“You’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.” –Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
Centred around Ruri Hibarigaoka, who constantly finds herself entangled in the woes of others, Anne Happy (known alternatively as Unhappy♪) deals with her everyday life after she is enrolled at the prestigious Tennomifune Academy’s “Happiness Class”, where she spends her days with the eternally hapless but equally optimistic Anne Hanakoizumi, the frail and pessimistic Botan Kumegawa, the directionally-challenged Hibiki Hagyū and Ren Ekoda, who has the misfortune of attracting female animals to her in the most inopportune of moments. Through instructor Kodaira’s lessons, the girls learn to try and overcome their misfortunes, discovering along the way that friendship seems to be the greatest countermeasure against bad luck. As the girls spend more time with one another, ill events become flipped around as Ruri and the others slowly begin figuring out how to make the most of a moment; whether it be a “punishment” assignment leading the girls to a wonderful day searching for a flower, the series of mishaps that lead the girls to the school rooftop for a better view of the fireworks than expected, or their failure to complete an event resulting in a warm soak in the onsen followed by a calm evening camping under the stars, Anne Happy consistently drives home the point that the gap between misfortune and the best of luck can sometimes be separated by one’s point of view. Anne is the embodiment of this particular way of thought: no amount of disaster seems to faze her, and the sum of her outlook on things, in conjunction with time spent with her newfound friends, conveys this idea to those around her.
At least, this is ostensibly what Anne Happy deals with in its thematic elements: other members of the anime community, the so-called “Manga Time Kirara experts”, have supposed that Anne Happy would devolve into a much darker, grim setting where misfortune would be represented in the absense of the easygoing approach expected for anime of Anne Happy‘s design. In this supposition, Anne Happy would follow Anne, Ruri and the others as their mental health declined, which of course, is no laughing matter. Mental health is a serious issue; proper care and treatment involves individuals with formal training in psychology, medicine or psychiatry. The topic certainly should not be left to the armchair experts who contend that they’re both right in making the claim that Anne and the others are “mental ward patients”, as well as in dismissing remarks from others that their claim was, in fact, tasteless. Fortunately, when Anne Happy is watched to its conclusion, it is the case that this gloomy, dark outcome never materialises for Ruri and her friends: the anime deals entirely with the misadventures the girls find themselves entangled in, and how their experiences allow them to turn things around and view things in a different light to create a pleasant memory out of what initially seemed to be unlucky. Simply put, Anne Happy is definitely not discrimination moé, nor is it pity moé (whatever that means) – it’s a bit of a more slapstick outlook on how changing one’s point of view is central to besting bad luck.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Because this post is the first of its kind, I will spend some time explaining what the “Terrible Anime Challenge” is. Inspired by Matimi0’s “Terrible Weapon Challenge”, where he runs with lower-performing weapons or impair weapons with bad attachments or setups to see if they can be made to work effectively in various Battlefield games. From using buckshot rounds for the M320 to using the Uzi with a high-powered scope on single fire in Battlefield: Hardline, this video series was hilarious, and it was superbly entertaining to see just how well some set-ups worked.
- Thus, the “Terrible Anime Challenge” is a series of blog posts where I’m going to go through a slice-of-life anime that I skipped, and see if I can find some sort of enjoyment from watching it, as well as to see if I can figure out what messages or themes are present in the show. Anime done for the Terrible Anime Challenge are not necessarily bad, but are those that initially did not catch my interest. Besides working out whether or not my initial impressions of an anime were fair, I will also discuss whether or not prevailing thoughts on the anime were appropriate. For Anne Happy, I received some requests to take another look; the individual requesting this post informed me that some people came in with the expectation that the show would illustrate “who among [Anne Happy‘s] little bags of dysfunction will crack FIRST?”.
- Thus, I decided to look through the impressions I was linked to of Anne Happy from start to finish, and figured that it was time I finally got my controversial “Terrible Anime Challenge” series off the ground. This is the first close-up of three of the five main characters: from left to right, we’ve got Ruri, Anne and Botan. Ruri is the most normal-seeming of the three, but finds herself drawn into ill situations. Botan has low self-esteem and has osteogenesis imperfecta of varying severity: the bones in her hand shatter with a normal handshake, and her teeth crack from eating ordinary foodstuffs, but she has a high ability to treat herself, negating this damage. On the other hand, Anne is downright stricken with all sorts of trouble, falling into open manholes and sees frequent animal attacks.
- In spite of all this, Anne seems deliberately accepting of her circumstances and resolves to make the most of everything, finding a way to turn negatives into positives at every turn. Finding a theme in Anne Happy was a relatively straightforward endeavour: the point is iterated through in each and every episode. Here, the girls spend time together on an assignment to find a flower in a garden and learn that where their treasures, their hearts are there as well.
