Happy Sugar Life – Anime Preview
Synopsis: Satou Matsuzaka, a girl who has never loved anyone before, falls in love with a girl named Shio Koube. The two girls are drawn to each other, and begin a happy life together. Satou won’t let anyone endanger their new life, and would do anything for love, even if it means threatening, confining, or killing someone. Don’t miss this psychological horror series about sweet and painful true love. (Official Amazon Synopsis)
1st Episode Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: Happy Sugar Life gives off an immediately uncomfortable vibe; understandable given its horror tag, though some of it is uncomfortable for the wrong reasons. First up; the good news is that it does a great job of making you feel unnerved and making you aware that this isn’t actually just a cutesy, happy show despite its visual style and cute characters. Watching our central protagonist, Satou Matsuzaka come undone and unravel and reveal her darker side can be at times a little hammed up but for the most part, works well to sell her and the series itself as something intriguing and unique. But then there’s the ‘bad’; i.e the camera angle used when introducing our younger female protagonist, Shio Koube, clearly a pre-pubescent girl, yet the camera offers an almost up skirt view of her. Then there’s also this sense, which I’ll admit is open to personal interpretation, of the show’s dislike for sexually amorous women; such as with the heroine abandoning her previous lifestyle of sleeping around because NOW she has to be pure for love; or how another character uses sex as a weapon/punishment for men around her.
Tom: The, albeit brief, underage sexualization, the semi-implied pedophilia and heavy sexual assault are all part of a overt effort to craft a sickening, creepy, uncomfortable atmosphere. And it works. Sometimes it perhaps goes too far, with those brief camera angles lingering on Shio Koube, a mere 8 years old. But seeing as Happy Sugar Life wades so deep into uncomfortable, sexual, creepy territory, and that’s the experience one is signing up for, it may very well be a more YMMV element rather than a true and outright problem. It ties into the idea that every major character here, save perhaps the innocent Shio Koube, is absolutely insane, or shall gradually be revealed to be. These two elements together perfectly craft an upsetting, deeply unhinged atmosphere that is great for any viewer interested in the discomfort a psychological horror experience could offer but you have to be prepared and accepting of those deeply uncomfortable undercurrents.
Linny: All potential issues aside, Happy Sugar Life is definitely one of the more novel horror anime out there, relying on psychological elements rather than jump scares to cause discomfort and unease. Some of it is even relatable/realistic as we watch Satou Matsuzaka face bullying at work and forced to work overtime and ridiculed by others after earning the ire and jealousy of the manager and her co-workers. But at the same time, one cannot deny that Happy Sugar Life will also test and demand your extreme abandonment of logic as its plot twists and reveals can abandon common sense and logic. I am specifically referring to a scene where we discover that the manager has stripped, tied up and locked up an employee in her work office closet for several days while also sexually assaulting him repeatedly the entire time. It’s a truly bizarre, even over the top reveal, one that might take some viewers out of the moment but could on the other hand, be just crazy and absurd enough to bolster enjoyment.
Tom: The one thing that made me the most uncomfortable, outside of the brief loli content, was the undercurrent of anti-female sexuality as Linny described above. The series mires itself in the mindset of Satou Matsuzaka, who we come to understand as a deeply disturbed and totally off her rocker individual. Through that lens sexually aggressive women are painted as abhorrent, from the evil female manager to Satou’s previous sexual exploits she now finds beneath her. While Satou herself is undoubtedly unhinged, the imagery with which her love for Shio is portrayed marks a stark contrast to the way overt female sexuality is portrayed, almost crafting a sense that Satou’s pure ‘love’ for Shio, without overt sexual overtones, is the ideal and more sexually assertive women are an issue. I don’t think the show is intended to be read this way, but I also wouldn’t blame anyone for perhaps getting that impression as without certain other elements, like a late episode reveal for Satou’s unhinged persona, it can feel ingrained in the presentation. Learning more about Satou through the episode’s final moments helps to soften that anti-female sexuality read and center the series more so on Satou’s deranged views that may have come about from a tormented past.
Linny: I am someone who enjoys horror stories that rely on psychological elements and unnerving tones, and even have a fondness for over the top Asian horror in general. I think Happy Sugar Life does a lot that will appeal to the horror community or even just someone seeking an anime that’s in a league of its own and stands out from the crowd for its unique content. There’s this intrigue to watching a character reveal themselves to be completely insane and unhinged and Happy Sugar Life seems like it might be filled with characters like those. If you can ignore, or do not get the same impression we got from the more questionable content and happen to be a fan of twisted and dark stories, then Happy Sugar Life might just be for you.
Tom: Overall I know Happy Sugar Life is not for me, although I can’t say I’m not intrigued by the deranged nature presented here. And I fully admit that despite my own personal problems, Happy Sugar Life delivers perfectly in its insane, perverse atmosphere and stands above Angels of Death this season for those looking for something wholly creepy and deranged for their horror needs without the more immediately overt horror imagery.
Happy Sugar Life is available for streaming via Amazon Video.