Ancient Aughts-Era Otaku Lore – Lucky Star 17 Years Later

Before I knew it, 17 years had passed since my first and only encounter with the anime Lucky Star. I first watched it in real time on fansubs, and just a few weeks back I finished a second watch of the series. To be honest, this is something I thought I would have done sooner. Interestingly, I believe the first time we meet Konata and the gang in the Lucky Star anime is when they are 17 years old as well. So basically, if I knocked a woman up when I first saw the show at 19 years old, our child would be Konata’s age now. 

All joking aside, it’s genuinely chilling how nearly two decades can just pass by in the blink of an eye. While I have sat down to watch other aughts-era classics like Suzumiya Haruhi no Yūutsu a few times since they finished, I have yet to revisit the majority of the anime I watched eagerly week to week on fansubs. Hell, I’ve seen Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann only once–right when it was airing[1]It’s on the list to watch again, don’t you worry.. However, with the onset of the pandemic a few years back, I found myself looking back at older titles I once loved. And with more and more anime skewing towards a genre I do not particularly care for, now is as good a time as any to go back and enjoy the stuff that sparked joy in me as an awkward teenager and young adult. As such, over the past half-year or so, I found myself in possession of a Lucky Star Blu-ray boxset, and flipped on episodes every now and again before turning in for the night.

How was it you ask? Well, given Lucky Star’s position as a key touchstone of the 2000s otaku cultural zeitgeist, I was afraid it wouldn’t hold up to scrutiny now. So while I did just flip it on to unwind after a long day, me being the dork that I am, I constantly wondered if the show would feel incredibly dated given its litany of references, and if the humor would still work on me, a jaded 35-year-old man. So for this post, I’d like to recount my second experience with the show addressing these key points, and ultimately see if Lucky Star “holds up” for me or not in 2024.

As an Old, it’s hard for me to really answer this without bias, as a lot of the things Lucky Star refers to are things I experienced in real time. If you are a zoomer still breastfeeding, perhaps watching this show will give you the same feeling I felt when watching Tantei Monogatari–the feeling of taking a peek into a world and society one never knew. That said, I do feel the show can be enjoyed in a modern context. 

Sure, there are little things that stick out as antiquated–the obvious Nico Nico Dōga riffs, references to contemporary IP of the time, and obvious real-life details such as the use of flip phones and bulky desktop computers. Furthermore, the type of otaku Konata and her father represent may seem slightly out of date today. That said, I don’t think any of this impairs enjoyment of the show, as the setting and base character archetypes are timeless, and quite well executed. And while many people may remember the show as extremely reference-heavy, a lot of the references are to titles that were already old when Lucky Star came out, so they can still be enjoyed without feeling any more dated than they already were. If anything, the thing that dates the show the most are the aforementioned 2000s-era style Nico Nico Dōga-inspired ending sequences featuring Shiraishi Minoru in the back-half of the show–you just had to be there to “get” it. 

Is Luck Star Funny? 

I am happy to report that yes, Lucky Star is funny! And it’s not just funny because of ancient internet memes and references to Haruhi (which I suppose is also an ancient internet meme). Indeed, while a lot of the references really stuck out to me at the time as a young and developing otaku dork, on this watch it was all the jokes focusing on the girls’ weird relationships and the minutiae of their daily lives that struck me the most.

Young and horny 19-year-old wah wanted Konata to be his waifu because she was a completely hopeless otaku who liked all the dumb shit I did. And you know what, I still probably want Konata to be my waifu… but that’s beside the point. Beyond that wish fulfillment that drove my passion for the show as a youth, this time around I was taken by the strong chemistry between the characters, and how realistically they’re written. Konata and Kagami’s rapport is amazingly natural and convincing, and seeing them constantly take jabs at each other–both big and small–is endlessly amusing. Meanwhile, the gap between Tsukasa and Kagami’s personalities mixed with their genuinely-presented sibling relationship also rings true to life. There are many other great character dynamics as well, but perhaps I will dive deeper into those when I hopefully take a more detailed look at the series for its 20th anniversary[2]No promises, though.

Similarly, I could recount specific gags, but suffice it to say, the show is just very adept at identifying funny moments in real-world situations to coax out anything from a giggle to a hearty guffaw. The show does have a pretty transparent gag-manga structure for most of it, but it literally being stitched together “slices of life” works in its favor, because I sure as hell don’t look back at my day and remember it as one long story–I just remember bits and pieces, and that’s kind of what it feels like watching the show at times. Of course there are some emotional sections that have a bit more continuity, and they pay off well given the time you’ve already spent with the characters. 

I will note that not needing subtitles to watch the show and living in Japan did help it go down smoothly. I probably picked up way more on this watch compared to watching it as a super-duper teenage weeb, to the point where the show feels like a normal (dare I say) Seinfeld-esque sitcom to me, rather than some otaku fun fest. 

So, Does Lucky Star Hold Up?

It does! I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it after nearly two decades. At least to an old and dying person like myself, it doesn’t stand out as incredibly dated, and the humor is still on-point and relevant today. And looking at the recent season charts, perhaps shows like Lucky Star are now rare in this day and age. There was a time when works like this were quite common, but now it seems like everyone these days wants to be ferried off into another world and find themselves a harem. So as a strong representative example of comedy works from the aughts, I think Lucky Star is well worth revisiting.

1 It’s on the list to watch again, don’t you worry.
2 No promises, though

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