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Lucky Star Complete Series + OVA Blu-Ray/DVD Anime Review

22 min read

Lucky Star Blu-ray CoverIt’s all about the fanbase.

What They Say:
What’s the best way to eat dessert? Do twins really have a psychic connection? What kind of guys are into moe girls? These are the kinds of questions that float through the inquisitive mind of anime super-fan Konata Izumi. When she’s not lost in her favorite manga or logging hours in one of her online games, she’s debating the mysteries of the universe with the best friends a girl could ask for.

And while they might not share Konata’s refined eye for anime tropes and trivia, she doesn’t hold it against them. After all, Miyuki Takara is a precious moe dream girl, and twin sisters Tsukasa and Kagami are always there when she needs a helping hand or a notebook to copy homework from (even if Kagami insists on being totally tsundere about it). At the end of the day, Konata could look far and wide, but she’d never find a better group of girls to get her through the horrors of high school!

Lucky Star contains episodes 1-24 plus the OVA.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with the previously created English dub, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series is really pretty tame when it comes to the audio side once it gets beyond the opening and closing sequences so it’s hard to tell the impact of it at times. It’s basically a full on dialogue piece with lots of moments of punctuated silence so the mix doesn’t really stress itself in the slightest once it gets past the hyperactive opening. In listening to both language tracks, we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of the show.

Video:
Originally airing in 2007, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twenty-four episodes of the TV series are spread across three discs with ten each on the first two and four on the third, which is also where the OVA and all the extras are. Animated by Kyoto Animation, the series has a very strong visual design to it which looks really great here. With its relatively meager origins in a four panel strip, the anime incarnation runs with a similar feel in how the backgrounds have a bit more of a “comic strip” feel to them with the detail and coloring. The character designs are much more vibrant and the combination of the two elements really works well here as it’s a show that stands out strongly. The backgrounds aren’t soft but they don’t have the kind of sharpness you get in other shows but it looks very solid and generally free of heavy noise. The character designs with their large spaces of bold colors works in much the same way as there isn’t any noticeable breakup or heavy noise either. Cross coloration is absent and other than a bit of line noise during some of the panning sequences, this is just another solid entry with how it looks in portraying Kyoto Animation’s work.

Packaging:
The packaging design for this release brings us an oversized Blu-ray case that holds both formats discs inside on hinges where there are five DVDs (four for the show, one for extras) and three Blu-ray discs. What we get is pretty in-theme as it works the familiar image of the lined paper background from school with crayon stars of different types all over it while on top of it we get a Polaroid picture done in illustration style of the four main girls in class. They’re all cute and their personalities come across rather clearly. With a pop of color through the logo along the top, we get a pretty busy looking cover overall but one that definitely nails the feel of the show in its own way. The back cover presents us with more of the same background with fewer stars as there’s a good portion given over to the summary of the premise. The discs extras are clearly listed and we get a solid technical breakdown of the two formats with what they include. There aren’t any inserts or anything included with the release but we do get a reversible cover where the right side gives us a similar layout to the front but with a different character pose while the left side breaks down the discs with their extras/

Menu:
The menu design for this release is one that’s certainly appropriate but goes for the easiest route overall. Each of the Blu-ray discs are the same where we get the close-up shot of Konata with her eyes as the black rectangles as she’s got the blush going on and certainly enjoying herself. It dominates the screen in general and on a larger screen like mine it’s kind of overwhelming to see it. The logo is kept to the upper left side where it adds some additional color to the layout as a whole while the navigation strip is along the bottom. This works the lined paper design well with the handwriting style font that’s easy to read and looks good while being in theme. Submenus load quickly and navigation is a breeze overall, making it a fun and cute menu that still has me wishing they would have gotten more creative or changed it up with each disc.

Extras:
The extras for this release are kind of awkward and frustrating simply because of how they’re laid out. If you watch only the Blu-ray release you may feel gipped as not all the extras are included there as a good number of them are found only on the DVD release. And that includes things like the clean opening and closing sequences. The DVDs also bring out the various promos that were done previously, the opening sequence with the lyrics, and the key scenes gallery material, which I can understand not wanting to go through the hassle of porting.

