Lucky Star Manga, Volume 3 (English)

March 9th, 2010

I get it, I do.

Lucky Star is a big in-joke for the otaku audience. Look Konata games, she gets moe, she talks about dating sims and anime and ero-games. She’s one of us!

To explain why this does not hit me in the same way it hits you, let me tell you a story. I was sitting at a Druid ritual, when a woman I know came over to me with an expression of love and acceptance and joy and asked me, “Isn’t this wonderful? Don’t you remember the moment when you first felt part of a group that truly accepted you?” I looked at her very seriously and said, “No, because I’ve never looked for acceptance from a group.” This conversation actually went on for some time, her trying to ask me the same question many different ways, and me giving her the same answer – I don’t look for acceptance from other people, so I’ve never needed to feel “part of a group.” As long as I’m happy doing what I’m doing, that’s fine. She walked away after a while, totally puzzled. *Everyone* wants to be part of a group, right?

I have never once in my life referred to non-fandom people (of any kind) as “mundane.” Sports fans don’t refer to non-sports fans as “thinkies,” or anything. Why would I refer to people not in my in-crowd as something silly that they are not? And what should I call you, my non-classical music listening readers? Or my non-archeology loving readers? No, I’m not really much into “us” and “them.”

I am proud to be an otaku, and perfectly happy in my otaku life, with my fujoshi wife. My non-otaku friends are in no way “mundane.” (Understatement of the decade. My non-otaku friends are far stranger than my otaku friends could ever hope to be.)

So I don’t need that thing that Lucky Star provides, that “look there’s a media character that represents us otaku!” If you read Okazu, you’ll know that my blog is largely given over to finding those moments for lesbian readers. The idea that there is a self-referential anime and manga for otaku is great – I just don’t need that particular affirmation of self.

I’m pretty certain that those of you who are deeply engaged with Lucky Star will see this as some kind of slam, but really, I think it’s fine, really! I have no objection to the series. I get what you’re seeing.

In fact, I liked Volume 3, because it explains why 4-koma aren’t all that funny AND why so many fans think Kagami is tsundere – because the creator said so, so even though she really isn’t, and now that it has  been said, you shape your perceptions to see that. Exactly as Konata says. ^_^ What I especially like is that she said that straight to our faces. It’s so rare to see irony in manga.

So, while many of you are resonating to the “she’s one of us!” and all the in-jokes in the anime, the bit that resonates most strongly with me is the ironic (and slightly mean-spirited) meta-commentary by the creator about our otaku habits. I like when he talks about what a waste all our devotion is, and what a pointless thing us spending all that money is. I loved when he had Konata comment that getting the first volume of a manga shows loyalty – even if it’s riddled with errors. That actually made me laugh out loud. (It reminded me of something Dorothy L. Sayers has Lord Peter Wimsey say in Murder Must Advertise – that if you smile as you say incredibly mean things, people will think that you are joking.)

I would also like to blame William Flanagan for being a competent translator, as now he’s sucked the most fun I was having with the series away by replacing the challenging grammar of the previous translator with perfectly sensible English. Thanks, Bill. (-_-);

Yuri? Yes…um there’s two minor characters whose names completely escape me right now and who are always together. Perhaps they are a couple. And the girl who draws doujinshi…I’ve randomly decided that I think she’s gay. Other than that? I still think that Konata x Kagami is entirely in your head, so why shouldn’t I create other Yuri that isn’t there, too?

Ratings:

Art – 5 I can’t really respect the art. At some point you’d think it’d get better.
Story – 7 There isn’t one, really. But it is a 4-koma, so one has low expectations
Characters – 7
Yuri – 1
Service – 10 Not in the salacious way this usually represents. This series was created precisely to appeal to the Fanboy in all of us and is in that way completely an expression of the meaning of otaku.

Overall – 7

I’m still not charmed, but I did laugh out loud several times at in-jokes. I also find the notes really interesting because despite the fact that the series is for the hardcore otaku, the notes were for “mundanes.”

Thanks ever so much to Okazu superhero Dan P. for allowing me this foray into this representative medium of an important part of my life. ^_^

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11 Responses

  1. Dorota says:

    This is so entirely off-topic, that I’m actually blushing a bit, but . . .

    I think what most people look for in acceptance of group is, that some kind of gathering of people would accept us, love us and support us, even though we are not family and don’t know each other that well. The nurturing effect of a community, so to speak. The excluding thing (YOU are not part of US) is just a nasty little side effect.

    That most otaku like to think such a group can be assembled according to a hobby, I attribute to the meager social skills that they possess (a gross oversimplification, but it goes well with 99% of otaku I know).

    Forgive my contorted sentences, I have not slept much lately and when tired, my mind goes slightly schizoid.

  2. Daniel says:

    Well said. I’ve never really been into the series for the same reason. I can see why it might be popular, but I don’t have the need it’s supposed to fill.

  3. Mara says:

    “Look Konata games, she gets moe, she talks about dating sims and anime and ero-games. She’s one of us!”

    I must say I’ve never really got that from Lucky Star but it is nice to think that some people may get that. Konata is so sensible most of the time that I would not think of such a connection.

