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: A-
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: C-
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: ADV Films UK
  • MSRP: �19.99
  • 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 Dani Moure     November 30, 2004
Release Date: October 18, 2004


Azumanga Daioh Vol. #2
© ADV Films UK


What They Say
Based on a popular Japanese comic strip, the sweetnatured anime television series Azumanga Daioh chronicles the daily lives of teenaged schoolgirls with a zany sense of humor and a bevy of eccentric characters.

Still as goofy as her students, English teacher Miss Yukari anchors the series with her juvenile mishaps and a long-running rivalry with gym teacher Miss Minamo. Yukari's students include the withdrawn Sakaki, bookish Koyomi, loudmouthed Tomo, athletic Kagura, and two quirky new transfer students: oddball outcast Ayumu and 10-year-old pigtailed prodigy Chiyo. Through a series of vignettes spanning 26 episodes, Azumanga Daioh follows these girls through three years of high school as they master the art of growing up--while evading the lecherous advances of leering classics teacher Mr. Kimura!

In this second volume of episodes, the autumn season brings fall festivals that reignite the fierce competition between Yukari and Minamo.

The Review!
The girls return in another amusing volume of Azumanga Daioh.

Audio:
I listened to the Japanese stereo track for my main review, and noticed no distortions or dropouts. The track itself was a fairly standard stereo mix for a television series. The performances from all the voice actors were a riot, and I enjoyed their work immensely. Yuu Asakawa puts in an especially good performance as Sakaki, given she's heavily focused on in these episodes, and Yuki Matsuoka deserves a special mention for bringing Osaka to life. Overall, the entire cast is really good.

The English language track is presented in 5.1, and it sounded fine while writing the review, though it didn't seem that enhanced over the Japanese stereo track. The dub sounded good from the portions I listened to, with most of the main characters seeming to spark a similar chemistry as their Japanese counterparts. This is another series I look forward to watching in full in English when I get the time.

Video:
Azumanga looks fantastic in what is a very good transfer. Colours are very vibrant and the transfer is clean, and I noticed no artefacts, aliasing or other problems during regular playback. There were a couple of areas of cross-colouration, but it's barely worth mentioning. There's really little more I can say about the transfer as it really is very good. Subtitles are the nice, newer ADV font, and are in a yellow as always.

Packaging:
Packaged in a clear keepcase, the cover replicates the Japanese DVD cover with an image of Osaka bouncing this time. The volume number and show's log appear in large graphics on the cover, too, and there's a cute little Japanese "A!" above Osaka's head. The cover makes great use of white space, and looks really good. The back cover is a bit manic with a description of the show, some screenshots and the credits list all scattered about. There are also plenty of arrows pointing around. The usual ADV info box appears here, clearly listing technical information.

The cover is also reversible, with a wraparound image of all the girls in music class. Osaka plays the recorder, while Sakaki holds one looking a tad dismayed. Yomi covers her ears next to Tomo's bashing while Chiyo-chan looks like she's seen a ghost as she prepares to play. An episode listing is also included (with a breakdown of the individual segments in each).

As a nice extra we also get the 12-page booklet that includes an Osaka profile, translator notes, staff comments, production images and more. It's a really nice extra, with the translator notes being an especially good feature of a culturally based series like this, and I love that ADV go the extra mile to bring these inserts over to the UK.

Menu:
The menus are exactly the same as the last volume. The main menu features Sakaki getting her hand bitten by the cat, and waving it up and down, while the episodes are listed across the top. The show's logo is on the right hand side, while that yellow toy thing appears around the screen. Sub-menus are also animated simply. The extras menu features Chiyo-chan flying with her pigtails bobbing up and down, and Osaka following her with some pigtails of her own. The scene select menu features Tomo swaying back and forth, while the language menu features Yukari about to hit Osaka with a textbook, and the sub-menus all feature different pieces of music. These menus are far more creative than the usual ADV fair and I like them a lot, as they really fit with the tone of the show.

Extras:
My only disappointment with the disc is the on-disc extras department, which simply contains a standard textless opening and ending, and a selection of production sketches set to some music. I'd expect to see this trend continue across the series, so it's not particularly an exciting prospect in that regard, especially when you get the same things on each disc.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After enjoying the first volume of Azumanga Daioh a lot, I was curious as to how I would receive the second instalment. Like any comedy, there's a huge factor that it has to contend with, and that is repetitiveness. With 26 episodes to cover, it's always going to be tough to keep things fresh with new laughs, but thankfully the producers have managed to pull off much more hilarity in this batch of episodes. It's still going to divide people into a love it or hate it camp, because there's really little room in between. Much like series such as Excel Saga, you'll either find the deadpan comedic timing hilarious or completely annoying, but of course Azumanga has the advantage of some adorably endearing characters that tend to help swing general fan opinion to the positive.

