The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games and life converge

Tag Archives: Otafest Aurora

Lucky☆Star OVA: Review and Reflections After Another Long Weekend

“I take time to watch anime. I don’t know whether I’m allowed to, but I do it anyway.” –Larry Wall

A year after Lucky☆Star‘s airing concluded, Kyoto Animation released an original video animation for the series. This OVA consists of six acts; the first details the day of Minami’s dog, Cherry, and what occurs when various friends, including Miyuki, Patricia, Yukata and Hiyori visit. Minami is saddened to see Cherry disinterested in her dinner. Later, Kagami and Tsukasa accompany Konata and Nanako play an MMORPG. While Kagami is frustrated by the gamer-speak Konata and Nanako use, Tsukasa struggles with the game mechanics. During Golden Week, Nanako ends up power-levelling since she has nothing better to do. When Kagami falls asleep while house-sitting, she dreams about being whisked away to a Cinderella-like ball by Konata, which turns out to be a martial arts tournament. Konata’s magic depletes as Kagami returns home, leading Kagami to reluctantly recite an embarrassing spell that she says aloud, to Tsukasa’s shock. Later, Tsukasa attempts to become more noticeable by beating Kagami’s team in volleyball, but ends up failing and laments that she’ll remain a side character. The penultimate act has Miyuki recall a misadventure where their group wound up lost, and despite attempting some survival tactics, ultimately are found when Konata re-enters an area cellular coverage. Although a furious Nanako lectures them, she ends up relenting and sits the four down to a late dinner. The OVA closes up with a horror-themed segment where Konata, Kagami, Tsukasa and Miyuki somehow end up becoming frogs after visiting a strange pet-shop, and a live-action Lucky☆Channel segment. This unusual collection of shorts was originally intended for release in June 2008, but production issues pushed it back to September 2008. While retaining the whimsical charm of the original series, the Lucky☆Star OVA also presented Kyoto Animation a chance to explore both side stories that occurred in parallel with Lucky☆Star, as well as a fantastical and non-sequitur moment through its penultimate act. In addition to being a fun addition to the series, the Lucky☆Star OVA represents providing Kyoto Animation a means of experimenting with different visual effects: the MMORPG segment is rendered entirely in the 3D aesthetic of a JRPG, and Kagami’s going to the ball similarly presents a chance to play with particle effects. All of this is wrapped up in an addition to Lucky☆Star‘s repertoire of amusing anime jokes, so as far as experiences go, the Lucky☆Star OVA earns a passing grade.

It comes as a bit of a surprise to me that until now, I’ve never actually sat down and watched the Lucky☆Star OVA in full: previously, I’d caught glimpses of things like Kagami’s ill-fated attempt to dissuade Konata from taking her to the ball, or the MMORPG segment. In retrospect, I’m glad to have done so: while this series of vignettes does not add much to Lucky☆Star in the way of story, it does represent forty minutes of comedy. My favourite of the acts are, unsurprisingly, the MMORPG segments, which has Konata and Nanako discussing their game in gamer-speak (incorrectly identified as 1337-speak in most other places online), and Kagami’s attempts to dissuade Konata from taking her to the ball. The former is hilarious because, even though I’m not an RPG fan by any stretch (I enjoy games of the genre, but do not put in a large amount of time into things), I fully understand and follow the conversations Konata has with Nanako. Similarly, Kagami’s going to the ball and being kitted with Miku Hatsune’s outfit from Vocaloid was hilarious. While Lucky☆Star has previously shown Kagami as being tsundere with a short fuse, her anger at Konata here was taken to the next level. The Lucky☆Star OVA also brings with it surprises: Tsukasa has always been a quiet, shy character, but her being defeated in volleyball proved surprisingly poignant. Although she’s a lead in Lucky☆Star, her counterpart in CLANNAD was indeed a secondary character, so this may have been a callback to CLANNAD. Miyuki’s recounting her group getting lost in camping also proved heart-warming. With a combination of bad jokes (courtesy of Konata) and warmth (Nanako relenting in the end), this vignette shows how additional time can be used to create additional contexts for the characters to bounce off one another in. I was not particularly fond of the first or final acts, although even these have their moments, and beyond the likes of CLANNAD, numerous other series are referenced. Konata’s costume references Yuki’s witch costume in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, while the “jet stream attack” is a callback to Mobile Suit Gundam‘s Black Tri-Stars. Kagami also promises not to absorb a soul, a reference to Soul Eater. Despite a weaker opening and ending, the Lucky☆Star OVA still offers a solid experience in bringing back the antics and characters to a series that gently parodies the demographic who would be most likely to watch and enjoy such a show.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Although the Lucky☆Star OVA’s first vignette opens up in a light-hearted, comical manner, a day’s worth of trouble causes Minami’s dog, Cherry, to lose her appetite during dinner, leaving Minami saddened. Each of the stories in the Lucky☆Star OVA are standalone tales that, while lacking context, provide an additional chance for the characters to interact with one another. I would imagine that a day of attention has left Cherry exhausted, but there was a melancholy about this first act that made it a little trickier to follow.

  • Lucky☆Star began with a focus on Konata, Kagami, Tsukasa and Miyuki, but as the series continued, the cast expanded greatly: the show had already been quite lively even with just four central characters, but adding Yutaka, Minami, Patricia, Hiyori and Izumi created a much deeper, richer world. With twenty-four episodes, Lucky☆Star harkens back to a time when creators had more breathing room to produce anime. Today, studios work on multiple series simultaneously, so things like Gundam SEED wouldn’t be possible: year-long projects divert resources away from other series. It would be exceedingly rare for slice-of-life series like Azumanga Daioh and Lucky☆Star to receive 2-cours out of the gates, and studios would instead split the series up into several seasons, so they can work on other projects, and continue on with additional seasons only if profits are good.

  • Of the shorts in the Lucky☆Star OVA, the MMORPG act stands as one of my favourites; it follows Konata, Kagami and Tsukasa playing through a game together with their instructor, Nanako Kuroi. While Konata and Nanako are experienced veterans, Kagami is able to keep up, but poor Tsukasa struggles with the game mechanics, and at one point, states that she had assumed that spell levelling was automatic. Tsukasa of Lucky☆Star had been a little air-headed but adorable in her mannerisms, unfamiliar with the otaku world that Konata, and to a lesser extent, Kagami, know of.

