Anime Review: Lucky Star OVA

Konata, Kagami, Tsukasa, Miyuki, and friends are back with a new series of vignettes exploring their everyday lives. Words like “adventure” and “whacky” can be interspersed into the first sentence as desired.

Plot

When I reviewed Lucky Star last year (has it really been that long?), I came to the conclusion that it was cute and warm but ultimately just a bit of fluff. There was very little substance to the comedy. But I’ll give the show one thing; it is accessible thanks to its format and moe aesthetic. Quite some time passed, and an OVA was released. Fortunately, this work trims away a lot of the stuff I didn’t like from the series, leaving behind a product that surprisingly focuses more on character-driven drama than comedy.

The OVA is presented as a string of short segments, basically stuff you’d find in the episodes. There’s no overarching narrative or ulterior purpose. The first segment centers around Minami’s dog Cherry, which I didn’t find particularly entertaining. It suffers from the same problem as the series, which is that the writers’ idea of humor isn’t really mine. I mean really… is a dog that doesn’t respond to speech all that funny?

The next 4 segments center on various activities the girls partake in, and emphasize the friendship of the central foursome. These parts present effective humor driven by some central personality trait of the characters, although it avoids the kind of fish out of water humor that made Saturday Night Live so lame. It’s the kind of thing I really like to see in comedy, and dare I say, the Lucky Star OVA nails it. It’s not like we really learn anything new about the characters (well, maybe we learn something new about Kagami), but the cast is just easy to identify with, and the situations bring out a little spark of humanity in all of them.

The 6th story concerns a visit to the pet shop that ends in a surreal, frankly disturbing montage involving another Kadokawa Shoten mascot. It’s probably the most daring and experimental thing associated with the Lucky Star franchise, and completely uncharacteristic of the rest of the series. I like it for its freshness but honestly, a vignette like that really needs some narrative context. Otherwise, it’s just… wrong.

No Lucky Star production is complete without the Lucky Channel segment, and this time we get the whole thing in live action. Unfortunately, Akira is replaced by her voice actress Ai Nonaka, who’s too nice and agreeable to be funny. Shiraishi is also back to my delight, and buoys the scene with his natural awesomeness but sadly doesn’t save it. What you really want when watching this is a distillation of all the Lucky Channel shenanigans into one long, symbolic shenanigan. Instead, it’s a watered down imitation.

I was surprised at how well the OVA worked. There are weak parts but the bulk of it is funny and ultimately endearing. The lack of a connective exposition does not, for the most part, hurt the effect of the skits. But there’s still no escaping the feeling that the writers still have trouble discerning what’s funny and what’s… not.

Characters

I can more or less just skip this section because the characters are all as you remember them. Like I mentioned before, there’s nothing new here except for what we learn from Kagami’s night out. This time around there’s a more honest attempt to bring out the qualities we like in each character. Tsukasa and Kagami’s sisterly relationship is explored in more depth, and what we see is true of so many sibling relationships. Here we see life in the art. The concept is simple, but it’s something people can connect with, and it makes Kagami and Tsukasa both more relevant and endearing. Kuroi-sensei, the teacher, has also benefitted from her appearance in the OVA. She’s the closest thing to a mother figure for Konata, and her materal inclinations extend to the rest of the gang. Her role deepens a dimension of her that we don’t see as much in the series.

What’s disappointing is that neither Konata’s dad nor cousin Yui make an appearance. I’d wager any scene involving either of them would be funnier than the opening segment, but I guess we’ll never know. The OVA doesn’t fit everyone in but it comes close. However, there’s no question that the production is about Konata, Kagami, Tsukasa, and Miyuki.

Technical

Like with the series, there’s not a whole lot to say about the technical production. Aside from a nice use of wide angle shots and weird sound in the pet shop story, everything is undeniably Lucky Star. The live action Lucky Channel follows in the amateur TV show aesthetic of previous Lucky Channels and end credits.