The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: otaku

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.

Reconciling The Incredibly Strange Mutant Creatures who Rule the Universe of Alienated Japanese Zombie Computer Nerds, Information Flow and How Accessibility has Defeated Gatekeeping in the Anime Community

“The Internet has democratised content, and the gatekeepers are no longer in control.” –Andrew Zimmern

“One day, everyone will be an otaku“, Zero proclaims from his home in Kawagoe. It’s 1993, and Wired Magazine has concluded with an interview with the sullen software trouble-shooter, a member of the otaku subculture. Characterised as Japan’s socially inept but often brilliant technological shut-ins, it seemed inconceivable that such individuals would ever become commonplace at the time. Unbeknownst to Zero, some three decades later, his prediction would come to pass. The internet has evolved from being a curious form of communication to a ubiquitous resource responsible for handling everything from transportation to banking, cumbersome dial-up modems have been displaced by sleek fibre optic networks, and smartphones are now more powerful than room-filling mainframe computers. Attesting to these profound changes in the world, my own days resembles that of Zero’s: after starting my day at the gym or read through the latest news, I get to work tracing through iOS and Android source code to expand an app’s function, or identify existing bugs so I may fix them. Eight hours later, I unwind with a good book, exchange thoughts with an online community about the things I find in anime, chat with my friends or otherwise, put on the season’s latest anime series. Nowadays, the process is as simple as opening a streaming service, sitting down and taking it easy. However, I remember a time when things were not quite as straightforward. When I began this blog ten-and-a-half years ago, anime streaming was unreliable, choppy and limited. Back then, anime fans would’ve had to navigate the grey area of fansubs (anime episodes with subtitles provided by other viewers, rather than professional translators) to keep up to speed with a given season’s shows. I was a novice anime fan at the time, swapping videos with my friends on flash drives and exchanging stories on how quickly our down speeds allowed us to pick up fansubs. In that era, finding anything worth watching was tricky: the fansubbing groups were fond of imposing their presence on those who consumed “their” videos, and to this end, would create what were colloquially referred to as “trollsubs”, which contained excessive honourifics, translation notes and occasionally, blatantly incorrect translations designed to muddle comprehension and enjoyment. Video codecs were chosen to be exclusive, demanding people specifically use Media Player Classic and warning anyone that, if they had less than a 2.4 GHz quad-core CPU, the videos wouldn’t decode smoothly, and they didn’t deserve to watch their fansubs anyways. Those who uploaded soundtracks to shady file-sharing sites enjoyed encoding files in obscure formats like .ape, and the origins of fanart accompanying blog posts were jealously guarded secrets. Japanese fans refused to share location hunt comparisons in images wider than 210 pixels and even blocked right-click on their travel blogs to prevent distribution of their images, while other fans uploaded custom animations only to NicoNico Seiga at low resolutions and routinely caused phony takedown notices to delete videos from anyone who reposted their work to YouTube. Blogging was still a relatively limited pursuit, and giants of the day saw themselves as the sole authorities on which anime were “objectively” good. It seemed unusual that the anime community of the time was so insistent on making the hobby as difficult to participate in as possible, especially in a hobby that was already a niche one.