  • One aspect of this vignette I enjoyed was the fact that I was able to follow everything Konata and Nanako converse about; I’m not anywhere nearly as versed in RPGs as I am in FPS, but I became familiar with the terminology, and enjoy the genre, as a result of a friend’s private Ragnarok Online and World of Warcraft servers from back when we were secondary students. I will note here that the RPG jargon Konata and Nanako use isn’t “1337-speak”: it’s simply RPG shorthand. Proper 1337-speak include things like calling people n00bs, pwning foes and the like.

  • Kagami’s reaction to Nanako and Konata picking up brand-name items in-game is my own: I prefer playing games without the inclusion of exclusive items that may break gameplay. As the group go through their game, Konata, Kagami and Tsukasa note they will be offline to enjoy Golden Week, and come back to find that since Nanako had nothing better to do, she ended up power-levelling her character. Nowadays, I spend most of my long weekends out and about, enjoying the weather, do things I don’t normally do and sleep in.

  • Of all the shorts in the Lucky☆Star OVA, my favourite is when the Hiiragis go to a ball of sorts, leaving Kagami to house-sit. She falls asleep, and is surprised to find Konata at her place, insisting that Kagami secretly also wanted to go but was too tsundere to admit it. Whimsical and fanciful, this Cinderella-like arc is charming and amusing, as well: Kagami in Lucky☆Star had reigned back her tendencies somewhat and only ever expresses mild frustration wherever Konata is concerned, so dropping the pair into a dream-like world means opening things up to more outrageous moments.

  • It is here that Lucky☆Star‘s reference to other series become visible: having now seen The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya in full, it’s easy to spot that Konata’s witch outfit is a deliberate call-back to Yuki’s costume for their movie, complete with a crude wand named similarly to the wand Haruhi supplied Yuki with. It is generally accepted that one should watch The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya before Lucky☆Star so that all references can be understood, but in my infinite wisdom, I ended up watching Lucky☆Star first. I was moderately familiar with The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya at that point, so I appreciated some of the call-backs, but it wasn’t until I did rewatches of both that the genius of said call-backs became apparent.

  • Lucky☆Star makes numerous references to other series, and as a result, is seen as a series for otaku: it is crammed with references to older works, and to an unseasoned viewer such as myself, there are many things that can feel unfamiliar. This is the reason why reception to Lucky☆Star among English-speakers is so mixed. Lucky☆Star draws most of its humour from the non sequitur conversations resulting from Konata’s profound knowledge of otaku subculture, and the frustration this creates in Kagami. As a result, some of the jokes can be difficult to follow and feel out of place as a result.

  • Conversely, those who are familiar with otaku subculture, anime, manga and Japanese games will find themselves right at home. The dramatic differences in reception towards Lucky☆Star is precisely why I hold that there is most certainly not a single, universal and objective metric for gauging slice-of-life works. Enjoyment of Lucky☆Star is entirely dependent on one’s background, hobbies and interests, so what may be flat and uninteresting for one viewer may be a hilarious and thoughtful parody to another viewer.

  • The highlight in the Cinderella vignette occurs when Konata decides to swap out Kagami’s outfit for something a little more befitting of an event. After Kagami rejects the maid and miko outfits, Konata gives Kagami Rin Tōsaka’s outfit from Fate/Stay Night. Rin is probably one of the most iconic tsundere characters around, and it is befitting of Kagami. However, when even this is turned down, Konata decks Kagami out in Miku Hatsune’s outfit for kicks, complete with the giant green onion. I’ve never understood the green onion piece, but from what little I know, it’s supposed to be significant for some folks.

  • When the little star falls from Konata’s wand, Konata is unable to restore Kagami to her original clothing: to the best of my recollection, this is the angriest that Kagami gets in Lucky☆Star, and she’s a few seconds away from kicking Konata’s ass. Despite the simplicity of the art in this scene, Kagami’s indignation can be felt, showing how expressive anime can be. Luckily for Konata, she and Kagami arrive at the venue before anything else can happen, and viewers are greeted by the sight of a martial arts tournament of sorts, where participants fight for Misao’s hand in marriage.

  • In Lucky☆Star, Misao joins the main cast later on, being a spirited and athletic character who prefers track and field, and video games, to studying. Although I suppose it would’ve been fun to see Kagami actually fight, in dreams, one’s personalities and inhibitions might still be present: much as how in my dreams, I still act as I normally would in reality, everything Kagami does in her dream is consistent with how she typically acts in Lucky☆Star. Konata doesn’t push the point and prepares to take Kagami home, but delays mean her own magic wears off, leaving Kagami in a bit of a pickle. Konata reveals an embarrassing pass-phrase that would restore everything to normal, and as Kagami awakens from her nap, she recites this out loud, to Tsukasa’s horror.

  • What Kagami says exactly has been the subject of no small discussion and remained a bit of a mystery for the past 13 years: half-asleep, she slurs the go…kitai. If I had to guess, “ご一緒に行きたい” (Hepburn goissho ni ikitai) would probably be the closest to what Kagami says: literally meaning “I want to come together with…”, it’s probably a euphemism of sorts. Although the OVA cuts the line out to avoid trouble, Tsukasa’s reaction says everything the viewer needs to know. Fans have long felt that Kagami and Konata would make for a good couple, and while it is true that banter between the two forms some of Lucky☆Star‘s best comedy, there is no evidence otherwise to suggest this is the case.

  • Misunderstandings in anime are amplified by the use of time and space; Bill Watterson has, in special collections of Calvin and Hobbes, spoken to the idea that humour also entails giving viewers time to let the outcomes sink in. In newspaper comics back when panels were large enough to support this, it would mean making use of visual breaks and empty space to create an impression that time had passed. Anime is able to use pauses to achieve the same effect, giving viewers a chance to spot what’d just happened to Kagami, and really laugh at the predicament she’s now in.

