When the poverty god comes to balance the scales for you, it’s not going to go well for anyone involved.
What They Say:
Ichiko gets lucky a lot. She’s rich, beautiful, smart, stacked, and better than you at everything. But there’s a reason life always goes her way: she unwittingly steals happiness energy from everyone else! Momiji – a poverty god with a freakishly huge syringe and a bunch of oddball charms – has to take Ichiko’s extra good fortune and return it to her various victims of circumstance.
Like an Adderall-raddled cat-and-mouse chase in a funhouse full of pop culture references, the spirit of shortcomings and her self-absorbed subject stick each other with jabs, gags, bizarre bets, and dirty tricks aplenty. It’s a side-splitting ride, and everyone’s seatbelt is defective. But how many blows to the ego can Ichiko take before she grows a sympathy gland and stops hogging all the happiness?
Contains episodes 1-13
The audio presentation for this series is fairly standard fare for FUNimation in that we get the original Japanese language in stereo while the English mix gets bumped up to 5.1, which is encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The show is one that is a standard comedy piece with outlandish elements to it so it uses the forward soundstage quite well as it bounces about, both with the dialogue and the incidental effects that hit. With so many parodies contained within it, it also handles those well by shifting things as needed. The dialogue is well placed and there’s some good depth in a few scenes that definitely needs it but mostly it just hits all the right marks. The English mix bumps things up a bit with a louder sounding mix but it also has a stronger crispness to it that lets the characters stand out more with where they are. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout both tracks and we didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during playback.
Originally airing in 2012, the transfer for this thirteen episode series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is spread out over two discs where we get nine on the first and four on the second, allowing for plenty of space overall for the Sunrise animated series. Having only seen the low quality simulcast before, it’s like night and day here as the colors have some great pop and vibrancy to it that really lets it stand out. The colors are the big selling point here with how it looks to be sure, but it also has some great detail that comes through in many scenes because of all the little gags that populate it. This is especially true when it does the parodies of other shows as it really gets silly with them while paying proper homage. The transfer captures all of this well as it sits mostly in the mid to lower twenties for the bit rate with a clean and clear look.
It is worth noting an issue that’s not encoding related to the release though; with the opening and closing sequences, there’s a bit of a stutter in the animation that’s not present in the clean versions. You may not notice it until you compare the two though or are aware of it otherwise. This comes from the addition of the English credits for both with how it was edited rather than how the video for the Blu-ray or DVD was encoded.
The packaging for this limited edition release is quite good here as we get the heavy chipboard box with great artwork as well as the two Blu-ray cases inside. The box art is strong, even if busy, as we get an illustration style used here that has the front cover showing off the lead pair with a whole lot of things going on around them. The colors are good and the look of the characters is great. The back of the box takes the busy nature of the front and multiplies it by a hundred as it fills us in with a wide variety of supporting characters that populates the show in the same style. It’s a classic feeling kind of color that definitely is fun to check out to see who you can pick out after you watch it. Inside the box we get the tw Blu-ray cases where each one has half of the series/format. The front covers provide some good looks at the two lead characters at different phases in their relationship using some key anime visuals rather than illustrations and it has a lot of pop and detail to it as both are set against white backgrounds. The back covers add in a bit more character artwork that’s smaller along with some cute color bubbles that helps to define it more. The majority of it is given over to the breakdown of episodes by format in that case where it lists the titles and numbers. While there are no inserts with the release, we do get artwork on the reverse side that pairs up the leads in different situations.
The menu design for the release is very simple but works well enough for this kind of show as it’s all about the clips. We get a good variety of them here overall as it does panning sequences and more of various characters in different states, keeping it from feeling static or boring. There’s little to the menu overall as we just get a standard sized navigation strip along the bottom which is done with some playful colors and font that ties it well enough with things, but it’s not a menu that will stand out and really make you take notice. Submenus load quickly and the layout is easy enough of to navigate, though it’s not going to be memorable when you get down to it.
The extras for this release are a bit minimal in a way as what we get are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences and two audio commentaries. The commentaries are a good bit of fun as they work with the English staff and they talk about the usual elements about working on a show like this. They’re definitely fun for both original language fans and English language fans. Where the release manages to stand out though is that the third commentary that’s included is a video commentary for episode eight with the director and three of the voice actresses. The show plays in the corner and watching them laugh and comment on the show and their experiences is definitely engaging, more so than the usual audio-only commentaries.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga series by Yoshiaki Sukeno finished its run in Jump Square after sixteen volumes, Binbogami ga/Good Luck Girl is a thirteen episode series from Sunrise that deals with one of my favorite aspects of the gods and divinity used in Japan. That of the poverty god. We’ve seen it show up in various other shows over the years, generally in comedies to be sure, and it always has a certain air of fun about it in how luck and wealth come into play when dealing with a god of poverty. So designing a fun series around it with a lot of bounce, fanservice and silliness is definitely a choice that can work. And right from the start you get a good feel for the comedy that will be used here when said god of poverty can’t believe those watermelons stuffed under someone’s shirt are real.
The show revolves around Sakura, a young woman who has been pretty much blessed with everything she needs in life, from beauty to brains and to wealth and the admiration of many, many of her classmates. While the boys are all over her, there are the girls that can’t stand her. But with her position “from up on high,” she doesn’t care much at all for what they have to say since she’s got it so good. She’s got a mean streak to her but we see that she’s pretty much the type to put on the proper facade to get more of what she wants. All of this goes awry for her though when the poverty god Momiji gets involved with her, trying to get her to see the error of her ways. Starting by hanging herself and then coming out of a toilet is not the best way to get things rolling though.
