Aug 28, 2016

Anime Review: Anne Happy

Anne Happy title/logoContinuing in my recent trend of reviewing mediocre anime, I’d like to bring your attention to the next waste of time series. Are you feeling the emptiness ever since shows like Gochiusa and Kinmoza’s latest seasons finished airing? Do you feel the itch to satisfy that ever-gnawing craving for watching mindless colorful moving pictures of cute moe girls doing nothing at all interesting? I know you are. I hear you breathing. That means you’re alive and if you’re alive, apparently that means you need a constant stream of this garbage airing during all seasons of the year. Your favorite pusher, the anime industry, has mostly figured out that your life support systems are connected directly to this stuff and if you run out you’ll likely die or, at least, have withdrawals. So never fear, because…

The finale episode's end card showing the entire cast of five girls done by a much better guest artist

Anne Happy is here!

It’s difficult for me to describe just how much of a letdown Anne Happy was. As if to spite its own name, watching it didn’t make me happy at all. But I did watch it and watched it to completion. Why did I do this? (The comparisons to diminished reactions by way of the body building up a tolerance and the addiction metaphor I was using earlier is not lost on me.) I’ll start with the usual brief description, but I had to wiki this one because I had forgotten every one of its forgettable characters’ forgettable names.

So there’s this class known for being unlucky and these three girls start their year together in said class and become fast friends. But they’re unlucky, for reasons never explained, and so they try to find ways to get luckier or at least mitigate it and be happy despite. If that sorta sounds like a potentially dark comedy then… well, too bad. It’s not. If that sounds like it could even be used to conveniently hand-wave away some ridiculous slapstick misfortune in the name of riotous hilarity… well, too bad. It’s not.

What it is is a show about fripperies amidst a sea of nothing. That’s not an indictment on its surface, because there’s a known formula for how to make a really great show about nothing. This one, however, doesn’t do that. It ticks off all of the usual checkboxes and expects this to be successful without ever really trying to make anything good. It’s the most disheartening style of commercialized moe I’ve seen in a long while.

Anne Happy is a cavalcade of clichés. It never does anything particularly noteworthy even if it isn’t ever bad. It’s just… bland. The cast is all archetypes you’ve seen before with no twist or angle. The plot is nonexistent. I’m fine with no-plot slice-of-life shows but as a result of not having any sort of compelling story it’s absolutely essential then that your cast is likable. Slice-of-life shows live or die on their characters being interesting, relatable, or simply just enjoyable to spend time with. It’s a weird sort of voyeuristic hanging out with friends. Many SoL fans end up describing the appeal in such a way and they aren’t wrong because it really does seem to be a formula that specifically caters to that latent desire in us. In fact, it’s also why the appeal of SoL shows increases with fans the more episodes it gets, as there’s even more time to develop that feeling of being with close pals you know so well now. (Yui’s being overly affectionate and making Azusa nervous? Oh, that’s so Yui!)

Let’s see if any of these girls surprises you. The eponymous Anne is always bright and cheerful and optimistic despite being dimwitted and very unlucky. Ruri is a shy-ish tsundere and reluctant leader. Botan is a soft-spoken overly nice but clumsy rich girl with huge tits. Ren is a reticent tomboy who likes to sleep and is surprisingly athletic while attracting animals to her constantly. Hibiki is a hot-head red-head who is quick to pick fights but deep down enjoys having made friends with the group and is "secretly" enamored of Ren, her childhood friend. Their teacher is a closed-eye mysterious type with a friendly smiling face that hides a more sadistic tough love approach. There’s even a school mascot in the form of Timothy, an annoying talking rabbit thing in a tuxedo that’s a robot… or something? The opening song, titled in typical Japanese nonsense Engrish fashion as “PUNCH☆MIND☆HAPPINESS”, is a sugary hyperactive denpa piece that sounds just as phoned in as the super-deformed animation sequence it accompanies. The only barely decent part, the ending, is just that: decent. Nothing is memorable. It’s like nobody making this showed really cared… The opening alone is thematic with its lack of originality, purpose, and spice in the series as a whole. It’s actually sad given how much it’s not terrible… just bland.