  • For me, the fourth act was probably one of the more saddening ones; tired of being a secondary character in Kagami’s shadows, Tsukasa resolves to win a volleyball match over her. Mid-match, Kanata suggests using the “Jet Stream” attack: this is an iconic part of Mobile Suit Gundam, when the Black Tri-Stars line their mobile suits up in a line, with the front suits equipping ranged weapons and creating enough of an opening for the final mobile suit to use melee weapons to finish off a target. Gundam SEED Destiny has a trio of ZAFT pilots using the same manoeuvre to devastate their foes, although one must wonder how well this trick would work in volleyball.

  • However, despite her best efforts, and even with Kanata’s unexpectedly good physical ability, Tsukasa ends up taking a ball to the face and ends up smashing the ball into the net, costing her team the match.  There was something heartbreaking about seeing Tsukasa stumbling, only to get back up and continue trying her hardest, although not all viewers feel the same way, finding the punishment that Tsukasa endures to be hilarious. Lucky☆Star is a comedy, after all, but for me, I’ve never really taken enjoyment in watching people suffer unnecessarily.

  • The arc where Konata, Kagami, Tsukasa and Miyuki get separated from their group while on a school trip offered some interesting humour: since they’ve got no cell reception, and Konata’s left the compass and map on the bus, the four can only wander the forest in the hopes they get back together with their class. Here, Miyuki is referred to as Miwiki, a callback to the fact that of everyone, she’s got a broad range of knowledge on wide topics. After attempting to ration their food and navigate the forest, Konata is surprised to learn she’s getting a call.

  • It turns out Nanako had been trying to call them for quite some time and is furious with them at having gotten lost. Here, I am reminded of the similarities between Lucky☆Star‘s artwork and what’s seen in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, which came almost a decade after Lucky☆Star. Kyoto Animation excels in both series where visual fidelity is life-like, and in series with a much simpler design: irrespective of whether or not the world is highly detailed or more basic, the animation is always smooth and fluid. I felt that here, Nanako bears resemblance to Kobayashi., but soon, her indignation evaporates, and she invites everyone to grab some curry as the day draws to an end.

  • Now that I’ve finished watching the Lucky☆Star OVA, I believe I’ve finished off everything in Lucky☆Star. I’ve heard that a spin-off, Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku, was released in 2013: this series follows a different set of characters but is set in the same universe. I am curious to give this one a go, although per my modus operandi, I can only say that I’ll watch this one once I’ve got the chance. Looking ahead for what I’ve got lined up here, beyond a talk for Kiniro Mosaic: Thank You!, I also am looking to wrap up My Dress-Up Darling on short order and do an introspective post on how my MCAT preparations were going a decade previously.

The Lucky☆Star OVA represented a hidden addition to the series after it’d released back in 2008, and although this OVA is not necessary to a complete Lucky☆Star experience, I imagine that fans of the series would nonetheless wish to check it out for themselves such that they can wholly enjoy the series. The challenges of being an anime fan harkening back to a time when broadband and streaming services was practically nil are apparent: in this era, the viewing rooms at anime conventions became the de facto means of checking series out. This was often the only time fans could try out different series and expand their horizons: visitors to anime conventions even planned their days so that they could strike a balance between guest panels and autograph sessions, and viewing series of interest. Nowadays, with ubiquitous fibre internet and streaming services, viewing rooms have been rendered obsolete: one could easily watch their shows at any time of year, on any device of their choosing. In my experiences, I’ve seen how viewing rooms can be seen as a burden on conventions. When I had volunteered at Otafest back in 2019, the viewing rooms were nearly vacant when I made the rounds of them to check in on things. As early as late 2014, the viewing rooms had already been on the decline: I had ducked into a room screening GochiUsa to catch my breath, and it was empty. A pair of attendees came into the room, saw GochiUsa on the screen and promptly left. My experiences have made a clear case for why conventions should consider reducing the number of viewing rooms they have. Otafest screened the first six episodes of The Aquatope on White Sand as a part of its lineup this year, a series I finished five months earlier. Were I in attendance at Otafest this year, I wouldn’t have planned my day around catching The Aquatope on White Sand, and I imagine that most visitors would be present for activities such as panels, exhibitors, musical performances and cosplay contests, which to remain popular: as anime conventions move forward, the viewing room will likely represent a drain on resources, requiring a convention to pay for both additional square footage of space to rent, and licensing fees to stream the shows. Arguments to preserve viewing rooms, beyond the fact that they are quiet spaces for fans to catch their breath, such places are essential for allowing socialisation and allow visitors sample a series before deciding whether or not one should get into it. While there is merit in this perspective, I contend there is limited value in showing recently-aired series. Instead, fewer rooms, showing more obscure and difficult-to-access content, would offer attendees with more value, while at the same time, continue to provide visitors with an oasis of sorts to take five. Difficult-to-access content, today’s equivalents to the Lucky☆Star OVA, would be perfectly suited for the re-imagined viewing rooms, allowing attendees to view shows that they might otherwise not have a chance to. While the technology and accessibility has advanced dramatically since the Lucky☆Star OVA’s release in 2008, some series still remain remarkably tricky to get to, and many of these series deserve to be enjoyed.

The Otafest Question: Insights Into Anime Culture From An Older Era Through Lucky☆Star

“The TV show ended by saying how young people are becoming increasingly illiterate, but doesn’t browsing the Internet and blogging actually improve your literacy?” – Konata Izumi

Konata Izumi is a high school otaku who lives in Kasukabe, Saitama. A devout fan of anime and games, Konata prefers to indulge in her hobbies rather than pursue her studies, but in spite of this, always manages to get by. With her friends, twin sisters Kagami and Tsukasa Hiiragi, and the gentle but wealthy Miyuki Takara, the girls live out their high school days peacefully, from exams and sports events, to culture festivals and summer break. As the girls move into their final year of high school, the first years, Yutaka Kobayakawa, Minami Iwasaki, Hiyori Tamura and Patricia Martin, join the girls’ ranks. This is Lucky☆Star; originally a four-panel manga serialised to Comptiq from 2003, an anime adaptation was produced and ran from April to September of 2007. Author Kagami Yoshimizu originally conceived of the series as being a portrayal of ordinary high school life with a focus on the anime subculture and its members, otaku: when it was brought to life by Kyoto Animation, Lucky☆Star immediately became a smash hit despite lacking a central narrative and theme. The series presents the unique humour present in the lives of otaku, who immediately related to the circumstances that Konata experiences. Even for fans of the slice-of-life genre, Lucky☆Star comes across as being a very niche series, designed to appeal to those with familiarity surrounding the otaku subculture: there are numerous references to older series like G Gundam, as well as popular contemporary series like The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, and so, viewers begin to appreciate Kagami, Tsukasa and Miyuki’s presence, as they serve to help put Konata’s non sequitur thought processes in a more relatable manner. Unconventional by all regards, Lucky☆Star became a surprising success during its run. Thirteen years later, Lucky☆Star has aged gracefully, retaining its entertainment value, but the anime now also provides a glimpse into the anime community of a time immediately before Apple revolutionised the face of communications with its first iPhone.