While I don’t expect extras to be in HD for a show even of this age, it’s disappointing to have to go to the DVD for the clean opening and closing sequences as well as the English voice cast interviews and the silly but weird Adventures of Minoru Shiraishi. These wouldn’t take up much space in SD format on the Blu-ray and I imagine some folks just may never check them out. The Blu-ray does include the OVA as its big extra, which we’ll talk about later, and it has some additional pieces. There’s a race car in Akihabara segment that feels kind of pointless and there’s a fun public recording of New Lucky Channel done on stage in front of an audience that’s fun. Both of these are lengthy in the 30-42 minutes range, making them extended pieces to dig into.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Kagami Yoshimizu, Lucky Star is a twenty four episode series that saw a fair bit of controversy during its original airing at first. The series director was changed after the fourth episode with chatter being about him not being ready for prime time yet coupled with a segment of fans that just didn’t think the show worked like it should have. Having not read the original manga strips or having all that much knowledge about it, I can’t say much in that regard and in the end it doesn’t matter. The work has to stand on its own and adaptations really do need to stake out their own ground more. Yoshimizu’s original work began back in 2003 and continues on slowly as it changes from magazine to magazine and it’s still published today with ten volumes now having been released.

Lucky Star is the kind of series, at first at least, is very reminiscent of other four panel strips that have been adapted into anime form. It’s very easy to draw parallels to another population adaptation from a number of few years ago with Azumanga Daioh. Both series work in the same kind of vein in that there are multiple “stories” in each episode, sometimes with connections to each other and sometimes not. The characters go through their lives and we get to listen in to their strange and mundane conversations, see the little clique aspects that pop up and the general weirdness of certain characters. Lucky Star revolves around a primary group of four high school students in the range of sixteen to seventeen at the start of the show who all go to school together and have bonded as good friends, though not without some mild tension at times.

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The primary character of the show is Konata, a very laid back young woman whose love of anime surpasses almost all else. Her love of food tends to outweigh other things but for the most part she’s very much the kind of geek girl that guys fall head over heels for. Add in her mastery of video games, particularly in the fighting game genre, and it’s a surprise she doesn’t have a massive following of young men behind her. In her class, she’s friends with Tsukasa, the obligatory slightly dopey girl with a heart of gold who smiles a lot and is just generally quite pleasant to be around. Also in the class is Miyuki, a pink haired girl with glasses who is incredibly smart and beautiful but has the kind of shy mild reserve about her that keeps her from being the school stunner. The group is often joined by Tsukasa’s fraternal twin sister Kagami, a very intelligent and attractive young woman who seems to butt heads with Konata regularly. The two of them do tend to get along but there’s a bit of a rivalry there, more from Kagami’s part, since Konata seems to be able to do anything.

As the core group, and really that’s all there is in these first episodes outside of a few mild supporting characters in other students and a teacher, the four of them go about their lives with some rather amusing commentary. You really get a feel for the show out of the first encounter with them as they’re sitting at their desks eating a snack and Konata wonders which is the best way to eat a chocolate coronet, which invariably leads to them wondering which is the head and which is the tail end. That shifts to all other kinds of foods, different ways of eating them and numerous taste ideas. It’s incredibly mundane but the way they proceed through the conversation you can’t help but laugh at it. Another short story in the first episode deals with the way of the relationships between the characters when the three of them go to visit Kagami who is home sick. There are a number of little things in there about how they all play off of each other and their personalities in general that it highlights a lot of basic things.

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In the early parts of the show, it’s really about establishing the basic archetypes of the four primary characters. They all fit easily into their various categories and they’re explored in a simple but effective manner. Studying for exams highlights Konata’s nature as you see Kagami studying day and night while Tsukasa struggles with even staying awake. Konata for her part is positively amusing as she spends all her time gaming and reading and then just crams for the last few hours before the test and is able to ace it quite well. That has Kagami wondering how Konata even got into the school since you can’t just cram for an entrance exam like that. A rather cute area explored, albeit briefly, involves the twins and how they’re both similar and alike as Konata tries to picture Kagami as “cute” and fails utterly. Miyuki is the weak link in these early episodes as she doesn’t get too much focus though there is a very silly series of scenes involving her trying to get some contacts to replace her glasses.

