Spin-offs! When a show is so successful is no surprise that other authors will try to explore different stories in the set of alternative mangas or light novels. What is rare is that one of those spin-offs also get an Anime adaptation. This time we will be talking about three recent examples of spin-off shows of successful series that never got any more seasons. I know there are longer running franchises like Gundam which has expanded universes and parallel shows but for the sake of brevity I’ll omit them this time.
Miyakawa-ke no Kuufuku
Minor characters in late chapters of the Lucky Star manga gained so much popularity that they got their own manga and, in 2013, it got an adaptation in the form a series of ONA produced by Studio Ordet and directed by the savior of anime himself, Yamakan. If you don’t know who Yutaka Yamamoto (Fractale, not Wake up, Girls! S2) is, I don’t blame you. But in the past he was a controversial Anime director who was fired from KyoAni studios after “creative differences” directing a couple of episodes of Lucky Star. This is my personal theory but I think he picked up this show as a sort of revenge against those who oust him and that Miyakawa-ke no Kuufuku was going to revive the feelings and hype for Lucky Star. But that was not the case.
The show centers around two sisters: Hinata Miyakawa and her little sister Hikage Miyakawa. We witness the financial struggles of the Miyakawa family due to the rather expensive otaku hobby of the big sister and how Hikage has to survive in this environment. Blink and you will miss cameos from the characters of Lucky Star. The studio did brought back Hirano Aya and Katou Emiri to sing the opening of the show which is rather addictive to listen to but that is as far as you will get from a Lucky Star reunion.
I was probably one of the dozens who followed this show when it originally aired on 240p on Ustream. And my review of the show is going to be as short as the length of the episodes. I did not like Miyakawa-ke no Kuufuku because its comedy does not suit well with me. The premise of all jokes is how Hikage is so poor that is always hungry, bullied at school and how she daydreams on getting, not a rich life but one that allowed her to enjoy eating meat once in a while or buying a new notebook. This is too cruel, should I find this hilarious? If it was well done and you gave these characters more depth to their situation I might not dislike it, but as a short anime, 2 minutes each, the show does a poor job of that. It does not capture the essence of its predecessor, you are left with a sense of pity and sometimes apathy. Not something I want to take out of a show. If you insist on reliving Lucky Star, I recommend watching Lucky Star again. Don’t bother with this spin-off.
Everybody knows “Working!” or at least have heard of it or its catchy openings. The show aired for three seasons from which the story build up the different romantic relationships between our characters and I would say had a satisfying conclusion to all the stories. So what was left after the ending of the show? I was hoping for nothing but we got the adaptation of the webcomic Working!!. Produced by the same studio that made the previous installments and with the director of the last season of Working!!, we get to know a different story with new characters set in another location of our favorite family restaurant Wagnaria.
WWW.Working!! is proof that a formula can get tiresome. While Working!! paced itself with three seasons, here we are shown again the same thing but rushed and without a motive of why it happens. Probably the best example is the main pairing, with the main character and the “genki” girl. Our MC is a cynic, unlikable twat who only gets a job because his moronic family pushes him while they financially struggle to makes a day’s end. His love pairing is a noisy girl whose cooking abilities are a hazardous risk. We are led to believe that for no reason, he has to eat her food so she can become a better cook. In Working!! we got a better chemistry between our main pairing but only because we had time to explore their relationship.
If you haven’t got the gist of it, a recurring flaw with these spin-offs is that they try to recapture the original feeling and mood of the main series but always fail in the fundamentals that attracted people in the first place. In the case of WWW.Working!! it took the idea of wacky and eccentric characters working under the same environment and pushed that idea without giving a proper background to them. Why there’s a rich girl working on a family restaurant? What is the pay off of the creepy girl who can see spirits? There is not a satisfactory answer and the characters are treated like mere templates from the original.
You can safely ignore *WWW.Working!! even if you watched Working, and if you want more of that feeling that the show gave you, I recommend watching Servant x Service. From the same author but set in the bureaucratic world that tries to be its own thing and works better than WWW.Working.
Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu
Now for the crème de la crème of spin-offs. Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu is based on the alternate universe depicted in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, in which Haruhi Suzumiya never formed the SOS Brigade. In this universe, Yuki Nagato is not a stoic alien but rather a shy and tentative girl who is a member of North High’s literature club alongside Ryoko Asakura, her best friend, and Kyon, whom she has a crush on. The series follows Yuki and her companions as she develops feelings for Kyon and becomes involved in some strange mysteries herself.
Originally, I was only going to review this show but after rewatching it I found that is really not much to say about it. It is a known secret that I’m a fan of all things Haruhi, still to this day. People nowadays don’t realize the cultural phenomena and impact that Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu had, it was the perfect storm in the right time to explode and create a massive following not only on Japan but the world. The success brought the need of more content that it was pumped out: Manga, spin-off 4-koma, spin-off 4-koma of another character and then Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu.
Let’s begin with the positives. It was good that this studio went the extra mile and managed to make all the VAs return to reprise their roles in this alternative story. It would be difficult to enjoy a story where the iconic voices are different or tried to copy the original ones, so kudos for that. The soundtrack is the show is marvelous, it makes a great use of nocturnes and pieces that fit well with the melancholic scenes.
Now this is going to get ugly. Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu is a perfect title for this show because Nagato often disappears from our radar because she is overshadowed by other characters. The moment Haruhi makes her appearance, every single scene where she is present, Nagato takes a second place. I don’t know if I should blame the energetic aura the character has but you even feel bad for Nagato losing the spotlight in her own show. And if it’s not Haruhi, then Kyon is the narrator of Nagato’ story. The show should be not be about Kyon but how Nagato wants to be closer to him. We should be hearing her monologue instead of Kyon’s and yet because you pushed this reference for people to clap, you wasted your character.
The most interesting and infuriating part of the Anime is when Nagato suffers an accident and her cutesy and shy personality are replaced for the Nagato we are familiar with: Stoic, intelligent and sober. The show treats it more like a temporary personality disorder than a magical/fantasy explanation. The conflict arises from our characters not knowing how to deal with this Nagato and the stoic Nagato knowing all the feelings and memories of the shy one. On her own, she begins to fall in love in Kyon but doesn’t know if her feelings are her own of just an echo from the Nagato that is sleeping inside her. It is one of best characters arcs I’ve seen and it is infuriating because you have to endure eight episodes of nothing happening (sounds familiar?) to reach this point and when it concludes, you are thrown back to that nothingness.
This is my main gripe with the show, when the Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya happened, a lot of people wanted to live in this alternative universe where Nagato was a shy, cute girl. But when you put that scenario and amp up the cutesy factor up to eleven, you lost what makes the character interesting and worth following a different story with her. Even when you try to watch this show as a standalone Anime, you will be left unsatisfied because it relies too much on the original show and it only reaches acceptable levels of storytelling. I really wanted to like this show but it was disservice both to the character of Nagato and the audience. You can give it a chance, it is not bad but sometimes a bad show is preferable than being left unsatisfied.