Reading through the Wired interview some ten years earlier, however, I found a modicum of understanding behind the behaviours within the community. In this interview, the article describes the otaku Zero as a dropout from Keio University’s math sciences department because he “didn’t like being ordered around by teachers to whom he felt superior”. Despite failing to finish his degree, Zero landed on his feet: by day, Zero earned his keep as a remote help desk technician to the tune of 350000 Yen per month (about 48000 CAD per year, adjusted for inflation), enough to comfortably pay the bills and keep up with rent in his Kawagoe apartment. By night, Zero acquired and analysed game cartridges for bugs and defects with the aim of, in his own words, “exposing the phony computer experts who invented the game in the first place”. Zero’s life revolved around disseminating information that was not previously known to others – in this zero-sum game, Wired describes the otaku as seeking out information solely for the purpose that they got to it first, and others didn’t. Being able to have something no one else had was the prize, and those who consistently could acquire information became widely respected: when one of Zero’s online friends posts information surrounding a concert, Zero is impressed. However, this feeling evaporates when Zero reads a seventeen-page report on how one game apparently utilised the same underlying code as another game. Zero’s known this for at least a week and gets to work writing a message warning others to pay this user no mind. The Wired article is telling: Zero’s motivated by two, seemingly conflicting factors. Posting something before anyone else, in Zero’s mind, would prove his own brilliance and gain him approval from others. Yet, Zero is also reported as believing himself to be superior to others. He engages in picking apart game cartridges to show that other software developers are flawed, if someone like him could find bugs in their work, and believes that he can get by without ever “[needing] to deal with anyone like [professors]”. This mindset is mirrored amongst those of the anime community in the late 2000s and early 2010s: those who had made the so-called troll-subs openly claimed that only a subset of people deserved to enjoy “their” content, while bloggers fluent in Japanese would travel to Japan for the singular purpose of watching a film so they could say on a forum or blog post that they saw the movie ahead of anyone else. The Wired article had been most telling: Zero’s conviction in his own superiority, and the constant need to gain validation by shutting down others, was a sign of someone who saw themselves as being separate from society, rather than a part of it. Zero was, in short, a forerunner of sorts to the gatekeepers within the anime community I encountered. Having now read Wired’s article, I had my answer: the fansubbers, uploaders and bloggers of the time saw their pursuits as an exclusive community only open to a limited few. People had to either earn their way in through technical know-how, or put up with being insulted at every turn by those who felt themselves superior to others: fansubs patronised viewers, communities had rules that forbade questioning why certain codecs or encoding algorithms were used, and bloggers openly disparaged entire genres as being “anti-intellectual”. Gatekeeping is the act of deliberately obstructing or excluding someone from participating in a pursuit, to the extent where it significantly degrades their experience. Ten years earlier, gatekeeping was facilitated by the fact that the technology was still quite arcane. A great deal of time and know-how was needed to partake in the hobby in an enjoyable, meaningful way. However, while the motivations behind gatekeeping have remained quite unchanged since Wired’s interview with Zero, technology has changed dramatically.

Nowadays, streaming services make it easier than ever for fans to watch their favourite shows and listen to their favourite songs. Reverse image search algorithms allow one to swiftly determine where a character is from, and blogging is accessible to anyone with a mind full of ideas and an internet connection. In a world where accessibility has greatly improved, the ability for gatekeepers to operate as they did ten years earlier has been crippled. Elitist bloggers who believe only certain genres of anime are worth producing are few in number, and troll subs have largely evaporated. Anyone who’s a fan of Japanese popular culture is free to partake in the manner of their choosing. Advancing technology, and unprecedented accessibility means that, at least on paper, gatekeeping is beaten back, defeated. If a troll sub group decided they wanted to release a meme-laden set of subtitles, fans can simply hop on a streaming service. A streaming service that injects contemporary politics into its translations may similarly prompt viewers to fall back on another service, or abandon legitimate means for grey options, options where the translators attempt to produce a more faithful translation knowing they can be replaced if their work is below par. A YouTuber who claims to “own” concert footage and refusing to name the songs in said concert can be side-stepped by making use of Shazam and Apple Music, or perhaps Spotify. In spite of these advances, the contemporary anime community still appears to grapple with gatekeeping from time to time. However, upon closer inspection, this new gatekeeping manifests as individuals, or groups, posting to Twitter or Reddit that certain fans are not legitimate, certain genres are, in meme-speak, “mid”, ad nauseum. Although this form of gatekeeping is sufficient to spark off lengthy debate on who should participate in a community, what makes one a fan and the like, it is so feeble and ineffective that one wonders why anyone would let a 280-character string or upvotes impact what they do and do not enjoy. Today’s gatekeepers minimally satisfy the definition: while they seek to exclude, they are unable to negatively degrade one’s experience as the gatekeepers could previously a decade earlier: while an unplayable codec might stop a fan in the early 2010s from watching their shows, a poorly-written Tweet from someone with a few thousand followers doesn’t have that sort of impact (short of said user coming over to one’s residence and physically stopping one from pursuing their interests). The very technology gatekeepers had once counted on to rigidly control their hobby and the surrounding community has, ironically, become the very instrument that has made anime significantly more inviting, welcoming and accessible. This is largely in part a consequence of the increasing ubiquity of high technology: as more people become otaku, they take up positions at large technology companies and bring with them a wider variety of perspectives. These perspectives make their way into the technology and create a feedback loop in which more inclusivity makes technology easier to use, encouraging more people to become versed with its function. In this way, gatekeeping, as I’d known it in the late 2000s and early 2010s, is all but extinct.

