I’m thoroughly convinced that Good Luck Girl! is the anime equivalent of Animaniacs, a spin-off from Tiny Toon Adventures full of slapstick and non sequitur gags. Animaniacs flourished when the jokes were unpredictable and relentless, something that Good Luck Girl! mimics very well. The series thrives off its own brand of off-the-wall lunacy centered around wacky punchlines and, like Animaniacs, the series is rife with references, itself a catalog of popular anime programs. This is the only anime I’ve seen so far that successfully captures the essence of the classic Warner Bros. cartoons from the 1990s.
The series is steeped in Shinto, a religious tradition that believes all living things are protected by different deities; rivers, trees, and animals are infused with the power of the gods in order to maintain harmony. There are a lot of famous deities in the Shinto faith, like the goddess of the sun, Amaterasu, and Izanagi, the god of creation—but did you know that there is a god of poverty? The poverty god Binbogami is classically depicted as a skinny, filthy old man, but here, the kami is represented as a beautiful shrine maiden who sends out lesser oni to monitor the happiness energy that permeates living matter.
The kami is spurred into action by the existence of Ichiko Sakura, a girl born with an extraordinary amount of good luck. Her positive fortune is a result of a subconscious, uncontrollable ability to absorb the happiness energy of those around her. Spoiled by her amazing luck, Ichiko enjoys a life of privilege as she swims in a sea of adoration and male attention and thrives on the jealousy of other girls. She is also blissfully unaware that she is stealing happiness energy, an action that bestows extreme bad luck on her unintended victims. To curb this danger, the poverty god sends the oni Momiji to drain Ichiko’s excess good luck juice. Lazy and indignant, Momiji tries to weasel her way out of the assignment until her own jealousy towards Ichiko’s fortune—especially when it comes to breast size—invigorates her personal campaign to strip the girl of her luck.
Good Luck Girl! has a hilarious, manic sense of humor. Just like Animaniacs, it balances slapstick with a slew of references to pop culture. Much of its humor comes from heated confrontations between Ichiko and Momiji: the oni employs an array of gadgets and gizmos to remove her target’s happiness energy, and by virtue of Ichiko’s fortune, these attempts fail in spectacular fashion by self-sabotage or odd happenstance. The series takes its humor to the next level when Momiji infiltrates Ichiko’s school by disguising herself as a transfer student. Not only do their goofy antics spill onto school grounds, the students are fun to watch because they are completely aware that they exist inside an anime series. The teacher and students repeatedly break the fourth wall, making sly comments about their role in what they view as a predictable high school sitcom.
The series’ supporting characters add their own quirks and odd personalities that enhance the show’s flavor. After her mission is met with routine failure, Momiji calls upon the dog god Momo’o Inugami for assistance. Momo’o appears as a young man who transforms into a puppy whenever he experiences an orgasm, and as a fan of sadomasochism, these transformations are frequent and often occur at the most inopportune time. The closest thing Ichiko has to an ally is Bobby, a black monk who comes to town to defeat Momiji after sensing her dark presence. His true motives are quickly exposed, as he is little more than a pervert who worships at the altar of big breasts. Even though he renders assistance to Ichiko in the form of a spiritual wooden sword, he nonetheless tries to take advantage of his female acquaintances. Before long, Bobby settles into a healthy friendship with Momiji and Momo’o, a relationship that causes even more problems for our heroine.
Good Luck Girl! is so dedicated to its offbeat sense of humor that it barely takes time to breathe. It constantly references shows like Dragon Ball Z, FLCL, Lupin the Third, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, and Naruto. Momiji even quotes The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy—clearly the writers are not afraid to go with the “one percenter” joke, a gag so obscure that only one percent of the viewers will get it. However, Good Luck Girl! is at its best when it dives deep into randomness. One of my favorite gags is a post-credit scene in which an extremely minor character uses her time to point out where she can be found in each episode. Like an anime version of Where’s Waldo, the enthusiastic girl cares not one whit that trees, park benches, and other bits and bobs nearly mask her presence in the screenshots she provides.
Good Luck Girl! includes a significant amount of adult humor; it never uses nudity for cheap thrills, but sexuality is a fair target, as numerous jokes are made in reference to Ichiko’s chest size. In a fit of jealousy, Momiji gives Ichiko an unflattering nickname that is used by every character in the show. Momo’o’s preferred sexual lifestyle is played for laughs, as is the inconvenience of his transformations. One such moment occurs in an episode where the characters are trying to pull Ichiko out of a bad funk: she walks into her room where Momo’o, in dog form, straddles various S&M devices wearing full bondage gear. It’s random, it’s bizarre, and it’s funnier than it has any right to be.
I liked Good Luck Girl! much more than I expected. I’ve never seen a show as random and committed to its own absurdity as the Amblin Entertainment cartoons of the 90s. Ultimately, the show relaxes its silliness in order to depict a healthy change in Ichiko’s behavior and she ends the series as a different woman, molded by her unique experiences. Such character development lends the plot some weight, but its moments of seriousness don’t last long and they are quickly disrupted by the supporting cast’s wonderfully silly behavior.
Good Luck Girl!: The Complete Series
directed by Yoichi Fujita
325 minutes, Number of Discs: 4, DVD/Blu-ray Combo Set
Company Age Rating: 17+
Related to: Good Luck Girl by Yoshiaki Sukeno