Review for Lucky Star Complete Series + OVA
I’m no stranger to importing anime. In fact, to be an anime fan in this day and age you practically have to import titles, lest you miss out on so much good stuff that just doesn’t get released in the UK. Sometimes there are shows that are released in the UK on DVD, that are only available on Blu-ray from abroad. Sometimes the local releases are just of poorer quality. But usually, I choose to buy locally if the product is of comparable standard. When it came to the re-release of Lucky Star (it originally got a DVD release from Beez in the UK, with a collection as recently as 2011), All the Anime gave it the Collector’s Edition treatment in the UK, with a 28 page booklet, Collector’s Edition Packaging, and using Funimation’s Blu-ray discs, so the quality was the same as the US release. In comparison, the US release was standard issue from Funimation, a BD/DVD combo in a BD Amaray brick with a slipcover, no physical extras, no special artwork. Yet this time, I was compelled to import what looks like the inferior version...
Lucky Star follows the lives of four friends in and out of high school, Konata Izumi, Miyuki Takara, and twin sisters Kagami and Tsukasa Hiiragi. Konata’s may be athletic and smart, but she’s a total otaku, devoted to manga, anime and videogames. Miyuki’s a bit of a rich kid, smart, caring, and clumsy, which pushes all of Konata’s moe buttons. Tsukasa’s cute and kind of ditzy, while Kagami is hard working and easily riled, especially when Konata tries to copy her homework.
The episode distribution on BD is 10-10-4, while on DVD it is 7-7-7-3 while the fifth disc is exclusively devoted to extras.
1. The Girl Who Dashes Off
2. Efforts and Results
3. Various People
4. A Question of Motivation
5. The Famous Shooter
6. Fixtures of Summer
8. Energetic Despite Not Being Myself
9. That Feeling
11. Various Ways to Spend Christmas Eve
12. Let’s Go to the Festival
13. Delicious Day
14. Under One Roof
15. I Can’t Suddenly Change
17. Base of the Sun
18. To Each Her Own
19. There’s Substance in 2-D
20. Ways to Spend Summer
21. Pandora’s Box
22. The Yonder Here
23. Delicate Line
24. To Be Decided
Lucky Star is a KyoAni slice of life show, the studio behind shows like Haruhi Suzumiya, K-On, Nichijou and Full Metal Panic. They deliver a comedy with simple but appealing, cute character designs, with a suitably effective world design, and excellent animation. But the real reason why I went for the US release and not the UK release is in how that animation is presented on disc.
You have a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080i transfer at 60Hz. Lucky Star was an SD show from an SD age, and consequently the Blu-ray is an upscale. It’s a pretty poor upscale, which, while it doesn’t display any particular interlacing issues, it’s one where lines are constantly jagged, and are prone to cross colouration. So as well as stair-stepping on diagonal and curved lines, there are periodic patches of bright colour that shouldn’t be there. The colours on the Blu-ray are crisper and brighter, but in playback the show looks pretty terrible, even on a smaller screen.
You have 1.78:1 anamorphic NTSC transfer at the native resolution for the show, and above all, it’s encoded progressively. With suitable equipment you can watch the DVDs at a smooth 24 fps, smoother than the interlaced Blu-rays. The colours are a little dull compared to the Blu-ray, but your player or your TV will scale up the image a lot more effectively than the Blu-ray transfer has been. No aliasing here and certainly no cross-colouration. This is the way to watch the show.
The images in this review were taken from the DVD version.
The Blu-ray offers perfectly serviceable Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Stereo English and Japanese audio, but the subtitles and signs are locked during playback. The DVD’s Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo English and Japanese at least allows you access to the subtitle options. The audio is fine, the dialogue is clear in a dialogue heavy show, and the music suits the light comedy well. I did notice one typo early on in the subtitles, but generally they are legible and accurately timed. I prefer the original Japanese audio, but even after all this time, the dub is pretty good. The one annoyance with the DVDs is a couple of poorly placed layer changes.
You get 8 discs in a BD Amaray brick, one on either side of 4 centrally hinged panels. You have three BD discs and 5 DVD discs. The sleeve is reversible and one side has the extras listing, the other has the standard retail blurb. The case comes with an o-card slipcover that mirrors the outer sleeve art. Both DVDs and Blu-rays get static menus, and the DVDs get jacket pictures.
BD and DVD discs 1 autoplay with a trailer for Funimation NOW, discs 2 have trailers for Gonna Be The Twin-Tail!! at the head, and BD and DVD discs 3 have trailers for The Rolling Girls.
Blu-ray disc 3 has some exclusive extras. The shared extras include the OVA “JK” (43:16), the woefully inadequate On Screen Text Reference Guide, the US Trailer, and trailers for A Good Librarian is a Good Shepherd, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, One Piece, and Shonen Hollywood – Holly Stage for 50 –
The BD only extras are Lucky Racer: Checker Flag in Akihabara & Lucky Racer Highlight, which lasts 11:18 and is in 1080i. This featurette looks at a Karting tournament that was held tying in with the anime broadcast.