With the basic makeup of the show, Lucky Star is one that doesn’t lend itself to deep insights or discussion. It’s more in how it deals with the character quirks and the way they interact with each other. What makes this an amusing show is in how it’s presented as the characters look and feel more like elementary school students as opposed to high school students. The diminutive character designs with a rather basic look that doesn’t have too much detail really makes them feel far younger than they are and the topics of conversation often don’t help that either. Unless they’re talking about master/slave ero games… The characters tend to come across as very vibrant and colorful, full of life, while the backgrounds reminded me more of My Neighbors the Yamadas’ with its softer watercolor feel. The pairing of the two isn’t unique but it really works wonderfully here as it has a certain kind of warmth and charm to it as they move about their world and their conversations.

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The vignettes run through some fairly standard pieces as it progresses as we have the girls visiting a summer festival in their kimonos, which in turn brings in Konata’s aunt who is somewhat daffy for being a traffic officer. What provides the most amusement with her is that she ends up awkwardly befriending the girls’ teacher but that she gets rather involved with everyone at times with what’s going on. The best scenes for her though involve her driving as her role as a traffic officer don’t jive with the way she is on her own time. The Initial D references are priceless and it’s these kinds of little gags that keep me coming back to the show. The couple of Sgt. Frog references that make their way in later also have a similar feel, but they do such a good job of mimicking character designs and bad CG animation for the Initial D homage/parody that you can’t help but to love it more.

Summer vacation is covered with a trip to the beach in which Konata is the only one wearing her school swimsuit. She reasons that she likes it because it’s simple and stress-free for the way she likes to lounge, but it also does a good job of keeping the guys away. Of course, if you go by anime fans, you’d think it would be a major draw. The summer material also delves into the simple lighthearted humor revolving around homework and cleaning that must be done and the mild stresses involved with that. What was particularly amusing is the way that Konata continues to spend much of her time in her net-game instead of doing what she should be doing. What makes it all the more fun is that her teacher plays on it regularly as well and spends time in-game telling Konata not to forget what she needs to do in standard “geek speak” text.

The return to school material does set up for the busy period of their life as the arts and sports festivals are almost upon them. This is very traditional material for just about every school based series so there aren’t too many surprises to be found here. The fun is in that some of these characters do defy expectations. Konata is very much the geek girl who’d rather laze about, but she’s also rather good at sports and can handle herself well in these situations. Even more so than the others in the group who you’d suspect would be able to deal with it better than her. The sports festival offers her another chance to be blasé about it while still excelling at what she gets involved in, often through no choice of her own. Of course, all of this material is balanced out by Kagami and Tsukasa talking about how their menstrual cycles occur in an earlier episode. I don’t think that particular story really hit me until I was further into the show and watching the sports festival material. It was just completely unexpected.

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Later episodes take us up through the early winter months and just past the New Years holiday. Thankfully, beyond the New Years holiday itself, they don’t focus all that much on the holidays. Christmas isn’t given all that much measure but they have some amusing conversations about Santa Claus that will keep me from sharing that episode with my kids just yet. The girls have some fun with nicknames as they try to come up with one for Tsukasa and she gets all flustered when Konata comes up with far too many interpretations of it that aren’t exactly things you’d want to have. And as usual, Miyuki seems to get the short end of the stick as she continues to be the cute, smart girl who sort of glides in and out of scenes without making too much of an impact.

Where I found the most fun with this arc was in the latest trip to Comiket. After having taken Kagami before, Konata has decided that this year she needs to bring Tsukasa as well because of the sheer amount of stuff she wants. Her hobby is certainly an amusing one, something we get a good glimpse of when she visits the local Animate and gets caught up in all the shiny things she likes, participating in the sheer geek revelry of it all. The trip to Comiket is fun since you have Kagami now acting very casual about it since she’s experienced it before, an old pro and all that, while Tsukasa is the newbie she can take under her wing. Watching them go through the experience is fun since it ties together a lot of little stories.

