Happy Lesson Vol. #3 - Mania.com

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Mania Grade: C+

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Happy Lesson

Happy Lesson Vol. #3

By Chris Beveridge     April 15, 2004
Release Date: April 27, 2004

Happy Lesson Vol. #3
© ADV Films

What They Say
Things really heat up as Happy Lesson comes to its rollicking conclusion!

Poor Chistose is stuck in the middle of all the insanity once again. Mama Kisaragi has developed a split personality - as if her regular old single personality wan't scary enough! Kanna is discovering new and faintly disturbing feelings for our hero. And intrepid and terribly confused Fumitsuki has reached the point where she simply must know what Chitose's true feelings are. And as if that wasn't enough, Chitose's worst nightmare finally comes true!

The Review!
Bringing the first TV season to a close, Happy Lesson continues to play some fun episodes and then gets a bit more serious for the two part ending.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. 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 airing in 2002, 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, particularly on our LCD projection set. 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.

Still using the reversible covers, Minazuki gets the last cover here with a very cute look using the oversized head and small hands while everyone else is lined along the bottom in traditional kimono's from their hot springs visit. 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 and the discs features and production information is all quick and easy to find as well as being accurate. The reverse side cover of this clear keepcase uses the image of Satsuki in her swimsuit while another set of the cute versions of the girls are lined along the bottom in their more everyday outfits. The back cover is laid out the same roughly but with a few differences and different artwork. The insert is nicely done with more shots of the women that opens to a three panel page where four voice actors and their respective characters are profiled.

The menu layout is a cute little piece where the shows logo and character animation bounce in from opposite sides and then disappear to be replaced by another. While this is going on, a row of three chicks does a little jig along the bottom just above the selections, all of this set to an upbeat little tune from the show. The menus are pretty simple with direct episode access and quick jumps to languages and extras. The only thing I wish ADV would change with their menus is a play-all feature on their trailers.

The extras are minimal with this release are just like the prior ones with the clean opening and closing animation being the big pieces here and also having a character sketch gallery.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Having enjoyed a good portion of this series, I was curious to see how they'd handle the ending of the first season. Since this a harem show, though done up a bit differently in a few ways, there's the likelihood of it playing out like many of them do and offering no real resolution. Before they get to that though, there're a few things to cover.

With as large a cast as there is with the women as well as the 'genius' that is Kisaragi, there's always the chance for something truly weird to happen. The really weird gets taken care of nicely in the opening episode here though it goes a bit beyond. Kisaragi's come up with a new device that allows her to change each day into the personality of one of the other Mama's, allowing her to learn what it is that makes them who they are so that she can become the Mama of all Mama's for Chitose. There's a lot of amusing moments with this as she takes on the different roles at the school, particularly when she takes on Yayoi's school nurse duties and the kids are all afraid of her. Every day she changes personalities and becomes a different Mama until Chitose finally straightens her out. It's amusing in a number of places but this one really felt over the top. Granted, there's not a lot to take seriously in this series, but still.

For some reason, the next episode is labeled 11.5, likely cause I'm not sure it aired on TV considering the amount of nudity in it since it's a hot springs episode. Kanna sets the stage for all the women (Mama's, his sisters and Fumitsuki) to head to the hot springs for a day and replaces Chitose with a wooden mechanical one that nobody notices is any different. Taking further advantage of this, she spends her time with Chitose who stays home unknowing he's been replaced in her attempts to get to know him better. Since she's socially retarded for lack of a better term, she's about half her age and tries to get to know how to deal with boys by keeping Chitose all to herself. The Kanna material continues to be both boring and creepy/disturbing but I will admit my fanboy nature and say I really enjoyed the hot springs side of the episode since it had a lot of fun with mecha-Chitose and his limited number of sayings.

The last two episodes bring things to a place where you know they had to go, and that's with someone finding out about the living arrangements. The culprit turns out to be Fumitsuki after she follows Kanna one time and eventually discovers where Chitose lives. Putting various clues together she finds out how they're all living together. This puts the entire thing in jeopardy once Chitose and the Mama's find out that she knows, but there's almost an entire episode before that where Fumitsuki is spending all her time agonizing over the knowledge and her feelings for Chitose. She's got the heavy hots for him and she wants to tell him badly. When they do the school festival event, she goes out of character and tries to be outgoing by wearing a skimpy outfit and trying to get time together with Chitose.

This all goes towards a really great moment between the two where Fumitsuki does something very few people do in life and that's lay it all out on the line and it's a great scene. But the usual ploys in harem shows kick in and in my mind completely ruin the mood and feel of these two episodes overall. I knew it was coming, I could see it happening, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. The status quo allows for more episodes but one of the things that always drew me to anime was that they'd not keep the status quo and take chances and tell stories differently.

In Summary:
Happy Lesson has been an interesting series that's got a mix of good and bad to it. I liked in the beginning how they avoided the pitfall of introducing a new girl each episode to move in with him and started with them all there. I also like that they didn't really add any new real love interests to the show other than Fumitsuki since Kanna doesn't really count. That takes it a bit out of the harem norm since you know he's not going to end up with one of the teachers (or with any combination of them). It's a harem show where the lead character isn't going to end up with any of them but instead the slightly mousy/hidden beauty of the class president and she's the only other woman that's really there. The cop-out ending, or rather, the expected typical formula ending, wasn't a good thing and some of the moments throughout the series were just too excessive. The first half of the series was more enjoyable overall and things got weaker as it progressed, though there were highlights such as the hot springs. Happy Lesson is pretty mixed overall, but even with the cop-out ending I'm curious to see where else they want to go with it.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Character 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.


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