For as long as I’ve been watching anime, there has always been a considerable amount of the community who can find so much entertainment in shows which are “so bad, they’re good.” Whether it be the ostentatiously pandering fan service of shows like Eromanga Sensei, the immeasurably trite and gaudily derivative plot of shows like In Another World With My Smartphone, or the hysterically edgy situations in shows like Magical Girl Site, the community always seems to find something to enjoy in shows that are simply, undeniably, and blatantly trash. But as the saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”, and it looks like I’ve found my treasure in the trash that is Happy Sugar Life.
First and foremost, let me be clear with you this exact brand of trash was thrown aside just so a degenerate with the exact perversions as myself could crawl by and fish it out of the muddy gutter. If you aren’t messed up in the head in the exact same manner as I am, then you should stay as far away from this embarrassing train wreck of an anime as you possibly can, so I’ll just cut to the chase. If you don’t like yuri romance, age-gap romance, moe girls, lolis, or Stockholm Syndrome fetishism, then take your leave immediately for your own sanity’s good. This show is abjectly terrible, so just save yourself while you still can. But if you are into that shit, then let’s dive in.
Happy Sugar Life is in the “horror comedy” genre of anime, anime which are technically horror thrillers, but anime which are so bombastically bad at being provocative they just become funny. Everyone and everything is comically over-the-top edgy for no reason. There’s murder, rape, extramarital affairs, any overused bullet point on the edge checklist gets checked. Everything looks ugly as sin, the animation is god awful, the character designs are beyond basic, the OST is either boring or actively unfitting, the cinematography is almost exclusively flat-panning shots with 70% of every episode being still frames, and I could honestly keep going because this is a bottom of the barrel production from a nobody studio and staff that looks and runs terrifically bad.
That said, the main character is a cute yandere girl with pink hair, buns, and is somehow voiced by Kana Hanazawa who is in love with an elementary school loli with whom she shares a home, bath, and bed. I am fucking sold. This show may as well be perfect. Watching this week by week was hysterical. The show is worst of the worst, but I got to be reminded there is a real show, actually being made in real life, which features a yuri age-gap romance about a psychotic sex-craved schoolgirl who murders and blackmails anyone who threatens to interrupt her life living with a loli she literally kidnaped and locked in her apartment. I don’t need to elaborate on the concept because only one single thing of note happened throughout the entire show, and I don’t think just because there’s a decent five minute scene at the end of episode nine you should go and watch the whole show, because the remaining two hundred and fifty nine minutes were pure garbage. Any mature person who happens to come across this review can see this show is nothing but mindless self indulgence, so if it sounds like something you can indulge in like I did, give it a watch.
That’s it. Done. Ten out of ten, would watch again.
Thank you for reading. I know my other reviews are more serious than this, but this show was just far too much for me to handle sober and with a straight face.
It’s only stupid if it doesn’t work.
Nowadays, the shows I fight to defend are highly misunderstood because their appeal is too specific, causing the general audience to flaunt their standards around like they’re supposed to mean anything. Past examples include Mahou Shoujo Site, Jashin-chan Dropkick and Hand Shakers. Yet, Happy Sugar Life is a different sort of… thing, whose plot setup is about as logically sound as riding a lawnmower during a hurricane, seemingly leaving not but a select, niche appeal for the sickos like me.
A high school girl is basically holding a little girl hostage in a populated apartment complex; she hides this among her normal daily life of going to school and working part-time jobs. You know, like all teenagers do. If this is your first time reading the synopsis, then you’re probably asking a lot of questions like “Huh?” or “What?” because the basic rules and structure of society suggest that this shouldn’t even be possible. And for me, knowing that much is what made this story interesting--HOW these characters are living such lives, and what will happen when it inevitably shatters. Because there’s just no way it won’t--and the very first scene of the anime suggests that it very much will.
Happy Sugar Life makes use of its own flaws. The sugar-coated scenes of the main characters in their unnatural habitat are not just for show; they’re presented as a true illusion from reality. The conflict is all the outsiders learning more about their lives and trying to tear it down, a plot that snowballs as the situation becomes more and more complicated. A situation known as “reality”.
