A couple of reviews back, I briefly took a stab at criticizing a fatal flaw in utilitarianism, that having the illusion of happiness can be just as dangerous as letting one suffer from the pains of the truth. I still believe this to be true, but I neglected to offer an alternative that defends why happiness is something that we should value. Given the many animes that I’ve already reviewed that are made primarily to bring joy to their audience, one more case probably wouldn’t hurt. What makes this sitcom different from some of the others that I’ve reviewed, however, is that happiness is more than just something it imparts on us. Rather, happiness is at the heart of why this series matters in the first place! (That and come on, it’s in the title!)
And if you’re thinking that I’m going to somehow over-complicate a comedy anime that wasn’t meant to make sense with theoretical mumbo jumbo, well you’d be half right, but you would also miss out on all the fun things I love about this series that no analysis can capture to such humorous detail! That, and I need to subject you all to the “Timothy Rap” because catchy music is catchy!
Anne Happy takes place at the prestigious Tennomifune Academy, where girls allegedly go on to be outstanding citizens of Japan or something. But for the girls who are let in to the school as part of the experimental “Happiness Class,” there isn’t much hope for them to amount to anything! Of all the girls who are enrolled at Tennomifune, these girls scored the lowest, so it’s a wonder why they were even let into the Academy in the first place!
But alas, they were enrolled, and what follows is a series about all the crazy (and fun) activities that the girls have at the school. From fantasy escape rooms to outdoor survival field trips, not a dull day goes by for them, it seems. Or is it?
But what seems like fun and games to any other student (or concerned administrator, for that matter) at Tennomifune, the Happiness Class has their own curriculum that challenges the girls in different ways that can’t be covered simply by a written exam. Every one of these activities is their grade, and if they fail to complete the tasks that are given to them, they FAIL!
And given our five main characters’ track record for coming in last place for just about everything, they are certainly no strangers to failure. They’re certainly odd enough to be the strangest cast, even for the Happiness Class!
Aw man… Somebody go find the nurse for Botan Kumegawa. Again.
Ren Ekoda may be popular with the ladies given her boyish figure, but she especially attracts a lot of female animals!
No one must ever know of Ruri Hibarigaoka’s love for her hubby: the construction working sign. Not even self-proclaimed rival Hibiki Hagyū!
Uhm… Uh… Good for you.
The long-haired transfer student Hibari-chan may be the narrator of this anime, but the series’ greatest bundle of joy is her childlike classmate, Anne Hanakoizumi. Not only being the titular character, Anne’s happiness is truly everyone’s happiness. Given her airhead personality, she’s most likely to get into trouble (or cause it), so naturally all of her friends are looking out for her. She even has a clover hairpin to bring her good luck, and whenever she loses it or gets damaged, terrible things will happen!
And from this one element, I need to step out of the seemingly supernatural side of Anne Happy for the lesson, the underlying message, if you will, that the series offers about what it means to be happy. For all entertainment purposes, that one charm may very well be at the heart of all the joy that these girls feel from their adventures, but despite even the terrible things that happen to Anne, she always keeps her head held high, with a positive attitude. Does that come from her extremely naive outlook on life? Maybe. But what the anime offers — cliché as it is — is a lot more profound than what we are led to believe. Happiness isn’t something that can be given. It’s something that we make our own.
I couldn’t decide on which moment from the series illustrated this notion of creating happiness the best, so I’m going to focus on two of them. The first is when the Happiness Class is taught by fellow faculty member Saginomiya for the day. Unlike Kodaira-sensei’s warm yet absurdly intense level of patience with her class, Saginomiya-sensei is no-nonsense authoritative, and she sees no value in what these girls do! And given their performance during home economics, things aren’t going in the Happiness Class’ favor.
