“But I’m out of my head when you’re not around….”
How oh how did we get here? If you had asked me a year ago, I’d have told you that Lucky Star seemed like one of those shows whose cultural footprint was not destined to outlive the 2010s. That’s not a knock, plenty of great shows aren’t widely remembered a year after they come out, much less thirteen in the case of the seminal school life comedy. It wouldn’t have been that weird either, a lot of Lucky Star‘s humor is reference-heavy and was deliberately “dated” even when it was new. I can tell you with certainty that the series is the only reason I or any other otaku of my general age knows what the hell Timotei shampoo is.
So it seemed like plenty of great shows from the late 2000s and early 2010s, that Lucky Star would be a victim of the changing tides of the English-speaking anime fandom.
Then, at the start of this deeply unlucky year, something weird happened.
This video, an absolutely inexplicable but oddly inspired remix of the show’s frantic opening sequence, started making the rounds on tumblr. The clip makes a few edits to the OP–the footage is slightly slowed down and a transition is doctored out, but other than that, it’s downright bizarre how well the song chosen–“Out of Touch” by Hall & Oates–fits. Especially given that it has almost the polar opposite energy of the show’s actual opening theme, a goofy ode to school uniforms called “Motekke! Sailor Fuku!”
I am not a music critic (thank God), but the particular song choice strikes me as interesting. “Out of Touch” dates from 1984, 23 years prior to the Lucky Star anime’s premiere. Yet, in what is part of a fascinating ongoing deliberate cultural back-collapse, nowadays 1984 and 2007 feel like they might as well be equally long ago in the present moment. This is the same spirit of deliberate anachronism that inspired the vaporwave movement at the start of the decade.
But you may notice that the video itself was actually made a full two years ago, in 2018. So why has it blown up and become a full-fledged meme now? Well, the answer is likely multifaceted. Youtube’s algorithms increasingly like to put oddball things in peoples’ recommendations, for one thing, but I think the real heart of the matter might speak to a particular zeitgeist. For one, that the term “Out of Touch Thursdays” can be taken (by total coincidence) as an entendre about social distancing has been lost on precisely no one. (Do give @sampapaste here a follow.)
In a more general sense, in an era of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, “timekeeping memes” have become a popular daily pastime. Both as a way to wring some humor out of the current situation and literally as a way to help keep the days of the week straight in a time when it can be kind of hard to do that. “Out of Touch Thursday” is probably the most popular of these, but there are many others.
Indeed, the meme’s popularity is such that it’s begun to take on something of a life of it’s own. There’s a dedicated twitter account, which has created something of a community unto itself around the meme.
Someone even went through the trouble of making an honest-to-god You’re The Man Now Dog page (which is a whole bygone phenomenon in of itself). Spinoffs include Out of Time Wednesday, featuring a pitched-up version of the song set to footage from elsewhere in the series.
And a personal favorite, this frankly inexplicable edit that features the core Generation 1 Decepticons from Transformers and is a full-on redraw. (Perhaps an attempt to get a cartoon that’s actually from the 80s involved? Who can say.)
I think what all this speaks to is that “Out of Touch Thursday” happens to hit a rare sweet spot. It’s an instant nostalgia (or fauxstalgia) hit, and it is completely innocuous–anyone who’s not a complete stick in the mud can enjoy the video at least occasionally. I mentioned vaporwave earlier, but the sort of forceful reclamation of “disposable” pop culture like synthpop and late aughts anime does really remind me of the subgenre. A declaration that the past belongs to us as much as the present that goes beyond just simple nostalgia. As we watch a lost spring tick on by, four anime girls doing a dance routine might be contributing more than we think to keeping us–funnily enough–in touch with each other, and ourselves.