What’s more, is that the aforementioned little girl doesn’t even seem to be a real character. Shio Koube lives and breathes, but her actual personality is baffling. She’s constantly happy and cheery and trying to do the best she can to help her caretaker. She doesn’t question the life she lives or the outside world she’s prevented from seeing. She is simply “a daughteru”: the ideal child anyone would want to have--no, scratch that. Megumin and Chtholly are daughterus to me, but that’s because they actually seem like real characters, because real characters have flaws. Shio Koube does not. Shio Koube is not a real character, nor a daughteru--she is a pet. A Shia pet, if you will. She exists to be cute and fluffy; you feed her and play with her a bit, and if you can do those two things, then she’s not gonna be a bother to you outside of the occasional natural fuck-up. That’s cool and all, but that’s not how a human child actually acts.
But what’s smart about the anime is that it actually addresses this. Shio’s personality is the result of past trauma that’s she’s forgotten; and as she learns more and more about herself, it starts to crack a little. By the end of the series, Shio outright states that she’s meant to be more than a living object used to draw mental security from, practically breaking the fourth wall by stating she’s a real character who has a functional and realistic train of thought that accurately feeds into her personality.
In other words, Happy Sugar Life was only pretending to be retarded.
Because, with the way it handles its plot by addressing its flaws and nailing its appeal with few problems, I can’t help but think that Happy Sugar Life is actually pretty clever. As dumb and over-the-top it may seem, it was in full control of itself and did what it set out to do.
Suffering, violence, trauma and psychosis. Of course an anime called “Happy Sugar Life” would be about anything but. Characters have very specific, intricately detailed mental issues, so much so that I can’t guarantee the anime doesn’t take place in some sort of high-tech asylum that simulates society as therapy for its patients. The way they’re presented are interesting on their own for what they are, but the main character herself acts in a surprisingly grounded manner.
In the first episode, she verbally beats down her employer over a payroll cut, explaining how she was fully aware of the manager’s schemes but played along for the sake of being nice, only to still be punished. She completely dismantles this person mentally and challenges her, but her tone of voice is what sells the scene. She doesn’t scream or shout, the soundtrack is dark but sparse with details, and the visual direction is simple but effective. It’s not dynamic, over-acted, or over-the-top. This scene could’ve easily been a screaming match between two idiots, but… that would just be silly and unnecessary. Quiet words speak louder than loud words. That’s totally how the saying goes.
Satou Matsuzaka, aka “Holy Shit Is That A Motherfucking Mirai Nikki Reference???” is fully in control of herself, able to function like a normal person in most circumstances. And by “control”, I mean she seems to be keeping a deeper anger pent up within her, choosing not to do any more than what’s necessary. It’s a contrast from the manager in episode one, who fights back with shouting and more body language, among other characters that I’ll get into later. The stability of Definitely Not Yuno’s mental condition is part of the snowballing conflict--as her Title of The Anime becomes harder and harder to keep, her psyche decays, and as her psyche decays, she becomes more and more dangerous.
Basically, if you know what the fuck a yandere is, you know what’s up.
Watching Pink Yandere fall further into despair as the story progressed, as well as her drastic shifts in attitude, are a blast to watch. Hana Kanazawa delivers one of the best performances in her incredibly prolific career, at times sounding completely unrecognizable to me. She’s not just using her Akane Tsunemori serious drama voice, she’s speaking in a tone FAR lower than almost every anime she’s been cast in. And, as a huge fan of Mirai Nikki, you bet your ass I loved episode 11 when she tied her hair back to look exactly like Yuno. Praise be.
The other characters in the series are in various stages of sanity, for better or for worse. The most notable is Satou’s Aunt, who hoardes trash and lets weirdos beat the shit out of her for pleasure. You know, like all loving aunts do. But, like Satou, she’s fully in control of her actions. Rather, this is a matter of one being so deluded of themselves that they believe their behavior to be healthy. AILF (aunt i’d like to fuck) even convinces herself to have a fulfilling role within society, accepting hostility and fucking it out of them. She is indeed quite over-the-top, but the long dialogues she provides make her believable enough to be enjoyable.