Additional Remarks and Comments

  • At the opposite end of gatekeeping is the celebration of one’s hobbies. A decade earlier, there was no more visceral expression than otaku rooms, living spaces that are adjourned with figurines, wall scrolls and other anime merchandise. Danny Choo’s “Worldwide Rooms” was intended precisely for showcasing some of the more stylish rooms around the world, and it is from here these images are derived from. Among the otaku rooms highlighted, two stood out to me: the first was Tigra of Poland. Tigra’s immaculately-kept room drew the envy of those who saw the photos: the kanji 虎 (“tiger”) is embossed into a striking hardwood floor, and skylights flood the room with natural light. Recessed light fixtures create a sense of sophistication, reducing the aerial clutter in the room and pushing the occupant’s focus on the room itself. The slanted ceilings create an avant-garde aesthetic, and the light-orange ambience conveys a feeling of warmth. The space itself is classy, elegant and clean; a chic lounge chair and low-platform bed can be spotted, giving the room coziness.

  • Adorning Tigra’s room and its shelves are figurines, piles of manga and the most cutting-edge electronics of its time: Tigra is a figurine and manga collector, and when Danny Choo posted this room’s contents in 2011, readers expressed admiration for the space, which struck a balance between form and function. Of course, being a shade over a decade old means that all of Tigra’s hardware is quite outdated by this point in time. Back in 2011, I was an undergraduate student and had run a Dell XPS 420 for my coursework. I still used a flip-phone, and while I had an HP laptop, it was a slower machine that struggled to start up. My current workspace is a ways cleaner than Tigra’s (the only sign I’m an anime fan is a Madoka Magica keychain, which I’ve affixed to my favourite USB for file transfers), and offers a gorgeous view of the city.

  • Tigra’s room was, in short, the embodiment of “living the dream”. I myself was envious of such a setup when I first read through this post. However, fast forward seven years, and Tigra would write a blog post about her experiences with collecting figurines as a part of her hobby. In this blog post, Tigra details how her hobby turned into something of an addiction: it was always enjoyable to purchase a new figure, but once the new figure arrived, Tigra would already be thinking about buying the next new figure. One morning, she had arisen to a room full of figurines, manga and gadgets strewn about. It’d hit her that she’d collected things she didn’t even had time to properly enjoy, and Tigra found herself overwhelmed. The hobby had become exhausting, and chasing the rush of anticipation turned Tigra’s hobby into an all-consuming one.

  • Fortunately, there is a happy ending in Tigra’s post: she began to sell off her collection and only keep the figures that only bring her joy. In doing so, the minimalism has brought Tigra new joy. Tigra’s learnings, of moderation, is the key to maintaining a sustainable and healthy hobby, and a massive collection is not always highly regarded – Danny Choo has shown off what he titled “The Ultimate Otaku” room, and comments here are a little more lukewarm. Some folks comment that such a room must be hard to sleep in, feeling more like a shop than a private space, while others wonder how much such a collection would’ve costed.

  • It is clear that to fans, what makes an otaku room appealing isn’t the sheer quantity of items collected, but rather, the combination of how a space is utilised to strike a balance between expressing one’s hobby and maintaining an inviting, livable aesthetic. It is therefore unsurprising that what appealed to me most about Danny Choo’s top Worldwide Rooms weren’t the figurines or merchandise itself, but rather, the fact that a given space was tastefully organised. There are other several instances of Worldwide Rooms that are particularly inspiring and well done.

