Random Musing on Intellectual Property, Franchising, Aya Hirano’s Non-Stick Pantry, and the Un-Mainstream

This rant is brought to you by my drive to find the reason why some people care about Lucky Star the extent that they do.

One thing that keeps me glued to my computer & fansubbing is that every 4 months we get a wave of entirely new shows, new concepts, new set of characters, new setting, and a chance for the various studios and production companies to slug it out for our attention (and eventually our money). From a money & business perspective, this is shooting yourselves in the foot. Free market & competition aside, it makes a lot more sense to just find one winning formula, milk it as long as possible and run with what you’ve got as far as you can. That’s what Shounen Jump does (and how they’re losing subscribers is just natural), and generally what franchise management focuses on. This doesn’t mean you keep a show on the air or manga in publication as long as you possibly can, but the longer you do it the more economical it becomes, in a lot of ways.

And that’s true for a lot of the media we consume in the US. It’s only with the influx of new sources of revenues (like home video sales, network television) that we’ll see more divergent shows catered for a new market, and as a result a more diverse set of shows.

Don’t get me wrong I’m making no comment on the quality of shows that are short or long; in other words, it applies to every show out there. Also, there’s a sense of emotional and time investment with the typical shounen jump formula. Once you become intimately familiar with a series, you now have an emotional stake in the story, and you will come to like it forgive it more. You will also become easier to amuse by the said show.

But on the flip side, there are always things that defy these explainations. Lucky Star is probably something that sort of does. While once you crack its crazy-sugary candy shell laced with loli, the content is really not at all different than the relatively-sane competitor Hidamari Sketch, strength of the Kyoani Brand coasting on the good will of its success with Suzumiya Haruhi, Kanon and Air go a long way to explain (at least, one of several possibilities) the situation we have right now.

Oh wait, I’m suppose to explain how it defies that? I guess that’s the question I have that I can’t answer. Perhaps this is all just me trying to grapple with a psychological complex. Like how people who invest in mutual funds should have invested in, say, index funds instead. Or how the only subber for Hidamari Sketch is 2/3 of the way through the half-season series but there are almost as many releases of Lucky Star episodes one and two combined. Or is it just an omen that only one or two group will finish off this average slice-of-life 4-komi comedy fluff show, once people realize Lucky Star is, lack of a better word, average?

But I don’t think average is really the right word. It does have Aya Hirano (so what?). It is a show by Kyoto Animation (okay, that’s a bit more relevant…). It’s got a darn catchy opening sequence with an equally odd (but grows on you…like fungus) song to go with it. It’s got no taint of TEROGE so the lolitastic character designs don’t get its way (but somehow it bothered people in Manabi Straight? WTH?). Some of us who are more “LOL otaku” laughs at the fanboy jokes and enjoy Konata’s mythical incarnation (she’s a sphinx–aside from being a permanent loli x otaku), but the otaku jokes and references are the stupid-funny kind of references (and lame; real otaku do it PPD way). I guess that’s why people get those jokes.

Perhaps that’s the rub. Lucky Star (and to some extent, most of the other Kyoani works) is like teflon. While it’s unclear as to how the mechanism works and the reasons why, our expectation when we think about, watch, or discuss a Kyoani work is different than how we would talk about someone else. I don’t believe this myself, but when you watch Lucky Star the negative expectations just don’t stick. The very good production quality coupled with a very solid execution helps to give you that near-perfect first impression, especially if you walk into the show without prior expectations.

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