    Although now in volume three and four the translation problem has been eased this only highlights the larger problem that a lot of luck star is not funny.

    I’m still continuing to buy it though.

  4. Matthew says:

    If you want to see the pairing of Konata/Kagami become canon, you have to watch the OVA. Near the end of Kagami’s dream sequence, we get a line that you won’t soon forgot.

    Enjoy. ;-)

    -Matthew

  5. William Flanagan says:

    First, thanks for the review, and I take full responsibility for destroying your fun. Mea maxima culpa.

    Wow, talk about unintended consequences from word choice. I choose the world “mundane” simply thinking from the point of view of, “what would Konata say if she were American?” Yes, Konata has the us-vs.-them thought pattern, especially with regard to the way the media represents otaku, but the word she uses (ippanjin) actually doesn’t have the negative nuances that “mundane” has. I never even considered the negative nuances of “mundane.” Oops. I should have. For the record Konata wasn’t dissing your non-otaku friends. (I was. Wait, no I was’t! Now you got me confused!) (^_^;)

    Oh, and I’m not absolutely sure myself, but the bonus materials in Volume 6 seem to indicate that Kagami Yoshimizu is male. Although the strip in question could also be interpreted as lesbian (Yoshimizu makes it clear that he/she prefers to eventually marry a woman), the overtones of the bonus strip seemed to favor him being male. Still, that is far more of a clue than Yuki Urushibara of Mushishi. I translated 10 volumes of that, and I still can’t figure out the gender of that author.

    About Yuri content, I think Hiyori gives you plenty of hints so that the decision that she’s gay isn’t exactly random. Misao and Ayano are borderline (because Ayano has a boyfriend), and Fubuki and HIkaru (the health office nurse and science teacher) leave very little room for doubt, especially later in the manga series. But none of it gets confirmed, and there are strips that are supposed to tease doubt in the reader’s minds that even Fubuki and Hikaru might be bi or straight. And these characters are all minor and only have a few strips per volume. So if I were to rate the Yuri content for the series, I might give it a 2 or at most 3 out of 10, but nothing more than that.

    Anyway, really cool review!
    Bill

  6. Anonymous says:

    “That most otaku like to think such a group can be assembled according to a hobby, I attribute to the meager social skills that they possess (a gross oversimplification, but it goes well with 99% of otaku I know).”

    That goes for otaku of other hobbies too, not just otaku of anime and manga, right?

  7. Ed Sizemore says:

    Erica,

    This is a great review. What I love (and envy) about all your reviews is your authoritative, but non dictatorial, voice. I love reading writing that has such strong conviction. You obvious know what you like and why, but you don’t belittle people for disagreeing with you. That’s what makes your review so enjoyable to read, I can disagree without feeling I’m being mocked.

    I thought ‘mundane’ was an odd choice, but I know plenty of comic fans that call their non-comic fans friends and family ‘normal’ so I wasn’t put off by the term. Bill, I know you never intend offense in your translations so none was taken. I’m glad to see you working on Lucky Star since you’re one of my favorite translators.

  8. @Dorota – You’re correct. “Us” and “them” is very powerful. It’s not jus t hobbies though – sports fans do the same thing. Humans are herd animals, so create fraternities and sororities over just about an old thing. :-)

    @Matthew – You know what? I don’t believe that when I watch that I will see what you see. :-)

    @William Flanagan – Thanks for commenting! I totally understood that’s what you were doing – and it was a good choice. The pagan community and old-school scifi fandoms both use “mundanes” to describe those who are not of the group. The comment I made was not to criticize the choice, but merely to point out that “us” and “them” is really very arbitrary, so *I* tend to not buy into it – but I know that it is very common for humans to do so. Hiyori – yes, that’s her. lol In retrospect, it was the way she was drawing her model. Not a random choice at all. Look how manipulable I am! :-) I hadn’t considered the doctor/teacher. I’ll keep an eye out for them. :-) In general, let me echo Ed’s comments that I am *very* glad you’re the translator on this series.

    @Ed Sizemore – The check’s in the mail. :-D

  9. narovlansky says:

    It’s an off-topic question, but what does person “not seeking acceptance from any group” do at pagan (e.g. religious) ritual? What is the motivation of this person, if not gaining some sort of peace in spiritual matters?

  10. Jade says:

    @narovlansky – All the various neo-pagan trads have a strong emphasis on eclecticism so though group ritual and community may fulfill certain rites or provide some plain fun, spiritual growth and ideals tend to be quite personal.

    @Erica – I like Lucky Star for the same reason I like Seinfeld. The specific references to otaku or Jewish culture respectively, isn’t what I think is important. It’s people shamelessly dedicated to their own personalities interacting in hyper-mundane situations that magnify their quirks and the predicaments they bring on themselves through their own perceptions.

    If you don’t like it, that’s fair and fine, but I think it’s a bit unfair to suggest that fans see no depth in the content because you, personally, see no depth in it.

  11. @Jade – I was *acknowledging* that fans see depth in the series and explaining why I am not myself affected by it.

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