Helen McCarthy goes in search of a teenage goddess
Momiji Binboda is no normal teenage girl, but a Goddess of Misfortune sent into the human world to correct a dangerous imbalance in the flow of good fortune and happiness. Far too much of that positive energy has been flowing one way – to brilliant, beautiful high school girl Ichiko Sakura. Ichiko's power to absorb happiness energy is the source of her beauty, brains, money, radiant good health and well developed chest. Unfortunately this has made her snobbish, self-centred and lazy. She also pulls happiness energy away from others, making them poor, plain and jealous. If Momiji gets her way, Ichiko will stop absorbing all the world's happiness, restoring the balance by losing some of her own gifts. And maybe Momiji will stop being so depressed about her flat chest and stop picking her nose.
Slapstick fantasy love comedy is such an established genre that it takes skill to find a fresh spin. Clever writers, like Yoshiaki Sukeno, who created the Binbo-gami ga!
manga on which the series is based, make the boy-girl connections a subplot underlying the exploration of a different kind of relationship, one in which a reluctant odd couple, thrown together by fate, bring out something new and precious in each other. In Beezlebub
the relationship is between a tough teen and an even tougher toddler; here it's between the spoiled prom queen, idolised by the guys and hated by the girls, and the kooky loner. Their common ground is one of past disappointment and hurt, and the serious thread of their opening each other's hearts, while not allowed to interfere with the jolly japes and crazy goings-on, is the core of the show. Meanwhile, there is also something of the numinous underpinnings of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
, as the trials and tribulations of a supposedly Everyday Anime cloak a tense god-game over the hidden powers of a beautiful muse.
Sukeno and the animators invoke other classic tropes – Momiji's nose-picking is a direct homage to the equally eccentric Haruko of FLCL
, and the transformative effects of bathing on her personality and appearance play as a sly dig at the fetishistic transformations of the magical girl genre. There's a butch girl named Ranmaru who is heir to a karate dojo and yearns to get in touch with her feminine side (just like in Ranma ½
). There are two butlers, one a pervert serving a childlike ninja brat and one a loyal and devoted friend. There's even a depressing magical sidekick to Momiji's depressing magical girl – Kumagai, a demonic stuffed bear who cannot talk, but communicates by writing messages in a notebook. The staff piles in so much craziness that you almost expect to see Shinichi Watanabe's name on the crew list – the transforming grunge plushie sidekicks, the masochistic chihuahua god, the god with a head like a poop. The show may a have heart but it's not going to let that get in the way of any of the jokes.
The literal translation of the title is “This God of Poverty” – poverty of heart and spirit, the meanness that closes our hearts to others. Wrapping its message in slapstick and sauce, this sweet show sets out the proposition that happiness is better shared.
Good Luck Girl is out this week on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.