  • The other otaku room I particularly was fond of was from Kraster of Denmark. This clean room is highlighted with green accents, making things pop. Shelving units are cleverly employed to increase storage space without amplifying clutter, and Kraster has done a good job of striking a balance between showing off their collection without overwhelming the space with stuff. Compared to Tigra and Kraster’s setups, mine is significantly more spartan. Folks will have noticed that I only have Gundam models in one shelf on the wall unit, and I have a small shelf dedicated for my manga and artbooks. Beyond this, I have no wall scrolls or posters. There is a practical reason for why so few of my Gundam models are out and about: I’ve chosen to only display my Master Grades, and all of my High Grades are in boxes. This is because dusting off things like figurines and models are tricky, and while the new place is significantly less dusty, I’ve made it a habit of dusting everything off, and sweeping the floors, once a day.

  • Seeing some of the otaku rooms and the thought of having to dust all of that off makes me recoil. The me of a decade ago found these otaku room to be quite inspiring, and I’ve always enjoyed seeing how people set their spaces up. In the decade that has passed since I first read these posts, I’ve long finished my education and, in conjunction with my obligations and responsibilities, now have a bit of freedom to kit out spaces in my manner of choosing. I’m finding that a Konmari-style method, in which I only keep the stuff that genuinely makes me happy, is appropriate: space is a premium now, and there’s a certain joy in having a very clean living space that resembles something out of an AirBnB listing, albeit with hints of my personality interspersed throughout.

  • Since this is a post that touches on gatekeeping, one might wonder if I have any gatekeeping stories to share. The most notable story I have involves a friend who had uploaded segments of a Gundam Unicorn live action concert for me to check out on YouTube, only to get his channel terminated when one PotKettleB1ack reported him. A week of effort was spent on appeals, to no avail, and the infuriating part had been the fact that this individual had not been the legitimate copyright holder. There was a happy ending here: both of us would later experience schadenfreude after learning PotKettleB1ack had his channel terminated for the very thing he tried to leverage against my friend, proving he most certainly did not own the Gundam Unicorn concert footage.

  • As for me, the most egregious example of gatekeeping I’ve personally experienced came shortly after I wrote my Girls und Panzer: Der Film review. Japanese anime fans had somehow found said review, and on their message boards, some claimed that I had no business in the Girls und Panzer franchise. One individual stated that “また泥棒が違法視聴してるのか?金を出さないなら見るなよアニメ業界にとってお前らは寄生虫と同じだ。” (“Is this thief watching illegally? If you don’t pay for it, you shouldn’t be watching. You’re just like a parasite on the anime industry”), while another suggested that “サイトで見るような奴は真のファンじゃない。本当に好きな奴はDVDを買う” (“The person you see on [this blog] isn’t a true fan. Those who genuinely support [Girls und Panzer] would buy the DVDs”). Since Der Film‘s BDs had been available on CD Japan, I find it tough to believe these individuals would be ignorant to the fact that BDs can be purchased overseas. Such claims can only come from a desire to exclude foreign fans, like myself, from watching and writing about anime. In response to these criticisms, I shrug and get on with my day.

  • Between myself and my friends, we have amassed quite the collection of gatekeeping incidents we’ve experienced. However, we recall most of these stories with a laugh: over the years, it’s become increasingly easier to ignore and bypass gatekeepers. When Gundam 00 was airing, fans could have their experience actively degraded by those who were too uptight to provide their fansubs in a playable format. Today, a streaming subscription gives one access to a plethora of anime for low prices, and these codec elitists have since faded to obscurity. On the other hand, fans who believe others shouldn’t be in their hobby can be negated by paying them no mind; the Japanese message board users certainly didn’t impact my Girls und Panzer experience to any capacity, and short of coming over to my place to physically stop me (incidentally, I’d like to see them try), are powerless to stop me from buying the BDs and writing about my experiences. Despite some of the issues surrounding improved technology and accessibility (especially on social media, where outrage is manufactured every other week), what I’ve seen over the past ten years leads me to a simple conclusion: it’s easier now to be an anime fan than it’s ever been.