And then there’s the lolicon guy… oh boy. This fuckin’ guy. As a result of things happening that cause him to distrust adults, he becomes so fully attached to Shio that he takes passionate inhalations of her missing poster flyers. THIS is the over-the-top character that you’d expect to see from a full edgelord show, and really, your opinion of him just depends on how much you’re into that kinda stuff. To me, this character is no more than a punchline--more like a punching bag, actually, given all the shit he goes through. A full display of maximum disparity and lack of self-control, his actions are so cartoonish and ridiculous that all he ends up doing in the series is suffering. A lot. He’s just a dumping ground for all the negative consequences brought on by the other characters. Overall, not a character to be taken seriously; he stands at the border between Happy Sugar Life being a completely serious drama and a goofy, edgy comedy. I like the mixture of both worlds.
But the crowning jewel of this anime are some of the more psychologically-based scenes. For as weird and silly as the anime can be, there are scenes of actual genius scattered throughout--most notably, the first half of episode eight. It explores the backstory of Satou’s and Shio’s apartment through the eyes of its former resident. All of it is in first-person view with no music, and the resident never speaks. Instead, their moments of “dialogue” are replaced with a glitchy audio clip over a fluctuating black line. The pauses before these clips make noise and their varying intensity fill in the blanks of Satou’s conversations perfectly. It’s a tremendously well-done scene that I would recommend to anyone, even if you haven't seen the rest of the anime.
Sound manipulation is a motif in this series; characters’ voices will become static-y and distorted in key moments to intensify their dark expressions. Several different visual tricks are used for similar reasons--glowing eyes, static, reflections, scratchy lines, lighting, shadows, tactful shot compositions and other things are all deployed for the show’s depraved, depressing and dark moods without overdoing any of them. Meanwhile, happier moments are shown with sparkles, bubbles, clouds and bright, poppy colors; so corny that they’re almost vomit-inducing, and I mean that in the best way possible. Happy Sugar Life doesn’t necessarily excel with animation, set pieces or character designs, but the various tricks it uses to communicate its feelings are excellent.
Similarly, the soundtrack doesn’t particularly stand out, but the sound design is quite good, I’ll say again. Rising violins, static, vocal manipulation and prestigious voice acting get the job more than done. The OP is one of my favorites of the entire year, using a song perfectly toned to this anime with its siren-like guitar riffs and optimistic, upbeat tone, shifting in and out of muttered, paranoid passages. Bizarre, photographed objects float about in the background; a Shio-like angel flies over shadowy figures of the characters, and various trappings by glass jars and thorns lay over Satou as the video glitches with inconsistent timing. It’s easy to see what’s going on in the OP based on a few episodes of the show itself, but it’s communicated in so many incredible ways that the OP never got skipped. The ED is good… for an ED, that is, which is to say not much, but the animation of Satou and Shio is cute, and the song itself is quite touching.
If you’ve read my reviews before, you know that I’m completely and 100% serious in all of my reviews, and I never make any jokes whatsoever, so when I say this is a 9/10 anime, I mean that it should be watched by all eyes, no matter what.
Now, if you’ve ACTUALLY read my reviews before, you’d know I like to play around, that I don’t really care about ratings, that I’m not all that interested in seeing a fully-serious, masterfully-crafted story. But with its combination of surprise turnarounds, smart directing and just the right amount of silliness, I’d truly say that Happy Sugar Life is a quality anime; not just by my standards, but for drama and psychological anime as a whole. Indeed, it is not perfect--some people will be unhappy with some of the characters or not be willing to see how the anime fixes itself down the line. In fact, I myself have room to complain about the teacher not having any real exploration to his character, as well as some scenes that simply would not happen in the real world, such as Satou's Aunt seducing the police officer, as good as it was. A lot of it is conveniently written. The characters aren’t particularly deep and more idealized than realized. But, overall, Happy Sugar Life is FUN. It is an exciting series that takes little time to light its first match, and once it gets going it doesn’t let up until it has burned everything down.
I dearly recommend this anime to anyone who’s into not just edgy comedies, but anyone who’s interested in a kinda wacky psychological drama that even manages to unnerve you a little bit. Perhaps it is not the most effective at what it is, but it is, nonetheless, effective.
Story - 8/10
Art - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Characters - 7/10
Enjoyment - 9/10
Yandere - 10/10
Overall - 9/10
Favorite episode - 8
Favorite character - Satou. Or her Aunt. Depends on how I’m feeling or how horny I am I guess. Pretend I didn’t type that out.
Recommendation level - Medium-high