Review for Good Luck Girl! Binbogami ga! - Complete Series
This is the second of Manga Entertainment’s March releases, the second show that was initially mooted to be Blu-ray only to cater for the new market, and then at the end of last year when Manga drew back from licensing and releasing, went DVD only for the old market. That, along with a general decline in authoring quality from Manga meant that when the first release turned up for review, Ben-to, I wasn’t exactly enthused at the prospect of watching the show, half of me tempted to just import the Funimation Region B compatible Blu-ray out of general principle. But to my surprise, Ben-to turned out to not be as bad as the usual Manga release. I know that’s damning with faint praise, but we’ve got to the stage where if a Manga release is at all watchable, that’s something to shout about. Here’s hoping for a relatively un-borked release of Good Luck Girl! a.k.a. Binbougami Ga!
Japan as we all know is a divine nation, a culture of small gods, where every aspect of life, of the country, of nature is imbued with some aspect of divinity, all working to keep life in balance for all. And so it is that there exist gods of destitution, to apply a little bad luck, ill fortune for when life is going a little too well for some. For Ichiko Sakura, life goes very well indeed, she’s a rich heiress who has everything go her way, she’s adored at school by all the boys, envied by all the girls, and she finds life a breeze, effortless, problem free. That’s the kind of life that a person could take for granted, and so it is that Ichiko’s personality is haughty, aloof, selfish and shallow. It’s got to the point where she’s a happiness black hole, sucking out everyone else’s good luck and keeping it all to herself, unaware of the misfortune that others suffer as a result.
That’s a situation that cannot stand, not for the gods of destitution, and so it is that an obnoxious, unmotivated and selfish god of ill-fortune named Momiji is assigned to Ichiko to restore the balance. She doesn’t remain unmotivated for long, as simply comparing Ichiko’s ample cleavage to her own washboard chest is enough to get her thinking of murder, not just rebalancing. She has to extract all that surplus happiness energy from Ichiko and redistribute it, but she needs Ichiko’s compliance, and that isn’t going to happen all that easily. All Ichiko wants is to get Momiji out of her life, but instead with all the other oddball characters that Momiji brings with her, Ichiko’s life just gets more and more complicated. But through all this mayhem, she might just learn to be a better person.
Thirteen episodes of Good Luck Girl! are presented on two discs from Manga Entertainment.
1. Are You Sure You Haven’t Confused Being a God Of Flat Broke-ness with Being a God of Flat-Chestedness?
2. This, Indeed, Has the ‘The Battle Between God and Girl Now Begins’ Feel to It
3. Taking Orders from You Kinda Ticks Me Off!!! What Do You Mean, Kinda?!!
4. He Shrank, Didn’t He?!
5. Which One of Us Is Flat-Chested Again? Hm? Hm!? Hm!!?
6. Open Your Eye-es!!!!
7. Is This That So-called Boy-Raised-As-a-Girl Pattern?
8. Call Me By My Name
9. Eh?! You Said, ‘After All This’?!
10. It’s Like Secretly Mixing Pumpkin Into a Stew in Order to Feed It to a Child Who Hates Pumpkin
11. ... Who Are You?!
12. Sometime, Call Me By My Name
13. You Already Know the Answer to That
Good Luck Girl gets a 1.78:1 anamorphic, and native PAL transfer on these discs The image is clear and sharp throughout, and the show’s bold colour palette comes across without issue on smaller screens. However when scaled up to an HD panel, it exhibits a little more in the way of compression than you might expect. It’s a zany, Looney Tunes inspired animation, full of spit takes and eyes popping out of sockets in surprise, and the world and character design is comparatively simplistic to allow for the more energetic and wild cartoon sensibilities of the show. In this respect it can at the same time look a lot older than other modern anime, yet more vibrant too. When you first encounter Good Luck Girl, you might be tempted to think that it doesn’t even tax the DVD format, especially in terms of its design simplicity, but once you see it in motion, and some of the more extreme moments of compression artefacts and mosquito noise, you’ll probably be tempted to consider the US Region B compatible Blu-ray instead. It’s not quite as good as Ben-to, but the DVD’s visual quality is good enough for a casual watch.
Just like Ben-to, Good Luck Girl’s subtitles are almost good enough. Manga uses a small white font, with discreet black outlines, easy to read, and the dialogue and song translations stay at the bottom of the screen, the signs translations at the top, and they are shown when required, not consecutively as was previously done on Manga authored discs. Best of all, all of the subtitles are there, and are on screen long enough to read, and at the right times for the character dialogues and the signs. The only problem is the flicker, which you get when there is more than one caption on screen, and one changes while the other stays. The one that stays on screen flickers when the other caption changes.
There is a perceived problem with the audio, but it has to be said that I haven’t seen this show streamed, or in any other format or region release to compare. You have the choice between DD 5.1 English, and DD 2.0 Japanese, with optional translated subtitles and a signs only track. The dialogue is clear, the action comes across well, and the music suits the show adequately enough. I particularly like the end theme to the show. The actors are well suited to their characters, and while I went with the Japanese audio, what little I sampled of Funimation’s dub was agreeable. The problem then is what I would guess are the higher frequency sounds, which are curiously muted on this release on both language tracks. It makes the dialogue sound ever so slightly muddy and muffled, as if all of the characters are wearing facemasks. Manga Entertainment have a tendency to boost the volume on their discs (not helped by Funimation keeping the volume low on theirs’), and this time it seems as if they’ve boosted it a little too much and wound up burying the top end of the audio. As I said with the video, it’s good enough to watch.