There’s one rather significant change to the series just past the halfway mark here as the new semester gets underway. That’s the arrival of Yutaka into the Izumi household. Though Konata has always called Yui her sister, she is really her cousin and Yui has her own little sister. Yutaka has come to live with Konata and her father as she’s now going to high school in the same place as Konata and living there will help immensely with her commute. Yutaka is a fun little character, and little does run in the family as she is somewhat short. She’s not exactly dwarfed by others in her class, but she’s struggling and it doesn’t help when she sees that Konata isn’t all that much taller than her and is a few years old. Yutaka brings a little more mellow nature to the show, but she has her moments of panic as well as she deals with living with Konata and a new school.

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More amusing is the way that Konata deals with the situation. She certainly gets along well with Yutaka and doesn’t have any apparent issues with her fellow friends, but she’s suddenly finding herself in something of an older sister role. When she does the comparison to how her relationship with Yui is, since she’s often calling her older sister in a somewhat mocking tone, it’s amusing to see the strong differences between how the relationships are. The act of having Konata “complain” about it to Kagami is even more amusing and that leads to a view of how the Hiiragi household operates since she and Tsukasa have two older sisters. Tsukasa is certainly babied in her own way there and it’s an interesting loving family dynamic that isn’t quite represented by what Kagami says when she first talks about it.

While not taking up a serious amount of time, there’s a good bit of material devoted to Yutaka and her friends as they make their presence more known. They’re becoming more interconnected with the senior girls now as they come across them at school and outside of it as well. One of them even lives across the street from Miyuki, something that’s discovered when they all decide to get together for some neighborhood summer fireworks activities. These continue to be cute moments, but these additional characters are still ones that I can’t find myself actually getting interested in and seeing what they’re like. They’re getting attention to be certain, but they’re not compelling, especially at this stage of the series. Even worse is that this set of episodes has little of Tsukasa and Miyuki for the most part which is like rubbing a little salt in the wound.

As Lucky Star draws to a close in the final episodes, it’s sometimes hard to remember that these are graduating students that we’re primarily following here. While Konata is obviously smaller than everyone else, the overall designs often keep us from remembering that they’re just about done with everything in their school and are ready to move on to the next phase of their lives. The disparity of having them so laid back in general and focusing on the minutiae of life when these events are about to happen is somewhat off-putting when you do get to the last episode here where the graduation material is given some due. Of course, avoiding that for the most part does let us just enjoy the characters and their lives, which is what the show is all about.

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Though I’ve said it before, it’s worth saying again. A series like this is hard to review because it is, in essence, a show about nothing. With its origins in the four-panel comics and being designed here to carry through that kind of feeling with small somewhat interconnected stories in each episode, it has a very good feeling to it but it’s like talking about your day at the dinner table. There may be one or two things to really talk about on your average day, even though you did a lot of things, little is worth really expounding upon. It’s just things that happened as you went about your business, either at work, school or at play. Lucky Star is almost the epitome of that as we watch the girls enjoying their high school life.

The final four run through some familiar stories. The girls head off to a trip to Kyoto for their senior trip and it has a lot of nice visual moments as they spend time together and we see the world that they inhabit. It’s also one that we have seen in a lot of other shows as well so if you’ve watched any number of high school based shows over the years, nothing here is really new. But Kyoto Animation manages to infuse a little more beauty and realism into it and that lets it connect better, especially with the bonds that we’ve made with these girls over the course of the series. It’s enjoyable to watch the core cast back together without the others really having too much of an impact for a bit and it’s a nice way to start off the volume that closes it all out

A good chunk of this segment revolves around the coming end of the school year for the seniors though and that means all sorts of school activity. A good bit of this deals with the younger girls from the other classes as they have to put on performances and such to send off the seniors and the seniors get involved as well with all of it. It has the whole festival aspect going but with that tinge of sadness since they know it’s going to be the end of things. There are some very good tender moments as they look about the halls and realize that their time is truly short here and you can almost well up with them a bit. Having been looking back at my own high school career lately, this has a bit more impact for me since I’ve been thinking heavily about those times.

