THIS IS COMMON JAPANESE KNOWLEDGE: Lucky Star Original Visuals and Animation

Lucky Star, last year’s anime phenomenon which transformed a small, quiet town into an otaku tourist attraction, returns with a ~40 minute OVA titled Lucky Star Original Visuals and Animation. Fans of Lucky Star, I probably don’t have to tell you to watch this, and non-fans of Lucky Star I’m not sure if I could convince you to watch it, but this OVA is different from the rest.

Lucky Star’s often incorrectly characterized as being otaku in-jokes and little else, and while this OVA is filled with references to anything and everything anime-related it isn’t limited by them. It’s Lucky Star to be certain, but I’d almost describe it as Shinbo-esque. There’s multiple stories contained within this single long episode. They vary in levels of absurdity, some bordering on the surreal, others more down-to-earth, and others pushing the viewer/creator boundary further as one expects Lucky Star would, but with a consistently high level of quality and creativity throughout.

See the world of Lucky Star through the eyes of a lazy dog!

See Kagami in her debut role as Tsunderella!

See Tsukasa…eat meat!

Unlike Zetsubou Sensei, where characters gradually became singularities of their own character designs, pushing the limits of being defined by one’s own basic traits, Lucky Star’s characters remain full of heart and just on the other side of parody, Shiraishi Minoru exception aside. As for Konata, she is by far the main attraction of the Lucky Star OVA with her positive attitude showing what an otaku can be if only he or she had the confidence to be an otaku in public, but the vast majority of the characters make a return. It’s also great hearing Kujira talk to herself constantly throughout the entire episode.

The success of Lucky Star is very evident in this OVA, as it’s clear that a lot of money and effort was put into it, even though you might not expect Lucky Star to need it. It’s really a step above, even by Kyoto Animation standards.

In closing, I hope Misao’s voice actor gets more roles in the future, and that’s not simply because Mizuhara Kaoru sounds incredibly similar to Mizuhashi Kaori.

Misunderstood Shows

Well-known shows tend to gain reputations, good or bad, that dictate how people view those shows. Often times, these reputations are deserved, but there are some instances where the general impression of that show is primarily because of a lack of understanding. Two easily misunderstood series that come to mind are “Hokuto no Ken” and “Lucky Star.”

These examples, Hokuto no Ken and Lucky Star, don’t have to do with whether or not I think a show is good or bad. I like Maria-sama Ga Miteru but I can generally understand why some people don’t like it and their reasoning tends to be justified. Dragon Ball Z is another one where the reasons behind its popularity/anti-popularity tend to be very transparent. I don’t think the same thing applies 100% to either of the two titles.

Hokuto no Ken is one of the most popular shounen series of all time and the archetype of the shounen manga that we know today in the form DBZ, Saint Seiya, Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, and so on. Its most famous feature is most definitely the various methods through which Kenshiro causes severe cerebral (and bodily) hemorrhaging in his opponents. While this image is certainly not undeserved, it’s also the leading cause of why people are mystified as to its popularity. Some people even mistake it as “silly” or “comedic,” not understanding that the real appeal behind HnK is the way in which passion is imbued into every single situation. The 90s release of the Fist of the North Star movie in the US by Streamline Pictures is partly to blame for all of this, as the movie pales in comparison to the original manga or the tv adaptation. Kenshiro is not just a skilled assassin, he is a compassionate human being who fights for the downtrodden and wishes to save the world, and it’s this conviction which carries the entire story. Exploding heads are merely there to display Kenshiro’s amazing power, which certanly impresses the boys reading it, but also is contrasted with his kindness and humanity.

Lucky Star is sometimes called the “Anime Version of Family Guy.” The problem here is that people do not see beyond the use of references and into the differences in the way humor is delivered. Lucky Star almost never uses non-sequiturs in its jokes, and most of the time the jokes are either observational or involve some sort of set up. The references used, no matter how obscure, relate strongly to the situation at the time, rather than employing the cut-aways that make Family Guy famous and derided by Eric Cartman. As to why Lucky Star is popular, references alone would not be enough as plenty of shows for otaku employ references. The real reason why Lucky Star is popular is that it’s an incredibly self-aware show. It knows otaku are watching and it does more than wink and nod, it outright asks fans to interact with the show itself.

I think it is up to us fans to try and accurately convey what a show is like to new viewers. I know it isn’t easy, and I personally find it difficult to explain most anime to people because the way stories are set up tends to be very different from how stories can be summarized in the American culture of which I am a part. Professional attempts tend not to fare much better either after all (the Chobits manga ad, for example). I just hope that people are able to like or dislike a show for actual reasons rather than simply misunderstandings.

New York Comic Con: An Incomplete Con Report Because I Will Probably Forget Most Things

I went to my first New York Comic Con this past weekend. I normally prefer less city and commute-based conventions, but it was still a pleasant experience over all.

I’ll avoid the hanging out with friends talk, but I’ll just say I hung out with various friends and it was good times for all.

I saw the Lucky Star dub. Some voices were weaker than others, and Wendy Lee still sounds like Wendy Lee, but they tried very hard with this dub. I think the dialogue sounded a lot more natural than I was expecting, which was a big plus. Kogami Akira felt pretty spot on, Shiraishi Minoru not so much, and the pronunciation of Shiraishi was a little painful. Overall though, not a bad dub at all.

