Azumanga Daioh Vol. #4 - 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: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Azumanga Daioh

Azumanga Daioh Vol. #4

By Chris Beveridge     September 05, 2004
Release Date: August 31, 2004


Azumanga Daioh Vol. #4
© ADV Films


What They Say
Festival season is back! So get ready for a slew of crazy new challenges in the sports fest that wouldn't be complete without an action-packed 10-K race. Tomo is as hyper as ever and dying for excitement, Osaka is just plain scared of dying and Chiyo is scrambling to put together the culture fest. You don't want to miss the hysterics of this charming volume!

The Review!
The second year episodes continue and while the situations start to repeat the actual events and comedy only build up more.

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 cover is simple and eye-catching with an all-white backdrop with a shot of Yomi 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 as well as a good series of consistent looking covers. The back cover provides a rundown of the premise, several shots from the show and an array of information scattered all over. 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 of Yomi facing outward and writing on the blackboard. The other panel has a couple of other characters reacting to a normal Tomo explosion of energy as she tosses her things everywhere. 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 Yomi and Nyamo 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 rolls along in its own merry way with it's slightly off-kilter sense of humor and the continued solid adaptation of the original strips. What becomes really interesting with this volume is that since we're on the second year episodes, some of the situations repeat with the same characters but they aren't quite who they were during their first year so they play out just a bit differently.

Doing something like this could be dangerous in a way, where you start feeling like they've done it as good as it can be done before, sort of like with sitcoms. How many holiday special episodes can you do before "A very special episode" turns into a complete joke? Azumanga Daioh hits this up twice and does it one after the other with this volume by bringing out the Sports Fest and the Culture Festival once more. Most series that actually follow through on high school careers, be it manga or anime, tend to skip over a second or third one of these things so as to not get repetitive and just move it into the "it happened but we didn't spend time on it" thing. Azumanga bravely goes and tries it once more.

The Sports Fest actually works out well since it's more streamlined this time but revisits a number of the jokes. With Yukari leading the way in her continual push to win out over Nyamo, she's insistent that they'll win this year and has upped the prize for her students to a bottle of juice plus a steak. But she also reveals her hand to them at the same time by far too overtly implying as to why Kagura is in their class and not Nyamo's like she was last year. The actual sports fest itself plays out in a similar way with some of the characters fretting over their situation, such as Chiyo-chan trying to overcome her age and general smallness to compete with everyone else, or to strange situations where Osaka just wants to do the flour part of a competition and just keeps banging her head into the tray of it. Every time I think we've reached the pinnacle of Osaka's dumbness, she reaches new heights of it.

The Culture Festival runs into the same issue. Do they repeat what they do last year and run on autopilot or do they try something new? Naturally, nobody has any ideas until they decide to build upon last years festival idea with the cute animal café and have it so that people are doing more with the animals this year. This episode brings in the infamous hats, as designed by Sakaki here, that have hit the real world quite strongly since their introduction. The various waiters in the café have them on and it's an attraction for those passing by. What ends up being an even bigger attraction is the other "huge event" for this episode and series and that's the Chiyo-chan donning the penguin outfit. Chiyo-chan always runs the risk of being too cute and thereby not playing out well other than a one-trick gag, but then she does go and get to be too cute and over the top like this and still manages to pull it off. This is just too much but it's brilliant at the same point and you feel exactly like everyone who sees her in the outfit.

Probably the most surprising moments on this batch of episodes is the revelation of Kimura's wife. The fact that a guy like this is married is surprising and at the same time not, but the way it plays out you can't help but be surprised at what she's like. When she turns up for the sports fest to cheer on the students and her husband, those that meet her are surprised by her and that she knows who several of them are. The only one that should be really worried, at least based on Kimura's own past behavior, is Chiyo-chan?

In Summary:
This set of episodes continues with much of what's worked in the past and builds on it as well. There's some very funny material throughout it, in the vein that Azumanga plays with humor, that goes from the oddity that Yomi is at times to the weirdness of Tomo. Her attempts to replicate the best yawn ever are great and it's a joke that gets repeat value as the episode progresses as well. Azumanga's a fun title, but one that doesn't have us outright falling over with laughter for the most part but rather just big smiles and plenty of mental chuckles. It's definitely not the standard comedy show but each volume manages to build well upon the previous ones.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Production sketches,Clean opening and closing animation

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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