Lucky Star
Lucky Star

This series also has something that appears at the end of each of the episodes with Lucky Channel, a kind of talk show about the show itself that doesn’t really talk about the show The first couple of volumes left me fairly dry on it as I didn’t see the appeal, but they slowly but surely grew on me. Minoru’s attempts to be all positive and happy is amusing enough as is the way Akira cuts into him coldly each time. The repetition of it left me uninterested in it in the earlier episodes, but the way Minoru keeps getting little nods in the main show and the fact that it ticks her off is amusing me more and more. The fact that she’s primed to be in the twelfth episode set things up really nicely as you pay attention to the episode even more to see her appearance. The fallout from it is decidedly priceless and had me actively looking forward to more Lucky Channel.

This set also includes the OVA, though it’s slotted in the extras section due to the lack of a dub. That lack of a dub was due to the TV series, which was done as a hugely premium piece back in the day by Bandai Entertainment, didn’t sell well and they brought this episode out just to complete things for fans. The OVA, with a runtime of just over forty minutes, is essentially the same as having two full episodes together without an opening sequence. The stories included in this release don’t really add much of anything to what we saw before, but that’s pretty much to be expected considering what this show is all about. The series played the slice of life angle pretty well with an interesting and quirky group of friends as they went through their high school career. Most are normal all told, with Konata adding the geeky gamer anime fan factor to it through which the others tried to decipher. It was very fun to watch, but difficult to talk about because each episode was really about nothing in a way. Just the experiences the girls went through, which often amounted to little more than conversations.

Over the course of this episode, they definitely go for the weird a bit. A good chunk of the show involves the gang in a MMORPG together where they all look like themselves done in CG with various classes assigned to them. They’re not as powerful as they were in the previous game they played, but it’s cute watching them go through the motions of a battle and some of the little nods to how games work (such as when people are AFK). It’s a difficult segment overall though because there are two conversations going on. You have the girls all talking, which gets the primary subtitles, but they’re also talking within the game text chat box which gets a smaller white set of subtitles. You have to back up a few times if you want to get all the nuances and references.

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The majority of this show is fairly cute but unmemorable in the end. A camping sequence that’s eerily familiar delves into the girls getting lost and feeling like they’re going to die of starvation after only a few hours. Another segment dips briefly into a very cute Sgt. Frog homage where everyone starts thinking they look like him and others from the show. The opening of the show is strange in that they push a story idea of the dog Cherry being potentially ill because she’s not eating, but it doesn’t really go anywhere before it moves on to other things. The only segment that really made me chuckle overall is the last when they do Lucky Channel. The seven minute sequence is done entirely in live action form which is amusing to see since Minoru is pretty much the same in both. Akari doesn’t quite come across all that well here since doing what she does in the anime as a real person just isn’t funny. It’s almost painful and it reminds you exactly why some things work well in animation even in this realm but not in live action.

In Summary:
As much as I seem to cast a downbeat eye on Lucky Star at times, it is a show that I find quite amusing and have enjoyed overall. The problem, at least for me in a reviewing capacity, is that it’s really, really, not meant to be marathoned. It’s truly best when you catch it in smaller chunks and spread out, which I did with the single disc releases years ago. Lucky Star is a fairly predictable show in that it follows a group of girls through their school lives as they live it and move through the little moments of the days. There are no big issues here, though there is some really strong back story material for Konata’s parents, and there is never a sense of danger or upheaval. It’s charming, cute, silly and very friendly and engaging. It’s fluff in a way but it’s the good kind of fluff. While I do wish that Funimation could have tried for something bigger with the release – those Bandai Entertainment sets were just amazing – I’m not surprised we get it as we do. And it’s done very well as we get essentially a twenty-six episode series in bilingual for in high definition for the first time alongside a new set of DVDs for the price of what a new single cour show would be – sometimes without a dub. Lucky Star is one of those titles that definitely clicks the more anime you watch and I have a lot of nostalgia for it for a lot of very personal reasons so it will always hold a special place for me. .

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, On Screen Text Reference Guide, Key Scenes Gallery, Promo Clips, The Adventures of Minour, Shiraishi, Cast Interviews, Textless Opening, Textless Closing

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

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: July 12th, 2016
MSRP: $64.98
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 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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