Lucky☆Star portrays the otaku subculture as it was during the mid-2000s. This was when the internet began moving towards the level of ubiquity and robustness that we currently see but had not quite reached that point. Online discussions were becoming more commonplace, but networks had not quite reached the point where watching anime was as simple as streaming from an online service. In this time of transition, Konata swings by a local bookstore to buy manga volumes, watches her anime from television channels and, but utilises the internet for discussing the latest episode of a series, as well as learn of upcoming anime-related events and specials. Kagami, a more moderate fan, often accompanies Konata to the bookstore to check out manga and light novels available, too. It’s is a time where anime, manga and games were consumed in a different fashion, certainly one that was much slower-paced, and consequently, the different extents one could be involved with the anime subculture were more distinct. On one hand, Konata embodies the dedicated fan, an otaku who embraces the internet to keep up to date with everything related to her interests. By comparison, Kagami, while still partaking in anime, games light novels and manga of her choice, does not participate in online discussions or keep a close eye on anime-and-manga-related events. Despite the disparity in their level of engagement with fandom, and despite not always seeing eye-to-eye, Konata and Kagami are able to have real-world conversations together and participate in events together. This tangible interaction helps them to understand the other better. Kagami is able to keep up with Konata in discussions, and the two do genuinely care for one another, going to great lengths to do favours and look out for one another. Lucky☆Star suggests that the real-life dynamics between otaku who interact face-to-face have a nontrivial, positive impact on one another: this is a bit of a nostalgic trip that indicates that in spite of varied opinions about their hobby, anime fans ultimately share more similarities than differences, and that the face-to-face component is a very strong piece of fostering this sense of camaraderie.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Lucky☆Star‘s episodes features four main characters: from left to right, we’ve got Konata Izumi (Aya Hirano), Tsukasa Hiiragi (Kaori Fukuhara), Kagami Hiiragi (Erimi Katō) and Miyuki Takara (Aya Endō). Most episodes deal with their everyday lives and as such, portray mundane conversations in vivid detail: the topic of these conversations are small scale remarks about life, ranging from favourite foods to minor inconveniences, and their associated humour. Because these moments are mundane, I can’t remember what each and every conversation is about, so the figure captions in this post will deal with a separate set of topics I’d like to go over, most of which are tangentially related to Lucky☆Star.

  • Of everyone, Kagami and Konata have the most screen-time. Despite the dramatic difference in their personality, which is reflected in the fact they’re prodding fun at the other half the time, the two are more similar than they’d care to admit. Konata might be lazy and unmotivated unless anime, manga and games are brought up, but she holds out well enough in school. Kagami is motivated and determined, performing well in school, but in her downtime, she has the same hobbies as Konata.

  • The flat, simplistic style of Lucky☆Star means that, curiously enough, the anime has aged remarkably well: Kyoto Animation produced Lucky☆Star in 2007, and the manga itself began running in 2003. Portraying the sensibilities and styles of a much older world, Lucky☆Star‘s unique aesthetic, and Kyoto Animation’s technical skill in capturing this style, means that even today, the anime doesn’t look particularly dated. While Lucky☆Star might not be Kyoto Animation’s most impressive production from a visual standpoint, they did an excellent job of bringing the manga to life.

  • Lucky☆Star is quite unlike any series that I’ve previously watched in the sense that, over its run, there is no long-term goal, and the characters do not develop in a more traditional sense: Konata remains lazy, Miyuki is consistently moé, Tsukasa stays air-headed, and Kagami’s tsundere mannerisms persist throughout the series’ entire run. This is a deliberate choice, as static, flat characters provide reliable and consistent comedy. While the characters themselves do not change, Lucky☆Star does take some time to present everyone in different contexts to show that everyone does have more to them than their mannerisms when everyone is together.

  • Because Lucky☆Star is “an anime about nothing”, the longstanding assertion, that “Lucky☆Star is anime Seinfeld“, has endured over the years. This holds water prima facie: both series have mundane conversations, superficial conflict and cast of characters with unique dispositions. However, this is where the similarities end: whereas Lucky☆Star and Seinfeld share in common the goal of conveying humour, both series go about doing so in a completely different manner. Seinfeld‘s characters are unlikable by design, and so, the comedy surrounding them stems from the situational irony of what they do and experience on-screen.

  • By comparison, Lucky☆Star uses non-sequitur humour, gags and a parody of the otaku subculture to drive its humour. The characters of Lucky☆Star are more likeable, so the viewer’s source of humour comes from laughing with the characters. Seinfeld‘s characters are created such that viewers laugh at them whenever something comedic happens. This fundamental difference means that the claim, “Lucky☆Star is anime Seinfeld“, does not hold. To further build on this point, Seinfeld is not about nothing, and episodes there have a self-contained plot: Lucky☆Star, on the other hand, simply shows various, everyday experiences that Konata, Kagami, Tsukasa and Miyuki go through.

  • I believe that this comparison has its origins at Victor-Tango-Victor, where there appeared to be enough commonalities such that some folks figured they could create a new meme from it, and this was something that gained enough momentum to be applied to Azumanga Daioh. The exact origin of who precisely began this meme is lost to time, but the notion that any slice-of-life anime is a Japanese version of Seinfeld with high school girls erroneously endures to this day. In fact, the meme has inappropriately set the expectation that all slice-of-life anime necessarily must be funny in order to be worth watching.

