Azumanga Daioh Vol. #3 - 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: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Azumanga Daioh

Azumanga Daioh Vol. #3

By Dani Moure     May 05, 2006
Release Date: December 20, 2004


Azumanga Daioh Vol. #3
© ADV Films UK


What They Say
Azumanga Daioh follows the 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!

This third volume of episodes continues the rivalries between Yukari and Minamo, and Sakaki and a psycho cat. Yukari scores a critical hit against Minamo by stealing top athlete Kagura for her homeroom, but she gets more than she bargained for! Just like Tomo, the new girl is always looking to stir things up.

The Review!
It's time for the girls to start their second year of high school in this latest 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.

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 usual nice 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 Sakaki doing the bounce this time. The volume number and show's logo appear in large graphics on the cover, too, and there's a cute little Japanese "A!" above Sakaki'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 class. Sakaki is the focus, holding her pen and day-dreaming a bit, while Yomi sits with a dismayed expression and Kagura is standing reading from a book. Mr Kamura is also present, book in hand with his jaw wide open as always. 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 a Sakaki 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)
It's been some time since I last watched Azumanga Daioh, and yet it was surprisingly easy to slip the disc in the player, sit back and return to these characters again, like they're some old acquaintances I'm catching up with. In its third disc you might expect a series like this, which relies on deadpan comedy and amusing situations to become a little stale and boring, but it surprisingly manages to avoid that, and in no small part thanks to its approach on things. Instead of worrying about covering the same ground, the series takes place over three school years, with the episodes divided well so that every two discs makes up one year.

As such, this disc sees the girls entering their second year, and it proves to be just as endearing as the first. Sure, similar themes may be repeated, but the graciousness in the differences is one of the allures of the show. The first episode on the disc deals with the changes in the new school year. Osaka is really worried that all the girls will be split up, and in particular she'll be left alone because it's desk change and class shuffle time. None of the other girls are too worried, especially Tomo and Yumi since they've been together in class for so long. As it turns out, Yukari has a most interesting way of not forgetting the names of her students " she keeps the in the same class! So we only get one new arrival of not (since no one outside of our group really matters a great deal!), and that's Sakaki's "rival", Kagura. She proves to be an excellent addition to the regular class, bringing her spunk and rival attitude to mix things up.

This leads to a great little Kagura/Sakaki focussed episode, where Kagura just can't stop challenging her rival. Sakaki is, as always, a bit blasé about the whole thing, but she doesn't like it too much when Kagura hits a cat to stop it biting her. Sakaki's whole cat loving complex is one of the recurring themes of the disc, and more often than not leads to a lot of laughs. We then get to follow Chiyo-chan for a day. It actually ends up being a pretty hilarious insight into her usual routine for a number of reasons. Most amusing for me was how all the shots were done so you'd never see anyone but her and the dog in her house; her parents nowhere to be seen (on camera at least). She's so independent it's just hilarious, but she's such a sweet character you almost have to go "awww, how sweet" every time she does something. Her concern for Osaka, thinking that she might just jump off the roof or something at any time had me in stitches of laughter. Osaka was so unaware her reactions were classic.

Yukari then prepares the students for their mid-terms, and is sure to point out how Tomo will do extremely badly because she only ever copies Yomi's homework. Did you ever think you'd find characters fighting over who was the most stupid? Well, you will in Azumanga! Here, Tomo, Osaka and Kagura all want to copy Yomi's work to try and do well on the test, but her reluctance leads them to form a group called "the boneheads" to try to pool their intelligence (or perhaps stupidity) to try and do better than they expect. Alas, they fail, which makes things even funnier as they just end up trying to figure out who their leader is.

The final episode sees the girls on summer vacation and once again taking a trip to Chiyo-chan's holiday home. This brings up some bad memories of travel from Chiyo-chan when Yukari suggests she drives, but the problem is solved by Nyamo driving them on a minibus instead. This is one of the funniest episodes on the disc, in particular the last short which sees Nyamo drink a bit too much and tell the girls all about sex. It's hilarious seeing her reaction to what she did in the morning, but even funnier is Chiyo-chan not having a clue what she was talking about. The other girls naturally salute her in a new found moment of respect.

Azumanga proves that a show doesn't need a great ongoing story to be really good, and indeed provides a wonderful breather from the epics that so many anime series are. This show is just all about the characters, and has one of the most lovable casts you'll find around. Just watching them going through school with all their amusing quirks and deadpan moments is so entertaining its unreal.

In Summary:
You'd think by now that Azumanga Daioh would be starting to get dull and boring. But it bucks the trend so many comedies fall into by going through the same yearly cycle but putting a different hilarious spin on events. Unless you're completely cold to such an amusing, endearing cast of characters, you simply have to try out this series. You won't love every single joke, but you'll surely laugh multiple times per episode, and what more can you ask for?

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

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Philips DVP5100 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.

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