Happy Lesson, Vol. 1: Mom-Ageddon (2001)
Review by Dindrane

Original Story by Mutsumi Sasaki
Character Designs by Yasuhisa Kato and Rondo Mizugami
Directed by Iku Suzuki
English voicework by Josh Meyer, Shawn Sides, Crystal Calderoni, and Lee Eddy
Japanese voicework byDaisuke Kishio, Kikuko Inoue, Ruri Asano, Kimiko Koyama, and Mie Sonozaki


Dindrane's Anime Warnings:

Released by: ADV
Region: 1
Rating: 15+
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: Get it and get it now.

Happy Lesson gives us a nice, much-needed twist on the "hapless hero surrounded by beautiful women who love him." Our hero this time is Chitose, an orphan who has just inherited and moved into his deceased parents' house. However, instead of lounging about and answering only to himself, five of his school teachers have found out about his supposedly sad circumstances; they all take it upon themselves to move in with him to take care of him. Thus, instead of endless slack and fun, he finds himself the target of scarily intense maternal urges.

The five teachers include a mad, young-looking art teacher who is forever sewing up odd costumes for everyone, and a chemistry teacher/mad scientist who, if she doesn't blow everyone up, just might make a breakthrough in her underground secret lab. Of course, in these episodes, two of her inventions include a hammer for reducing selfishness, and an electric chair that removes inconvenient memories. There's also Yayoi, the doctor and spiritualist, who has her own fan club at school, but who also almost kills herself with work when she decides Chitose has been possessed by a spirit of misfortune. In short, all of Chitose's mothers love him in their own way, and if they don't kill him first, he just might be all the better off for their attentions...they all just hope his school doesn't find out.

The only romantic "entanglement" is the crush the class president has on Chitose--feelings that are not entirely reciprocated. One of the best things about the show is that the series starts out already set up; all five women already live with Chitose, and we get how that happened in various flashback sequences. This saves a lot of time and blundering through exposition.

The audio is solid, though the English version pronounces Chitose's name more like "Cheetos," which is unfortunate and somewhat annoying, but not a huge deal. The other aspects of both the English and Japanese voice tracks work well and make for a pleasant and understandable viewing experience. There's also a handy option for signs-only subtitles, a nice touch that is still all-too-often overlooked by DVD producers.

The extras are nice, if not outstanding. Fans of the show's look will appreciate the inclusion of a clean opening and closing, as well as the character sketches. Artists and would be manga-kas will like the sketches; while comments by the artists on the sketches themselves are not translated, art in progress is enough of a universal language for them to be as educational about process as they are attractive.

Basically, Happy Lesson is a breath of fresh air in the "ronin hero" genre. The women are all beautiful and in love with him, but not the way you'd expect--they want to be good mothers instead of lovers, and boy howdy is that a relief. They're also several notches less annoying and more intelligent than the usual dames in an anime ensemble comedy. Not content to be another Tenchi clone, this series manages to be familiar and yet unusual, not to ention funny and clever.

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