it-by force. And of course, there are the contests in which his mothers compete to win Chitose like some kind of grand prize.
How could any young guy hope to survive all this?
The bilingual presentation for Happy Lesson is a bit of overkill in some ways. The original Japanese stereo language is provided encoded at 224kbps while the English language mix gets a bump up to 5.1 at 448kbps. The show is one that doesn’t really take all that much advantage of the surrounds so it’s just a bit more clarity and placement along the forward soundstage, but that’s about it. It’s hard to discern if it actually sounds better or just a bit louder, especially as the actual language material itself is somewhat difficult to get through. We didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of either language track however.
Originally airing in 2002, Happy Lesson is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Happy Lesson is one of those series that uses such a great color palette that’s almost soft but not quite that really shines here. 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.
Originally released in four regular keepcases, this edition is shrunk down to three discs and is kept in a single keepcase with a hinge. The front cover artwork differs from the previous collected edition as it features the girls in various sexy outfits, such as swimsuits and Fumitsuki in her devilish costume from the festival episode. With the bright blue skies, vibrant colors and smiles all around, this is a very appealing and eye-catching cover. The back cover plays up the hot teacher side a bit and provides for a number of sexy shots from the show surrounding the summary of the most basic idea of the show. The package also does a good job of noting that it contains seventeen episodes for the price. The remainder of the cover is given over to basic production information as well as a solid technical grid that breaks down that it has both TV and OVA episodes. No inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for the series is painfully simple almost with a basic non-descript background, each volume with a different color, that has the episode selection along the left going down along with the language selection. The bottom right side of each menu has a trio of the girls from the show in super deformed mode, which you can also see from the silkscreening on the DVDs themselves. It’s a very basic menu and one you don’t spend much time in overall. Language selection for all three volumes was off however as the discs did not read our player presets, which is a real rarity for an ADV Films release.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Originally created by Sasaki Mutsumi and Shinnosuke Mori for Dengeki G's Magazine, Happy Lesson is a rather cute TV series that ran for fourteen episodes, which include a bonus DVD only episode. This release contains all of that and the first three of five OVAs that were created before the TV series. It’s been nearly five years since this came out in the US and the recent collection made me want to go back and look at it since I had relatively fond memories of it overall. To my surprise, much of it still plays well though certain parts of it continue to bother me with how they did it.
Happy Lesson revolves around Chitose Hitotose, a high school senior who has been at this particular school for a couple of months but hasn’t really made and friends and slacks off a lot. Or he gets into fights with those that attempt to goad him into things. His life hasn’t been easy to be sure as he lots his parents at an early age and spent much of his time in an orphanage. Events transpired where he suddenly inherited the house that his parents had, a rather spacious five bedroom place with lots of furniture and a wonderful location. He’s been living there peacefully and quietly, but he’s been close to simply dropping out of school and letting his life essentially go down the drain.
What stops this spiral is the awareness of the situation by a number of the teachers at his school. The five teachers, Mutsuki, Yayoi, Kisaragi, Uzuki and Satsuki all decide that they don’t want to see his life ruined because they know deep down that he’s a good guy that’s just having it rough. So they sort of force their way into his life by becoming his “mamas” and living with him. It’s an untenable situation at first until Chitose realizes he can’t fight against it and accepts it. The downside is that he loses most of his house since the mamas all take over the bedrooms and he has to sleep on the couch. With their influence, weirdness and kindness, they try to help set him on the right path by giving him a “happy lesson” in life. And it’s a lesson that takes fairly well, though Chitose doesn’t realize it for the most part because of the struggles he faces in living with these five women on a daily basis.
Chitose is the main central character of the show, but much of it comes through the prism of his interactions with the mamas. And with five of these women and only fourteen episodes, there isn’t exactly a whole lot of room for depth. Nor is it really warranted either. Happy Lesson is about having fun and putting Chitose through the wringer to get there. So these five women are all pretty standard archetypes. Mutsuki is the soft spoken glasses teacher who wears a maid uniform at home, Yayaoi is a shinto priestess doubling as the school nurse and Kisaragi is the very soft spoken girl genius who has put her plans to take over the world on hold while she deals with Chitose. Uzuki is the very young looking perky blonde who loves to cosplay and teaches art while Satsuki is your guts and glory athletic gym teacher who is all about living life to its fullest. You can pretty much see what trajectory each mama will take in her interactions with Chitose.
That said, I actually do come away from Happy Lesson with some appreciation of the show and these archetypes in it. What really changes the feel of the show is that none of the mamas – none of them – view Chitose in a romantic way. They’re all looking out for his best interests for the future, admittedly in an odd way, but there isn’t any romantic love being expressed here. There’s a familial love at best being produced and that provides for a very different show. When Happy Lesson introduces other women into the show, they tend to fall into the same pattern for the most part. The introduction of Hazuki and Minazuki from the orphanage is much the same as they’re viewed as real sisters, even though not related by blood. As we can see from the OVAs, this could have gone in a very different and bad way in my opinion. The TV series really nails this right by keeping everyone platonic if touchy-feely.
It’s not all free of this though as there is but a single romantic interest in this series. That comes in the form of the class president, Fumitsuki. She’s your standard attractive quiet and withdrawn girl with glasses type who is great at school and has a lot of responsibilities but nobody sees her as fun. She’s grudgingly taken to the role that’s put upon her for awhile, but she’s become drawn to Chitose since he came to the school. As he changes through the influence of the mamas, she’s more and more interested in him and tries to get closer so she can reveal her feelings. She doesn’t really become a heavy focus, but as events get closer to the end of the series, she really shines. Especially in that devilish outfit that should be standard classroom attire.
The TV series is rather infuriating at one point though and that’s at the end. That’s where they take the show to the next step and then throw in some wacky hijinks to practically reboot it. I despise it when shows do this, especially on an episodic basis, but here it feels like the wrong thing to do. I wanted to see Chitose move forward, but they want to make more of the series. Even worse is that after this, we go into the OVA series that came out before the TV series and suffer an even stronger reboot because of it. There are some interesting differences, though not many, in the first episode but it gets progressively different as it goes on and Hazuki and Minazuki are introduced. Having Minazuki take on the role of a promised wife from a childhood pledge really diminishes the show and made it far less appealing. I could have completely done without this OVA series but it’s still beyond me how only three of the five episodes got brought over.
All that said, I want more of this show. I really want to see someone go back and pick up what hasn’t been licensed and bring it over. The main series here is a lot of fun as Chitose deals with a heavy dose of platonic love from his mamas and does his best to cope. A lot of the fun in this show for me comes in watching what weirdness Kisaragi comes up with, the way she deadpans everything, and watching Fumitsuki work up her courage to deal straight on with Chitose. And at the risk of repeating myself, I want more of her in that devil suit. I’d really like to see more Happy Lesson since it’s still something of a surprising show that plays the harem genre differently and that alone is a very welcome thing.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles
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.