Okay, I realize that despite all of the kind words & love shared about on these pages pertaining to the origin of our excellent mascot, that it perhaps requires explanation. To be completely honest, a lot of this screed comes from where we as lovers of such a medium come to get our regular fix. Whether it be within the confines of a local video outlet, or from the comfort of our own homes. Whether we enjoy harem shows, or straight slice-of-life dramas. The fact of the matter remains that Lucky Star never had a chance in a Top Ten of my composition.
And so comes the requisite “Whys” that this recent icon has slipped the grasp of this potentially perplexed writer.
So fess up. Did you just not enjoy Lucky Star? What the what?
Actually. With its 4-koma formatting, tangential nature, and funky otakuism, I found Lucky Star to be rather funny, even hysterical at times. There was indeed an early moment when upon first seeing those opening creds that the thought emerged, “Oh god….So KyoAni is going GAINAX now?” I felt my heart sink a little as so many of my own reasons for loving shows that made these studios huge ran counter to what seemed to be on display. So much so that I didn’t start actually watching the show until the middle of its run in 07. It suddenly dawned on me what it was they were actually doing. And I found it to be quite the funny addition to the modern anime canon, replete with parallels to my job at the time.
Izumi Konata, when not slacking in her studies, or possibly hording for gear, often stops by AniMate in Ikebukuro, (more commonly known as the competition of Anime Gamers) where she is famously known as Densetsu No Shoujo A, supreme otaku & valued customer.
At the time of the airing, I was in full swing working at Gamers, surrounded by not only merchandise and to -the-minute news on the industry, but fellow admirers with an enthusiasm similar to Meito Anizawa’s crew, and often with the same painful failures. Those moments in the series are a near-accurate funhouse-mirror version of what it was like. And many of the items, games and ideas surrounding me were of properties, in-jokes, and relics referenced at one time or another in the series. So it was very much like an expansion of work whenever it came time to watch the show, and remains a great reminder of those happy days, even as the US anime bubble had long since burst.
Okay, so you seemed to enjoy it a great deal. So what happened? Why isn’t it even on your honorable list?
Easy. Much like how it has often been praised/criticized for, pandering has been, and rarely is a recipe for lasting impressions. To expound; A creation that immerses itself in the timber of the times without allowing the spirit comes dangerously close to becoming little more than an artifact of a specific time. And while this can indeed work for some series, it is vital that character and narrative are taken into consideration in order to transcend the time in which it was made. Lucky Star admits from the outset that it isn’t interested in more than fun water cooler dialogue, and has no real interest in the long term. And while that may sit fine with many, I guess I require a bit more than this.
Some have compared the series to Seinfeld…That is perhaps a most apt description. And in my case it’s perfect, because I myself am not one of those types who can go back to an episode of that show now, and feel the same laughter brewing from the first time I saw it. My nostalgia tanks carry only so much. As much as I love shows like Macross, or even Urusei Yatsura, I must admit that those shows endure because of the things that the era in which they were made did not provide. These are shows that work as examples of what I just recently mentioned, they are products of a specific time, but make up for this with the two most important elements I hold dear, narrative & character. As much as I love the antics of Konata, the Hiiragi Sisters, Miyuki, and the rest, they don’t have the sort of relation-power necessary for me to see it as anything more than a great diversion.
So the format is a bit of a deal-breaker for you then? Then explain Azumanga Daioh! Why is this one on your list?
To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I should place either show on my list. But upon a good deal of thought as to what kind of impression these shows left on me, it became a much simpler choice than a straight omission. Azumanga Daioh! is far more universal in themes, and has a great deal more staying power in the long run. Not only this, it is inventive, surreal, and often profound when discussing not merely the lives of the young, but the young at heart. It encompasses not merely the contemporary Japanese spirit, but also the inner quirk in all of us.
Which corrals us in for a conclusion hinted at in the beginning of all this; It’s all about who we are, and what it is we come to anime for in the first place. Whether the work speaks at such a level is completely subjective, and as thus is free from limitation. The beauty of the anime medium is that it is as vast and infinite as we allow it to be, and when those who come to us with an outsider’s perspective, it is usually a well spring of enthusiasm that we’d love to share with those who have yet to experience the joy from such a hobby. But the experiences of fans vary, and it can be tough sometimes to precisely pinpoint what fruit offers the best taste for all. All we often know is that it feels right. It feels right for us. And it is in the joy of right now that matters to many, apples & oranges, and all that. But it is another thing to capture that moment, and savor it later with the same life and joy that it once shared before. Anime, like any great work of human expression can transcend time, trends, boundaries, ideologies, and methods. There’s so much to be appreciated, that at times it can be blinding.
I myself come from the larval days of mature, narrative anime, which is possibly why I made the decisions I have. It also comes from a love of reading, nature watching, international cinema, and other things that ask me to view the anime medium from a potentially chiseled perspective. Is it THE definitive way? Heck no…Something like that doesn’t exist. It is merely mine, and this is the essence of what I hope to share with everyone here with the library cafe doors open at all hours, ready for new patrons to stop by and sample the latest classics on those shelves. There are even couches laid out for your convenience, so sit back. Stay a while and read to your heart’s content. But just know that your issues of Lucky Star are on backlog, and will be adorning the coffee tables once they arrive.