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The lucky star of a cultural revolution

Daniel Lim

Very rarely does a series or form of media revolutionise and shape a culture, not only in its place of origin but also across the world.

Kagami Yoshimizu’s Lucky Star could be argued to be one of them, having provided a platform for the otaku culture before it became a worldwide phenomenon.

Many terms such as Tsundere, to the myriad of hotspots and sites that otakus around the world adore, such as Akihabara, can trace its roots back to the series, first published in the early 2000s.

While many factors went into the success of the otaku – a Japanese word that refers to people with a passion for a certain interest, particularly towards anime and manga – Lucky Star was a pinnacle platform in the global spread of the culture.

It had an impact on the anime scene, with its influence is still felt to this day.

Lucky Star is a slice-of-life story of stereotypical everyday at school, following Konata Izumi, who constantly skips her schoolwork to watch anime, play video games and read manga.

Lucky Star’s main and side characters. PHOTO: KYOTO ANIMATION

She is accompanied by her three friends – Kagami Hirragi, whose character traits form the basis of foundation of being a Tsundere, (which refers to a person who has a cold expression on the outside but is friendly on the inside), airhead little sister Tsukasa Hiiragi, and the mature but also slightly clumsy Miyuki Takara – each providing a unique perspective of those on the outside of the otaku culture. Each character is relatable, whether one is an otaku, only slightly familiar with the culture or not at all.

Lucky Star set itself apart from other school life anime at the time by not being afraid to make homage and references to popular culture, including other manga, anime and even tokusatsu, otherwise known as Power Rangers of Japan. Lucky Star in its heyday was the ultimate fan-service anime.

Part of the charm of Lucky Star is spotting these references. For those outside the loop it was also a moment to ponder on the weirdness that just occurred in the episode.

There are references to older hits such such as Initial D with an impromptu racing scene and more overt fourth wall-breaking homages to other anime like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (also a school life series) where the protagonists of both anime series were played by the same voice actress.

Alongside showcasing the otaku culture of the day, Lucky Star also explores various cultural hotspots – places such as Akihabara and its storefronts supporting the otaku culture were placed front and centre, cementing them as must-visit locations for otakus.

Lucky Star began as a manga before being adapted into an anime by Kyoto Animation, which received a positive response, staying true to the original material with all its over-exaggerated references recreated by the studio.

The work that went into the adaptation was also a turning point for the studio, as alongside the previous success of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Lucky Star catapulted Kyoto Animation as ‘a studio to watch’. It later released other hits such as the light music-based K-On! to Free!.

While the manga itself is close to 20 years old at this point, Lucky Star still stands as one of the important animes to watch, not just to its significance in the growth of anime and otaku culture, but also because it offers a glimpse back in time to the early days of before to the worldwide explosion of popularity of all things otaku.