The four episodes here follow the girls through the remainder of their first year at high school, and highlight a number of events along the way. The first is the sports festival, in which Yukari-sensei and Kurosawa-sensei's classes go head to head. Yukari is typically out for one thing - victory over Kurosawa's class. But they're not the only two teachers with an interest, as the perverted Mr. Kamura is desperate to see the girls. The episode also introduces a rival for Sakaki's sports prowess - Kagura of Class 5. While Sakaki is still the favourite, Yukari doesn't want to leave anything to chance, and while motivating her class she tries to deter their opponents. Next up it's the culture festival, and this year the class decide to go with Sakaki's idea (which of course she submits anonymously) to have a stuffed animal exhibit. The girls decide to make a life-sized stuffed animal costume, which Sakaki is rather enamoured with.

The penultimate episode presents a series of amusing New Year's dreams for the girls, from Osaka's hilarious encounter with Chiyo-chan, in which she tries to use her hair buns to fly, to Tomo-chan's in which she becomes the best at, well, everything. Sakaki finally finds a cat (which bizarrely reveals a close connection to Chiyo-chan), and Kaorin dreams of Sakaki. This episode is one of the disc's highlights, as it's so strange but the humour is spot on. The final episode follows Sakaki for the day, as she tries to win some more stuffed animals (a theme which is quickly becoming a little disturbing!), visits Chiyo-chan's house with the other girls for her birthday, and daydreams about Chiyo-chan's dog. It's all quite amusing, and only emphasises how Sakaki-centric this disc is.

Which is really my only problem with it. As the series continues on, it's really all about the characters and the situations they get into, as there's no story structure outside the series taking place over a few years of the girls' school life. But while all the characters appear throughout these episodes, we only really get a look in to one character in any depth, and that's Sakaki. While I think she's a great character, and her embarrassment over being sweet inside given how she's viewed by others cracks me up, I can see that for those who aren't too keen on her, there might be a little too much of her throughout these episodes for their tastes.

It's a bit of a shame in that respect because there's a lot of great, very funny comedy to be had here, with several highlights in each episode, including the always amusing Mr. Kamura and his appearances in the first episode, to Osaka's weirdness throughout the disc, the rivalry between Yukari and Kurosawa, to Tomo's rivalry with everyone. It's all quite amusing and leads to a lot of laughs. Once again, the writers have managed to hit the nail on the head with most of the comedy, and I particularly love the timing. Rather than being completely over the top and insane like Excel Saga and its ilk, instead it goes for a more subdued, deadpan tone that always gets to me. While it sometimes goes on a bit too long, such as when Sakaki pats Chiyo's dog for ages and she looks on smiling then sweat-drops, it generally has me laughing out loud and that's a good thing for any comedy.

I really like the cast of characters and all their quirks, from how adorable Chiyo-chan is to how maniacal the likes of Tomo-chan and Yukari are, but my only problem in this respect is the aforementioned balance of screen time. Here, pretty much everyone makes way for Sakaki to take central stage, which is fine, certainly if the rest of the characters all get their own time to shine (Chiyo-chan was probably the most central character across the first volume's episodes), but already it looks like a couple of characters, most notably Yomi, are going to slip by the wayside. I certainly hope that isn't the case, and there's plenty of time for it to change, it just raises the caution bells for me at the moment. Nonetheless, it only mildly saturates my enjoyment of the episodes here, which generally continue the trend set by the first volume, in that they're really rather funny.

In Summary:
Azumanga Daioh continues to be a hilarious comedy that's recommend for anyone looking for a few laughs. The characters, combined with the deadpan humour, make this series one of the most enjoyable around at the moment. While I have a few reservations about how it'll continue to keep things fresh, for now it's certainly one of my highlights each time I receive a new volume. Unless you're completely against comedy and a hilarious cast of sweet characters, definitely give it a whirl.

Features
Japanese Language (2.0),English Language (5.1),English Subtitles,Clean Opening & Closing,Production Sketches

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Pioneer DV-464 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.

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