  • Whether or not a slice-of-life anime should be judged for its comedic value depends largely on the author’s intention. Granted, many four-panel series utilise their format to set up a punchline and tell quick stories, but what some folks have missed is that over time, some four-panel manga (and their anime adaptations) do wrap up. Azumanga Daioh was humourous because the premise of an elementary student being bumped up to high school creates unique scenarios, but it also dealt with the ending of high school, and in retrospect, all of the experiences leading up to graduation suddenly become more than just comedy. As it stands, humour is only one part of how good a slice-of-life series is, and looking at nothing more than whether or not a series is laugh-out-loud funny is to approach slice-of-life with a very closed mind.

  • On the other hand, because Lucky☆Star is built around gags, non-sequiturs and other forms of humour, whether or not the series succeeded in its delivery is dependent on whether or not the viewer finds it funny. This is why Lucky☆Star‘s reception is so varied: folks unfamiliar with otaku or the style of humour in the series will not enjoy things as much as those who do enjoy the series’ style and/or have background in the anime subculture. There isn’t a right or wrong way of watching Lucky☆Star, and one’s own enjoyment of the series will largely depend on the individual and the extent they relate to otaku subculture.

  • My favourite moment in Lucky☆Star involves a door and static electricity: after Kagami, Tsukasa and Miyuki get shocked, Kagami shouts out “no!” when Kanata reaches for the door, only for Kanata to reply “yes” and then open the door without getting shocked. The joke flows well, incorporates a bit of English into the scene for additional laughs, and also sets up a conversation that follows into a moment that takes the joke further with Konata’s father. With static electricity, I find that susceptibility might be related to how one walks, rather than though one’s hobby as Kagamin suggests; a certain gait makes it more likely to pick up an accumulation of negative charge.

  • In 2007, otaku culture was something that still remained relatively unknown: the word otaku (おたく) is a word that the Japanese use to refer to an individual with a very distinct set of interests (equivalent to “geek” in North American English). Originally derived from the word for referring to someone’s house (お宅), columnist Ansaku Shibahara ended up popularising its colloquial usage, after seeing the original usage of otaku amongst those with a predisposition towards social awkwardness. Thus, Shibahara chose the phrase to light-heartedly refer to unpleasant fans, and almost immediately, otaku had a negative association from murders in the late 1980s.

  • English usage of the term otaku came with the 1988 release of Gunbuster (parodied as “Bun Guster” in Lucky☆Star), and while it bears some negativity, modern usage of the term refers to the general community of anime fans, and more broadly, anyone with an interest in Japanese popular culture. As it stands, Lucky☆Star‘s various anime references and the like present otaku as simply dedicated fans of anime and manga with eccentricities; over time, negativity surrounding the term has lessened somewhat, and more people in Japan now count themselves as an otaku of something.

  • Konata embodies the stereotypical traits of an otaku: utterly obsessed with anime, manga, games, merchandise and special events like Comiket, Konata goes to incredible lengths to enjoy her hobby. Her mind is so focused that she makes otaku references in everyday conversation, much to Kagami’s annoyance. However, as a person, Konata is on the whole, easygoing and likeable: otaku have previously been counted as being unsociable, but in Konata’s case, she will hang out with her friends and those around her when the moment calls for it, even if she would otherwise rather spend her time watching anime, reading manga or going through some visual novel.

  • I count myself as being closer to Kagami in how deep into the anime and games fandom I am, and there are some dedicated otaku out there whose devotion to their hobby blow my mind. With this being said, the anime communities that I am aware of, or actively participate in, are among the most inviting and friendly: beyond the community of anime bloggers and the group I follow on Twitter, courtesy Jon Spencer Reviews, Dewbond, Moyatorium, Crow’s Anime World and countless others, I also am a semi-active participant in the local anime community, having both attended and volunteered at the area’s premiere anime convention, Otafest.

  • Curiously enough, were it not for Lucky☆Star, it is actually unlikely I would still be an anime fan, and therefore, would not have visited the local anime convention. The story is that after Gundam 00 ended, I became busy with acclimatising to life as a university student, and in order to keep up with coursework, I didn’t watch anime at all. However, I ran into an interesting fellow in my discrete math class and ended up befriending him. It turned out that he was a fan of Kyoto Animation’s works, and an avid gamer himself, but unlike me and my lack of creativity, he also made YouTube mashups of his favourite series (Team Fortress 2, K-On!, The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi and Lucky☆Star).

  • Ten years ago would’ve marked the first time he’d visited Otafest: Otafest 2010 was unique in that it was the first time voice actress Michelle Ruff (Yuki Nagato of The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi) was a special guest, and my friend was very excited about being able to get her autograph. However, on the day of the Q & A panel, he’d forgotten to bring his camera, and therefore did not have a chance to film it. Back then, Otafest was held on university grounds, and in the months subsequent, he returned to campus to film re-enactments of the Q & A panel. During this time of year, with classes over, the university is much quieter, allowing for this to be a relatively easy task.

  • I came across his videos during the mid-summer, when I had been a ways into my summer research, and my interest in both the anime depicted, and Otafest itself, was piqued. That summer, I picked up Real Drive, which rekindled my interest in anime beyond Gundam 00. After Awakening of the Trailblazer came out in December, I decided to give the two series that had featured prominently in my friend’s mashups a go: Lucky☆Star and The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi. Lucky☆Star felt like it had a lower barrier of entry, and so I began watching that first. In retrospect, this was the better decision, since that winter semester turned out to be the toughest that I’d faced yet. In the end, I ended up finishing Lucky☆Star and transitioned over to K-On!, which, in conjunction with studying with my friends, helped me to survive that term.

  • The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi is frequently referenced in Lucky☆Star: aside from the fact that Konata and Haruhi are both voiced by Aya Hirano, Lucky☆Star is also produced by Kyoto Animation. This entry into Kyoto Animation’s works would eventually result in my checking out CLANNAD and Kanon, which respectively accompanied me through the MCAT and early stages of my undergraduate thesis. While my friend probably doesn’t know this, his Otafest vlogs ended up having a notable impact on my trajectory: after going through both Lucky☆Star and The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi a year after discovering his videos, I realised that easygoing slice-of-life series and Kyoto Animation’s works were my party, perfectly suited for reducing stress.

