Original Run: July 14, 2018 - September 29, 2018 Number of Episodes: 12 Genre: Horror, Thriller Based on the Series Created By: Tomiyaki Kagisora
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Happy Sugar Life. Reader discretion is advised.***
In her life, Sato Matsuzaka (voiced by Kana Hanazawa) had no concept of love. In fact, emotions, in general, were alien to her. As far as she was concerned, the world was lifeless and void of meaning. That all changed when she met her one and only.
For some time now, Sato has been living with her beloved Shio Kobe (voiced by Misaki Kuno). The two support each other greatly and cannot imagine a life apart. Since Shio is so young, Sato must be the one to provide for the two of them. When she goes out, Sato asks Shio to do only one thing:
Never leave their apartment.
How Shio came to live with Sato isn’t entirely clear. The two are neither family nor old acquaintances, and Sato is acutely aware that people are looking for Shio. However, Sato will not allow anyone to destroy her first and only source of happiness.
By any means possible, Sato will eliminate every obstacle that tries to stand in her way.
Happy Sugar Life was solid. If you’re in the market for an effective horror series, you really can’t go wrong with this one.
The thing that made this show’s brand of horror great was what it didn’t have. This series didn’t rely on the supernatural to be terrifying. There was no magic, there were no ghosts. There were just people with everything to lose, and with a will to ensure that they didn’t.
In other words, the events of Happy Sugar Life didn’t exist in an unimaginable reality. If you were to tell me that this story took inspiration from real-world happenings, I wouldn’t immediately dismiss you.
Along with being in the realm of possibility, other factors made this a frighteningly good time:
- The threat of violence was real.
- The use of violence was sparse.
- When there was blood, it wasn’t over the top.
- Bouts of anger were less intimidating than cold smiles.
- Characters’ decisions and actions mostly made sense.
- Cause-and-effect events were chillingly simple.
- A clear goal was always present.
- This series never gave anything away too early.
- The soundtrack was outstanding.
- Heroes were few and far between.
When you consider those things, you realize they created a foundation for a grounded story. With its footing set, Happy Sugar Life took off, and it took off fast. Each episode of this series flew by. This was the most fun, non-comedy viewing sessions I’ve had in some time.
Although this show was secured in its details, three crucial areas brought everything to the next level.
The first was the art style.
When I originally came across Happy Sugar Life, I assumed it was going to be another dark take on the magical girl formula. It looked to have the same type of deranged cuteness. In reality, though, this series was closer to a messed-up slice-of-life comedy or romance anime.
Simply look at the main character, Sato Matsuzaka.
Visually, Sato reminded me of the happy-go-lucky Nadeshiko Kagamihara from fellow 2018 series Yuru Camp. Sato, along with Shio Kobe and many other characters, felt as though they were plucked straight from a world of smiles and sunshine. Happy Sugar Life wasn’t void of warmth. The problem – a.k.a., what made this show awesome – that warmth came from an arson befallen building.
At any second, this show could turn twisted. The exact nature of what was going through everyone’s head was not pretty when it finally came to the surface. But no one turned menacing without some sort of reason. What those reasons were, came to fruition thanks to the second pillar of this series.
Quick side note: While Sato reminded me of Yuru Camp’s Nadeshiko, that connection came later. There was an even more immediate character similarity that was brought to mind beforehand. Details coming soon.
Happy Sugar Life had brilliant pacing. The journey from beginning to end was smooth. This series didn’t go down unnecessary detours, and it closed off storylines when they no longer served a purpose. The pathway from points A to B to C made sense. Forward movement came at the right times.
This was a show I wouldn’t call predictable. Of course, if you are a veteran horror viewer like myself, I suspect you’ll find it easy to map out certain scenes in your head. There were instances in this series I saw coming, but they made sense for where the story was at. Therefore, I hold no grudges.
That said, there were times when Happy Sugar Life was a surprise. Even when I knew a plot turn was coming, the direction was often a mystery. There was one scene, in particular, that destroyed most of my working theories; I haven’t had that kind of rush in forever.
This show’s pacing allotted for a ton of misdirection. This series gave plenty of time for you to get the information needed to continue, but not enough time to see the full picture, even though the pieces were there. Happy Sugar Life played its cards only when IT was ready to show them.
With its art and pacing well locked down, this show had a lot going for it. However, balancing yourself on a two-legged stool isn’t the easiest thing to do. One lapse in judgment could send everything toppling over. Happy Sugar Life probably would have been fine, but complacency can lead to ruin. Why take the risk?
To nail everything into place, there was one character.
Let’s just get it out of the way.
A beautiful, pink-haired high school girl prone to violence. Where have I heard that before?
If you come across anyone who says they did not like this show because Sato Matsuzaka was a rip-off of Mirai Nikki’s Yuno Gasai, then frankly, that person did not watch Happy Sugar Life.