Occasionally it has flashes of genuine goodness. Episode 8 is a good example: the girls are in a virtual reality world scoring “happiness points” and the third act is them in a fantasy MMO-style PVP gladiator tournament with their teacher as a black knight boss and they have to “work together, like a real party” to defeat her. It’s flashy, fun, fantastic and… a fluke. The rest of the show doesn’t ever really take such risks and maybe it would be too chaotic and inconsistent if they had.

I kinda feel bad harping on Anne Happy because, again… it’s never a bad show. It’s just bland. At least, it is if you’ve seen a fair amount of these sorts of shows already. If it’s your first time? Well… you’ll probably not yet be able to appreciate just how bland it is and like it just fine. And that’s fine, too. Because enjoyment is the purpose of these shows, after all, and I’m not here to tell you what to like or why you shouldn’t like shows like Anne Happy. I’m more here to prevent unsuspecting others from wasting their time. It reeks of commercial lowest-common-denominator appeal. I realize the moe-cute-girls-slice-of-life show within anime is already an incredibly niche appeal but… there’s nothing about this one to even set it apart from its peers, especially in a time where this specific genre, at least within anime at large, is getting a bit crowded and oversaturated. Just look through user’s recommendations for similar shows to this and most of those are easily better or at least no worse.

Shows like Anne Happy feel like they exist merely to fill time in-between the better ones, to keep the fanbase’s unquenchable hot desire for moe girls tempered while the studios use their time/money with better talent to produce better things. It’s even more cynical and sad in concept than the industry revisiting an old fan favorite like Yuru Yuri only to basically poop out a sad excuse for a third season just to placate them (rest assured, dear reader, I’ll be writing a piece on this one some day too). Let’s also not forget that shows like Anne Happy do not exist within a vacuum. The anime industry is an ever changing in size pie, but at any given moment it has a size and an amount of anime shows that it will release. For every bad and mediocre show like Anne Happy that’s one less good one that was made that season. And the more that shows like it seem to be received okay and do good enough in ratings the more that positive feedback loop will make them continue their bad habits.

But, I admit, I’m getting a bit too far up my own ass. Ultimately, it’s not Anne Happy’s fault. It’s just a mediocre show that doesn’t do much right or wrong. Why am I getting so bent out of shape over it? If it is, as I said, not worth your time to watch, then it’s probably also not worth my time to write 1500+ words about it.

I initially wanted to lay blame at the feet of the staff. To be sure, a quality set of staff is always the primary driver of quality shows. But it’s not a for sure thing. Sometimes life happens and good directors and screenplay writers still end up making crap. Nobody’s perfect. And perhaps, that’s what we have here, because director Oonuma Shin is someone who’s got a ton of experience making a lot of solid series across many genres. He’s worked under legendaries like Shinbo. Some even describe him as being Silver Link, the animation studio in question here, much like Shinbo is to SHAFT.

Maybe I’m especially frustrated precisely because there appears to be no easy explanation for Anne Happy being so mediocre. And maybe that frustration in me is exacerbated by another thing going on outside of this one show. It’s a pattern I’m beginning to notice more and more… but I’ll expand on that another day.

Will you like Anne Happy? I dunno. Maybe? Does it sound interesting to you already, despite my vitriolic review? To be clear, I don’t hate it. I never did. It was always just mildly amusing but left me distinctly annoyed afterwards. But it’s not a bad show. It’s just… meh. Should I just lighten up and enjoy the ride? Am I overanalyzing it? No, that’s bullshit. I didn’t have much fun with this group of girls but maybe you’ll have more luck... more power to you.

As of this writing, you can watch Anne Happy for free on Crunchyroll.

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