The Spring 2016 Anime Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
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How was the first episode?
If you were hoping to get your fill of cute girls doing cute things but found Bakuon's motorcycle schtick too niche, Anne-Happy/Unhappy/Unhappy Go Lucky fits the bill nicely. The comedy stars three (but eventually five) girls with rotten luck in a classroom specifically designated for unfortunate souls like themselves. Botan, Anne “Haruko”, and Ruri “Hibari” all become fast friends despite each girl's own strange predisposition.
So this is essentially harmless fluff. The setting is a little ludicrous as an obvious setup for comedy. The jokes aren't really funny, and I'll be surprised if they can milk Anne getting attacked by animals and Botan fainting at inopportune moments for more than a few episodes. That gimmick can quickly turn predictable as this premiere indicates. After seeing what happens to Anne when she tries to rescue a dog, the audience knows the end result when she tries to help a cat. The writers will have to get clever if they don't want to give away the entire gag as soon as it's presented.
For a first episode overall, I guess I can say it wasn't bad. I didn't laugh, but I also didn't find myself rolling my eyeballs back into my head repeatedly. The show had an opportunity to land a pretty good gag about Hibari's crush, but the entire punchline was given away in the opening sequence. Pair that with the predictability of other jokes, and I'm not really sure this works as a comedy. It's cute, and the art certainly looks nice enough. There's plenty of super-deformed wacky faces to be had. It just doesn't really do anything exciting or interesting or funny.
Most of the mileage here is in the character's personalities and whether or not you find them charming. There aren't any dramatic stakes here, so it's up to whether Anne's eternal optimism, Hibari's love affair with an inanimate object, and Botan's self-deprecating comments sound like a good time to you.
Review: Anne-Happy is the brilliant name choice for the adaptation of the manga Unhappy Go Lucky. It is undeniably a “cute girls do cute things” title, with the first episode focusing on three girls out of what the opener and closer indicate will eventually be a group of five. (The other two are introduced this episode, but only briefly, and have yet to join the pack or even interact directly with the initial three.) However, this series looks to be its own breed of such show: a cloyingly goofy comedy about misfortune laced with the occasional sincere moment. Considering that I had a grin on my face throughout the first episode, I'd have to say that it accomplished its purpose pretty well.
The Unlucky Girl is a fairly standard character in anime comedies, but whereas that would normally be just one character out of an ensemble cast, the novel twist here is to have the entire ensemble – heck, the entire class, even – be Unlucky Girls to some degree. Of course, they're all different variations on the archetype: one is a self-deprecating pessimist who could give Excel Saga’s Hyatt a run for her money on health problems, one has the misfortune to have fallen in love with an image that would get her ridiculed by almost anyone else, and one is blissfully and irrepressibly optimistic despite having the most horrible of luck. (Of the two girls who haven't joined the group yet, one is clearly has an utter lack of a sense of direction, while the other's peculiarity hasn't been made clear yet.) Of these, the unhealthy one's shtick is the least effective, but the titular character's uncanny cheeriness in the face of all adversity more than makes up for it; she is going to be the series's heart and soul. Dark-haired Hibari, she of the perverse love interest, makes a better choice for the perspective character, though, and it looks like all of the craziness which goes on will be filtered through her. That's totally fine because, as the most serious character, that allows her to play the Straight Woman role, too.
The series is directed Shin Oonuma, who has helmed highly successful comedy series like Baka and Test – Summon The Beasts and WATAMOTE, and he clearly hasn't lost his touch. The pacing is just right, as it allows just enough time for each situation to develop but never dwells too long on any joke. The production effort by SILVER LINK is also surprisingly strong for a series like this, with highly appealing character designs, sharp but not garish coloring in the characters, and better-than-average animation. I'm not particularly a fan of water color backgrounds, but they do contribute to the overall bright and cheery look. Even the musical score and the voice acting are a grade above, and boy, do I wish that catchy opener was subtitled!
Basically, there's nothing that this opening episode does poorly. This is a warm, fun, inviting, and clean opening to what should be a pleasant diversion.