Accessibility is, in short, the countermeasure for gatekeeping, and technology is the instrument for this accessibility. Having come upon Wired’s article a decade earlier, and finding it to fully explain a phenomenon that had made it tricky to be a fan of anime at the time, I was able to develop an understanding of why some folks were so insistent on hoarding information. Despite these hurdles, I continued to enjoy anime in my own way, and having now seen the evolution of things like streaming services and reverse image search, I can say with confidence that anime fans today have unprecedented access to the medium. The barrier for entry has never been lower, and this means folks are able to, more effectively than had previously been possible, watch what they enjoy, and discuss it with people who are respectful, reasoned and open-minded. Gatekeepers have been reduced to making quips on social media about who “should” be allowed to watch something, although with the ground constantly shrinking around them, I imagine that even this form of gatekeeping could go the way of the dodo. Zero’s prediction of everyone becoming otaku may have come to pass, but it has also gone beyond this: the Wired article had suggested that being an otaku, or technologically savvy, brings with it numerous advantages. At their best, otaku are hard-working individuals with a profound love of their chosen occupation. With the right encouragement, they can become team-players with unparalleled drive and passion, putting in a significant effort towards advancing the world in hitherto unimagined ways. Revisiting the Wired article anew in the present, it is not lost on me that, in many ways, I am a contemporary Zero. However, beyond the superficial similarities and vast technological differences (even the seven-year-old Series 0 Apple Watch skates rings around Zero’s Quadra 900 Macintosh PC, which cost 7000 USD back in its time), it is quite clear that the otaku world today is dramatically different. Sharing information and including people in communities has never been easier, while those who wish to play the “first past the post” game are finding it increasingly difficult to do so, and this suits me just fine: gatekeeping is defeated by accessibility and inclusion, so it follows that a world where things are easier to access, and more inclusive, would become correspondingly more challenging to gatekeep.

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.

Otaku and information: understanding why media is sometimes slow to leave Japan

I’m about to embark on a rather amusing blog post that technically was written for amusement. Before we can begin, I will define “otaku” to be any individual whose interests in anime, manga and Japanese games to be a high priority in their lives. These individuals will have excessive anime/manga merchandise and spend more hours per day on said hobbies compared to their conventional occupation, whether they are a student or have full-time employment. Moreover, these individuals will possess several online holdings (e.g. Pixiv, Nico Nico Douga accounts, etc.) and usually aim to push information online ahead of others, motivated by a desire to garner respect on the online community. The term “otaku” was derived from a Japanese term for another’s house or family (お宅, otaku), which is also used as an honorific second-person pronoun. The modern slang form, which is distinguished from the older usage by being written only in hiragana (おたく) or katakana (オタク or, less frequently, ヲタク), or rarely in rōmaji, appeared in the 1980s and refer to obsessive fans of anime, manga and Japanese computer games.

  • It is important to note that these are merely my observations on the matter. For people who prefer listening to much of their music on YouTube, uploads become the most straightforward way to access foreign content. My discussions primarily concern anime and game soundtracks.

From personal experience, otaku and the more moderate fans of a particular medium generally do not associate well. The former believe that the media should be exclusive to particular individuals, and as such, vocally voice their criticisms towards the opinions and thoughts of other fans. Otaku will also delay uploading media to services like YouTube for an arbitrary period of time for the sole purpose of griefing other fans. This typically occurs between Japanese uploaders and non-Japanese fans; Japanese media is not always readily available in English-speaking markets, so people in other places of the world often depend on the internet to access this media. This hostility stigmatises moderate individuals from the otaku, leading to the negative connotations associated with being an otaku. The absence of good-quality uploads in a reasonable period after a release is probably one of the most-encountered grievances the English-speaking anime community experiences, although there are hardly any accounts out there of why this might be the case. Before I go on, I would like to emphasise that waiting a week for a good quality upload is not griefing by an uploader: it is logical that time is necessary to prepare the media for uploading. That said, I have seen otaku deliberately withholding media for personal gain. Of note is the “Children who chase lost voices from deep below” OST: according to CD Japan, the soundtrack was available for purchase on May 7, 2011. However, an upload to YouTube was not found until June 27, more than a month after the soundtrack was released.