But even so, Anne appears to be having a good time, even assuring her friends that everything is going to be fine. The final test of their luck (or lack thereof) comes, as the girls find themselves outside by the pool when a thunderstorm passes through. The other girls of the Happiness Class go back inside for safety, but Anne’s foot got caught on one of the pool dividers, so she couldn’t get out! With quick thinking, Botan, Hibari, and Saginomiya dive back into the pool to save her, when Botan comes up with the clever idea of sinking to the deepest part of the pool as the storm passes.
Based on the something that Botan read online, electricity dissipates from the surface of the water, so it is actually safer to be submerged underwater! Saginomiya is impressed by Botan’s ability to apply something she has learned to a real life situation, and face such challenges, despite her medical condition of having such brittle bones. It’s clear to me that courage and wit are highly valued in this situation, but it’s also important to recognize that Hibari, Botan, and Anne’s trust in each other also plays an integral role in ensuring that all of them would make it out of this situation, alive and happy as usual.
Score 1 for the ingenuity of the Happiness Class!
The second moment where I felt that happiness was something the girls took into their own hands came much earlier in the series, on their weekend excursion. Due to Hibari, Anne, Botan, Hibiki, and Ren’s epic fail during an escape room activity, the five of them have to make up the assignment by searching for vague yet oddly specific things in their town. Of these items is a flower that blooms at the gate of dawn, something that the girls take an entire day to search for.
Eventually just giving up on the quest, Hibari takes it upon herself to take a picture with Botan and Anne, to show that they had a lot of fun searching for the flower, but unfortunately couldn’t find it at all. But once they turned in the photographs, Kodaira-sensei congratulates them on having captured the flower perfectly! I won’t explain how they came across this elusive flower, as I think the screen capture takes care of about half of it. But what I felt was most important about this scene goes beyond just a simple school project. These girls were making their own joyous memories along the way!
Anne Happy accomplishes something that a lot of school anime –let alone actual schools– hardly address: the lessons we learn in the classroom can be a lot of fun, and they can also be incredibly enriching to our notions of self-worth. Where other shows focus on the activities happening outside of lecture, or show the bitter contrast between in-class and extracurricular activities, Anne Happy practically combines the two together, to reveal just how intense, yet a lot of fun it can be! And let’s be real: as an aspiring teacher who has had a hand in coming up with problem-posing, constructivist style lesson plans, making a lesson fun requires more work and intelligence than you think!
Theories about education aside, Anne Happy gets to the heart of what it means to be happy, not from what is given, but what we do about it for ourselves. And contrary to its cute and simple outlook, the anime is surprisingly intelligent at getting that message across. One of the puns that lies in the title of this series is that one can mistake it for being “Un-Happy” (because Japanicizing the title as intended sounds exactly the same as if you were to say “unhappy” in English). Well the joke’s on all of you, because Anne Happy is full of joy in all the right places!
I suppose there’s only one more thing to talk about, and that is my tradition that nobody’s ever asked for: who is my favorite girl? Who do I think is the best? The cutest? One who is worth making a waifu!?
Well contrary to all the easily predictable girls I’ve chosen in the past, my favorite is actually Hibiki! No joke this time. Hibiki is probably the dumbest and weakest character of the bunch, pouting every time something doesn’t go her way (which is pretty much all the time), and always feeling out of the loop whenever the other girls are doing something amazing. It’s incredibly frustrating to see her act so loud and tough, and yet no one cares about her (except possibly Ren, if she’s not preoccupied by other people or animals), and it sounds crazy, but I genuinely feel bad for her!
But I’m not one to give in to pity points so easily. I think what makes Hibiki the most interesting is because she is almost too dumb to realize that she’s getting the short end of the stick, that her demand for attention is practically self-fulfilling. And she believes that she is totally the center of attention when clearly she doesn’t stand out very much! Come to think of it, that’s what I do for my happiness a lot of times. Damn, girl! We have so much in common!
Except that Hibiki also thinks that these fabricated “best girl” thingamajigs that I do are pointless. Ouch. Well… uhm…
So if you’re looking for a cute comedy about a group of girls making happiness their own in high school, check out Anne Happy!
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