Lucky Star Manga, Volume 1 (English)

August 28th, 2009

Very Important Disclaimer: Because of the popularity of this anime series and the level of Fandelusion engaged in by Fans of the series, I want to make this very clear up front. I do not hate Lucky Star. I have watched a total of about 30 seconds of one episode. I have nothing to compare this manga to – I may in fact be the only person to review this manga who has never seen the anime. Today’s review is *only* about the manga, with no bias at all in relation to the anime. Please do not accuse me of anything other than what I am doing – reading this manga and taking it at face value as itself. Thank you for your understanding. ;-)

Lucky Star, Volume 1 is a 4-koma comic about a bunch of simplistically rendered high school girls. There is, approximately, one joke for every two characters, none of which get that much funnier as the book goes on.

The main character, Konata, is a hardcore otaku. And…that’s about it. She lives with her Dad, who is also otaku and the two of them live a bachelor life together. Konata is smart, but slacks on her studies in favor of playing games all night long.

Tsukasa is her classmate and is in nearly every way, normal and a little dull. A typical comedy “straight man.”

Kagami is Tsukasa’s twin sister – she is a good, somewhat driven student, and her sole raison d’etre appears to be to rag on Konata.

And finally, there is Miyuki, who is the class president, smart, cute, glasses-wearing and occasionally clumsy, because powerless women appeal to otaku who are not me.

The chapters in this first volume are pretty much the same few gags repeated over and over. We get a teeny bit more background about the characters, but as this manga focuses on their interactions with each other, these snippets are more often than not used as cheap laugh generators.

Of course, I cannot pretend to be unaware of the raging case of Konata x Kagami-itis among fans of the Lucky Star anime series. And to them I say – seriously, there is NO KxK Yuri here in the manga – not even if we read the panels REALLY slowly. In fact, taken on its own, it’s pretty clear that Konata finds Kagami to be a huge pain in the ass and Kagami thinks of Konata as a thorn in her side.

If I needed to manufacture Yuri in the manga, I’d turn the goggles up to high and look at Konata’s fetishizing of Miyuki, which is pretty much meant to reflect the way otaku view most anime characters as a sum of the fetishes that make them up.

But, in all of this, I have not yet mentioned the one quality of this manga that, more than any other, really tanks it. The translation, which was undertaken by Bandai, is *so* spectacularly awkward and awful that it is almost funny in and of itself.

For example, “If you cause some case in the future, ‘I had thought that she would do something like this someday.’ would be exactly what I would say.”

Clearly Bandai felt that adaptation was a step they could skip entirely, since “everyone knows” that otaku prefer literal translation. And this is as raw as they come.

(As an aside, I believe that that particular “everyone knows” is a relic of the days when anime and manga companies over-localized everything for us, and left us with a desire to know what had really been said. It’s not that American fans want “raw” translations, or literal translations – they wanted things like “onigiri” to remain onigiri and not be turned into “pastries” or “snacks” or some other thing that is not rice balls.)

In fact, this is truly a “literal” translation and is nearly unreadable as a result. It’s not a good literal translation, either – it’s so raw that I can only assume that the translator (who is not credited, nor is anyone else who worked on the English language edition of the book,) really is not a fluent English speaker.

“There are so many ideas as to what that unspeakable element is…!!”

I am not making fun of the translation, I want you to understand. I need Japanese companies to understand that what they think is Good English is really nothing even close. Just like school-taught Japanese spoken by an American sounds mangled and weird to any Japanese person.

Dear Japanese companies – you *need* fluent English speakers and writers on your staff. You cannot do it yourself.

So, in conclusion, if you are a fan of the anime series, I would actually recommend you avoid the manga. And, if you are not, there is nothing here with which to entice you.

As I said, I do not hate this series, I simply found it to be puzzling. Aside from the bad TL, I think the anime must have been funnier by having more anime/game in-jokes and references that the audience found amusing and appealing. As a manga, this is one joke over and over and over until any entertainment value it originally had is long gone.


Art – 3
Story – 3
Characters – 5 Perhaps they are funnier in the anime, but they still aren’t that interesting. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and add two points.
Yuri – .5
Otaku – 7 Gaming in-jokes and CompAce in-jokes, the latter of which will mostly be lost on American fans

Overall – 3

Many many thanks to brand new Okazu Hero Yurri H. for the opportunity to see first hand this really interesting example of manga localization at its worst. Yurri – email me for your very own Okazu Hero badge of honor!