Admittedly, visually, Sato and Yuno could pass as sisters. That is where their similarities end, though.
The fact that I am not the biggest fan of Mirai Nikki isn’t a secret; I have plenty of problems with it. However, Yuno is not one of them. She is easily one of the most memorable characters in anime, and I will defend that stance.
I say that because I don’t want people to go thinking this section is going to be a smear campaign against Yuno. I wouldn’t mind debating anyone if the subject were: Why I believe Happy Sugar Life was better than Mirai Nikki. Even still, I would try to keep the protagonists out of my argument.
Nevertheless, Sato is the stronger. What of it? Come fight me.
The point is, the type of instability within Sato and Yuno was what made them vastly different characters.
To start, Yuno was the more aggressive of the two. Her solution to any problem was: Kill it. Although she could put on a false calm face when absolutely necessary, she usually didn’t care. Yuno’s method wasn’t to trick people. It did not bother her if most people kept their distance. Plus, when things got really bad, she could not control her emotions even if she wanted to.
Sato, on the other hand, could be the center of attention, embrace it, and not feel a goddamn thing. She knew how to say kind words. She knew how to support people. As long as you didn’t pry into her life, Sato could be the best of friends on paper.
That is what made her scary.
There were a lot of dime-a-dozen “intimidating” characters in Happy Sugar Life. Many people assumed they could easily get the advantage over Sato. To their chagrin, this was when she was at her most dangerous. Although other people may have instigated confrontations, Sato was the one who instantly grabbed control of them.
She could not be pushed back.
In her mind, her goal, protecting Shio, was the most important thing. How she achieved that did not concern her. If that meant committing a crime, if that meant committing murder, so what?
That notwithstanding, Sato’s first reaction wasn’t to kill. You could infuriate her, but if there were at least a less violent way out, Sato would take it. She didn’t want to make a scene if she could avoid it. Be that as it may, if there were no other escape, she wouldn’t hesitate to put a knife into your neck, and then disregard her actions with a sweet, vacant smile.
She was no hero. Sato was a psychotic kidnapper who – inadvertently or not – fed off her prisoner’s naivety for her own selfish gains. She killed without remorse. To everyone, she lied, cheated, and manipulated. Many of her actions were unforgivable. Nevertheless – and this may be the most terrifying thing of all – she wasn’t unsympathetic. You could see how a horrific series of events transformed a broken girl into a monster.
Sato was a victim of her circumstances. That coupled with her intelligence, sheer force of will, and brutality turned her into one of the most fascinating characters of 2018.
I’m going to try and keep this short because most of the “issues” I have with this series are either a nitpick or ignorable.
Nitpick-wise, almost every character in this series was extreme. What I mean by that is, most had a personality flaw that was either threatening, deplorable, or uneasy.
There were few mentally stable people in this show.
Due to this, we got many cartoonish reactions. Everyone who thought they could take advantage of Sato employed the same tactic. They tried to be as insane as possible, and sometimes this felt forced.
Outside of Sato and Shio, when you start this series, good-luck in figuring out who is going to be a key player. Many background characters ended up having quite a bit of influence.
That only became a problem when those seemingly insignificant characters stayed insignificant, and yet, they were still portrayed as not playing with a full deck. Going as far as this show sometimes went didn’t feel necessary.
Luckily, Sato would be there to smack those people down. She showed them: No, this is what insanity looks like.
As for an actual flaw with this series: Some of its narrative transitions – although serviceable – weren’t the most stable. For example, there was the character, Taiyo Mitsuboshi (voiced by Natsuki Hanae).
Something happened to Taiyo at the beginning of this series, and I don’t see how it played into the rest of his role. Taiyo became obsessed with Shio, and that obsession became crucial later on in the story. However, his introduction was needlessly traumatic. It could have easily happened to any one-off character, and everything would have been fine.
Taiyo’s obsession had nothing to do with what happened to him. So, why include it?
Did this drag down Happy Sugar Life’s story? Hell no. This was just a case where the ends justified the means, even though the means were a little heavy handed.
That, in a nutshell, was the worst aspect of this series. Although it never took things too far, it only took things further then they had to go.
Then again, this was a horror story. Some excessiveness can be excused.
This one was pretty damn good.
Sometimes you don’t need ghosts or spooks to tell something scary. Humans at their most deranged can be horrifying enough.
I must admit, there were a lot of positive elements to this series I chose to leave out of my review. There were some genuinely terrifying moments that I would have loved to pick apart here. But like a joke, where’s the fun if you already know what the punchline is going to be?
With engaging artwork, excellent pacing, and a brilliant protagonist, I really don’t know what more you can ask for.
I highly recommend Happy Sugar Life.
But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this show? What would be your advice concerning Happy Sugar Life? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.
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