  • My friend would later bring a camera to subsequent events and present the more interesting moments of Otafest in vlogs; these ended up leading me to consider checking things out, and a few years later, I ended up inviting a few friends to Otafest. The first year was a bit of a gong-show, but a year later, superior coordination and knowledge allowed me to line everything up, and I coordinated a group of eight to visit the premiere attractions that year: Yū Asakawa was in attendance, and enough of my friends were excited to be interested in going. In order to make it worthwhile for everyone, I also decided to make reservations for the immensely popular Maid Café, best known for its combination of providing tea in conjunction with a live performance. That Otafest ended up being a superb event, and all of my friends left with an overwhelmingly positive experience, plus Asakawa’s autograph.

  • As Lucky☆Star wears on, additional characters join the main cast: Minami, Yutaka, Patricia and Hiyori are first year students that join later in the series, and like the interactions with Konata’s party, Yutaka’s group is similarly varied and eccentric. Because Lucky☆Star‘s setup as a four-panel manga is timeless, the series has aged very gracefully overall: the manga is ongoing, and the latest chapters are relatable, current. The anime’s place in the sun thus becomes unique: because it wrapped up in 2007, it is, in effect, a snapshot into the anime community of the early-to-mid 2000s.

  • To be an otaku in Japan, during the early 2000s, then, was to enjoy things at a much slower rate than we currently know it. Konata and Kagami browse through manga and light novels at the bookstore, catch anime on TV, and go to specialty shops to purchase games and merchandise. Before high-quality streaming services and internet delivery had not been prevalent, fans could take the time to really stop and appreciate a work: in the present day, ubiquitous internet makes it possible to keep up with a near-infinite pool of anime and order things in the comfort of one’s home.

  • Lucky☆Star thus evokes a sense of nostalgia for the older anime community and its means when watched. While the world of visiting a store for merchandise and watching an anime on TV is far removed from how overseas fans partake in the hobby, there is, in fact, one way to experience the anime subculture with a very high degree of immersion and authenticity, as Konata and Kagami know it. This is by attending an anime convention like Otafest, where physically being around folks with similar interests, anime panels and screenings, cosplayers and merchants really forces one to slow down and take it all in.

  • In a manner of speaking, then, one could simultaneously say that Lucky☆Star allows one to enjoy a scaled-back anime convention atmosphere, and that to experience the anime subculture to the same extent as Konata and Kagami, as Lucky☆Star portrays it, one only needs to attend their local anime convention. This year, Otafest (and undoubtedly, many other anime conventions) was cancelled owing to the world health crisis, and while members of the community were disappointed, people also understand the importance of the measures taken to ensure everyone’s safety. The remark, that there’s a little bit of anime convention in all fans, holds true: people continued to channel the positive energy associated with Otafest, expressing a promise to attend in 2021.

  • While most of Lucky☆Star is set in Saitama, one memorable episode has Konata and her friends on a class trip to the Kyoto area, where they visit locations like Nara Park and Ginkakuji before their final day allows everyone to explore freely. During my visit to Kyoto three years ago, Kinkakuji was the prime attraction of the morning, and despite it being a rainy day, the temple itself looked amazing anyways. I ended up enjoying a macha ice cream while strolling the park and got a few photographs of the Kinkakuji from precisely the spot where Yui, Mio, Ritsu and Mugi took their group photo in K-On!! despite the crowds. After having shabu-shabu for lunch at Torihasa near Maruyama Park, it was off to Nara Park and Osaka.

  • It turns out that the deer at Nara Park are as forward as shown in Lucky☆Star: I saw a deer snatch and eat a pamphlet from another visitor who had been feeding the deer but ran out of the deer crackers. During the course of the trip, Kagami receives what appears to be a love letter from a male classmate and becomes contemplative, wondering what’s happening. She’s so lost in thought that Konata’s usual antics do not elicit a response, but it turns out the boy had been looking to ask Kagami for a favour, and in the aftermath, Kagami is embarrassed beyond words.

  • Konata uses their free day to visit Kyoto Animation’s offices around the Kyoto area, including their head office and second studio in Uji. Having meticulously planned out their excursion, Konata is able to take everyone to these seemingly-ordinary locations without any trouble, and remarks that to avoid disturbing the staff, they’ll just remain outside. Kyoto Animation is known for being a top-tier animation studio, with salaried employees who are encouraged to focus on quality of their key frames, and as such, developed a reputation as a prestigious studio to work for. However, Kyoto Animation has seen their share of trouble: in July 2019, an arsonist doused himself in gasoline and lit the first studio building on fire. This tragedy killed 36 and injured an additional 34: while the suspect was arrested, no criminal charges have been formally pressed, and Kyoto Animation has since set their efforts to rebuilding, aided by help from a dedicated and caring community as well as the Japanese government.

  • Lucky☆Star‘s soundtrack was never released in album format, and was instead, bundled with the DVD volumes: this is often the method taken for series that are geared towards the more dedicated of fans. The music itself in Lucky☆Star is remarkably varied: from parodies of action series and games, to tunes evocative of humour, and everyday slice-of-life pieces, music in Lucky☆Star is of a reasonably high quality. My favourite pieces are the slice-of-life pieces such as “Minami’s Theme” and “Ran Ran Da Yo”. One of the best uses of the soundtrack in Lucky☆Star to convey humour occurs when the music goes out of tune in response to an action on-screen.

  • One aspect of Lucky☆Star that I deliberately have not covered is the Lucky☆Channel segment that wraps up every episode. While driven by humour, I’ve never found it to be too enjoyable. From a personal standpoint, I found Akira Kogami a lot less likable than the main cast; she sports a friendly and energetic façade that quickly gives way to antipathy about most everything. Before this post wraps up, I should also justify the choice of page quote: it is chosen for the fact that there is truth in Konata’s claim, and that personally, my entry into anime blogging correlated with my improved confidence in writing. At least, this mostly holds true: while bloggers are among the best company I’ve kept, those who browse the internet will find that one-liners and memes have displaced proper discussion in some places.

