Azumanga Daioh Vol. #2 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Azumanga Daioh

Azumanga Daioh Vol. #2

By Chris Beveridge     June 25, 2004
Release Date: June 08, 2004


Azumanga Daioh Vol. #2
© ADV Films


What They Say
It's fall, and that means festivals! Yukari and Minamo's life-long rivalry shifts into high gear as their students square off in a winner-take-all, school-wide sports contest. Later, even more madness is unleashed when the culture fest brings out the animal in students and teachers alike.

Of course, if you thought everyday life with these girls was surreal, a series of revealing (and sorta freaky) dreams shows that reality is nothing compared to what goes on in their heads!

Whether it's a sports fest, a culture fest, a carnival of dreams or a host of crazy cat antics, every moment is sure to be a laugh fest! The second kitty-chasing, relay-racing, Osaka-spacing volume of Azumanga Daioh will have you in stitches!

The Review!
As seems to be a trend for us with comedy series, the second batch of episodes doesn't quite feel as humorous as the first set did but is still amusing.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its English dubbed format. The English track for this release sports a good 5.1 mix, though the majority of the audio is still through the center channels. There are a few kicks back to the rear speakers and if you're close enough to them you'll get a couple of good moments from them. Dialogue throughout the show is well done with some good placement and no dropouts or distortions during regular playback. We spot checked the Japanese language track and noticed no issues there either.

Video:
Originally airing in 2002, Azumanga has a gorgeous transfer for the most part. Presented in its original full frame aspect ratio, the show is rich with vibrant colors and lots of sections with large swathes of solid colors that maintain a solid feel. In particular, the pinks of the school uniforms look fantastic, nice and solid and warm. Cross coloration is blissfully absent and there's only some minor aliasing throughout. Most of the aliasing comes from segments in the opening with the replaced credits since some of it seems a little stilted at times, but something that's barely noticeable for most people.

Packaging:
Done up in a clear keepcase, the opening volume is simple and eye-catching with an all-white backdrop with a shot of Osaka in mid-air with the large logo and volume number around her. This fits with the opening sequence nicely (since it's basically from there) and gives you something simple and cute to look at. The back cover provides a rundown of the premise, several shots from the show and an array of information scattered all over. Sadly, this release isn't adhering to the info box that's become common on ADV releases so information is in a few different places but it's all easy to find overall. The reverse side of the cover, which is sort of reversible, has a full two sided spread of the girls in class with the main cover being Osaka playing her flute. The other panel has a comical shot of Tomo banging on the symbols, much to the horror of everyone else. The included booklet is great, with several pages worth of translator notes and detailed explanations of some of the puns that are hard to translate as well as comments from the Japanese staff and a few pages of full color Osaka designs and outfits.

Menu:
The main menu is a cute piece that utilizes elements from the opening sequence and the same style with a shot of Sakaki with her finger in the cats' mouth as she tries to shake it off set to a brief bit of catch instrumental music. Episode selections are lined along the top and the other selections along the bottom. Scene selections are nicely laid out in that they let you go to each of the individual episodes within the episode. Access times are nice and fast and the layout is easy to navigate and use.

Extras:
The extras are pretty minimal with this volume with just a series of production sketches in addition to the standard clean opening and closing sequences being provided.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Azumanga Daioh continues on much in the same merry was the first volume though it doesn't have to deal with the introduction of the setting and the new characters attending the school such as Chiyo-chan and Osaka. So instead it gets right to the fun itself and moves along at a fairly good clip. Not everything worked in the comedy area though and I didn't find it quite as enjoyable as the first volume but still laughed a fair bit.

Each of the four episodes are set to their own batch of mini episodes within them as before and some work better than others. One of downsides to so many school related shows coming out over the past few years now is that the sports and culture festival episodes are starting to drain a bit since they're blending together. This volume gets separate episodes for each of them. The sports festival episode is fairly amusing since it's bookended by Yukari making a bet with her rival over which class will win for 10,000 yen. So she's all primed and pumped up for the competitions and the two teachers and up getting very competitive in their enthusiasm for their classes. The sports side of it is pretty enjoyable in and of itself but also for the issues that Chiyo-chan causes. She doesn't directly cause an issue, but since she's so short and weak compared to everyone else, she's got a serious complex going on about being a burden and tries to work it out with everyone. Some of the competitions were fun and we do get some good moments with everyone's favorite creepy teacher.

The culture festival episode does a good job of getting away from the normal run of the mill plans, especially when Yukari gives them some grief over their initial ideas such as a caf. An anonymous suggestion though gives them the idea of doing a stuffed animal "zoo" of sorts with the kids in the class making some that they can sell as well. This episode is highly dangerous for Sakaki with all the animal related imagery. She even makes a pair of stuffed animals, a cat and dog, that she tries to sell. She has a hard time remembering which is the cat and which is the dog though. But even worse for her is that the mascot uniform for their project is that of a cat suit. Man, I am not sure what her blushes really mean when she sees her friends inside of it and just sees the suit itself. It's almost as weird as when she spends minutes on end petting Chiyo-chan's dog. Her pet issues really take up a lot of time across all the episodes and provides a lot of laughs at times but again, a lot of very strange moments.

Probably the episode I liked best on this volume is the New Year's Dream Special which takes a couple of the characters and investigates their dreams. Osaka's dream is just surreal right from the start as she deals with Chiyo-chan flying all over the place due to her hair buns, hair buns which she offers to Osaka so she can fly. But Osaka's convinced that the buns actually control Chiyo-chan, so her dream essentially "kills" her when she takes the buns off. The color of the sky in Osaka's world is definitely not blue. Tomo's dreams are scary as hell though as it's a world where she sees herself as something approaching a super-hero that's constantly doing good and getting publicity in newspapers over it. She's just as repetitious as ever with her speech though and the way she sees herself is not a big surprise, but it plays out well.

Sakaki's dreams, which take up half of the episode, pushes her blushing pet moments even further, turns Chiyo-chan's father into a talking cat and are just plain disturbing at times. This episode is so out there at times that you can't help laughing at the absurdity of it and just going with the flow. We did find a lot of things enjoyable on this volume though but some of the areas just seemed to go on a bit longer than they should, such as parts of the culture festival and Sakaki's dream itself. The slightly surreal and languid comedy style used works well in a number of areas but just falls short when it goes on too long in some scenes.

In Summary:
While not as precipitous a drop in comedy value as some other series we've watched in the last year, this one didn't quite live up to what we got in the first volume as our expectations were probably heightened after that. There's plenty of good material in here and most of the characters really have some solid scenes and bits that help flesh them out a bit more. I think it needs more Yukari though. Yeah, that's the ticket?

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean opening and clean closing animation,Production sketches,12-page booklet with translator notes

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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