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Happiness! Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

9 min read

Happiness HuluMagic and normal should never mingle, unless it’s for fun.

What They Say:
Yuma and Haruhi are both students at Mizuhosaka Academy, but since the classes for magic users and non-magic users are kept completely separate, the odds of their ever getting to know each other are impossibly small. But then a gas explosion on Valentine’s Day renders the Magic section unusable, leaving the school with no choice except to make everything co-ed.

As a result, mage-in-training Haruhi and her best friend Anri find themselves transferred into a normal class with Yuma and his best friends Hachisuke and Jun. Although how “normal” they are is debatable given that Hachi might be the world’s biggest letch and Jun prefers to wear the girl’s school uniform rather than the one for the guys! And there’s something about Yuma as well, something that Haruhi notices almost immediately. But is Yuma aware of it yet? Whatever the answer, the most magical year of classes for both of them is about to begin, and the most important lessons learned won’t be on conjuring or geometry.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is pretty good overall as we get the original Japanese language track only in stereo encoded at 224kbps. The show is one that is largely dialogue driven but it does have a number of action moments throughout where it gets to work the forward soundstage a bit more, though nothing that will really stand out all that much. The show mostly just works through the usual kind of high school antics with a few bits of magic thrown in so it’s a fairly standard mix that hits a lot of center channel material without stretching itself all that much. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout though and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this twelve episode TV series and additional OVA is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The series is spread across three discs in a four/four/five format that gives everything a good enough amount of space to work with. Animated by Artland, it has the kind of look that you’d expect from a show based off of a visual novel from this time period as it’s simple in its approach without a lot in the way of detail but a whole lot of color and pop to it. With space to work with, the show comes across well enough here but you can tell from the production that it wasn’t intended to be a highly detailed work but something simple and kind of superficial in a way. The colors look good and there’s no real issues with the transfer outside of some noise here and there, but it’s not a memorable looking show either.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release is a standard sized DVD case with a hinge inside to hold all three discs. The front cover artwork goes for the expected with four of the girls from the series looking bright and happy while set against a blue sky with some wispy clouds that makes it very appealing and alive. The logo is kept to the upper left corner and with the orange and green look to it, it definitely stands out nicely. The back cover is split into three with its design as we get the heavy text along the top third with the premise and a sexy image of Haruhi along the right. The middle segment has the shots from the show and a look at Anri as she undresses while the bottom third has the rest of the information such as production information and technical grid as well as a listing of what extras are on it. It’s not a splashy cover overall but it covers the bases well and has some attractive shots on it.

Menu:
The menu design for this series works in a familiar structure for all three discs while changing it up a bit as each volume focuses on a different girl. The layout has the navigation along the left where we get the episodes by name and number along with any special features along the bottom in a submenu. Each disc does a different color theme but it all has very soft and pastel oriented colors that plays well with the character artwork that’s used along the right since it focuses on the girls with a few different shots of each in various states of undress, so lots of undergarments being exposed. The layout is quick and easy to navigate and it’s all functional without any problems while moving about or accessing selections.

Extras:
The only extras on this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the visual novel of the same name that was released in 2005, Happiness is a twelve episode series with an additional OVA that was produced by Artland. The visual novel hit a good chord with fans back when it was released as it originally spawned seven light novels, some spinoff manga and then eventually the anime adaptation as well. Visual novels do make an easy leap to animated form, even when dealing with the eroge market ones, since there’s lots of appealing character designs and stories that provide a few options to work with. With this series, we get the standard high school kind of story that’s got a bit of magic mingled in, which can be interesting. The key to the magic aspect here though is to not try and figure out the logic and laws of how such a world would work.

Happiness revolves around the cast of characters that exist within Mizuhosaka Academy, a place where it’s split in half as there’s a normal series of school buildings and another building where the students study magic. Some people in this world are born with magical ability and they get educated separately on campus, at least here at Mizuhosaka Academy, but that creates an expected wall between the two sides. We get that early on as some of the normal students talk about how the only way that the magic students would interact with them is if the magic building blew up. You get a good feel for the separation of types from the start, but you also get them humanized a bit as we get to follow normal student Yuuma, a typical guy for all intents and purposes, and Haruhi, one of the more gifted but unsure students at the magic school. They don’t even know each other exist but we get a decent look at how their school lives are here in the first episode.

So how to get them to interact? Why, blow up the magic building. While it is given a story point in that there was a gas leak explosion, the result is that we do get the magic students now spending time in the normal building for a semester as everyone has to take classes together. With this, we get the expansion of the cast with Haruhi’s friend Anri, who has a lot of magical ability but little real control that’s made worse by doing spells over her ability, and Yuuma’s friends in Hachi, a guy he’s known for years, and Jun, another from his childhood who is actually a very attractive woman that’s really a man. Everyone knows all about it so it’s not an overly used gag in a way when dealing with other students in the background, but it’s fun to see how Jun is just far more comfortable this way and accepts it and that mostly everyone else does as well. Jun actually gets a whole OVA to himself in a way at the end of the series here since a bit of magic literally transforms him into a young woman and he has to deal with the consequences of that and make some choices.

Not surprisingly, a lot of the show after it gets through the introductions is filled with the normal high school antics, from the culture festival to simply spending time going through classes and even an arc that deals with a way to get the cafe that operates within the school more business. With Anri handling that, it just gets out of control in a big way fast but it’s also rather predictable since every character is an archetype and little more than that. Along the way more characters are introduced, with Saya and Shinya Kamijo who have come in search of a particular treasure, giving us a bit of a clue to the larger plot going on here. That brings in references to the Shiki Woods, which has a special barrier around it, and that there may be a real treasure there that they need to figure out how to acquire. This also plays to the introduction of Ibuki, a very cold and aloof young woman who is using the Kamijo siblings to acquire it but she finds herself slowly but surely drawn into some mild friendships along the way against her better judgment. Once she’s introduced, you can see easily how the arc will play out in the “more serious” final episodes in order to tie it all together.

What’s supposed to be the driving narrative of the series is one of the weaker aspects unfortunately. With the show starting off with a bit of a connection revealed between Haruhi and Yuuma since they’re both now aware of each other and interested in their own way, it takes a slow burn to start moving towards that. Haruhi has been looking for something meaningful in her life based on events from her past when she was saved as a child, and Yuuma’s just being a normal guy at this point and finds himself interested in her when they meet. It turns out the two have a deeper connection as his sort-of-sister Sumomo used to be friends with Haruhi when they were much younger, which exposed us to the different dynamic that exists in his family. His past is explored as it goes on and a lot of it just once again makes you question the legal side of this world and how magic operates in it. Unfortunately, while we have a few sweet scenes at the start, it doesn’t hold up as it progresses and you never really feel like their relationship gets the time that it deserves in order to be meaningful or an important part of the story, which it should be.

In Summary:
Happiness wasn’t a struggle to get through but it was a kind of empty and superficial series with what it wanted to do. You can see how it could have been a richer and more rewarding experience, but for the most part it just felt like an obligated aspect of the game itself in that it had to produce an anime and go through one of the main routes of the story. It does it all competently enough but not enough to truly engage and make you care about it. Cuteness abounds and there’s plenty of silly scenes, a few mildly romantic pieces and some formulaic high school fun, but it doesn’t come together into a cohesive whole that makes it a worthwhile experience. It’s light and cute but superficial is what really describes it at the end of the day.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Maiden Japan
Release Date: April 1st, 2014
MSRP: $49.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
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.

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