  • As Lucky☆Star neared the end of its run, Patricia feels it appropriate for everyone to do a cheerleading routine during the school’s cultural festival on top of their class’ activities. It’s a tall order and initially starts off roughly, but things materialise once Konata is bribed and manages to convince the reluctant Kagami to participate. This moment allows all of the core characters of Lucky☆Star to be shown on screen at once: from left to right, z-ordering independent, we have Hiyori, Kagami, Konata, Tsukasa, Patricia, Misao, Yutaka, Ayano, Minami and Miyuki.

  • Lucky☆Channel notwithstanding, Lucky☆Star is an entertaining anime, and while its jokes might not be for everyone, there is a certain charm to the series for being able to bring out nostalgia for a different time, for when things were slower-paced and simpler in some ways. With this post in the books, my next talk is going to be for Halo 2‘s campaign: I ended up beating the campaign in record time on account of both knowing the missions well and a desire to get to playing the multiplayer. This Halo 2 post will mark the final post of May; as it is a rather lengthy one that will take a bit of time to wrap up, I wish to give it proper attention. Further to this, owing to the global health crisis, the city-wide science fair I was originally set to volunteer as a judge at moved to an online format, and at the time of writing, I’ve just wrapped up assessing all of the health projects. Most of them are impressive, and I will aim to take a look at the remaining technology projects before finalising my submission.

Through Lucky☆Star, one gains a modicum of insight into the world of anime culture prior to the propagation of broadband internet and smartphones: the anime community would’ve been a bit more tightly-knit, and this closeness would have extended into the real world. While this closeness is diminishing, as more anime fans move their interests into virtual space, there are some events and venues that still channel the atmosphere surrounding the anime subculture as seen in Lucky☆Star: the anime convention is one such event, bringing fans together to celebrate their hobby. From browsing through the manga, anime and merchandise in the vendors hall, to seeing cosplayers and the immense amount of effort they put into their costumes, as well as the more dedicated panels that showcase how to paint plastic models and specialty features like a Maid Café, the sort of world that Konata and Kagami experienced in Lucky☆Star are, for a few days of the year, brought to life by the efforts of dedicated and committed convention staff. Specialty shops that sell anime and manga along with Japanese merchandise, also create this feeling at a smaller scale, and for the intrepid, a visit to Akihabara will show that the anime subculture, as Lucky☆Star presents it, is still very much alive. Of course, anime conventions don’t happen every day, and trips to Japan can be prohibitively costly, so it is unsurprising that, despite lacking a cohesive narrative and central theme, Lucky☆Star has endured after all this time: its charms come from illustrating the anime community from an older time, and the nostalgia surrounding this period is something that viewers may find worthwhile in revisiting.

The First day of June

Teachers need a break too! ^_~ What are you going to do this weekend? Let’s hope your plans make the grade! A+, June

Today is the first day of June: over the past weekend, I’ve been learning C#, reviewing proofs by induction, and spent an inordinate amount of time in Battlefield 3, where I devastated other teams in games where, victory or loss, my KD ratio never dropped below 1.5. Through this rampage, I was able to destroy a vehicle with the repair tool (a conveniently placed radio beacon) and finally unlocked the L85A2 thanks to winning five of eight squad deathmatch games. With almost all of the Upotte! guns unlocked (minus the SG553, a short-barrel variant of the SG550 and the HK G3 battle rifle, which are co-op unlocks), I might make a Upotte! post on this for amusement somewhere before the summer ends. Two weeks have passed since Otafest 2014, but between Unity development and Battlefield 3, I have not succumbed to the infamous post-convention depression, which is characterised by a lack of energy and a desire to be back in a convention atmosphere. Indeed, campus has been quite quiet following Otafest, and once more, the hallways give off an academic air as they have for 362 days of the year. Admittedly, following conventions, there is a sort of melancholy, although there has been much to be engaged in over the past while, and souvenirs remind me of the incredible times to be had at Otafest, including the Angel of Time pin, of which only one hundred exist. This pin is modelled after June-sensei, who was Seph and Aurora’s old instructor from the two’s school days. June-sensei is said to be an excellent instructor with a passion for teaching, and her youthful appearance often leads her to distracting the male students in her class. In spite of this, she’s a bookworm and is unfamiliar with courtship, reading kindness from her male students strictly as a cordial interaction between pupil and instructor.

  • This is what the Angel of Time pin looks like: June-sensei’s mature aura and purple hair lends itself to the pin’s appeal. The actual pin has a brass-gold finish: coupled with the fact that it is the only pin to depict June-sensei, the pin is highly sought after. Naturally, I have no inclination of trading it. I picked up another gold pin through trade, bringing my total up to four (three brass-gold pins and one rose-gold pin).

As the first day of June, I’ve opted to share a story about June-sensei because, unsurprisingly, the angel shares a name with the month, and because June-sensei indicates the depth surrounding Otafest and pin trading; this aspect has raised quite a bit of buzz. In the case of the Angel of Time, the pin was introduced during the Otafest pin-trading party back in January 2014: I first heard about this pin via Otafest’s Facebook page two days after the pin trading party. On Twitter, one of my friends noted that the pin’s rarity was something that others might kill for: on account of this, said friend noted that this was a pin he’d rather not talk about. The Otafest staff subsequently provided only one clue: that it could only be acquired via secret parameters. Paired with my subsequently seeing a design of it at the Otafest Tumblr, I resolved to try and, at the minimum, acquire a silver version of the design at Otafest 2014 (I don’t think any silver versions of the pin actually exist). Of course, the rest is history: after a chance encounter with a member of pin-trading team following the Opening Ceremony, I exchanged a silver pin to pick up the Angel of Time, and I am now a proud owner of one of a hundred pins in existence. Angel of Time represent!

