In a year that saw a new installment in the WIXOSS series as well as Mahou Shoujo Site, the title of “Most Messed Up Yuri Anime” has to go to Happy Sugar Life. The concept alone will turn some people off, and I would have been one of those people, if I didn’t have to review it. 😛
Synopsis: This is a shivering pure love psycho horror story of a girl named Satou Matsuzaka, who has someone she likes. She experiences a sweet feeling when she sleeps with her, and thought it must be love. Everything will be forgiven as long as she protects this feeling, even if she tricks, commits crimes, steals, or even kills, she thought.
Okay, I’m not going to beat around the bush. I hate the story, and I hate the characters in Happy Sugar Life. Almost every single one. But let’s start things off by talking about the messed up story.
At it’s core, this story centers around the “love” between a teenage girl… and a small child. When I say “small child”, I mean a child most likely between five and seven years old. Yeah, this is some messed up stuff. Although the relationship between Satou and Shio is somewhat handled in a rather wholesome way (or at least as wholesome as possible, given the situation), it’s still completely inappropriate, and I hated how this anime seemed to romanticize the situation. No matter how much this anime tries to sugarcoat and spin it, pedophilia is at the heart of the story, and that’s just not okay.
Strange as it may sound, I’m more or less okay with the murdering and the different forms of abuse exhibited in this show, but to me, it’s a whole different story when kids are involved. As far as I’m concerned, kids are an off-limits topic, though, wrong as it may be, that adds to the morbid curiousity that gets you interested in this show in the first place. You have this unhealthy relationship, and then you have all these deranged characters that further add to the madness. It’s like a horrific traffic accident that you can’t look away from…
The show really dials up the crazy, to the point that it’s almost comical and totally unrealistic. In a way, that kind of lessened the show’s appeal for me, but on the other hand, all that exaggerated chaos does contribute a lot to the overall entertainment factor of the show, so I guess there’s a method to the madness. There’s a good amount of suspense throughout the season, and the show takes some time to delve into the backstories of the most important characters, which definitely helps answer the question as to why so many of them are so messed up.
It’s almost like there’s a contest going on to see who is the most unstable character, and Satou’s kidnapping of Shio attracts all of those characters to her. The lengths that she goes to in order to protect her “happy sugar life” include a laundry list of crimes and questionable decisions, and the story plays out pretty much how you’d expect it to. People die, people get manipulated, and it all leads back to Satou.
Although they both share some similarities, the biggest difference between Happy Sugar Life and Uchi no Maid ga Uzasugiru! is simply that Happy Sugar Life takes its subject matter seriously, while Uchi no Maid doesn’t in the slightest. That’s why, while still kind of sketchy, I’m okay with one and not the other.
Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how, in an earlier episode, Shio doesn’t even realize that she has to plug in the vacuum cleaner in order to use it, but in the final episode, she refuses to go with her brother and says she’s going to “live for myself”. I’m not even totally sure that Shio can read (it’s not like she’s going to school), so her saying something like that is but one of the things that makes me roll my eyes. As for the ending, I wouldn’t have been happy with anything other than Satou (and a few others) being arrested, so needless to say, I’m pretty unhappy with how things concluded. Yes, arrests were made, but Satou got a grand send-off and comes out looking like a martyr who died for her “love”. And through some sort of miracle, tiny Shio somehow survived the jump, and she’s sure to be even more psychologically messed up as a result of all the trauma she endured…
So the creepy relationship between Satou and Shio is sure to be what people talk about most regarding this anime, yet the story still comes across as a disturbing look into the psyche of a twisted girl, and even though the storytelling is rather pedestrian, there’s a pretty good chance that fans of dark subject matter will still enjoy it.
As much as I hated the story and characters, I do have to admit that this anime has some characters that are pretty interesting, and you can’t say that about every anime.
Right down to the pink hair, Satou reminded me a lot of another of the all-time greatest yanderes, Yuno from Mirai Nikki. Just like Yuno, Satou is as psychopathic as they come, yet, when you see her with Shio, her personality does a complete 180, and that juxtaposition only makes her seem more frightening. Sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet, I’d imagine that her violent outbursts would be the reason that many people watched this show, and that seems like as good a reason as any.
There isn’t a whole lot to say about Shio, other than she’s really cute. Still, the relationship between her and Satou is very unsettling. When yuri fans say they want to see more yuri in anime, I don’t think they have something like this in mind. While their relationship isn’t portrayed in a sexual manner (thank God!), Satou and Shio do kiss at one point and share a little faux wedding ceremony, but seeing them in scenes like this just makes me feel icky, and I know I can’t be the only one.
Of course, there are several other unhinged characters in Happy Sugar Life. Daichi is Satou’s shady teacher, and he fits right in with this shitshow, since he’s a grade A scumbag. I don’t even want to talk more about him, so let’s bring up Mitsuboshi, who’s a slightly less scummy character, but after being the victim of a sexual assault at the hands of his boss, he develops a creepy fascination with Shio, who he claims “purifies” him. Yikes…
For all of the crazy characters, there are a couple that seem decidedly less crazy, and I’m talking about Asahi and Shouko. Asahi is Shio’s older brother that spends most of the season searching for her, and despite the physical abuse he suffered from his now deceased father, he actually turned out to be a decent human being, which is more than what many of the other characters can say. As for Shouko, she’s Satou’s best friend and coworker. Her role is limited—and like Asahi—she isn’t terribly compelling herself, but at least she doesn’t add to the already staggering amount of crazy.
And you can’t say crazy without mentioning Satou’s aunt. With both of her parents gone, it’s no surprise where Satou got her crazy from, and even though she doesn’t say or do much, I think Satou’s aunt is probably the most memorable character in the show, besides Satou herself.
All in all, I thought that most of these characters were REALLY unlikable as people, but simply as characters, they weren’t all that bad. That said, I think Satou absolutely carries the cast, and without her, this would be a far less compelling cast and anime. As for the yuri relationship, I don’t really have a problem with age gap romances, but you have to draw the line somewhere, and for me, this show crossed that line and just kept going.
Moving on to the production values, neither the animation nor the sound are very impressive, and seeing that this is the very first effort from Ezόla (the production studio), it’s not really a surprise. Across the board, the visuals are slightly below today’s standards, but I thought that the music did a halfway decent job of selling the creepiness of it all. I don’t think it stood out all that much, nor is it incredibly memorable, yet it could’ve been worse. And that OP is pretty nice.
It’s also nice to hear my favorite voice actress—HanaKana—once again ditch her trademark cutesy style in favor of something more mature. To me, she was one of the bright spots of this anime, and the performances of several of the other voice actors/actresses were also pretty nice. Given the touchy nature of the story, I doubt many people really care if it looks or sounds good, which is a good thing, since it all comes across as mediocre.
Even though I just can’t condone the theme of the story, Happy Sugar Life is still a morbidly entertaining psychological horror anime that I think is a good example of a guilty pleasure. It’s neither good nor bad, yet it is pretty entertaining, despite the disconcerting nature of the main relationship.