Manga Entertainment authored these discs locally, and that means random chapter markings, along with the flickering subtitles and the muddy audio.
Both discs present their content with animated menus.
On disc 1, the sole extra is the episode 4 audio commentary. Just like with Ben-to, Funimation try to do something a little different with this commentary track. For Good Luck Girl they ask the actors some fan-submitted questions. But unlike the Ben-to diversion, this is less successful, as it turns out to be a typical Funimation yak-track from Brina Palencia (Ichiko), and Todd Haberkorn (Momo’o), with just a couple of fan questions interrupting the routine.
On disc 2, you get the Textless credit sequences as usual, including two end sequences, as well as the US trailer.
Episode 8 gets a Video Commentary, which allows you to see ADR director Joel McDonald, Brina Palencia (Ichiko), Colleen Clinkenbeard (Momiji), and Martha Harms (Ranmaru) as they commit their inane wittering to visual posterity for the DVD, instead of just vocalising them. It really doesn’t make that much difference to be honest, just another commentary that I can hardly bear to endure.
Episode 12 gets the traditional audio commentary, once again ‘livened up’ with the fan Q & A, and once again it features the collected inanity of Brina Palencia and Colleen Clinkenbeard.
Of Manga’s March releases, Ben-to was a surprising good show that got discs that would stand the scrutiny of the casual collector. Good Luck Girl on the other hand is in my view an even better show, but one whose release from Manga Entertainment is lacking enough to get even my casual eyes wandering over the import button. I can live with the chapter skip and the flickering subtitles (there aren’t as many as there were on Ben-to), but the muddy audio is one bugbear too many.
The thing about Ben-to was that it really just existed on the back of the one joke, the food fights taken to extremes, although it did manage to get enough mileage out of that joke to fill twelve episodes. Good Luck Girl on the other hand offers a lot more in the way of variety, plays on more than one level in terms of its comedy. And for a show that isn’t at all subtle when it comes to its Looney Tunes aesthetic, the low rent nature of the boob and washboard gags, the shamelessness with which it employs the usual anime tropes (perverted monk and masochistic dogboy, I’m looking at you), it can hit you with surprising depths to its characters. Seven episodes in, stock anime humour in full flow, I was shocked to feel a little tightness in the throat, a little moistness in the eye... I was actually empathising with the characters, the last thing I expected from a show that began with a boob gag.
So you have the flat-chested poverty god Momiji, sent to Earth to deal a little ill-fortune to stupendously endowed Ichiko Sakura, who has turned into a good luck vacuum cleaner, is rich, selfish, self-centred, opinionated, haughty, and rich, eases her way through life on the force of her good luck, and also manages to suck the good luck away from all around her (to the point in episode one that her butler Suwano, the one person she cares about, suffers a heart attack). Momiji has to redress the balance, extract all that extra good luck and redistribute it. That the difference in breast size and the difference in personality (Momiji is a motivated slacker god) is enough to induce her to want Ichiko dead is really just the icing on the cake. What ensues is a war of attrition as Momiji comes up with a new scheme each week to extract Ichiko’s luck, and Ichiko finds a new and exceedingly violent way to deal with her new nemesis.
Pretty soon, all manner of zany characters show up to make Ichiko’s life all the more complicated, not least a perverted monk named Bobby who’s mission in life is to exorcise Ichiko’s breasts. Tsuwabaki, the boy who sits next to Ichiko in class finally wakes up and is revealed to be a pretty nice guy, until Ichiko meets his family, four younger siblings that he takes care of in a poor, down on its luck household ever since their parents ran off, and Momiji uses that as an object lesson on the shallowness of Ichiko’s own life, and the effect of her good luck vacuum on nearby households. Momo’o, the Chihuahua shows up next, another weapon for Momiji to use in her attempts to get to Ichiko, but who turns out to be a dog eared masochist in disguise, who soon learns that he prefers being beaten by Ichiko than obeying Momiji. Then there’s Ranmaru, the girl raised by her father as a boy as he wanted an heir to his karate dojo, who transfers in and develops a crush on Tsuwabaki, and when Ichiko helps her discover her feminine side, becomes Ichiko’s first real friend.
That is where the heart of this show lies. It’s full of zany antics and ridiculous characters (wait until you smell the bathroom god!), getting ever more absurd as Momiji tries again and again to get Ichiko’s luck, but the real point of the story is getting this isolated, and emotionally distant rich girl to open up and start to engage with the world. Ichiko may have all the good luck there is, but her past is a sad and emotionally traumatic one, and she’s been closed off ever since. It takes the kind of adversity that Ichiko and her allies offer, the view from the other side of the tracks that Tsuwabaki offers, the stubborn friendship that Ranmaru gives to get Ichiko to start caring again. The show is all about the growth of this character into a functional and engaged member of society, and that is why, despite all the show’s clichéd zany comedy, it still manages to connect on a genuine, heartfelt level. If all that isn’t enough for you, you’ll love the pop culture references, with countless other anime and manga referenced with jokes and sight gags, so there’s yet another level on which to enjoy the show.
Both of the shows that Manga Entertainment are releasing this March are great comedy entertainment. I like Good Luck Girl a smidge more as it’s more about the characters than the concept, but the DVD release is really only good enough to watch. I’m already looking elsewhere for a copy that’s good enough to keep.