  • Fansubs and scanlations are outside the scope of discussion for this article. I’m more interested in soundtracks and their relation to YouTube: for the most part, they are much more accessible than the show itself. Consider that the soundtracks for Gundam Unicorn episode 5 will release much sooner than the episode itself.

We’ve seen what can happen, so let’s go into the why. Until recently, my assumptions were merely thus: that the otaku were refusing to upload for the sole reason of denying other viewers access to media on the count that these aforementioned viewers were somehow unqualified or unworthy of accessing said media. However, an article on confirmed my conjecture to be a valid one. Written in 1993, the article’s author interviewed “Zero”, a Japanese otaku who made his living as a work-at-home remote software troubleshooter. On a typical day, he is involved in the transfer of information (back then, measured in kilobytes) and participates in cutting down those who post “outdated information”. This interview finds that:

Information is the fuel that feeds the otaku’s worshiped dissemination systems – computer bulletin-boards, modems, faxes. For otaku, the only thing that matters is the accuracy of the answer, not its relevance. No piece of information is too trivial for consideration…The point for [otaku] will not be the relevance of the information, nor the nature of it, but merely that he got it and others didn’t. That’s what makes the information valuable and will elevate [their] status as a computer stud.

Through information trafficking and getting to it ahead of everyone else, otaku aim earn something that they cannot otherwise obtain in reality: respect. Whether it is release dates of particular movies and soundtracks or the plot summaries to freshly-released shows, this phenomenon accounts for why otaku guard their data so zealously and are so quick to raise red flags when similar information is being presented by other individuals. The desire to garner respect while preventing others from doing so appears to be a major element in the otaku subculture, accounting for why otaku refuse to upload media, despite them probably being the first ones to access it. Moreover, otaku generally view their subculture as distinct aspect of their identity, and as such, do not appreciate it when their media domain (i.e. anime and manga) becomes more mainstream and widespread, leading to the dissolution of their identity. These two factors, coupled together, form a succinct explanation for why early uploads of media from Japan are relatively rare; the media contains information that is highly valued, and to maximise their respect, the otaku refrain from uploading to ensure that they can provide an early review to reinforce their own perspectives on the media, rather than allow others to access and derive an alternate point of view. In this high-stakes zero-sum game, ego and respect are the prizes: otaku can rarely make their opinions heard in reality, so the internet becomes the place where they enforce and emphasise their ideals. This phenomenon is most predominant on 2ch, Pixiv and Nico Nico Douga; a while back, I had to pull a video from YouTube when it was reported by Nico Nico Douga otaku who feared that I was profiting status-wise from re-posting a Japanese AMV for English-speaking audiences. Similarly, when the Gundam Unicorn OST II came out, the first uploads to YouTube from otaku did not occur until nearly a week after the release. Instead, English-speaking uploaders who had pre-ordered the OST were the first to make it accessible. (For the curious, otaku on YouTube are identified by their unusual names that consist of many numerical characters and odd alphabetic elements.)

  • In the present era, information regarding KyoAni works (anime, manga, music, associated voice actors, production, etc.) is probably the most sought-after information by otaku. This has been said to arise from the moé-phenomenon of late, which drives the popularity of their works upwards. Capitalising on this effect, I grace my pages with KyoAni wallpapers to offset the nature of my writing.

Granted, my modus operandi is to make Japanese media more searchable to English speakers, hence one of the functions of this blog and my YouTube channel: typically, information about (pertinent) items will be posted here. Thus, the media, while standalone here, acts to augment other resources. For instance, I create articles here that conform to basic HTML5 standards and replace links on TVTropes such that they link here rather than to some obscure website lacking any adherence to web design standards. Doing so makes the media more accessible, and has the added bonus of yielding some traffic, benefitting all parties in the long run (except the otaku, who may have been undermined in the process).