When Happy Sugar Life sours: the spoiled shinjuu ending

[Content warning: fictional suicide]

Happy Sugar Life Shinjuu 2
Hark! A shinjuu on the horizon!

[This post will assume that the reader has watched Happy Sugar Life. Also, I’m too sick this week to write a proper introduction or proofread… maybe I’ll clean it up later… … And two months later , I have!]

If you watched a certain yandere psychological horror anime during the summer 2018 season, you might recognize the general plot structure of the Japanese “shinjuu” (love suicide) genre. Shinjuu stories usually go something like this:

Step 1) Two fate-bound souls fall in love. This is true love. It is eternal, even beyond the duration of the lovers’ human lives, and cannot be replaced by anyone else.

Step 2) Some social contrivance makes it impossible for the lovers to be together if they elope. For example, one lover could already be married, or belong to the wrong social class, or lack the money to live independently, or be a prostitute in debt-bondage.

Step 3) The lovers elope anyway and society persecutes them.

Step 4) The lovers reassert their commitment to each other but realize that they cannot evade their pursuers forever.

Step 5) The lovers kill themselves, on the promise that they will unite in paradise or otherwise meet again when their fate-bound souls reincarnate in the mundane world (shinjuu stories often show significant influence from Pure Land Buddhism).

Happy Sugar Life is at its core a shinjuu story. The first minute of the first episode teases as much when it opens to two girls embracing with matching rings at the edge of a burning roof. Of course, Happy Sugar Life twists the shinjuu template with the addition of some fun anime tropes like moe and yandere (yes, yandere are fun! remember the mantra: n-o-t-h-i-n-g-w-r-o-n-g). And how well does it twist! The first nine episodes made for some of the best psychological horror anime I have seen, even better than many of the shinjuu classics from film, short stories, and Japanese theater (I exaggerate).

Unfortunately though, Happy Sugar Life’s conclusion sucked all of the momentum out of its excellent shinjuu narrative.  This post will explore how Happy Sugar Life fits the shinjuu template, and by way of analysis of the frustrating conclusion, give something akin to a series review.

Continue reading “When Happy Sugar Life sours: the spoiled shinjuu ending”

Gaman, Satou! Workplace bullying in Happy Sugar Life

Though my actual review of Happy Sugar Life was manically glib and maybe a bit heavy on the meme (the yandere did n-o-t-h-i-n-g-w-r-o-n-g), much of my enjoyment of the show comes from it blowing up Japanese mores in the most over-the-top, absurd ways possible. Though it may be a bit premature to discuss themes, the first episode offers a perfect workplace revenge fantasy that cuts to the core of what I view as some of the more toxic aspects of Japanese language and work culture.

First, a story:

Continue reading “Gaman, Satou! Workplace bullying in Happy Sugar Life”

There’s nothing wrong with a little Happy Sugar Life

One night, I was murderously bored and could not sleep. Because a healthy night-time routine is out of the question (more blue light to chill the eyes), I often fill that dead time with lazy anime. Usually some mediocre tier-two seasonal show will fit the bill, but summer 2018 has mostly disappointed me: The 2.5 isekai anime I tried to watch this season either proved gross, intolerably vile, or just… plain. I needed something new to watch while I dozed off.

So, I opened up MyAnimeList looking for a new show. Weeks ago, I had flagged Happy Sugar Life as a “maybe” entirely for its colorful cover art. This time, I read the synopsis and let out a sarcastic “heh.” Oh, a yandere? And pink? I liked Mirai Nikki well enough, let’s give it a whirl, eh?

(At this point, I like to imagine that a bolt of lightning strikes the transformer outside my house and the power cuts out. As the explosive echo subsides, I hear only quiet rain and the mad, gurgling laughter of an anime girl dragging a bloody fire axe. One eye glows red behind too-long pink banges. I’m in for a crazy night…)

Mirai Nikki may well have been the greatest natural disaster to ever strike anime, but wow was it entertaining. Though the endless plot holes and criminal character inconsistencies made its psychotic yandere lead Yuno look sane, I can forgive any flaw with the mantra: n-o-t-h-i-n-g-w-r-o-n-g. If Happy Sugar Life could capture even half of Mirai Nikki’s mad brilliance, it would be well worth a watch. I needed a palate cleanser after that awful isekai overload. And woah ho, did I find one, if by “palate cleanser” you mean rapidly alternating between tastes so bitter to turn you to ash and so sweet to melt you away into a puddle of syrupy goo.

Happy Sugar Life is great. The first three episodes did not put me to sleep like I had hoped. Instead, I stayed up staring at the dark ceiling, grinning and giggling over the devious thing I had just watched. I wanted more. More candy. More crowbars. More happy sugar life. I was manic.

I wanted this blog to have a bit of writing rigor, so I’ll set out with a discussion question. What is the appeal of yandere archetypes and why… is this ketamine or sugar?

Nah, forget it. I don’t have a thesis. Happy Sugar Life triggered such a devilishly sweet mania in me that I can only express my answer with pure, meaningless meme:


Let me try to elaborate on that…

Continue reading “There’s nothing wrong with a little Happy Sugar Life”