When Kyoto Animation makes a series, it seems that everyone jumps on either the bandwagon for fanboying, or the one for flaming the fanboys. When it came to Lucky Star, I decided to bypass the whole thing- I hadn’t liked what I’d read of the manga, and so there seemed little point in pursuing the animated adaptation. That being said, if I wanted to argue about it effectively, I would have to actually watch it; perhaps an unsound reason for taking on a series, but what the hell- I was about to take the plunge.
In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last year or so, Lucky Star is a series that follows the daily lives of high school students Konata, Kagami Tsukasa and Miyuki, alongside various minor friends and family members. Nothing really happens; instead, the entire series is composed of short skits and dialogue exchanges about one thing or another. It was a formula that worked for Ichigo Mashimaro, Azumanga Daioh and Minami-ke, but whilst many others loved it, for me, it didn’t work for Lucky Star.
For me, the Lucky Star experience was one that didn’t inspire strong feelings- for the most part, it passed before me on the screen and left me largely indifferent. Humour is of course a very subjective thing at the best of times, but what the series seemed to lack was the two things I find most important- timing and the ability to sustain a joke. Where the best comics know exactly when to deliver a punch line, and how to weave in references to earlier material later on, Lucky Star was far more disconnected, flitting from one place to another without any real idea of how much time to spend on it. Observations that could have been apt and amusing were rendered dull by the amount of time the characters spent flogging them to death, and yet when the time came to move on to the next joke, the situation was little better. Rather than rewarding the viewer by cleverly building on ongoing story threads the way Minami-ke did, most scenes were completely throwaway, destined to fizzle out and die without ever being acknowledged again.
Unfortunately, much as I could just about sit through the bulk of an episode, when it came to the Lucky Channel segment at the end, my patience was truly tested. Where Disgaea 2 so perfectly complemented the main game with a pair of minor characters presenting the news at the end of each episode, Lucky Star took the concept and drove it into the ground. Based on the single joke of an idol with a personality problem and a tendency to take everything out on her hapless co-anchor, Lucky Channel was like watching the same unfunny joke get repeated again…and again…and again.
Most comedy series rely on characters with distinct ‘one-joke’ style personalities, and unsurprisingly, Lucky Star is no different. Konata is the otaku of the bunch, obsessed with video games, visual novels, anime and all the related merchandise; Kagami is the tsundere; Miyuki is the meganekko; Tsukasa fills out the ‘ditzy-but-not-too-bright’ complement and various other characters contribute to the other clichés. Where other shows usually come to life through the interactions of such characters, however, Lucky Star’s exchanges are more akin to watching people lazily roll a ball back and forth- there’s just no excitement or impact to the character dynamics. Admittedly, there were a couple of times when I could identify with Konata’s laziness and gaming obsession, but for the most part there was little there to attract me.
Visually, Lucky Star is hardly the most impressive or challenging series KyoAni has produced, with a clear view towards both saving budget for the next Key work and advertising Haruhi whenever possible. That being said, character designs are still bright, cute and memorable, and there are occasional moments when the animators choose to show off, although the fact that this particular bunch of high school students largely look to be about twelve years old will be disconcerting to some. Background music is typically light and throwaway, whilst the energetic OP and random karaoke theme EDs will either delight or annoy, depending on the individual (personally, I took to skipping both).
Lucky Star may have tickled the funny bones of a fair number of viewers, but for me it provoked little more than indifference- without the sort of delivery, timing and character interaction that makes a series come alive, it lacked that vital element of infectious enthusiasm that can carry a viewer through any number of either crazy or commonplace situations. Instead, the series was more akin to water swirling around a plughole- continually going round and round, but never really getting anywhere.