Anne-Happy appears to be the season's second cute girls doing cute things cutely show, and it doesn't come with a gimmick that might draw you in the way Bakuon does with its motorcycles. The premise here is simple: there's a school that has a special class for girls who are particularly unlucky (I assume it's a girls’ school just because I didn't see any boys) with the goal of helping them to become happier and luckier during their three years in high school. Although the show looks like it will ultimately focus on five of these students, this episode only deals with three: Ruri, Anne, and Botan, although within minutes of meeting them, Anne gets renamed “Hanako” and Ruri “Hibari,” just to make it extra confusing. Hibari doesn't think she's that unlucky, Botan is the most accident-prone individual on the planet and knows it, and Hanako maintains that she's actually very lucky despite all evidence to the contrary, and…yeah, that's about it.
Basically this episode is utterly harmless. The gags rely on the characters’ personalities and the basic premise that everyone has bad luck, so you know that when Hanako wades into a muddy pond to rescue a kitty she's going to either slip and fall or get stuck in the mud. Botan's health is so fragile that chasing after Hanako can only end in her collapse, and naturally since Hanako loves animals they all hate her. Hibari's a bit more interesting, and the reveal about who her crush is made for the one moment when I laughed this episode, so the show isn't totally devoid of potential. And after watching Hanako survive falling off a bridge (which actually has a part of it snap off, which I was not expecting), getting chewed on by a dog, getting stuck in the mud, and accidentally hatching a chick, I do have to agree – maybe this girl really is lucky, because there is no way she would have survived this episode otherwise. She's definitely meant to represent the “glass half full” perspective here, and while her intelligence level appears to be fairly low, or at least her common sense is, there is something endearing about her relentlessly cheery outlook. She's also presumably the root of the series’ title: “Anne Happy” sounds like “unhappy,” but Anne/Hanako is most certainly not unhappy, so she's taking possession of the word and turning it around.
So that's cute. In fact, this whole episode, with its pastel colors, silly gags, and frequent SD moments is pretty damn cute. There just isn't anything more to it than that, plus an overuse of title cards to separate the episode into little segments gets annoying very quickly, as it chops up a story that's consecutive and really doesn't need the pauses. We'll see if the actual introduction of the other two girls changes this up at all, but as of this episode, if you want some substance with your cuteness, this is probably safe to leave alone.
Like BAKUON!!, Anne-Happy looks to be another entry in one of anime's most reliable subgenres, the “high school girls do slice of life/comedy things in a school club” field. But while BAKUON!! leans pretty heavily towards the comedy end of that genre, Anne-Happy slots in roughly at the midpoint, relying equally on small jokes and moments of atmosphere or warm friendship. But does it pull these things off?
Not really, unfortunately. There are bits and pieces of things that work here, but on the whole, Anne-Happy doesn't really sell either its humor or its camaraderie. The atmosphere is the easier bit to break down; not only are these characters just not particularly distinctive, but the show's aesthetics aren't strong enough to create a believable sense of place. The backgrounds are nice, at least - a pretty set of evocative, almost intentionally simplistic pencil drawings. But they don't succeed in making Anne-Happy's world feel like a real place, and all of the moments that are dedicated to atmosphere rely on the exact same swooping shots and heart-flutter closeups. Shots like that don't work unless you've already aligned your audience with your character's feelings - just having a character say “we're friends now” and then hammering on the Clannad-vision doesn't really help the audience get there.
On the humor side, Anne-Happy can't rely on charm alone, but it also lacks the sharpness or creativity of a show like BAKUON!! It's one of those shows that features a cast of mildly unusual characters whose standard jokes are all “I am mildly unusual, please allow me to demonstrate my mildly unusual qualities.” The lead Hibari has a crush on a construction sign. The rich girl Botan is very frail and self-defeating. The upbeat girl Hanako likes animals but they do not like her. Those are their jokes, and the show makes sure you know those are their jokes, because it uses each of them several times just within this first episode. None of these jokes are particularly funny the first time, and the show's aesthetic execution is far from strong enough to help it get away with them a second or third.
Slice of life shows are often accused of being unambitious or easy to pull off, but shows like Anne-Happy reveal that there really is a science to this stuff. Failing both in terms of humor and atmosphere, Anne-Happy counts as a pretty bottom-shelf genre entry.
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