- In its essence, Anne Happy really is about the sorts of misadventures that Ruri and the others find themselves on as as result of their friendship with Anne. Her Japanese name, 花小泉 杏, is romanised as properly “Hanakoizumi An”, but some folks have been quite hung over by the fact that the translations consistently present her name as “Anne”. Done purely for convenience and to facilitate a pun anime’s subtitle of “unhappy”, there’s not much to be gained from trying to figure out how Anne’s name impacts the anime’s theme.
- The wacky misadventures Ruri and the others find themselves embarking in are a part of her high school’s “Happiness Class”, which is aimed at helping the so-called unfortunate students. While Anne Happy suggests that the class itself does nothing to change the students’ propensity towards ill-luck, but rather, helps them consider other ways of approaching their situations to make the most of things. In general, the uncommon setup in Anne Happy is obviously indicative of a show whose outrageous situations are intended purely for comedy, so it is quite baffling that folks elsewhere, most notably at Tango-Victor-Tango, took to nitpicking and tried to rationalise certain aspects of Anne Happy for the sake of, for the lack of a more eloquent term, sounding smarter than they are.
- Among one noteworthy gripes from one individual include how Botan shouldn’t be able to faint from bleeding gums (which done for humour’s sake) or how Anne’s misfortune should be considered similar to Huntington’s Disease. Insensitive, tasteless and irrelevant to the discussion at hand, the individual claiming this intended to showcase their medical knowledge. This is the same individual who attempted to demonstrate that they have substantial knowledge of the C++ compiler and unit testing methodologies back when New Game!! was airing. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with drawing on various topics to drive anime discussion (that’s what I do here), I do take exception when individuals present themselves as authoritative on disciplines and act in a manner to intimidate others into accepting their claims as the truth even when it is erroneous or misleading.
- Back in Anne Happy, Hibike and Ren are introduced. Hibiki’s plagued with an ill sense of direction, while Ren unintentionally draws mammals of all species towards her. Right from the start, Hibike takes exception to Ruri and finds herself being reigned back by Ren. Hibike gradually becomes more accepting of the friendship that Anne and the others extend her, and over time, while still competing with Ruri, is content to work with the others on their shared quest to find happiness. Here, Hibike shows off some art she’s created.
- There are numerous points of incredulity in Anne Happy that do make the show amusing, far more than the suffering that the characters go through: fantastical structures and constructs, such as a vast casino underneath the school, a fully-immersive VR environment, and a remotely-controlled robot capable of operating what is Anne Happy‘s equivalent of the Gundam Dendrobium’s “Orchis” system. These constructs serve to drive up the over-the-top scenarios that Ruri and her friends find themselves in: here, Ruri deflects an attack during a VR exam that leads the girls to ultimately engage their instructor and fail the exam, although feeling that the girls have learned satisfactorily what the Happiness Class seeks to teach, she allows them to enter their summer break with no remedial lessons.
- Ruri’s main form of misfortune is being hauled into situations against her will; despite having managed to improvise during their home economics class, Ruri accidentally spills a shake into their other contents, leading Saginomiya, the other instructor, to remark that the Happiness Class is unnecessary. A quick glance at high school curricula indicates that the mere notion of a Happiness class is unlikely to ever be feasible, offering its students no practical value in society, and the very presence of such a class in Anne Happy is met with some resistance, indicating that Anne Happy might also be a parody of supernatural or science fiction anime set in high schools – in such anime, entire institutions are dedicated to unusual or uncommon disciplines that do not offer youth any marketable skills upon convocation (e.g. Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei or Infinite Stratos).
- When a thunderstorm appears out of the blue, threatening to subject the students to Mace Windu’s fate at Darth Sidious’ hands in Revenge of the Sith, Botan and Ruri stay behind to help save Anne, who found herself stuck in the pool. Their devotion to friendship demonstrates to Saginomiya remarking that there might be some merit to the Happiness Class’ existence. The logistics behind how the Happiness Class might work in reality is evidently irrelevant to the thematic elements that I’ve drawn from the anime, and I hold that folks will gain the most enjoyment from the show by looking at things at face value.
- Anne Happy marks one of the quickest I’d ever finished a series: the reason why I did not watch the anime back during its airing or write about it was two-fold: the first is that the premise was unremarkable, and when I watched the first three episodes, I did not find the humour quite to my liking. Coupled with the fact I was doing episodic reviews of Hai-Furi at the time, there simply was not the time to watch this anime, figure out what I could enjoy about it and then capture that in a blog post.
- As summer vacation comes into full swing, Ruri and the others enjoy the standard-issue of summer activities, from relaxing on the beach and swimming to exploring a summer festival and watching fireworks together. By this point in Anne Happy, Hibike and Ren have joined Ruri, Anne and Botan in their everyday activities: misfortune has brought them together, but aside from what can be considered as inconveniences, the girls’ fateful meeting is a positive one that allows them to share in happiness.