I got to meet the fine folks over at Ninja Consultant Podcast and got to be interviewed, which was a great experience. We talked about various topics, including but not limited to Ogiue. Keep up with their podcast, and you might just get to hear how incomprehensible I am when I speak. By the way, I’m a 35 year old balding man and my name is Gerald Rathkolb.

I saw Freedom. In unrelated news, I sure do want some Nissin Cup Noodles. I also attended Grant Morrison panels, and though I’m not really a huge fan of his work (just because I don’t read much of his work), his scottish talkings about made both panels very entertaining. Oh yeah, Seven Soldiers was awesome so I guess I am a Grant Morrison fan after all. I also attended a Tokyopop panel, and there as I watched the slides come on screen, I realized just how much Tokyopop gears towards shoujo and bl now. I feel like it snuck up on me without me realizing it, and now it’s too late.

I attended the Giant Robot Rumble panel, where I got to explain what an Absolute Terror Field actually is, as well as correcting the people who thought one robot was Aphrodai A when it was actually Dianan X. Thanks to this, I was considered a nerd even among nerds. Yes, I am that pathetic. PS Steve Yun please make me a judge next time. Sadly I had to leave early, so if someone can tell me who won, that’d be great.

By the way, Optimus Prime does not lose to Roy Focker/Fokker, at least not for the reasons given. Saying that Roy’s in a plane and Optimus’s mobility is limited is not an argument when Optimus REGULARLY FIGHTS ROBOTS WHO TRANSFORM INTO FIGHTER JETS.

I actually did not buy all that much, which is okay by me. I bought an autographed copy of David Lloyd (artist of V for Vendetta)’s new book, Kickback. The artwork is really up my alley. I took one look at it, and I was sold. The other thing I bought was a 20 minute backrub. It was actually worth it because it helped me take on the 90 minute TM Revolution concert.

And oh boy what a concert it was. TM Revolution has incredible stage presence, and his singing is solid. The most prominent feature of that concert though was the screaming. The loud, fangirl (and boy) screaming, which I partook in on a number of occasions. He covered all of the SEED songs and Heart of Sword, and a few others. By the way, my ears are still feeling the effects of that concert.

I was sitting behind TM Revolution’s Japanese fan club. Before the concert started, and as fans waved signs and hooped and hollered and asked TMR to marry them, I asked the Japanese fan club girls what they thought of America.

Needless to say, they were impressed.

The True Appeal of Izumi Konata

Konata is a surprisingly good character. There’s something very endearing about her and for a long time (since I finished watching Lucky Star), I wasn’t quite sure what it was, but now I know.

I’ve heard from numerous people that they think Konata’s popularity is because she has the same tastes as and acts like a male otaku. That’s not necessarily off the mark, but it’s a little too simplistic. The actual appeal of Konata is not simply that she’s an otaku, but that she’s an otaku who’s not afraid to show that side of herself in public.

I think there’s a fear within everyone (but particularly relevant to dorks) that if they reveal too much of themselves that people will think less of them. They will either believe they cannot make any friends, or that their friends will stop being so friendly. Konata stands in the face of all that. Where most of dvd-and-figure-buying comrades falter, Konata is able to confidently declare to her “commoner” friends that yes, she loves Haruhi, yes, she goes to Comic Market, and yes, she is indeed an otaku.

Combined with some of Konata’s more poignant scenes, such as the Hirano Aya concert or some of her conversations with her dad, Konata shows that she’s not just an impossible ideal for otaku, but that it’s possible to both feel weak and strong at the same time.

Konata, one might say, is the opposite of Ogiue. However, unlike, say, Kohsaka from Genshiken, Konata doesn’t appear to be too perfect. Sure, she’s athletic, sure she’s friendly and outspoken, but in the end she is still genuine to her own interests, still has her own doubts and insecurities, and really isn’t that much different from the otaku from which she is derived.

The Fujoshi Files 2: Tamura Hiyori

Hiyori

Name: Tamura, Hiyori (田村ひより)
Alias:
Hiyorin (ひよりん)
Relationship Status:
Single
Origin: Lucky Star

Information:
Tamura Hiyori is a student at Ryouou High School in Saitama Prefecture. A friendly and sociable girl, Hiyori has no problems making friends. Despite her age, Hiyori is a doujinshi artist and member of a popular circle which has even sold at Comic Market. A very enthusiastic artist, Hiyori frequently comes up with ideas for new comics but often forgets them just as easily, which is a continuing source of frustration for her. While not obviously a fujoshi at first sight, Hiyori has a tendency to (almost) accidentally blurt out phrases which betray her true status.

Fujoshi Level:
Hiyori frequently uses examples from real life to inform her work. Most notably, her two female friends and classmates, Kobayakawa Yutaka and Iwasaki Minami, who have a very close friendship with each other, have become a recurring subject and inspiration for many doujinshi. Unlike many fujoshi, Hiyori’s draws more than just boys’ love pairings, as shown in the example of Yutaka and Minami. However, she rarely ventures outside the theme of sexually charged pairings, which perhaps says more about her status as a fujoshi than anything else.