Operation Starlight: The Otafest Pin Trading Party, or, Otafest Aurora Part II

On Christmas Eve, the Otafest staff released the design to their latest pin; the only hint about the pin’s theme prior to that was that it was sentimental, and that it would be an exclusive for the Edmonton anime convention, A Taste of Animethon. The new pin is known as the Starlight pin, and is a physical representation of how the Otafest mascots, Seph and Aurora, came to know each other. It’s a very nostalgic story, set on top of the eastern edge Nose Hill overlooking the city centre. After Seph makes a wish from a meteor, green and blue curtains of light form in the sky, and Aurora appears, fulfilling the former’s wish to have a friend. Presently, the dynamics between Seph and Aurora are very entertaining to observe, and their presence gives Otafest a very welcoming feeling, befitting of a smaller scale convention. A very long time ago, I kept records of astronomical events observed, and in a curious turn of events, I do recall seeing a single meteor during an aurora display somewhere back in March 2008. Of course, since Otafest has been around since 1999, this story compliments Otafest itself very nicely.

  • According to the Otafest website, Aurora is a morning person and doesn’t sleep in, being the anime-incarnate of the Roman Goddess of the Dawn. According to the books I’ve read, aurora are formed when high energy particles with a charge interact with the Earth’s magnetic field. Ionised molecules emit in the visible spectrum when regaining an electron following excitation by the charged particles: oxygen gives off green light, while nitrogen releases either red or blue light.

Previously, at Otafest Aurora, a mishap with the pins precluded any chance of acquiring them. The Otafest organisers later released information concerning a Pin Trading Party, which I was able to attend today. Despite being a non-convention event, the attendance proved to be impressive, and a quarter-hour after the event opened, I got what I came for: the pre-order exclusive Snow-wing pin, alongside the Starlight pin, the Gala Seph and Aurora pins. Through a curious turn of events, through the trade, I also acquired a gold version of the Holiday Seph pin (whereas I was previously going for the Aurora-wing, a staff pin). The gold pins are supposed to be very difficult to find, and therefore, being able to acquire one exceeded any expectations. Of course, I had never expected to be able to get the Starlight pin either, seeing as it was intended to be a special for the Edmonton Convention. With my pin collection now bearing a number of Otafest Aurora pins, I’ve finished everything I set out to do at Otafest Aurora. Timing constraints meant that after I picked up everything, I hustled back to the City Centre for an excellent steak dinner, rather than stick around at the event. Otafest 2014 is next in line, being some 120 days away; I might go about pre-ordering again once I ascertain whether or not any of my friends are interested in attending.

Otafest Aurora: a day at the mid-autumn convention

“Don’t be discouraged. It’s often the last key in the bunch that opens the lock.”  —Author Unknown

Pre-ordering generally confers bonuses, and so, with that in mind, in conjunction with my previous experiences at Otafest, I decided to attend the winter convention, Otafest Aurora. Thus, I spent the past two weeks working away at my term papers, research grant proposals and assignments to clear up my schedule today. Contrasting Otafest, Otafest Aurora is a smaller convention held at the University of Calgary’s Downtown Campus. This shiny new addition to the University of Calgary opened in September 2010, and last year, Otafest’s organisers hosted their first convention here. Previously known as Otafest Lite, this event was re-branded as Otafest Aurora last year and is a day in length, concluding with an evening banquet and dance. Otafest Aurora capitalises fully on the more compact and modern venue to deliver an incredible experience. All of the panels, anime screenings and events are held in the main building, making it a simple matter of climbing steps to reach all of the activities. Shortly after arriving at the downtown campus, I checked in my backpack: I do not have an office space conveniently located here, so I would make use of their service to safely store my gear. Today would turn out eerily similar to the events from last time: since I pre-ordered my pass, I bypassed the registration process and was able to enter the vendors’ room within minutes of opening. I browsed through the vendors first and picked up some K-On! pins and a Puella Magi Madoka Magica pin depicting Madoka Kaname. I then proceeded to the stall selling official Otafest gear. I had been quite excited about the pin trading: the Aurora pin series was particularly well done, and I was looking forward to acquiring the Gala series, plus the Snow-Wing, a pre-order exclusive pin. However, the staff informed me that there was a substantial amount of difficulty in delivering the pins, which had somehow resulted in the pins being shipped to Mexico (there is an event hosted there that is also known as Otafest), and subsequent communication errors precluded their arrival in time for the events today. The staff suggested that I check back at four: at around this time, I rendezvoused with one of my friends who had expressed interest in attending. We set out and watched the opening ceremonies, which imparted the sense of spirit that Otafest was about. Despite being a small convention, a dedicated and enthusiastic staff gave Otafest a very warm, welcoming feeling. Even as the event coordinators were giving their speeches, I knew their minds were on the delayed pins, but they nonetheless delivered the opening talk and introduced next year’s theme with such zeal that I wouldn’t have noticed the difference.

  • Above is an image of the main entrance at the University of Calgary Downtown Campus. I spent most of the day enjoying the sights and sounds, more so than photographing things, so this time, I don’t have photos to share. Among the cosplayers I saw include Madoka Kaname and Mami Tomoe (Puella Magi Madoka Magica), Seph and Aurora (the official Otafest mascots), Chell (Portal, Portal 2), and even Christian Bale’s Batman (The Dark Knight Triology). As for what’s happening with the pins, I think an announcement will be made soon. Depending on what happens, I may place an order for them at a later date.

Once the opening ceremony ended, I brought my friend to a screening of Makoto Shinkai’s Garden of Words. This is my third time watching the film in full, and although we were watching at DVD quality (imagine playing Crysis on medium settings), the movie was still the beautiful work I had seen back in June. After lunch,  we decided to see what the Winter Maid Cafe was about. After being welcomed by a friend working there, we took our seats, placed an order for hot cocoa and struck up a conversation with some of the other patrons. In the interest of courtesy, we left after finishing our drinks: the Maid Cafe had been quite busy. Hereupon, we visited the vendors once more: after showing him around some of the merchandise associated with anime-related hobbies, his day concluded. I returned to the Otafest merchandise vendors, and they had informed me that the pins would probably be a no-show for today. They did prepare a smart contingency: surplus pins from the previous Otafest were available, and I netted myself three pins (two of which were staff pins and thus, unavailable for purchase during the last Otafest). My ride arrived shortly after, and with it, the second convention I attended. The event had been remarkable: if any of the Otafest organisers find this blog, the only thing I really need to say to them is that they have gained a regular attendee (well, as long as I’m still around these parts for the upcoming events).