- If and when I’m asked, Ruri is my favourite of the characters in Anne Happy. She resembles GochiUsa‘s Rize Tedeza and Sansha Sanyou‘s Yōko Nishikawa in appearances, being the more level-headed of the group. Her caring attitude, plus comedic attraction to the construction sign and one additional factor, leads to this decision. While she and Hibike (who reminds me of YuruYuri‘s Sakurako) race under water, both get knocked out. Hibiki is later resuscitated by Ren. Hibiki is flustered, although I never found Hibike’s feelings for Ren worthy of discussion.
- The colours and sounds that anime present summer festivals in does much to bring them to life: Anne Happy chooses a set of warmer colours that dominate the palette to create a joyous environment for each festival. Different anime go about portraying summer festivals differently with respect to the choice of colours, from the more subdued colours of the summer festival in Yosuga no Sora to the yellow-golds of the one seen in The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, and the orange lighting of the festival seen in Yoshino’s hometown of Sakura Quest, I imagine that the selection of hues is probably more of an artistic choice: the more intense the colours, the more relevant it is to the narrative, drawing the audiences’ attention towards the festivities as much as the characters.
- The summer festival demonstrates the notion that “bad luck” can transmute into a pleasant memory: after the girls are separated from one another after they attempt to return to the rally point, they regroup after being chased through the school hallways, ending up on the rooftop. Here, they are afforded with a spectacular fireworks show, and while unexpected, everyone enjoys it immensely.
- In addition to the reasons provided earlier, this is another reason why Ruri is my favourite character. The final two episodes of Anne Happy deal with Ruri, Anne and the others as they attempt to survive an outdoors school activity. They finish in the basement, which entails the punishment of being made to sleep outside and find their own food. In the process, the girls nearly kicking the bucket when the ground caves in around them, but as it turns out, the collapse also reveals a hot springs below.
- With their familiarity in improvisation, Hibike, Ren, Anne, Botan and Ruri use their misfortune to turn things around in their favour, allowing them to catch fish and set up camp outside. A quick glance at old conversations show that viewers of this anime ended up wondering what the whole point of Anne Happy was, wondering if their instructor was “forcing suffering on her students to somehow drain them of bad karma so they won’t be as unlucky in the future”. The themes presented in this post answer this question: the answer is no, the point of the Happiness Class is to teach the students how to improvise and adapt so ill fortune is turned around and how from a certain point of view, some forms of misfortune can be seen as good fortune, lending itself to the page quote.
- Suffering together has brought each of Anne, Ruri, Botan, Hibiki and Ren together in ways they did not expect. This brings my post very nearly to its end, and in the penultimate figure caption, I will address one more elephant in the room. The misunderstanding from above arose because of an insistence on terminology: 不幸 (fukō, approximating to “unhappiness” or “misfortune”) describes Ruri and the others’ status in the original manga, but because some translations give their circumstances as ‘karma’, this led to folks assuming that the girls’ circumstances were the consequence of causality.
- Anne Happy is a C+ on my grading scale: certainly not something I would recommend, but not quite bottom of the barrel, either. I conclude that Anne Happy is a show that I probably didn’t miss out too much on if I did choose to skip it, but having watched it, it does have its moments. That’s pretty much it for this Terrible Anime Challenge, and upcoming, at some point in the future, will be a talk on Sansha Sanyou, which I similarly skipped over because the scheduling conflict and how I initially found it difficult to watch the show as the summer rolled in because of my schedule. Terrible Anime Challenge posts will be published as I find the time to do them, and recommendations are accepted, provided that they are for slice-of-life anime. Other shows I’ve considered doing Terrible Anime Challenges for include Isshuukan Friends and Koufuku Graffiti.
Overall, while Anne Happy does not have a particularly novel message, and humour is derived from moments where audiences wince as the characters are made to suffer, the overall execution means that Anne Happy isn’t entirely a waste of time, and there are a few moments here and there that are genuinely heartfelt in nature. However, Anne Happy is something I would not recommend to viewers: even if many of the events happen for comedy’s sake, most of it becomes difficult to accept. I’ve generally not been fond of shows where one character is made to suffer unnecessarily, so an anime whose entire premise is to stack the deck against the characters for the purpose of viewers laughing at them for a better part of the season was somewhat difficult to watch. I myself am neutral about Anne Happy: on one hand, the premise is a bit contrived, designed to create a world solely where the unfortunate can aggregate for our supposed amusement, but on the flipside, watching the girls bond as they work hard to overcome these challenges was welcoming. While the source manga is ongoing, I won’t be too bothered if Anne Happy does not get a continuation; there are numerous anime of a similar aesthetic and atmospheric that are at least as heartwarming, but without the jarring aspects of misfortune.