Radio Kansai’s Public Recording of “New Lucky Channel” turns the end of episode skits into a live stage event with the actors. This lasts 13:23 1080i, and is another highlights package.
DVD Disc 4 autoplays with a trailer for A Good Librarian is a Good Shepherd.
Exclusive to this disc (so UK purchasers missed out) are the textless credits, the opening for the series, and the seven minute ending to the OVA.
You get the On Screen Text Reference Guide again, the US Trailer, and most of the same Funimation trailers, with Fairy Tail replacing A Good Shepherd.
The “JK” OVA lasts 43:14 on DVD, offering more fun with the characters, although this time the skits are longer, there’s more of a story arc to the gags.
DVD Disc 5 is solely devoted to extra features and kicks off with a trailer for One Piece.
You get a key scenes gallery which is presented as a 23:25 slideshow.
The Opening with Lyrics offers you the credit sequences with Japanese karaoke (and English subtitles) which runs to 1:37. The subtitles should have been romanji to let you sing along.
There is a 34 second promo clip.
The big wodge here is The Adventures of Minoru Shiraishi, in 11 parts, and running to a total of 147:28. The voice actor Minoru Shiraishi played the characters of Minoru Shiraishi on the show, especially in the Lucky Channel skits, and for the second half of the series performed the end credits as well. These featurettes are behind the scenes looks at the filming of those end credits.
You also get English Voice Cast Interviews, three of them in all, running to 8:46, 9:40, and 8:14 respectively.
Thankfully the period between the end of traditional cel and paint, and the production of genuine HD digipaint shows was just a half decade or so. Unfortunately those few years were in the middle of the last anime boom, when producers were taking bigger risks with anime, with storytelling and character, and when a whole lot of classic shows were made. What that means for us in our HD age, looking to own our favourite shows on Blu-ray, is that those classics will only ever look as good as the up-scale that they receive. The best up-scales are those which look closest to the DVD presentation, albeit with progressive transfers and an absence of compression. The worst ones are the ones where they really go to town, sharpening lines, and slathering on the DNR to make them look faux HD. Lucky Star is one of the latter, a show where the DVDs look better than the Blu-rays. Fortunately, this Funimation release gives you the option.
Lucky Star heralded the slice-of-life comedy genre. A group of girls, hanging out, talking about inconsequential things is a staple of the anime schedule these days. The chance to just relax in the presence of warm, friendly, and inoffensive silliness is one that many people partake of, and it’s hard to imagine when such shows weren’t all over the place. Prior to Lucky Star, only Azumanga Daioh had really done such a thing, and it was unique enough to stand alone as something special. It was Lucky Star that really laid down the tropes and clichés, the character archetypes that people would look for in subsequent shows.
Lucky Star isn’t really that great. It caught the mood of the fanbase when it was first released, surfed the wave of the Zeitgeist, no doubt helped by the strong tie-in with Haruhi Suzumiya (beyond merely sharing a lead voice actress in Aya Hirano). And with a main character that had strong otaku tendencies, it allowed for an avalanche of in-jokes and references. If you look at any anime on the ANN Encyclopaedia, it might have a handful of trivia notes listed. Lucky Star has well over 200 items of trivia, otaku references in the episodes. That’s why this show needs ADV style vid-notes, and I doubt the handbook that comes with the Anime Limited release can really do it justice, let alone the nothing that you get with the Funimation discs.
It’s based on a short-form manga, little punchline and gag format strips, and that is patently obvious in the episodes, with joke following joke, often with no thread linking the scenes. It’s stream of consciousness comedy, and as a viewer, I often felt as if I was paddling against the current, rather than going with the flow. With other shows, they tend to pick strips to adapt that share a theme in common, so you at least get 2 or 3 minutes of connected humour, if not more. You can’t settle down with Lucky Star as it’s always moving on to the next thing. As a result, it takes a lot longer to get simpatico with the characters, find the humour in the running gags (like Miyuki’s fear of dentists), and find the rhythm of the comedy.
I didn’t really find it all that funny. It’s the first of those shows that invite you to just hang out with the characters as they talk about trivia and minutiae, but you really have to like the characters and want to be in their presence for humour like that to work. The characters in Lucky Star just aren’t that likeable. These days, there is so much slice of life anime out there that does it better. If you want the comedy, try Nichijou, if you want to care about the characters and invest in their friendship, there’s K-On!, and if you want the whole basking in the presence of moe, getting all vicarious about girls’ friendships, then Hidamari Sketch is your show of choice. You just have to remember that without Lucky Star laying all the foundations, none of these other shows would have been made, most probably.
Lucky Star is occasionally funny, generally likeable, and always watchable, but it has very obviously dated. If I had bought into its charms when it was released, when both it and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya were driving anime fandom wild with obsessive mania, I’d probably be a Lucky Star nut too, but at this point in time, that ship has sailed.