What Momiji brings to the table is that she’s there to get Sakura to help fix the balance of things because of her good fortune. And being that Momiji is pretty big on how she does things, it gets pretty over the top and wacky in a lot of ways, strangely reminding me of Urusei Yatsura in a lot of ways, as she goes about doing her job on Sakura. While there’s some good back and forth when it comes to the wacky side here, it is balanced by getting a look at Sakura’s past and what she lost as a child that impacted her deeply. This actually leads to a mildly interesting discussion between Sakura and Momiji as Momiji realizes that Sakura’s just not unhappy enough yet to set the balance back on track. It’s interesting as it unfolds and we get more about what it is that Momiji is doing and how it can change things for others.
The show spends a lot of its time with the back and forth that goes on between Sakura and Momiji as you have Momiji trying to come up with ways to sucker punch her to get the goods while Sakura is always on guard. Sakura does change along the way though because she’s forced into a lot of other kinds of interactions, first by losing her servant that’s always been with her since her parents are away and that gets her to be more self sufficient, but she also finds herself curiously drawn to a male classmate. Tsuwabuki is an interesting addition in that he’s the kind of student who takes care of several other kids in the family since they have no parents and he’s almost always tired because of it. While there is that potential relationship there as Sakura is really interested in him, it doesn’t really progress all that much since that’s not the point of the show. The point is Sakura’s overall growth and that comes from her starting to pull back her facade in revealing a bit about herself. It takes an age to do so, but it’s that slow progress that makes the fun.
While there are a couple of boys that appear from time to time overall, there’s very few in the grand scheme of things, which is rather normal. With one later episode, as it gets underway, things get physical (physical), as the gym teacher has decided to do a mixed class so the kids can play tennis together in mixed doubles. With the kinds of feelings there are here and there amongst the characters, it’s an opportunity to play it up a little bit, especially with the jealous that come to light. With one particular prince in the form of Shion and the way he’s just so perfect to everyone, his attentions on Ichiko certainly don’t go unnoticed.
The first half plays the game fairly well for laughs as Ichiko and Shion play together against the other side, which is unfortunately made up of Momiji and a massive and oversized Gorihara for the boys, a powerhouse of a player that dominates things. The game itself has its fun if you like tennis and there’s some good laughs to be had as it plays up various parodies and stereotypes well while letting both Ichiko and Momiji go at it. But there’s not a lot of “there” there to make it really engaging and fun or memorable. But some of the smaller bits work well and just that they’ll go to this kind of competitive extreme, which in turn starts to reveal more about what someone like Momiji is capable of, is fun since it pushes the envelope a bit on it all.
As the series progresses on and we do see that Momiji has had a lot of failures and little in the way of real achievements to speak of, it starts to get a bit worse for her. Yamabuki is reminding her here that things are not going well and that she really needs to start producing some results or face some punishments after being brought back home. Of course, she almost misses this statement of fact by Yamabuki because she’s so keen on playing her game, which makes it pretty clear that she hasn’t been taking the job too seriously, even as she has had some moments of dealing with Ichiko well. So what’s a poverty god to do?
She brings in a disturbing crap monster into Ichiko’s home in order to take care of it, being a proper service girl, which muddies up the bathroom to say the least with its immense stench and drippings everywhere. So in order to deal with the problem. Ichiko heads off to the local bathhouse in order to get clean and enjoy the festivities that happen there, which are pretty decent since you have Ranmaru there eventually as well as Tsuwabuki and his younger brothers and sisters. And of course, there’s also the monk that makes his way into things and tries to show them how to scale the wall in order to check out the girls. At least the censoring for this is amusing as it’s scratch black circles over their front and backsides.
The bulk of the episode just has plain fun with the situation as the characters run around getting in trouble, showing off some skin here and there and getting rather excited. Ranmaru is cute when she has some moments of lust in her heart since it’s not something that comes up often. The guys in general are fun to watch and I have to admit that while I generally don’t care for the monk, and his prologue part here is just awful, he has some good bits here as he motivates the younger guys to his cause of seeing underage girls naked in the bath. Go Japan.
Not surprisingly, things turn a little more serious towards the end as one might expect and we get a situation for a couple of episodes where Momiji gets “turned” into a normal girl who wants to just be friends with Sakura. The surreal nature of a “nice” Momiji is definitely fun since she’s so normal but also protective of Sakura since she wants to remain friends with her and knows that Sakura doesn’t like Momiji when she’s in poverty god mode. It’s a little all over the place in some ways but there’s a lot of fun to it since there is an obvious threat that comes in along the way which pushes Sakura to trying to reverse things. But what we get from it, which goes back to some of the early ideas in the series, is that we see how Sakura has a lot of opportunities to be rid of Momiji but never follows through with it because she truly does want friends and wants to remove the facade she’s had for so long to protect herself.
Good Luck Girl hits a lot of the right notes for me and revisiting here after the simulcast definitely reinforces it. Some of the larger themes of the series are made a bit clearer when watched in marathon form but it also keeps a lot of enjoyment on an episode by episode basis with all the parodies and simple outlandish humor and slapstick gags. The show is a bit old school and traditional in some ways as I could easily see this being produced in the 80’s, but it’s a bit more layered and obviously a lot more fanservice and just general wackiness. While the show was a bit uneven in some places, there’s a lot to like here and Sakura is a surprisingly sympathetic character as it goes on, something that I definitely didn’t feel the first time around when I watched it on a weekly basis.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Audio Commentaries
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: November 19th, 2013
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78: Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.