It's always fun to see the stuff that's still brand-new over in Japan. Sometimes, you'll happen across some gem that nobody's hyped the living breath out of yet. Occasionally you'll find yourself watching junk that will never get picked up in another country, it's so bad...and yes, there are some shows so poor even Media Blasters won't touch them. But the most typical stuff is just OK. A lot of it gets to the West, some doesn't, but the majority of what's produced isn't original or fresh, merely base-line entertainment.
That's what I found Happy World, a 3-episode OVA series released in early and mid 2003, to be. It has elements of Oh My Goddess, Tenchi Muyo, and Urusei Yatsura throughout, and it never transcends those boundaries these previous flag bearers set. Yet, from the opening notes of the goofy opening number through the bouncy 1950s pop shoo-bee-doo-wah credit roll, we're in the throes of simple amusement, the basics done well.
Takeshi is one of the most unfortunate individuals on the planet. Unlike many of his animated brethren who've brought disaster upon themselves, Takeshi was passed a curse from his long-absent and long-neglectful wretch of a father. His attitude reflects what a young life of misery without explanation can bring, at least until the fateful day that he's assigned Elle. She's an angel who's supposed to watch out for Takeshi and keep as much of the evil junk allocated to him by the curse from hurting him. She's not particularly great at her job; after showing herself to Takeshi, he disses her performance. In an attempt to keep him protected, Elle takes on human form. Due to the situation, though, that leaves her naked in public. Fun, of course, ensues. Elle winds up living with Takeshi at his aunt's place, taking on the role of his long-lost half sister and attending school with him. Although he's annoyed by the imposition, eventually he grows to have a grudging respect for the angel that has changed his life.
Happy World employs many techniques seen in the very latest anime, which means that although the animation isn't particularly great, everything looks so bright and colorful that you really don't notice too often. The character designs tend to the very cute, full of huge expressive eyes and sweetness, and the project technically feels right on most fronts. This includes the soundtrack, which again edges between the line of cute and annoying but winds up on the right side of the tracks.
What you think of Happy World very much depends on your desire for originality. Unfortunately, Happy World has little of it. In fact, the only way that Happy World stretches the "unexpected girlfriend from the sky" genre is that Elle and Takeshi don't actually have a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. But the other elements are all present. Girl falls from the sky? Check. In doing so, accidentally puts male in a compromising situation? Check. Male initially rejects companion? Check. Male ultimately recognizes the value of said companion? Check. After the first episode, I was expecting Belldandy to show up and show this angel how a magical girl should handle things. And just because her character is called an angel doesn't mean that she acts quite like the Judeo-Christian concept of one; after all, I don't think real angels would pull up spell hexes to do their miracles. Harumph.
As the show progressed, though, I did decide that Happy World wasn't a loss. Why? It's in the small things that the show gets right. Elle is a protector, and yet she can't write Japanese characters and has no clue how to run in a human body. She has an element of vulnerability that puts the audience clearly on her side. And though the stories in the three episodes have been done countless times, Elle's sweetness wins us over so we're willing to watch the same thing just one more time. I can't place my finger on it other than to say that it's comfort food in animated form. Not great and not very filling, but still pleasing on a very basic level.
One thing I should note is that I'm not certain of the target audience. Considering the nudity throughout the show, as well as Takeshi's amorously lecherous cousin, you'd think that it was meant for guys. But taking a closer look (and realizing that the nudity is all artistically undetailed), I'm of the opinion that this is really a girls' title. Perhaps it's this angle that also makes the typical genre conventions just different enough to be satisfying.
Happy World certainly won't change the anime world, but it is an uncomplicated, undemanding diversion. I might have reservations about the same old territory being covered yet again, but Elle could be my angel any time.
Happy World -- undetailed nudity, lecherous talk -- B