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!