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10 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    After working three jobs, I saved enough money to fly to Japan and dumpster-dive in Yoshimizu-kami’s flammable garbage and if you look at the discarded sketches, ignoring the erasures, you’ll see that the original plan was to have K&K as a couple. You’re just not willing to do the work and see what is so clear to the rest of us.

  2. Emma says:

    the initial 4 episodes were so bad, the director responsible was fired; on the whole Lucky Star is funny and involving enough to be worth a look. It sort of wants to be Azumanga Daioh, and it falls painfully short of that; but then so does everything.

    As for KxK- I think people just like combatative relationships. It’s like the majority of Yaoi relationships- fandom perserveres in teh face of canon, because it WOULD be good, if only the creators were smart enough to spot it, lol. There is, however, a lot more grounds for it in the anime, which portrays konata and Kagami as genuinely caring for one another, as well as being the bain of each other’s lives. (Kind of like jo and Blair on the facts of life, now that I think about it.) It’s like that thing where two people are inescapably intertwined with one another; the actual japanese word escapes me, but I first heard it here, so you know what I’m talking about.

  3. Astrojensen says:

    I think this review was very interesting! As one who did the “traditional route” and watched the anime first, I can say that I was not a little disappointed by the manga, though I have only read the scanlated chapters of volume one.

    Anonymous, there is NOT a hint of any relationship between K&K in volume 1 of the manga. Period. There is, however PLENTY of hints in the anime and even more in the character songs. Oh, and if you do have original sketches, please show them to us, or we won’t believe it. And “not willing to do the work” seemed a bit rude to me, especially since the reviewer had only read volume one of the tankobon, in which, as previously stated, there is not a hint of relationship between K&K whatsoever. That may come in the later tankobons, as the anime is based on strips and chapters from volume 1 through 4. Very few fans have actually read the tankobons, as only volume one and two has recently been released in a translated version. And if the translation is as poor as mentioned in the review, it will be a pain to read.

  4. Emma says:

    I think anonymous’s comment was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, rather than an actual criticism . . .

  5. @Emma – You win. You’re the first person to figure it out. That anonymous poster was my wife. The fact that the post is dated 2 *minutes* after my post posted is an indication that we were having a little fun with everyone. :-)

  6. darksyx says:

    Well, there’s little thing in the first chapters of the anime too (unless you count Kagami’s initial reaction to Konata’s visit when she’s ill) but the KXK relationship really turns from the “I can’t stand you” to a deep friendship; in the end, gradually. At the end of the series they’re best friends. I’m not saying there’s an authentic romantic relationship (though I like the idea and I consider myself a “fan” of it, and even see hints in the anime of “what could be” for saying it in some way), that you can’t affirm rotundly either with the manga or with the anime. But I see no harm in liking the pairing ^^. Anyway, the review is OK. For the little I’ve read of the manga I stuck with the anime of this one.

  7. Anonymous says:

    If you ask an anime fan about Lucky Star, they’ll start comparing it to Azumanga Daioh and start disseminating moe, but really, the overall tone is much more like a Japanese Seinfeld than some rolling gag juggernaut; it’s just the pacing is turned up a few notches. There’s a lot of really innovative sequences too.

    On KxK, they really do bicker like a married couple and there’s a few hints here and there, but it’s really more like a natural relationship than hawt lesbo seks.

  8. Zyl says:

    I enjoyed the K&K innuendo and bought into the fan delusion too. But only wrt the anime. It’s much less fun in the manga and I suspect that had a lot to do with the chemistry between Emiri Katou (Kagami) and Aya Hirano (Konata).

    Not to mention how Kyoto Animation seemed to be having fun with (1) throwing ‘hints’ to stoke fan delusion (e.g. suggestive official art for MEGAMI etc.) and (2) using the character of Hiyori to comment on how fans just *love* to be deluded especially wrt to slashing charas.

  9. I don’t know about the printing you received, but the printing I have of Lucky Star volume 1 has English credits three pages from the back, and credits the rather *interesting* translation to Rika Takahashi, who seems to have done extensive anime translation work for both Bandai Entertainment and Pioneer/Geneon.

    I’m on the fence about the translation; it’s clunky, but I do feel that I get some of the nuances of the Japanese text that I wouldn’t with a regular localization.

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