- Genre : Psychological thriller, yuri, Duh-Rama
- Episodes: 12
- Studio: Ezo’la
Satou is a young lady who has always wanted to find love. She’s searched high and low for it but so far, it has evaded her. She knows love is important and that you have to work for it, sacrifice for it and protect it. She knows that when you find it, you should do what you can to never let it go. She dreams of a happy sugar life. Just like most young ladies really. Wanting to love and be loved is a perfectly normal thing. And Satou is a perfectly normal girl. Well, with a few exceptions but every girl has her eccentricities, right?
I finally decided to watch anime on multiple platforms. I already had them mind you, but I was resisting for some reason. When I decided to go through Amazon’s anime library (in Canada) I put in only four titles I decided I really wanted to see, and Happy Sugar Life was on top of the pile. I had a very vague idea that the title was misleading…
I have to admit; I don’t have all that much to say about the production values of Happy Sugar Life. It looks fine. There are some aesthetics I tend to associate with cute girl anime. Soft colours, rounded designs, coloured outlines, that type of thing. It’s not really visually distinctive but it doesn’t look bad either. The cast had a couple of iffy performances, but I wouldn’t say grating. I did really enjoy the OP though. It’s going on my playlist.
I do think there were some budget constraints for the animation though. They used some artistic tricks to cover it up, switches to naïve art styles or blackened screens to mark certain events in the story. These worked very well in the context of the show and added some visual interest while reducing the workload for the artists. A smart move. Unfortunately, there were some less successful cuts. The art was at times visibly inconsistent and animation was occasionally a bit too sparse.
That’s o.k. though, Happy Sugar Life saves its big punches for its narrative. And that’s probably where fans are going to get divided. I know some bloggers ho loved this series. I also know a few who did not. Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle.
Happy Sugar Life has a fantastic introduction and build up. The first few episodes really grabbed my attention and I was excited about this series. I thought I had a jackpot for a creepy disturbing Halloween pick! And it is definitely both creepy and disturbing all the way to the last second.
Oddly this may be where my issue comes from.
For one thing, with only a couple of exceptions, every single character is a terrible, terrible person or just so broken that I sort of felt they would inevitably become a terrible person. At one point I wrote down in my notes: “I have never been so worried for a child predator”. That gives you an idea for what type of show this is. And don’t get me wrong, at the time, I thought that was awesome.
The way the series subverted and almost perverted expectations was almost exhilarating. I couldn’t wait to see to what depths it would manage to fall. Fall is the wrong word; this was a deliberate downward journey. It hit the bottom of the barrel and then carefully got all the tools out so that it could drill scrape and dig it’s way lower. So many uncomfortable and perturbing vices were explored and presented in an in your face way. It was almost refreshing.
However, as the series progressed, I found my interest waning. This may be a personal issue but I find that despair and tragedy sort of loose their bite without a little hope sprinkled in to keep the edge sharp. Since most characters were, in fact, despicable, I didn’t actually care what happened to them. And most weren’t developed much beyond their despicableness. As disturbing got piled on top of unpleasant I had a hard time keeping up with the proper emotional engagement. Maybe I’m just a bit of a jerk but after a while, it was just, yeah yeah, your life was absolutely horrible too, what else is new…
You should know that I have no patience for drama, someone a little more amiable to the genre, would probably not have been disillusioned as quickly. The one slightly more cheerful moment in later episodes was the growing relationship between Asahi and Shoko and this made what happened to those characters hit me way harder than anything else in the show. That’s why I think that if they had backed up from the duh-ARKNESS just a bit, it would have had much more impact on me.
Honestly, this show is horrible publicity for Japanese tourism. I would not want to meet any of these people!
Finally, I would have liked to see Satou and Shio’s relationship a bit more. A lot of Happy Sugar Life deals with how each of them handles the events individually (mostly Satou). As such, I personally never got a proper sense of their actual relationship, I just got a sense of what it was for Satou. Considering the story, that’s not actually a bad thing. Having an unreliable point of view character works well for thrillers and just fits in with the general mood of Happy Sugar Life.
However, the denouement and conclusion of the story does rely a bit on how much the viewer is invested in the relationship and this is where I found that I really hadn’t connected to them as a couple much at all.
Basically for me, there was a tonal issue that ended up yielding drastically diminishing returns and without the shock value, there wasn’t that much left to keep me interested. However, if you are the type to enjoy highly disturbing slightly Yuri stories, this may be a new favourite for you.
One last note, just because I found it interesting. Despite the subject matter, Happy Sugar Life really shies away from gore. There is a bit of blood here and there but most of the violence either happens just off camera or gets wrapped up very quickly. This is unusual and if you happen to enjoy horror but are also squeamish, this is one title that could work for you.
Favourite character: Asahi, I guess
What this anime taught me: Any sort of trauma will turn people into monsters
Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker
Suggested drink: Sugar Plum Dreams
- Every time Satou gets hit on – take a sip
- Every time anyone says “love” – blow a kiss
- Every time Satou asks Shio to wait for her – take a sip
- Every time anything is bitter – get a snack
- Every time Shio is spinning – take a sip
- Every time there’s an eye close-up – take a breath
- if it’s Satou’s – worry
- If someone is reflected in it – rais your glass
- Every time Asahi collapses – take a sip
- Every time there’s a star pattern – take a sip
- Every time anyone is a good boy/girl – take a sip